It is ten years since my last expedition with my friend Rozel Lawlor—to buy a picture.
I stood down as chair of the Campaign for National Parks in the summer of 2009 and the members and staff generously gave me money to buy a painting of my choice. Inspired by my late aunt, Nancy Balfour, to support living artists, I asked Nancy Sinclair of Aunehead Arts (a brilliant organisation which promoted the arts in Devon, but sadly no longer exists) to make some suggestions as I wanted a painting of Dartmoor. She put me in touch with Michael Honnor who has a studio in South Brent, and he invited me to visit early on the morning of 11 December 1999.
I was staying with the Lawlors nearby, and Rozel, despite being seriously ill with liver cancer, was characteristically eager for an outing. So we arrived at Michael’s at 8.30 in the morning and looked through his pictures. Many of them were too large for my cottage.
I was struck by an unusual work called Blackslade; it is acrylic on aluminium—unlike anything else I have.
It was painted in Blackslade Mire, a mile south-east of Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Perhaps it is looking south-west, up the Ruddycleave Water with Three Barrows on the horizon.
I bought it, and it hangs in my dining room. I feel that Aunt Nancy would have approved.
Every time I look at the picture I see something different about it. But most of all I remember that last outing with my brave companion Rozel, who died only four months later.