Fay Ballard – Wednesday 27th September 2017 – Auchi Dialysis Unit, Hammersmith Hospital

Artist Fay Ballard is leading a weekly creative workshop with dialysis patients at Hammersmith Hospital. She is writing a weekly blog in response to her experiences.

Thankfully, Deborah was back but extremely ill and fragile. I tiptoed up to her still face lying on its side and peered into her blue eyes which were a little in this world and mostly somewhere else, ‘I missed you so much, I was so worried about you’. Only able to utter a few words, she asked if the collage was safe. ‘Yes’, I replied. ‘And I have the extra photocopies of Connor and Godfrey and we can add them to the dogs as soon as you are better. And then we can start making those funny hats’. She smiled and then disappeared into deep sleep.

Olive was sitting upright completing her puzzle in the next bed and asked after Deborah. She, too, was pleased to have her back.

Concerttina waved hello as I walked past her bed on the way to fetch the art trolley for Michael. Responding to her call, we chatted. Yes, she’d like to paint: ‘I love yellow!’, she exclaimed. Too ill previously, she’d noticed my presence and was in a much better place now. ‘I want to draw masks from Marini!’, and she told me about the porcelain ones from her family’s Italian home on the Amalfi Coast. Although her hands were painful and her eyesight poor, she picked up a pencil and drew fluently and decisively. Suddenly, the white page contained a mask. She looked through the collection of coloured crayons, watercolour pens and box of gouache paint, hunting for the right colours: blue, pink, red, yellow and green. Her selection was careful and deliberate as she applied colour. And in some areas, she wanted to use gouache with its heavy opacity rather than luminous watercolour. We chatted about our lives and the adventures, good and bad, that had been taken along the way. It seemed that she had been dealt a particularly challenging set of cards in the lottery of life. We shared our love of good Italian food, agreeing that we should really be living in Italy. Soon she had drawn and coloured another mask. ‘Now I’m going to draw Pinocchio!’ and within seconds she had brought him to life. Swiftly colouring in, she added a small rowing boat below his face. Four expressive, perky and colourful images lay drying on her table: ‘I loved that! I feel so much better! Can we do more next week?’ ‘Yes, of course!’ I enthused. I had given Michael his watercolour to continue and he was absorbed immediately, happy to be left to paint quietly on his own. He had greeted me this morning with a broad grin, ‘That Cox apple was brilliant, just like the ones I had in my childhood. You can’t get apples like that anymore: tart and sweet, crunchy, full of flavour’. I agreed to bring him more next week.

Cheryl was awake, a rare occurrence, and I pulled up a chair. Would she like to paint another picture? She had enjoyed her first still life study which was hanging in the ward entrance. Not today but she would like to talk. I listened as she shared an experience which needed to be voiced. ‘If I can talk, my headaches disappear and I sleep well’.

I handed Irving a newspaper cutting from The Observer reviewing Robert Harris’s new novel ‘Munich’ and he told me a joke. ‘Who runs a police state? Criminals.’ We discussed the Labour party conference, the complexities of retirement and his celebrations last week for Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year.

Akos was also awake, another rare occurrence, and we laughed about the transfer drawing on display in the entrance hall. She offered me some more completed Sudoku puzzles for a new artwork, laughing at the prospect.

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