I left Ollie in the care of Clarissa Upchurch one day when he was about a year-old while I popped round the back of Mr Parks the butcher’s shop to be thrashed at ping-pong by George Szirtes.* The Wymondham** and District Ping-Pong League Clubhouse was in this Anderson shelter at the rear of Mr Parks’ shop. When we got back, Clarissa was sketching Ollie; when I arrived next week for my weekly humiliation she had these beautiful monoprints hanging from a string in her studio. The general protocol is to make the artist an offer and hope they say, ‘Yes, providing you grow up and add another nought.’ But I’m from Stoke-on-Trent so I just nicked two while her back was turned. Clarissa is so charming and lovely that when she came over to our house for dinner some while later and saw them framed up on the wall she pretended she had given them to me as a gift. If the house was on fire, they’d be the two items I’d save on way out.
* spent his whole young life at the ping-pong table. After treating me to my tenth beating in a row he casually mentioned that he was the champion of round his way, and that ping-pong was the national sport of Hungary.
** pronounced: Windham.
Clarissa Upchurch, Monoprint, 2003