Kate Lycett describes her painting thus :
Original media: Inks, gouache, acrylics, gold leaf and gold thread.
Measures 75 cm x 59 cm (mounted)
“This was painted as a commission for some friends from my Choir. The view over the buildings is the beautiful view they have from their attic window up in Birchcliff. I began drawing for this in September when the light was rich, and the leaves just beginning to turn. The afternoon sunshine caught the velvet green of the hills, and the heather on the hills toward Todmorden. The buildings in front are Osborne Street and the Zion chapel.”
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Some 25 years ago I worked for a charity which had a regional office in Salford, Greater Manchester. Inevitably, therefore, we were bidden from time to time to go there for meetings, and sometimes we went of our own volition because at that office there was based our IT expert, a lovely lady of whom I was ( and remain all these years later) in considerable awe. She was I gathered, a grandmother, but she didn’t look old enough for that, and furthermore she came to my house once to update my computer – I forget its make now – and to my amazement took the lid off the computer itself, removed a green card full of electronic gubbins and popped in a new one. I do not know which card it was, but I had no idea that you could do such things, and was totally in awe of someone who could. My technical expertise at that time was limited to what we got told over the phone from London when something went wrong and I had just about got to grips with a “soft reboot” and a “hard reboot”.
On these occasions it was sometimes necessary, and often convenient if there was an early start, to stay locally overnight and after some searching I hit upon a guest house just north east of Delph high up on the Pennines at Standedge. I forget now what it was called, (was it “Globe Farm” ?) it was near the “Globe Inn” I think. The husband of the couple who ran it was a chef and it showed in the suppers they did – nothing fancy, but good honest “grub”. My wife used to come with me sometimes, and while I was away at my work, she would go down to Uppermill and browse the shops there. At that time there was an old mill building used as a place for all sorts of small businesses and craftsmen to have premises and she enjoyed that. We went back some years later and found to her disappointment that it was no longer in that role and I think it had become apartments.
Well, to come to the point of this long anecdote, when I went to Salford it was usually via the main roads for time’s sake, but when returning home we often went across country through Calderdale and those lovely names Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd. They were pretty run down after the closure of their main reasons for living, but we still got the message of what they might have been like in their heyday.
The painting by Kate Lycett that I have posted above catches the memory I have of that valley as we drove along it, although the car driver of course sees less of it than the passenger.
The painting brings back further memories. In 1977 I was accepted by the Royal Air Force Chaplain’s Branch on a four year commission, which at that particular juncture was a life saver in itself. My initial appointment was to RAF St. Athan in Glamorgan, and at or about the same time the nation’s firemen went on strike. St. Athan was a big technical training place at that time and so had lots of bodies who could be pressed into alternative service. Equipped with “Green Goddesses” they became the firemen of the South Wales valleys. St. Athan also had a driver training school and the Warrant Officer in charge was a churchgoer. He provided me with a Ford escort estate car when I requested it and I often went “up the valley” to visit Royal Air Force personnel camping out in church halls and community centres all over the place. I well remember sitting in a Green Goddess with some young men (still teenagers I guess) who had just dealt with a fire in a house where the deaths included those of young children and they were visibly very much affected. I took as my example the biographies and histories I had read of the Chaplains of the Royal Army Chaplain’s Department of the Army in World War One, but my senior Chaplain at RAF St. Athan ( who was frequently away) disapproved of my activities when he found out and said our job was to look after the families left behind. Whether a wife in a married quarter surrounded by other similar families had a higher priority than young men dealing with death an disaster I leave you to decide.
These journeys up and down and across the valleys of South Wales drew our attention to the terraced house, and we were intrigued to see that very often a whole street, curving as it followed the valley side and running uphill might have one continuous roof covering the whole row for a considerable length. We only knew roof lines where each house was constructed on a level including the roof which was therefore stepped up or down as appropriate from its neighbour. And so, if you look at Kate Lycett’s painting from Hebden Bridge in Calderdale you will see just such a terrace right at the front of the picture.