England Part IX

On the way to Snape, Tassie chatted about her life; about how she much preferred English country life to living in London. “It’s so much more civilized, fun, and manageable,” she said. She whisked her car to the side of the road when she saw some azure blue sweet peas for sale. The first thing she did on entering her house, was to find an appropriate vase for these delicate flowers and place them on the table.

The outside, and the inside of Tassie’s house were sensational…a blend of old and modern that worked because it honored the aesthetics of old structures by simply cutting out part of an old wall while adding the beginning of a new modern addition onto it. TASSIE RUSSELL is a Suffolk artist whose large paintings illustrate her innate knowledge of form and space: ‘Separation and Distance’, ‘Pieces of Ground’, ‘Limits of Space’, ‘Descent’, ‘Protect’ are the names of some of them.

Tassie darted around her home, garden, and studio in much the same way she used to move as a little girl, her speech also bright and quick as it used to be. In her office in the new modern wing of her house I found a photo of her father, Clifford Russell, when he was young.

How we all loved Clifford! Paralyzed from the waist down as a young man fighting in WWII, he carried on with life with a witty sense of humor, quietness–he painted, and gusto–he could beat us at badminton racing around his back garden in his wheelchair.

Later, at Diana’s (Clifford’s wife, Tassie’s mother), I asked her what she had loved best about her husband. “Diana gave me a big infectious smile and said, “His sense of humor.” I knowingly, smiled.

Diana is another example of an eighty-nine year old woman for me to admire, living alone in her own home (the other was Vida). She said, “It gets a bit lonely, sometimes, but I like my independence.”

Diana chatted about the old days when we were next-door neighbors in Walberswick; both Tassie and Diana mentioned our lively–very American–Easter egg hunts. Diana told me of my father’s intense eyes, and she laughed and said she was always being called upon to go down to the marsh to organize Grandmother and Anna Freud’s horses, which had a tendency to “get away.”

Tassie decided to take me into Aldeburgh to have a bite of lunch before Ann and Tiggy were to come by and pick me up for the visit to their farm in Stowmarket. Over curried fish soup in this sunny seaside town, we discussed her career as an artist.

She knew I was going to London soon to spend some hours in Grandmother’s house, The Freud Museum. She entertained me with the tidbit that part of her training as an artist back in the day took her to this museum to portray her responses to Sigmund Freud’s famous collection of antiquities; it was part of her Fine Arts curriculum.

Hmm, I thought. The last time I was in THAT Sigmund Freud consulting room with THOSE OBJECTS was at the memorial for my father in 1971. What would it be like for me now?