I first met Arthur at Newland Avenue allotments in the summer of 2004. He let me into the allotment grounds, and gave me a bag of French Beans…I had never seen these beans before, surely they were magic beans, bright pinks and purple mottling, like Jack’s of beanstalk fame, I fancied.
Arthur was a live wire, full of meandering stories that took in the Second World War, the travelling fairs of the fifties and the finer points of growing marrows. Interestingly Arthur had painted an inside wall of his shed with a kind of mediaeval scene, although quite naively painted it was a splendid sight.
The characters populating it were strange, similar perhaps to what we see in Bosch or read about in Gulliver’s Travels. One of the central characters was a saint like dog/horse/monkey/fish. When I expressed an interest in the painting Arthur slid a metal box out from under some sacking material on the floor. ‘Have a look’, he suggested. I opened the box, Inside was what seemed to be a pile of old dust sheets. I carefully unfolded them and to my surprise/horror/bemusement I saw ‘Little Doug’ for the first time… from the ‘What is it?’ booklet available from the Maritime Museum for fifty pence.
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