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U3A Writing: Pool Of Memories

Barbara Patterson tells of the creation of a famous painting.

The subdued hum of voices rippled gently through the rooms of the Art Gallery, as viewers wandered, paused then moved on. Their attention was diverted for a moment, by a tall dark haired, attractive woman heading, without hesitation, directly to the central Hall. Natalie stopped before “The Black Brook”. Oblivious to her surroundings she recalled sitting for Uncle John. Especially she remembered the final day when determined to finish the painting, he had made her give up an afternoon of riding with her brothers, to dress in that stupid dress of her mother’s, put up her hair and sit staring in to the dark water.

The pool had been an important part of her life. Situated in the woods beyond the garden, she had been sworn to secrecy by her older brothers, never to tell anyone about it, and certainly never to tell their parents that they had been there on their own.

Crouched in the dark shadows of the surrounding trees and bushes, they had woven mysterious tales about dire happenings in the pool. The cloudier and darker the day, the more horrifying the water became, and the tales more bizarre. There followed nights when Natalie would lie awake, terrified to close her eyes, in case the imagined monsters would surface and take her away. But she dare not tell anyone of her fears in case it would cause trouble for her brothers.

As they grew older and the lure of the pool gave way to racing their ponies across the moor, her fears faded, until the arrival of their Uncle John.

She remembered the morning her Mother had excitedly told them that her favourite younger brother was coming to stay. It had been a long time since they had last seen him, an arrogant young man, lounging round the house, basking in the adoration of his older sister, barely tolerating his young nephews and niece. Now he was a famous painter, much in demand for portraits of important people.

The awe with which they greeted him was short lived as he regaled them with stories of his travels, and amusing anecdotes about the people he had painted.

John and his niece became close friends as they took to walking the countryside, and he opened her eyes to the pictures of colour and patterns, turning what had been to her, taken for granted everyday scenes, into a new world.

One day she took him to the pool. She told him of her childhood fears and fantasies, of the scary feeling which still lingered in a small corner of her mind.

John saw a different picture. Persuading Natalie to pose for him, he talked as he painted.

The dark water became a soft velvet pillow on which the jewel coloured dragonflies hovered and rested. The pin points of sunlight, which had been the evil probing eyes of monsters watching their every move, became the golden helmets of guardian water nymphs. Pockets of coloured flowers protected by the dark green mantle of the surrounding undergrowth gave warmth to the eerie dark corners. Slowly the small patches of sunlight dispelled the dark memories. The water still held an air of mystery she would never understand, but now she could watch it in peaceful wonderment.

Uncle John died seventeen years after he finished the painting, and it now hung alongside the paintings of other great artists in the famous gallery, where, each year on the anniversary of her Uncle’s death, Natalie came to pay homage, and leave a small bunch of forget-me-nots, gathered from beside the pool


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