Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections: David Stead

David Stead | 13th December 2015

Shadows and Reflections: the annual collection of postings where Caught by the River’s contributors and friends take a look back on the events that have shaped the past twelve months. Today it’s the turn of David Stead.

The year has been bookended by trips to the lake district with friends and their young family; I’d spent a lot of time in the Lakes in the past, hill walking, scrambling and rock climbing, but had somehow got out of the way of it so on that first trip in February I took myself off alone to do Jack’s Rake on Pavey Ark. It’s a relatively easy – though exposed – scramble in good conditions, but these weren’t good conditions – there was a lot of water coming down the face (and my face) and towards the top the rock surfaces were glazed in a rime of ice and snow. There were some tricky areas and I was entirely alone so when I topped out I felt a sense of accomplishment, return and not a little relief.

In Spring the blackbirds raised three broods of young outside my studio window and by July the last had flown the nest. In the same month our own youngest graduated from university as an occupational therapist.

I bought a mountain bike and have rediscovered the joys of my 12 yr old self – haring round the countryside covered in mud and other organic substances. At this time of year we often start – and finish – our rides in the dark and many a country pub car park has been hideously polluted by our pale, naked bodies as we hurriedly change into dry and oomska free clothing for the post ride pint……….. Why else do you think we do it?

On our second trip to Cumbria at the end of the year, the lakes themselves were, to my mind rather needlessly, being topped up, so we were forced indoors to the climbing wall at Keswick where we were ritually humiliated by the young, wire muscled boulderers, and in the midst of this year that saw my return to the sport I lost a dear friend in a climbing accident: Joe Simmons was a fellow artist and an accomplished climber, she was one of the most vital people I knew. When she died at Oxenber Scar in May she was 74 years old.

There have been painting trips to Devon, Cornwall, Northumberland and the Yorkshire coast. The River Ure Project continues, though it has crept along due to an unremittingly lacklustre summer, the need to press on with commissioned work and an increasingly busy gallery claiming my time. Confusingly the river Ure changes its name to the Ouse before it flows through York, so though I won’t be changing the project name, the river I’ll be painting will be the Ouse…….until it flows into the Humber estuary of course and then……………

I spent a good deal of time in THAT London this year too – some of you will no doubt have been there, or at least heard of it – biggish place on a river. Anyway I have a brace of daughters who live there so I texted them and told them to meet me by the post office in the High Street but they insisted on gathering me up at the station, which was nice. I stayed with them for a couple of days and did some work at Kew and along the towpaths between Hackney and Mile End which I loved – a ribbon of calm and human interaction amongst the turbulent urban rush. On the second evening we managed to get a table at Morito in Clerkenwell; undoubtedly the best tapas I’ve had outside Spain and we drank sherry: now, forgive me if I ramble a bit here but sherry has to be one of the world’s most underrated drinks and here’s the thing: there is almost no time of day when it is inappropriate to drink it! In fact if you don’t have at least one bottle in the house, go out immediately and purchase a bottle or two: an Amontillado and possibly a nicely chilled Fino, you’ll be the better for it. I got up in the middle of the night and went to Smithfield market, drawing and taking photographs as that alien, nocturnal world unfolded before me and by way of contrast, spent the next evening in the equally alien, though somewhat more decorous world of the Garrick club at the kind invitation of a friend.

Barges on the Thames at Kew

Back in Yorkshire visits to the studio become even less frequent as we prepare the gallery for another Christmas and the house for the arrival of our family from various parts of the country. Each year now we think it will be the last time we’ll have the whole family together but they are all coming again so all the traditions we have enacted since they were little will be performed once again only now with the addition of trips to the local, a glass of wine or two and perhaps even a sherry!

David Stead Gallery

David Stead on Caught by the River