The colourful, ceramic tiling that creates an image of a totem pole beneath the symbol of the head of a Native American Indian chief, stands fixed to an outside wall of the house and is perhaps the clearest signal that here lives an artist. The light and spacious layout of the living room, with original paintings and pieces of art, is another signpost telling us that this is an artist´s residence.
The house is on the community complex of Shangrila Park in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote, tucked away in a quiet, multi-cultural nook of the area. Although Sandra Kinghorn had lived here on Lanzarote for a number of years before that, she moved into this house only a few weeks after my wife Dee and I first came to live here in the house opposite her on Shangrila. We learned in early conversations with her that, coincidentally, we had been quite close neighbours for several years a few decades ago in the UK when Sandra´s parents lived on Gigg Lane, as owners of the chippy I used to visit once a fortnight when going and sitting in the wooden stand ´for boys´ when watching the Bury FC of the Colin Bell era play football on what was then the best pitch in the UK, bar none. Gone the pitch, and sadly now, gone the club.
Although we didn´t know each other in those days we do have some shared memories of those places, times and even have one or two mutual acquaintances from that period. Over here, though, Sandra has proved to be a great neighbour; always cheerful, always helpful and perhaps because ´it takes one to know one´ her repartee takes me on at my own game of one-liner put downs !
We have, on several occasions, visited arts exhibitions together in Cic El Almacen in Arrecife and at La Ermita, the tiny church gallery in Tias and have, too, visited together a few cultural events such as The Artisan Festival in Mancha Blanca and various events in Yaiza and also enjoyed a long, slow lunch one day on the Marina listening to a live flamenco fusion group.
These days, of course, our friendship is of one controlled by the threat of coranavirus and is therefore one of shouted conversations conducted by each of us from behind our respective garden walls or from our rooftops across the alley from each other. It was the late American Poet, Robert Frost who in his poem Mending Walls questioned his own neighbour for saying ´good fences make good neighbours´ but Sandra´s dog, Bene, seems to agree with the poet´s neighbour and sits guarding the wall and her property from cats and nosy neighbours like me. He steps back and allows my wife on to the property, although, like me he grumbles and growls whenever she gets too close to him.
It struck me the other day how many people will be finding solace in the arts during these days and nights of lockdown. Many will be finding comfort and friendship from their radio with the likes of Classic FM although I may be stereotyping my own generation in saying that as they might just as equally be watching re-runs on Sky Arts of Keith Moon smashing up drum kits. And it has been uplifting, of course, to see some multi-generational artistic creations on social media. I have sat enthralled watching special ´virtual´ recordings by the likes of The Staves and by First Aid Kit, whilst my son in South has been watching New Mexico guitarist Raul Midon. In thinking of all thios I found myself wondering if Sandra, too, was finding the arts to be of great comfort in these times when a trip to the nearest shop is, for most of us, the highlight of the day even if a weird, eerie and slightly scary adventure.
In one of our recent chats ´over the garden wall´, as we impersonated those wonderful Jimmy Jewel and Norman Evans routines, I introduced Sandra to the invisible five bums at the bar, the name writers give to the five open questions that are such powerful tools in all interrogations. So called because the lay out, in different fonts, of a row of five of the letter w on a line across a piece of paper resembles the back view of five bums on stools leaning at the bar. These five bums though, are, really, those intelligent and probing interviewers Messrs Who, What, When, Where And Why and after I had explained that to Sandra, she agreed to let me send her the questions via e mail and said she would reply to them so that I could put together this articles for Sidetracks and Detours.
I began by asking WHO is Sandra Kinghorn?
´Sandra Kinghorn is lady who lives by the phrase, Una jubilada,´ her return e mail told me, before going on to explain that ´this great phrase encompasses what it should feel like to be retired! I moved from living in the beautiful Rossendale valley in Lancashire to living in Playa Blanca on the beautiful island of Lanzarote. I can’t decide if the 16 year old me would be pleased or disappointed with the end result! I do know that the today me would tell the youngster how vital it is to discover your love / talent and pursue it for all that you’re worth and take every opportunity which comes your way.
WHAT is the favourite art form, I wondered, of this lady who I know works in several disciplines.
´Although I enjoy music, theatre and the written word, it’s the visual that has that attraction for me,´ she wrote in reply, ´like painting and sculpture in the classical arts. As a little girl, I loved to draw or paint, but never followed formal instruction at school. I came across photography later in life, did my City and Guilds and even managed to win a competition or two. The DIY element of old fashioned black and white photography really appealed- the wonderfully glamorous studio photographs of the old Hollywood stars, like Marlena Dietrich. No Photoshop for them, the manipulation and correction was all done meticulously by hand. However, I was once on a safari in Kenya, loaded down by three cameras no less, when I realised that I was in danger of not actually SEEING anything at all. Nowadays, I don’t take photographs much but like to store the images inside my head.´
You talk about having loved to draw and paint when a little girl, so is that WHEN you first fell in love with the arts?
´I think that it’s a gradual thing that develops throughout your life, much like everything else I suppose. It has never ceased to surprise and please me whenever I manage to produce something worth looking at, not to mention the astonishment if someone else likes it too!´
I know that Sandra has travelled a good deal in her life, so I ask WHERE the arts have led her over the years in both the geographical and spiritual sense.
´You don’t have to go very far here in Lanzarote to be visually stimulated,´ Sandra told me. ¨whether it be in the landscape or in one of the many exhibitions. I cannot think of another small island with this vibrancy. I really hope that the ethos of Cesar Manrique thrives because whether you empathise or not, I cannot think of another place which has this inheritance. Cuba comes to mind as another place I have visited with a similar inherent love of music, heard just about wherever you go, and a real zest for life!
I vividly remember a personal journey to visit the Ansell Adams gallery in Yosemite National Park. He was responsible for amazing black and white photographs of the landscape there. I can still see some of them in my mind´s eye. He used silver halide printing to give amazing contrast and definition to his pictures. If you look in Wikipedia, his talents were legion.´
Like Sandra I, too, am, a great admirer of Adam´s work, having been made aware of it through references to him by some of my great American singer writer interviewees such as John Stewart and Townes Van Zandt. My former writing partner in Just Poets, Pam McKee, and her husband Rob, had Adams´ anthologies on their book shelves. His photography, like the great artists such as Hopper, like the great composers such as Copeland and Gershwin and the great authors like Kerouak and Steinbeck not only reflected their country but somehow shaped its history and mythology too.
So I ask Sandra WHY the arts are so important to the lives of so many of us, whether we are practitioners, aspirants or mere spectators.
´I can’t imagine the world ANYONE would want to inhabit if you couldn’t enjoy the means to lift your spirits and soothe the soul,´ Sandra submitted as a considered reply. ´The virtual world of concerts, galleries, books etc means that a wealth of enjoyment is still at our fingertips, even if we are confined to our homes. It is just possible, if we use this ‘quiet time’ positively, that we may find something new to investigate when the world is open for us again.´
Sandra designed and painted a house sign proclaiming that this new home for me and my wife Dee be called NormanDee, just as our home in the UK had been for more than forty years. We had a grand unveiling on the patio and the sign was erected by Sandra and her woman-with-a-drill friend, Susan. We also have four Kinghorn originals adorning our interior walls, though Sandra freely admits that a couple of these are attempts to copy the styles of one or two relatively little-known professional artists here on the island.
Colin Lever, my own former song-writing partner in Lendanear, has even spent his lock down days on Jersey in The Channel Islands, setting some of my old songs to video, and You Tubes are now available of Lever / Warwick material such as Southern Comfort, Last Boat Home and Rara Avis. We have also released a newly re-mastered album. Two Islands contains half a dozen or so new songs and is now available with our back catalogue at www.lendanearmusic.com
Sandra is not the only person, of course creating arts, and crafts, here on Lanzarote. Even my wife Dee here at 60a has caught from Sandra, and another friend Sam, the bug of crafting hand made Christmas and Birthday cards. Sandra, Sam and Dee do not only have in common a love of the arts but are also three of the cheeriest people I know. Hardly a coincidence !
So, are you spending your lockdown time honing your crafts and developing that latent artistic talent? In talking to some artists it seems that the rapid rise of coronavirus and the fears and protracted pessimism it has brought with it, have led to a disappointment and ennui that has socially-distanced us not only from other people but also from our own inner muse. After only a few weeks, though, there has appeared some incredibly creative stuff on social media and I have received countless celebratory e mails from many of my friends in the arts, telling me of some works theve had created at record speeds due to having so much time freed for creativity,
I know that even in the best of times artists are often far too busy being creative to publicise whatever it is they create, Until the lockdown is eased you can take the opportunity to raise your profile and keep some interesting imaginary company by talking to the five bums at the bar.´ In fact, even if you are simply a lover of the arts, you can share with us how the arts are helping you through this science fiction novel in which we all seem to have become unwitting characters.
Simply answer the following questions and send your replies, in either English or Spanish, or any language come that, as we can always translate via Mr. Google, to my e mail address at
email@example.com and I will try to include your responses on these pages. If, when life returns to some semblance of normality I will also publish these, where it is appropriate, on my own Sidetracks and Detours blog. So if you would like to send me answers to this interview below, why not do so,and I´ll share them with readers of these pages here. You may also be helping some readers who are finding themselves feeling somewhat isolated and will appreciate hearing thoughts and recommendations from others.
WHO is xxxx?
Just answer with your name, and a little bit about yourself that you might like to share.
WHAT arts do you enjoy?
Just write a paragraph saying what you love to see and hear and what arts, if any, do you take part in?
WHEN did your love of the arts begin?
You might want to say a few words about an influential teacher in your schooldays or someone in your family or friends who has been important in your relationship to the arts. Tell us about that book, or film, or music, or painting, or photograph that changed your life and / or talk about what you are reading or listening to or creating in these lockdown days.
WHERE have the arts taken you?
Tell us about places where you might have performed in the arts or simply tell us about places where you have seen or heard concerts, or art galleries you have visited or any famous artists you have ever met. You might also want to tell us where the arts take you in your imagination and the emotions your love of arts create..
WHY do you think the arts are important enough to talk about even in these troubled times?
Just a few words about how you feel the arts might be of some comfort in these times might help people are struggling a little bit to come to terms with it all.
So, there you go. That´s your first ´Michael Parkinson´interview. It might not get on to the telly or on to Desert Island Discs, but it could be of great interest to fellow readers.
I look forward to hearing from you. Meanwhile, take care and stay safe.