Story & Canvas: Conversations with Janet

Story & Canvas: Conversations with Janet

Painting & Words: Ellen Angus 

‘Janet says nothing for a minute and then…
“That the right way round is it?”'

I arrived at the pub sweaty. It had been one of those hot days in July, the sort of staggering heat that makes the air feel hot and near. I had been to Brixton to pick up my painting from a gallery. Being one of the only paintings I’d framed and it was carefully wrapped in parcel tape and bubble wrap.

It was heavy, this combined with the stuffiness of the tube and the traffic jam of tourists at Victoria had propelled me into a state of irritableness and frustration. Sweat had gathered on my top lip. It was on the porch of the side entrance to The Cardinal that I bumped into Janet.

Janet is in her late 50s, one of the youngest residence living in the sheltered housing round the corner. She is tiny and sinewy like a little bird and she smokes cheap tobacco bought from Tenerife. When Janet is in the pub and I’m working time doesnt crawl by as slowly. She is a wonderful woman, incredibly bright but does not recognise so.

She has had a life that has been full of personal tragedy, a series of unfaithful and cruel husbands generating a great deal of loneliness and insecurity. Despite this she is quick witted good humoured and just gets on with it. Here on the mahogany porch, a weird gateway into the dark musty pub, Janet asks me what my parcel is. umm its a painting, I said well aware that I’m pressed for time as it is- due to start my shift now. Have only 5 minutes to get changed and run down for work

Ahhhhh! she says, Ere lemmie see

She looks really interested. Flattered I think, fuck it..I’m always late- must be consistent.

Alright, I say, pulling the brown parcel paper off and ripping at the bubble wrap.

I produce the painting and hold it up in the lightest part of the hallway Janet says nothing for a minute and then

That the right way round is it?

I poke my head round the frame- uh yeh yeh..this is the right way

Well it’s different init, I like it Ellen I do its different… what urrrh is it then?

Hmmmm, I contemplate the answer to this. Am I honest? I consider my options; Run up the stairs which would save time and the agony of trying to vocalise something that I find leads me into a sort of stammering uneasiness, lie to Janet and say it is a bunch of flowers or attempt a description. Fuck it again, I decide.

Well urhhh Janet, this painting is a product of the weird self imposed isolation I experienced in my third year of uni. I spent a great deal of the time… um… procrastinating over my dissertation, drawing and masturbating and also watching a loaned copy of the Alien trilogy. So I would describe this painting as the sort of colours one might see if they scrunch up their eyes at the point of orgasm after watching Ellen (thats not me) travel through space on a lonely empty space craft inside a set drawn by Geiger.

Right..she pauses, smiles shakes her head, You are odd. she laughs raises her eyes up to the heavens and takes out her pre-rolled cigarette.

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