Welcome to the Gallery

Imagine is set in the Suffolk village of Long Melford.
This is an attempt to record the daily trials, tribulation and pleasure of running an art gallery.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Ever onwards and upwards.
Or to put it another way, even though the current exhibition is still ongoing it is time to start
preparations for the next, although I must admit that this has been prompted by a magazine chasing me for an advertisement and editorial details.
It does all tend to focus the attention a little bit although I had been looking forward to a period of relative normality. Well actually the normality would mean driving to locations scattered around the country, collecting various pieces of art,
and visiting different shows and art fairs.

So, in early September we will be exhibiting the work of two very different female artists.
Amanda Popham and Jackie Morris.
I tend to show you Jackie's work fairly often so I thought I had better just give a quick insight
into the world of Amanda.
She lives on a remote hillside in a tiny hamlet in the South of England.
I had long threatened to visit her and "take away any work she had",
but this was to be my first ever visit to her home and studio.

It is easier to draw blood from a stone than it is to get hold of some of Amanda's work, almost everything that she makes is pre-sold and her work often appears at auction.
She had warned me that even if I visited there would never be any ceramics available.
Of course, "I just knew that she was lying" and was convinced that if I visited I would leave with a few boxes of her work that she must have put aside.
So when I parked outside her cottage I was full of enthusiasm, knowing that this was one journey that was definitely going to be worthwhile.
It was, I really enjoyed my visit and having the chance to converse with someone I had known only through the telephone and email's, but as she predicted there was no work to take away.
Not one finished piece , everything had been sold and everything she was currently working on was also sold.
What a woman, what an artist, and yet so unknown in the world of ceramics.
I can think of many people who would love to be in such a situation, the public demand being
greater than your output.
In the past I have always struggled to get enough of her work and on the occasions that we had
it was only because the theme [of the exhibition] was close to her heart.
I admit I was very surprised when she agreed to a "one woman" show of her ceramics,
but even this was for a reason.
It had been intended as the last exhibition in our current home [as our lease soon expires],
it was intended as a 'Swan Song".
"I have always wanted to be someones Swan song", she told me when asked.
So for over a year I have been looking forward to receiving a fair size amount of her work.
That didn't mean that I was prepared to go without while I waited,
but go without we have had to do, along with a lot of other eager galleries,
and go without even after a very long drive.
She had so many commitments, including an auction at Sotheby before showing with us.

Still, I enjoyed my visit and it left me with many memories and full of enthusiasm, also at least I was able to have a glimpse into how and where she worked, and this has been really good in terms of giving me a greater understanding of what she is doing.
Also, when asked in the gallery about a particular artist it is good to close my eyes [mentally]
and to re-visit their studio, that way I am better able to paint a picture [with words] about
the person. It makes me appreciate that I was privileged to have visited them and knowing
that any purchase of art is a personal thing I am able to give the customer a second hand
peek into the artist's world. Now I can tell people about her world

So here is your own very small peek into the world and studio of Amanda Popham.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

As predicted I came in today, looked again at yesterdays picture, disliked it and then spent
another half day changing it, this time a little more subtle [I think].
I will leave it now and come back to it after a day or so to see how I really feel about it,
if need be I will discard it and move on as there is obviously something that I am unhappy with.

Believe it or not the above short paragraph has taken 30 minutes to write.
Here in Long Melford we have a thunderstorm going on.
I know that in previous posts I have mentioned how quaint and old this part of England is,
indeed one of the attractions is that it is still about 20 years behind the rest of the world.
It is for that reason that we moved from the beautiful Cotswold's to live and work here, it still has a lot of the qualities, atmosphere and values that have disappeared from other regions.
It is stuck in its own little 'time warp'.
Especially when the weather is anything but mild.
Even light showers and a breeze can leave us without power for hours, and at home we have torches, candles and camping stoves on ready standby for most of the year.
I have lost count of the evenings that the family have played cards, 'eye spy' etc, by candle light.
We are talking about summer months not bleak January evenings, those days we huddle around the log fire trying to decide whose turn it is to fetch fresh wood from outdoors.
So to do a post in a summer storm!
What chance?
The more the power cut out the more determined I became to finish what I started.

So on borrowed time before the next lightning flash and power failure.

A good thing happened today, the potter John Bedding who lives and works in beautiful
St. Ives, Cornwall
sent me a few of his pots to gauge public reaction.
I have "booked" John for an exhibition next year, which is maybe a silly thing to do as we have never shown his work, but I love his pots so much I had to offer an exhibition.

In a strange way John is one of the reasons we are here today,

Many years ago and what seems like the someone else I was a potter, this was back in the days before 'Potters Fairs' and 'Ceramics this, that and the other',
which are now shown all over the country,
it was a time if you weren't selling in a gallery you weren't going to survive.
How it has changed.
All those years ago there was only one gallery to show in and that was the C.P.A.
"The Craftsmen Potters" shop, since re-titled for political reasons "Contemporary Ceramics".
As Jim Malone [potter] said to me recently, "in those days it meant something, you were regarded as one of the best potters in the country".

Back in those days my dream was to be accepted as a member,
and then to be allowed to show my work in their London gallery.
This did come to pass, as they say.
Like almost everything in life I have since come to understand that "politics" plays an important part, but then I was young, naive and enthusiastic.
But I didn't understand politics

So when much later I eventually decided to throw in the "potters" towel and get a proper job,
I vowed that I would never buy a pot again.

Fifteen years later while on holiday I found a pot in the window of a gallery in St. Ives,
I looked at it and fell in love with it over the duration of a week and on our last evening went inside and asked the owner could I purchase it.
The potter and owner of the gallery was John Bedding.
It was through him that I learned to love pots again.

I have never forgotten how John brought my focus back, and as a result is the reason we sell ceramics.
What could be more fitting than to have an exhibition of his work?

Above are pictures of his pots, including a detail picture.
I love them as much today as I did that day when I found "that one pot" that brought me back.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

As you might know I take photographs from time to time,
mainly for my own satisfaction but
occasionally some of them are used for book or CD covers, which although it doesn't pay much
gives me a small sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.
To stand in a shop looking at a book cover that I created is a funny feeling.
Sometimes, the pictures were taken in isolated areas where there may have been no other person for miles around.
These are very personal pictures that I have taken just because I could, they were taken to give
me pleasure, so when many months later the picture is used to give others pleasure
[or to make them buy a book] it gives me a very strange feeling.
Almost an invasion of privacy but at the same time pleasure that others could see a scene
through my eyes.
If that makes any sense.
Of course this has little to do with the gallery, although in the past I did on occasions show my pictures, but now this seems a little too much like having an "ego trip" so it is only on a rare
occasion when I need to fill a gap that one of mine comes out.
Although it sounds like it this is not an attempt a false modesty, I really need to sell other artists work not sit in a shrine dedicated to me.
Although that does seem appealing the more I think about it.

Some of the pictures I have taken are of women [occasionally men] in period clothing, these pictures seem to be popular with others and I have had many book covers and magazine articles showing my photographs.
So it was with no great surprise that I received a call about three weeks ago from a publisher
asking if I could provide them with a series of 'Tudor' photographs to be used as book covers.
I said that I would "have a go" then after the conversation put them on the "back burner" in my mind.
There was a problem, most of the people I have photographed are not models as such,
just ordinary people dressing up,
but like everyone else they read the papers and watch TV and have become educated that models earn millions "just look at Kate Moss and Jordan" they think.
"I'm a model now, give me some of those millions you are making".
The reality is I earn between £50 - £80 a book cover, and this usually after spending an average of 30 hours 'improving' the image.
As a result I have no money to pay them, they are convinced I have made a fortune, end result:
I don't take pictures of females any more.
But there are exceptions.
One of these is a young woman called Sarah.
I have photographed her many times, a couple of her pictures have ended up as book covers.
Importantly we both had some fun and produced some lovely pictures, which have given us both pleasure.
As fate would have it she contacted me just after I was asked to do the new covers.
So cutting a very long story short, yesterday we used the fantastic church in Long Melford
for an hour or so taking "Tudor Royalty" pictures.
It was fun and for me made a refreshing change but it may have all been a waste of time.
Although I had been given descriptions of what was wanted "close up, lots of detail...etc",
I ended up doing what I always do [ask Irene] pleasing myself.

I chose one picture to work on, in "post production" so to speak, I had an idea of what I was
after but once started as usual the picture took on a life of its own and lead me along.
This evening I think that it is finished but I know from past experience that I need
"to sleep on it".
In the morning I have a strong feeling I will see many things that I am unhappy with, and it
is likely that I will devote a few more hours to it before something in my mind tells me
"that's it".
I am sure that it will never be used, as it is so far away from what was requested,
but I was told "do it in your style". So I have.
Unfortunately this isn't always commercial, which is the reason I don't make millions that I can pay "models" with.

So above are a few [very few] of the stages that the picture has been through over the last
day or so, starting with the today's finished photograph through to where I started yesterday.

Monday, 19 July 2010

It has been a busy few days.
It is a busy time of the year, not necessarily in the gallery but with different art shows around the country. I provides me with opportunities to meet several artists in one location, which although the circumstances may not always be ideal does cut down my travelling by an enormous amount.
All of the shows tend to be bunched up into a small window of time, with several overlapping or even competing with one another, which seems silly as they have the whole year to plan and
most of them are competing for the same customers [we call them clients in the "art" world].
I have made six visits to four shows in the past two weeks.
Some good, some not so, but at least I have the chance to meet old friends.
The most recent visit was to 'Art in Action', which is by far my favourite event of the year.
There is such a large variety of work by the very best artists, all who seem to admire the work of each other that there is none of the usual big ego 'baggage' found at many of the other events.
The show is held in Oxfordshire [near to where I used to live in another life] and it is without
a doubt the best organised of the years events.
It is very educational, with all artists demonstrating their art or craft.
Stonemasons, sculptors, book binders, print makers, painters, potters.........the list seems endless. The very best artists, all of them selected for the event.
As an artist you can not apply, the organisers approach you, which seems to be the formula
for excellence of the work on show.
It seems to be a happy event for all involved, public and artist.
The location is beautiful and if the weather is kind it is an event to relish.

I would have relished it a little more had there not been as much travelling involved but at least I was able to meet and collect from some of our varied artists.
Because of the crowds there is never much time for talk, usually just a few words, and the promise of a meeting at the close of the event to load my car up with "treasure".

There is so much that happens and to talk about, most of it recorded on other blogs,
so I will just restrict myself to showing a few pictures of three of my favourite artists, plus a hint of their work.

Above is a tile by Iris [who is now doing work with Jackie].
The hand of Iris working on a new tile [she refused to let me photograph her face].
My friend Stephen Parry who has just finished throwing a large pot on a cartwheel.
Stephen next to one of his large pots [notice how they shrink when fired, or has he grown]?
Jackie Morris, drawing a picture at the front of one of her books.
Most people just sign them, not Jackie she wants to give every single person a unique book.
After four days of talking to people, asking about their children then drawing a them a special picture she must have been exhausted but she still had time to banter with me and to talk
about our exhibition together in September.

Talking of exhibitions, I was informed by Iris that she and Jackie have decided that they are
going to exhibit together in our gallery.
If only someone had told me.
Still, at least when they decide when in the future they will hold this event it will give me something to look forward to.
When I know I will let you know.

Friday, 16 July 2010

A miracle, it's only minutes since I last posted and I am writing again.
I suppose that I had wanted to give different ideas and exhibitions their own space in
my thoughts.
I still have lots to tell about the latest "show" and with luck I will come back to that.
With luck [and time].
What I am writing about now is in a way very involved with the work we are now showing, so I will tell you more.
John Maltby [one of the artists who is on show at the moment] has given me a lot of cause for thought.
He is without a doubt [love it or hate it] maybe the biggest ceramic sculptor on the English scene at the moment.
He has been around for a very long time, in fact he isn't a youngster,
this is something that I can say without worry as he told me yesterday
" I think we are very alike, neither of us takes ourselves too seriously".
Something that for me was a great compliment.

I will admit in the past I have been perplexed by John's sculptures,
I wasn't sure if I loved them or hated them.
They are very different, a little disturbing and very different to anything else.
He is famous, in fact he is very famous.
But fame doesn't always mean good as far as I am concerned.
In this case it does.

Recently, I started to look beyond the 'hype' and 'myths' surrounding his work [and the artist],
and questioned did I really like it, or was it just his fame that was drawing me to the flame.

I find it hard to believe how in a very short space of time I have become obsessed by his work.
Many people may think "why", it isn't pretty, but a lot more people will understand exactly why, it is so very moving.
To look at and hold a piece in your hands is an experience.
It is so hard to describe what it is that moves you so, but moves you it does.
For the first time since opening the gallery Irene [my wife] asked could she keep just "one" piece for herself ? I told her no, we sell beautiful things not collect them.
What a mistake, of course the piece she wanted was the first to sell.
I stood and watched her as she looked at it [she has been back to look since] after the sale,
and felt regret.
One piece of art she has asked for in 5 years, and I said no.
A regret I will live with as she does so much for others and never asks for any thing in return.

I suppose I am telling you this personal stuff just to illustrate how moving John Maltby's work can be. It has taken me by surprise how moved by it everyone seems to be.

He loves the sea and everything connected with it, so as I looked at one of his 'boat' sculptures the other day I found the words "Ancient Mariner" running through my mind.

Half an hour later I found myself writing to him.

This is a man who recently turned down what has been described as
"the most prestigious gallery",
who had approached him to do a solo exhibition.

Many people have asked why did he turn "them" down, that's because they didn't understand the man.
A staunch socialist, with strong ideals about making his work available to ordinary people. Wow, who does that any more? Almost unheard off.

So there I was typing away, putting heart to paper asking would he consider a one man show?
'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'.
If any person could bring this work to life I just knew that John could.
I sent the mail, then waited, and waited, like a child waiting for Christmas morning.
"Please do it", I kept thinking.

Two days later with just a few words he replied.
"I would be VERY interested in your mad idea, call me".

Later that evening we [both excited] discussed how it should look.
"I had sworn I would never do another exhibition, but I want to do this", he told me.

What can I say? Just how lucky am I?

An exhibition, in a way just one piece, although it will total twenty four.
An exhibition worthy of a museum, and I do really hope we are approached by a museum to
purchase it in its entirety, so it can be kept whole.
Twenty four pieces telling one tale.

I am lost for words.
We are a small gallery with big dreams
John has made one a reality.

The opening date? Who knows?
John thanked me for giving him his winters employment, so maybe early summer.
We will do our own small book telling the tale as seen through his sculpture.
I have many plans. We may have an actor reciting the tale, the walls decked with old sails.
Who knows? My heart sings at the prospect of the fun and pleasure I will have.

After talking with John I 'downloaded' old etchings of the story by Gustave Dore'.
Partly to feed my own excitement but also to encourage John's, although I don't think he needed it. As it turns out it is one of his favourite tails, one he purchased as a student, he even owns an old etching from the story.
But, this exhibition will be our story.
Well John's, but at least I will be able to boast "I was there".

Above are old etchings by Gustov and two of John's sculptures, which perhaps explain where it all began.

It's been so long since the last post I had almost forgotten my password.
However, I'm back after a too long absence.
I can't even remember all the things that have happened since I last wrote so I will just mention the things that are currently affecting my mind and heart.
We have had the opening of our latest exhibition 'Sculptor', and though I promised to record the changes taking place in the gallery as I set up the new work I didn't get around to taking any,
this is for different reasons.
Firstly, pictures taken inside the gallery never seem to show it, or the exhibits as they really appear. The interior of the building is very strange, old, unusual and hard to illuminate, and it
does have a atmosphere all of its own, but it doesn't lend itself very well to contemporary
photography, which is unfortunate because the age of the building makes the work really stand out.
Secondly, as usual some work arrived so late that there wasn't the time.
So that's my excuse for the lack of photographs, the lack of writing is due to many other things.

Every exhibition takes a lot of time and attention to set up, and without a doubt the latest has been the hardest ever.
With such a mixed and strange selection of sculptures it was extremely difficult to display and arrange them in a cohesive manner, so that each piece was shown with its best potential.
As usual other work had to be stored for the duration, something that I know angers some artists.
In truth, I know that the more important and bigger artists would have expected no different and would not have been in the slightest bit concerned.
Still, the packing, storing, unpacking, displaying and arranging is hard and time consuming,
in fact 15 minutes before this one opened I was still drilling holes in the wall for pieces that I had expected to be free standing, so when the exhibition opened I was as usual
"stressed, tired and ready for a drink".
After the event, I look back every time and appreciate that this is a lot of fun, but never at the time. The day after I am always deflated, and feel a little lost.
I have no goal or immediate challenge to occupy my time.
Sure I have a lot to catch up on, but nothing as exciting, worrying or challenging.

Of course, this is the ideal time to blog but I feel so washed out I can't find the enthusiasm,
So I put it off, for a day, and another day, then before I know it I am so involved with new ideas and projects I don't have the time.
So before I go any further I thought that I had better show a few of the pieces that are in the exhibition, then I will come back with a whole new blog about what has got me excited this week.
Mind, this still means that I am about a week out with different events.
Never mind.

Above is a fantastic Rook by Emma Rodgers
Two sculptures by John Maltby and a Horse by Paul Priest.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

I have always said that I enjoy it when I have "lots of balls in the air" and the pressure is on.
I may have to re-think that one.
I do enjoy pressure and solving problems that have seemed insurmountable, but just every now and again "enough is enough" and I do question "have I taken on more than I can handle".
I have many things happening at the moment,
a new important exhibition opening this Sunday, talks with solicitors about the possible move to a larger premises, the ever ongoing dialogue with different artists, planning for exhibitions
up to the end of next year, organising the display and promotion of a large sculpture by Eve Shepherd which is going to be shown in Long Melford Church in aid of charity, wondering why I hadn't planned anything for Christmas this year, plus of course the very minor problem of ensuring we have sales to make any of the above achievable, etc,etc,etc.
I will stop there as the list is starting to bother me, plus I have started to think that some of the above plus other things not mentioned are worthy of a post by themselves.
So, in case nothing else happens to me in the next month I will hold some bits back.

Apart from the many things occupying my thoughts there is also something else that is happening which I can't ignore, even though I don't have time to handle it as I would like to.

Each year in many countries an event takes place called
'The Affordable Art Fair'.
In London it happens twice each year, Spring and Autumn.
It is the most attended art fair in this country, and as such makes the reputations of artists and galleries alike. The event is host to galleries only not individual artists,
it is highly prestigious and very expensive, the event might make or break a gallery
but then so might the cost.
Even so, the exhibition is over subscribed and stands are offered to galleries who have shown in previous years. To get a place a new gallery almost has to serve an apprenticeship, doing some of the other very important fairs around the country drawing attention and then hoping that patience pays off.
Patience? What's that.
Unfortunately, I am a very excitable person, I grab an idea, don't think of any of the problems
and run with it. Stupid I know.
But I just think that life is to live, and I have wasted far too many years of mine to sit back and be patient now. My problem is that I sometimes I think that I "can move mountains".
Of course I can't, but I haven't grown any wiser with time and experience.
Still I'm only 18 [in my mind].

So knowing that I couldn't get a stand at the A.A.F. I wrote and asked for one anyway.
After being told several times that there weren't any available I continued to write and put my case as I have often found that "genuine" appeals from the heart sometimes break down barriers. In our harsh old World of today there are still some nice people out there who want to give the underdog a chance.
So finally against all odds and expectations I have been informed that there is one stand available, with many applicants applying for it.
A decision will be made later this month to decide which lucky gallery has this place.
The criteria is quality of art to be shown [plus also the ability to find an enormous amount of money in a few weeks].
I can't tell you how excited I was to be given this chance.
Against all odds persistence paid off.

So what do I do now?
I am not too sure where we will find the money [donations accepted],
but I am positive that we can give everyone a "run for their money" when it comes to
the quality of work to be exhibited.
With a ridiculous deadline to aim for, and so many things to do plus an exhibition to set up, I have been calling and mailing my friends.
The very best artists.
Could they get pictures to me within three days?
Nearly all of them understood how important it is to us.
If it works it would put us firmly on the art map, hopefully with their work also.
Some of course like Jackie Morris don't need putting on any map,
but so characteristic of her she was one of the first to respond.
Louise Richardson who has a solo exhibition scheduled with us for October [the same month as the fair] told me to forget her exhibition and use her work in the A.A.F. event instead.
It is so good when you have had a nice opinion about people and then it is reassured by their selfless actions.

Well, I have pictures from most of the artists that I would like to show if we are successful, and
these will be submitted tomorrow.
From then it is in the "lap of the Gods".
I don't know what to expect, I'm scared and optimistic at the same time.
"Us", in London?
What a strange thing.
But I would like to thank my friends who responded [very quickly] and sent pictures of their work.
I know I can be a strange old sod, but thank you for seeing past that and understanding that
I do love your art and really want to share it with the world.

I can't show an image of every ones work so I just at random picked on a few that were to hand.
So above are.
A gorgeous pot by Adam Frew, who lives in Northern Ireland
From Norfolk, a dress made from nails by Louise Richardson.
"Infinity" [in bronze] by Irish sculptor Ana Duncan.
The artist who lives the closest Paul Rumsey "Library Head"
Would I ever be able to leave out the strange woman from the wild Pembrokeshire coast
Jackie Morris
Her beautiful new painting, "Wolf Brother".

Fingers crossed.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

"If I don't do a post tonight I will probably never do another one",
or so my thoughts have gone.
There has been so much that has happened and so many miles travelled since the last post
that I don't know where to start, or end.
So I decided that I would just leave out a large chunk of my life and just record perhaps the most memorable piece.

Our next exhibition which features five different sculptors has perhaps preoccupied me so I will just talk a little about this, although inside I want to shout out
"hey, guess what has just happened for us"?
Hopefully I will mention [definitely, better or worse] to you about might happen soon
that maybe might put us on the "map" in the art world.
Also, I will talk about what will happen with the gallery as we may be[or not] moving soon.

But for now back to the most interesting/exciting thing that has happened for a few days.
After spending the weekend at a ceramic fair in Nottingham I travelled further south to Devon to visit the famous ceramic sculptor 'John Maltby' who features in our next exhibition.
I had no pre-conceptions about what he might be like, but after talking to a couple of ceramic sculptors at the Nottingham show I became concerned about my coming encounter.
Just what sort of man would I be meeting?

Arriving at the home of John Maltby I was waived into the drive by a frail looking man.
This was John.
I had been prepared for a Giant or a Troll shouting at me to go away.
Instead, I encountered one of the nicest most gentle of men I have ever had the pleasure to encounter.
I was privileged, because although obviously very ill John acted as if I was the only person who had expressed an interest in his work or come to visit.

I wished that I had the time and patience to talk about all that happened, but I haven't.
If you ever call in the gallery I will tell all.
To summarise, I was humbled, awed, and enthralled by this humble giant of an artist.

In the past whenever I have visited an artist [of any description] I have felt that their art was diluted by seeing such an abundance of the art on show.
Not this time, I wanted to see more, for once "more was more",
although I must admit that
having explanations of various pieces really brought them to life and made them seem so very special.
John explained that the sculpture that I used on the invitation was of his wife.
Sadly she has passed away.
In my mind I had been sure that it was his wife but I asked him to explain it to me.
The sculpture shows an angel hovering over the garden with a watering can.
He explained that his wife who was wheel chair bound loved the garden, and would sit watching and directing him as he worked in the garden.
Now, of course as an Angel she would be caring for that garden.
Other stories he told me explaining about "Kings and Birds", "Dark Angels"and
"Viking visitors", will remain in my mind for a long time.
Not only did I feel very privileged to hear these explanations I also felt very humbled by the presence of this man.
I left feeling that I had made a friend, for what remains of both our lives, and also feeling very honoured to be showing his sculptures.

" I have wanted to meet you, as you seem to have a very unusual gallery".
He told me as I departed.
The words have echoed in my mind many times since.

Much of the art I collected are wall sculptures,
these need presenting in frames, so a trip to my framer Neil
was the first thing that I did on returning home.
Neil who was a teacher at St Martins Collage of Art and is a sculptor in his own right loved the sculptures and asked could he frame them as he felt was fit.
"As long as it doesn't detract from the sculpture", I told him.
I should have known better than to have spoken.
This afternoon he arrived with the first "test sample" for me.
It is beautiful and I really don't want to sell it, it was a case of one artist respecting another.
I told him to go ahead with the rest in whatever manner he felt fit.

I want to talk more about John Maltby as he made such an impression on me,
but I really just don't have enough time to spare.
Let me just say something that I have mentioned before.
"The greater the artist the nicer the person".

Below are a few pictures of some of John's work that we will be showing,
before they were framed, plus a picture of the "Gentle" man himself.
Thank you John it was a visit I will never forget,
even though at times we both struggle to remember our own names.