Over the stable door: Rare escape from the yard to indulge in agricultural art

A FEW weeks ago I was invited to an Art Exhibition in London. Normally it is something I take a moment to dream of attending before realisation of daily work hits and I politely decline.

Jo Foster sorting out the tack at her stables.
Jo Foster sorting out the tack at her stables.

This time I was determined to attend, mainly due to the fact the exhibitor was my best friend Beanie’s mother.

Gail is a lovely understated lady with a tremendous talent for painting and sculpture, all self-taught. She spends her life worrying about everyone else and is the last person to realise her own ability so I wanted to see her exhibiting work at a highly respected gallery.

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She had been hard at work, there was some fabulous pieces. I fell in love with a watercolour she had done of a huge Hereford bull and a bronze sculpture of a jockey - fortunately for me they had little red dots placed against the price tag indicating sold so removing the temptation to overstretch my Christmas present budget.

If anyone is interested in seeing these beautiful sculptures and her landscape art work do check out the website which can be found at gailsturgis.com

When the show finished we all went out for a lively dinner. It was a big family affair. Afterwards Beanie and I headed to find our digs, a house kindly lent by her Aunty Bugs’ partner Roddy.

We had a key and an address for his ‘weekend retreat’ which turned out to be a spectacular Georgian three-storey off the Kings Road. Quite a treat.

It is amazing he actually allowed Beanie to stay considering the story she told me as we sipped tea and made ourselves at home on the enormous sofas.

Many years ago her brother Rupert had asked to borrow Roddy’s Bentley, a 1954 R type Continental, to attend a friend’s wedding. Roddy eventually agreed to lend him it but as he would not be insured Roddy’s chauffeur would drive him to the wedding the following day.

Rupert was told he must treat it with the upmost care, an understandable stipulation bearing in mind there was only three of its kind in the world.

Excited by the prospect of arriving at his pal’s smart wedding in a such an upmarket machine, Rupert couldn’t resist the opportunity to have a quick look inside as it sat gleaming on his driveway. He and his friend Oliver climbed in. Like a young child on Christmas morning, Rupert gripped the large steering wheel.

“What harm would it do if we took it for a little drive up the lane?” he said.

Encouragement wasn’t needed, Rupert had already started her up. It purred underneath them as they set off cautiously along the driveway.

It was a cold winters evening with a scattering of snow on the ground.

An hour later Rupert appeared at his father’s front door shivering. He explained how the Bentley was going well until they had struggled with a bad bend and ended up slipping in to a ditch. It was a mess.

They had to climb through the passenger door to get out and his friend was waiting by the Bentley… or what was left of it. All of them – including the car - were battered, bruised and in shock, mainly at the thought of how Roddy was going to take the news. Not well as it turned out.

It took Rupert a good proportion of his inheritance to pay Roddy to get it restored. With his up-until-then immaculate record stained for life, Rupert was duly written out of the childless man’s will.

It sounded hard to believe until Beanie showed me a photograph that Roddy kept of the broken 1954 Bentley on his office desk - as a constant reminder.

It turned out to be a costly mistake for Beanie’s brother but one his sisters love to retell on the most unsuitable of occasions.