A thumb too far

Wednesday February 23, 2005

Late last night, in a moment of carelessness, I managed to slice the ball of my right thumb on the raw edge of a can of corned beef. A real good, deep, jagged slice. I’d been in the middle of preparing one of our favourite meals: cauliflower cheese garnished with crispy bacon, served with sliced cold corned beef and good quality boiled potatoes.

“Oh, bother,” I said, trying to staunch the flow.

“I’ll get a plaster.”

“Ta,” I said, pouring TCP over the wound, rinsing it under the tap and jamming it in my mouth. “Immmmm bmmmmm bmmmm ammm bmmmm ommmm.”

“Yer wot?”

“It’d better be a big one,” I said, pulling my thumb out of my mouth.

“Ah. Right. You’re dripping.”

I sighed, stuck the offending digit back in my mouth and reached for the kitchen disinfectant bleach to sluice the traces of my mortality from the work surface, the chopping board, the draining board and the sinks. Amazing how much juice can come from one average sized thumb.

“Here you go,” said Graham, appearing from the bathroom with a large Elastoplast in his hand.

Soon enough the wound was covered, firmly, the last splashes of gore washed from the floor, and the kitchen was restored to its normal quiet, business-like state. I sat in my chair, my thumb stuck up in the air partly for dramatic effect but mostly because the darn thing was throbbing like a 4.5 litre blower Bentley.

“Nasty one,” said Graham. “Would you like me to finish dinner?”

“That’s nice of you but no, I’m fine. I’d appreciate it if you’d slice that corned beef for me, though.”

“Count it as done.”

Later, I wrapped the darned thumb up in a big soft soldier of tissues and tape so I could sleep without fear of catching it on the bedclothes and retired from the battlefield of the day.

This morning I pulled the dressing off to find that healing was starting already and now, twenty-four hours later, the cut is nicely glued together, still needing protection against bangs and such, but well on the way back to normal serviceability. Haven’t been able to do much today, though. Couldn’t seem to hold brush or pencil, and typing has been a problem because, rigorously Pitman-trained in touch-typing in the 1950s, I am a right-thumb-on-the-space-bar-typist and find it almost impossible to work otherwise. IsupposeIcouldrunallthewordstogether, but that’s an affectation the virtue of which has never quite managed to fire my enthusiasm.

So I contented myself with rescuing the last of my damaged watercolours, a free-style copy of a favourite painting by Edward Seago, and then I settled down to leaf through the great stack of watercolour books I seem to have collected over the years.

I’ve probably painted copies of all the great British watercolourists of the 20th century, and some not so great, too. When I switched over to watercolour from oils back in 1995 or 1996 I was anxious to learn the techniques and methods as fast as I possibly could. Copying from the experts is a jolly good way of getting to grips with the problems of transparency, brush gestures and glazes. Just so long as you don’t attempt to pass the results off as your own.

I still haven’t mastered the way to produce the lovely, luscious layered glazes I used to do with oils but I’m getting there and, even if I never succeed, the trying is the thing.

Before I sliced my thumb I was working on a grandly chiaroscuro-ed subject, of an alleyway in London, seeking to get the rich darks and the lucid lights I am coming to think of as my favourite subject and my ultimate challenge. Hopefully I’ll be able to remove the dressing tomorrow and get back to work.


Snowscape, after Seago
watercolour on paper



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