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Anything I want it to be
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Art and Artists

Posted 08-03-2005 at 16:03 by Acrylic-bob

It was my very great pleasure to bump into one of Accrington’s celebrities the other day. It was while I was bent double rooting through a box of hearing aids and other assorted bric-a-brac in the premises of the Blind Institute on Bank Street that two scarlet nailed and heavily jewelled fingers, attached to a liver spotted hand, were inserted into my nostrils and I was unceremoniously hooked out of the way. The hand, it turned out, belonged to that well-known Accrington Artist and bon-viveur, Dame Enid Proust, MBE. FRA. How opportune I thought, once my eyes had stopped watering, and I determined to seize the opportunity, Carpe Proustem, as it were, to elicit her opinion on the whole Panopticon farrago. Surprisingly, after many years of indolence, I proved to myself that the old magic had not entirely faded and the flying tackle I launched myself into brought Dame Enid crashing to the ground amid a shower of broken crockery and old copies of The Optometrists Weekly, quickly bringing to an end a game attempt on her part to make a swift and unobtrusive exit.

Once we had dusted ourselves down and I had explained who I was and what I wanted she seemed a little less agitated and actually congratulated me on my tackle. I found myself a little confused and embarrassed until she added, with a wry smile and a pinch to my bicep, that she had known my father in the thirties when he played for Accrington Academicals and that she was glad to see that I had grown up to be a chip off the old block.

Playing on that connection, and strictly on the understanding that I was buying, it was relatively easy to persuade Dame Enid to agree to an interview. And so we repaired to the public bar of the nearby Regency Hotel.

With an ostentation that few nowadays can command she reminded the landlord of her right as Freeman of the Borough to enjoy her gin in peace and quiet and demanded that he turn the juke box off. By ostentation I mean that she actually punctuated her address by beating out a tattoo on the bar with her umbrella as she screamed some highly colourful abuse at the poor man. He, reddening instantly, and clearly cognisant of the deference due to a woman of her authority and stature, immediately began rummaging beneath the bar. A silence, so heavy it was almost palpable, suddenly descended upon the crowded room.

It was something of a lesson in hauteur to watch as Dame Enid, gin in one hand and upraised umbrella in the other progressed, in a manner scarcely less stately than our own dear Queen’s, from one side of the public bar to the other, apparently oblivious of the scattering of children, prams, tables, chairs and all other obstacles which lay in her way. A progress which immediately put me in mind of an oleograph of Moses, arms upraised, in the act of parting the waters of the Red Sea which had hung on the walls of my grandmother’s sitting room when I was a child.

We were soon settled in comfortable seats in the window of the public bar, which looked out onto the bustle of the new Market Square, the previous occupants, a surly couple in their early teens, having been evicted by one of Dame Enid’s famously icy stares and the single word “Oppit!” growled through clenched and perfect bleached white dentures.

After the usual pleasantries, and a second round of drinks, I began the interview by asking Dame Enid whether she had any childhood memories of the Coppice. I soon realised that she did indeed have a scores of memories, and though highly entertaining, sadly few of them were fit to print and of the few which were neither indecent nor libellous, none were in any way relevant. Undaunted I pressed on and turned my questions to her thoughts on the role of public sculpture, using the recently unveiled work of the Artist, Tracy Emmins, in Liverpool as an example. I conceived a sudden sympathy for the landlord and noticed that the public bar had become a good deal less full than it had been on our entrance. In a withering and unbroken diatribe which lasted a full forty-five minutes and included two more rounds of drinks and at least fifteen cigarettes I gathered that Dame Enid was not what might be described as an enthusiastic supporter of Ms Emmins’ work. Indeed, one might almost describe her reaction to the association of the sacred word art with the name Emmins as similar to that which might result from suggesting to the reverend Ian Paisley that he might like to consider converting to Catholicism.

All too soon, I realised that I was late for another appointment and made my apologies and left. Concluding that there are times when it is perhaps the better part of discretion to know when to allow sleeping dogs to snarl, undisturbed, in their sleep.
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  1. Old Comment
    garinda's Avatar

    Re: Art and Artists

    Oh my God, Bob!
    More, please.
    When are you casting the film?
    Posted 08-03-2005 at 16:19 by garinda garinda is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Margaret Pilkington's Avatar

    Re: Art and Artists

    What a brilliant enty A-B.....but I am afraid I need educating.
    I have never heard of Dame Enid Proust (hanging head in shame). I wish you could have elucidated on your conversation, it sounds like it might have been very entertaining.
    Posted 08-03-2005 at 20:47 by Margaret Pilkington Margaret Pilkington is offline

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