'Scilla' acrylic on silk by Paula Carnell copyright 2007
‘Scilla’, acrylic on silk by Paula Carnell copyright 2007

Many years ago, when I had the Gallery ‘Possi’ in Castle Cary, I met a lovely couple who’d visited us shortly after moving into the town.
They were interested in the Elaine Peto Hare sculpture that was in the window of the adjoining cottage. I was able to explain that the cottage was ours and that I’d bought the Peto ceramic Hare for my husband several years earlier. It turned put that they also had a Peto sculptures and invited us to pop up and see them one day. Sadly we never took up the invitation.
The couple often popped in, sometimes just for a chat, sometimes to buy cards, and what became a regular occurrence, to purchase a gift for their daughter, Erica. It seemed that Erica always loved her gifts from the Possi shop, we sold designer jewellery & Neals Yard products so Erica was lucky to be spoiled at Birthday’s and Christmas. I don’t remember ever meeting Erica, she was always this beautiful daughter that lived far away.

We had many customers like this though , Castle Cary had become a great ‘retirement’ destination. The market town with all it’s independent shops, butchers, bakers and Delicatessen’s made a perfect place to live a quiet life and make friends pottering from shop to shop. The high speed rail link with London also kept the local parents whose offspring had moved to London to work , in touch. Friday afternoons and Saturdays, an influx of successful thirty something’s flooded the town. Some not familiar with Somerset but drawn here to visit parents. Others returning home.

One sad day we learned that Mr Brady had passed away. It was such a shock, and sadly we’d learned too late to attend the funeral. My husband also left me and our sons around the same time so I had my own grief to deal with. It was still a shock though. They were a couple full of vitality and still seemed very young. There had been talk of their daughter moving down to the area, but that was before his passing so I never knew if their daughter had moved into the area.
I bumped into Mrs Brady one day not long after both our losses. It was outside the post office. Neither of us were feeling our best and unlike our previous bubbly chats we just exchanged a knowing and understanding greeting. It was a special exchange. We both knew how we were feeling, we both grieved for the other’s loss and nothing more needed to be said. Little did I know that that would be the last time I saw her.

Meanwhile I noticed a new face in town. A bubbly friendly tall slim lady with wild hair like mine. She chatted with everyone she met so I presumed she must have lived here years but I’d not met her. She also smiled at me and it soon became apparent that she was a gardener. She’d nobely be tidying up the plants on the Triangle and around the Horse pond. She’d be very friendly to me too, although I was curious as she seemed to ‘know’ me better than I knew her!

A few years later I’d sold my Gallery and relocated to a quiet road on the outskirts of the town. My neighbours were having an extension built and on its completion had their garden re landscaped. The bubbly Erica came in and started work on their garden. One day I’d returned home from a school run and Erica was in the neighbours drive obviously distressed. Her car had broken down, and her phone wasn’t working. I invited her in to make her calls and while she awaited rescuing we chatted. It was then that all the pieces fitted together. She was THE Erica, the daughter of the dear couple who was going to move down to be near her parents. That was how she knew me. We shared fond memories of her parents and both shed a tear in their memory.

The next day I returned home to find the most beautiful bunch of deep red, almost black Dahlias. Erica had picked them from her garden from a plant of her mothers. I had to paint them straightaway. As I painted I remembered Mr & Mrs Brady and images of them laughing together and walking around the town filled my studio. I cried for missing both of their funerals, and for not realising sooner who Erica was. I cried for Erica, moving to a new town to be near her parents, but just a little too late. Then I cried for the shear beauty of these Dahlias, and the joy that just a part of Erica’s parents lived on, to bloom year after year.
It was then that I realised I had never known their names. After painting the Dahlia three times I called Erica.

'Scilla on Gold' acrylic on silk by Paula Carnell copyright 2007
‘Scilla on Gold’ by Paula Carnell copyright 2007

‘Scilla’ was her mothers name. And so the paintings were named, ‘Scilla’, ‘Scilla on gold’, and ‘Erica’.
The paintings were never sold. Two special people really fell in love with them, so one is now in Hastings, and the other stayed local. The third one of course had to be given to Erica.

'Erica's Dahlia', acrylic on silk by Paula Carnell copyright 2007
‘Erica’s Dahlia’, acrylic on silk by Paula Carnell copyright 2007

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