New Beginnings in Alford by Christine Taylor

I moved from Brighton to Alford just before lockdown nearly 2 years ago.

I arrived a little battered and bruised from having lost my business, worried that I would be a stranger and braced for an unfamiliar life with lots of change.

However, at almost the same time, the whole world endured life changing events with the COVID pandemic which put my troubles in perspective. As it turns out the glorious spring of 2020 in lockdown ended up being the perfect full stop to my old life and the start of my new life.

The house I moved into is very old, dilapidated and steeped in local history.

It was going to be my project for the next 2 years, with local tradesmen coming and going as lockdown allowed. I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s now a 3 year project and that’s fine!

To keep myself occupied whilst the house came to a standstill I bought two enormous canvases in order to draw and paint my local area, in a bid to get to know the place, whilst still being locked up in lockdown. My front room has a large north facing window and so I set my easel up there, not really thinking about the house being directly on the street.

My entire world became the detail on 40 square feet of canvas.

Shortly before lockdown I was lucky enough to find the Brocklebank reclamation yard in Louth. The chap there explained he took down ancient houses, by hand, brick by brick and stone by stone and kept everything in his yard. He talked to me about Lincolnshire and it’s people, the value of consideration and respect for what’s gone before. He said that us southerners spent too much time chasing the money and not enough time living our lives. There’s no competition here, he said, there’s nothing to win. If you’re in need, you’ll be looked after here. Don’t worry.

I was worried but that helped.

He also gave me two 300 year old bricks with dog paw prints in, where the brick maker had laid them out to dry in his/her garden and his/her dogs had stood on them, leaving perfect paw prints. They were still used to build someone’s house and now they’re in mine.

When I first moved here and passed people in the street, I would always hear ‘’Hello’’ or ‘a’right m’duck’. For ages I assumed the greetings were aimed at people who knew each other. I was wrong. They were talking to me. I’ve stopped being rude and try to smile or say hello to everyone I see. Only us southerners find it odd because we’ve spent a lifetime trying not to catch each other’s eye, or worse still, speak.

The chippy opposite my house has also been a goldmine of welcome, support and the best hot, salty chips I’ve ever tasted. The whole family work there and provide endless fish suppers for all of us that live here, along with kind words and advice.

Alford Jolly Friar

The Handyman DIY shop is my go to for EVERYTHING. A m’duck greeting at the door followed by instructions, assistance, choice and bargain prices. I’ve never been sold anything I didn’t need, in the quantity I needed.

The local garage serves you petrol. No self service here!

They have fixed my punctured tyres, done my mots, serviced my car, came to my house when my car couldn’t come to them, told me not to worry, m’duck and meant it.

Living in a small community is worlds apart from city living and I highly recommend it.

And although I am still a stranger, everyone knows who I am because they’ve stopped to watch me draw through my window. They’ve knocked on the door to encourage me.

They’ve put their thumbs up on the other side of the glass and mouthed cheerful greetings. The painting and drawing took me a year to complete, but I felt it was a bit of a journey, not just for me but everyone in my community that stopped to look in my window.

Alford is very lucky to be the home of the Alford Pottery too. When I first moved here I bought some handmade mugs with big bellies and narrow ‘chimney’ openings. Perfect to keep my coffee hot in the morning and lovely to hold to warm my hands. Sadly I broke a couple during lockdown and at the first opportunity made my way to the pottery to replace them. Michel Ducos, who owns the pottery and is significant in the town for his involvement with community activities, the craft markets and craft centre, recognised me straight away. He had been one of my window visitors watching the development of my 2 fairly extreme canvases.

He had news.

Alford was going to have it’s very own art gallery, in the very heart, on the market square. Maybe I could be a part of it? Maybe I could!

I applied and got accepted, I also volunteered to help man the gallery on a regular basis. I figured that now I wasn’t a complete stranger that I could and would meet other artists, be in a creative community and sell art.

I’ve led a most creative life, from school through to design agencies, to my own art and design led chocolate company and now I’ve come full circle in the most delightful way.

The gallery is an airy, modern space with about 20 artists exhibiting work at any one time.

Every month there is a spotlight on a particular artist, local or national.

In September it was Carole Ann Grace, renowned abstract artist. In October it was me and I finally finished my giant canvases in time for a month of showing off.

In November it is Karin Christensen who works in pen and watercolour, depicting local scenes from Alford and Boston, as well as rural bucolic Lincolnshire.

December will be Leszek Dabrowski, an artist famed for painting symbolic realism within abstract imagery.

The gallery is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm. Everyone is very welcome.

Classes can be booked and artists can step forward to hold classes.

It’s really a community thing.

For Alford.

For the Wolds and the Fens.

For Lincolnshire.

For artists.

For a chat.

For a class.

Please come and visit us.

We’d love that, m’duck.

All artwork included in this blog has been supplied by Christine Taylor.