Friday, 9 August 2013

Alfreda Benge

Here is a re-post of an article that originally appeared on Something for the Weekend, Sir?  ...but this time with additional artwork and some amends...

Alfreda Benge - a foreign sounding name. We English don’t like foreigners though do we?  Them and socialists we take a disliking to. This lass is no foreigner, though, she’s as English as tea or buttered crumpets. Trouble is nowadays, what with all those Johnny Foreigners coming over here, you don’t get good old fashioned English names anymore. No George’s or Henry’s, no Eileen’s or Albert’s. Still, that is the price of having a small island with a big, big heart.

Alfreda was born in 1940. Not that that matters and besides, one shouldn’t put an age on a lady should one? Her husband is of course musician Robert Wyatt (now there is a true Englishman with a pure English name) with whom she has written the odd tune and done the odd album sleeve for. All pin money of course as R.W. is the breadwinner in their house - only one man can wear the trousers at any given time eh Bob? (I hope you don’t mind me calling you Bob?)

I really don’t know how Alfreda finds time to do a spot of painting bearing in mind she has a house to run and a raspberry to wheel about. It must be tough on her. In light of that, it is easy to see why she needs a hobby.
Here are some of the album designs Robert has generously allowed her to paint then put on his records. What a good bloke eh?

Second cover by Alfreda for 'Rock Bottom'

First cover by Alfreda  for 'Rock Bottom'
When not dabbling in a spot of painting, Alfreda likes 
nothing better than putting pen to paper and making up the odd rhyme. She is keen on her poetry you know and has even, when not dusting or preparing food for Robert’s meals, published one or two bits.  Clever girl eh?
Robert, in a mood of matrimonial benevolence even used some of the old girls words on his 'Dondestan' album. Well, you have to allow the old bread knife some token esteem don't you?
We could hear it
Before the shutters were open,
The wind on the beach.
Then we found miniature sand dunes
On the concrete of the balcony
And a dead leaf zig-zagging,
Scratching an urgent message in Sanskrit
Before hitching a ride on a frisky gust.
A plastic bag caught on a rail
Rearing to go, in such a flap
We set it free
To join a page of last week's news
Racing high above the undulating beach,
And the invisible flying sand
Casting a fast moving shadow
Stroking the beach clean.
Yesterday's footprints vanished,
Replaced by smooth rippling wave formations,
A copy of the sea.
No one walking,
Not even the dogs.
A day for the rubbish to dance.


All jokes to one side, Alfreda Benge is a very talented lady. Her paintings are among my favourites and the ones displayed here are only those she has done for husband Robert. Her work on the album covers for  Robert Wyatt capture perfectly the mood and content of the work they portray. She has illustrated many books, made records of her own and worked with Nick Roeg. The above lyrics from Wyatt's album  were written by Alfreda. Talent this good is worthy of far more attention than she currently gets even if, as I suspect, the last thing she wants is attention.

The heavy use of irony applied here came after a conversation with someone who seemed to think that in the 21st century working females only did it for 'pin money' and that they still kept house and ran errands. The same person also held strong views on what they saw as being typical English names. Richard, Henry, William (French as far as I know) and George (German) were those presented to me. They did not refer to paraplegics as 'raspberries.' That was me using Cockney Rhyming slang coupled with dark humour. This author has nothing but respect for paraplegics and meant no discourtesy whatsoever to them or any other disabled person or persons. No dogs were laundered or discomfited in the making of this post

all words and art are copyright © of Russell 'C.J' Duffy.To view my instep measure by boot heels.


LeeKwo said...

Dear Russell I thoroughly enjoyed this piece of writing and could hear the accents in my ear/It read like a story from the 1930s and the album covers were surreal to say the least/Did you do that art work?/Just for some pin money of course/Im not well tonight/The old black dog is on my back and all I can do is sleep and dream nightmares about dark tunnels and circuses riding bicycles/Its so cold here in this room I have three hoodies on and am peering out of the space left for my glasses/Hope all is well with you and thanks for the post and yr humor and irony/Regards and affection Lee Kwo/

LeeKwo said...

I was so obsessed with my mood that I completely missed the connection between the music and Robert Wyatt and that he was Soft Machines drummer/Didnt he fall from a window and ended up in a wheel chair for the rest of his life?/The artwork is actually covers of his albums/Yes excellent stuff old boy/ Regards and affection Lee kwo/

Vanessa V Kilmer said...

This bread knife across the seas has been too busy dusting and folding laundry to find the time before now to look at Alfreda's work and words. How does she find the time? She must be slacking on the important stuff.

Russell C.J. Duffy said...

Lee>>>No worries. I would have thought that when the black dog bites it is hard to shake it off.
Yeah, this the same lady who has been married to Robert Wyatt for thirty nine years. She has contributed to his musical output almost as much as he has with lyrics and those superb album cover artwork.
Robert did fall out of the window at a Pink Floyd part. Unlike Keith Moon, who he was with, Wyatt is not a Rock'nRoll wild man. Moon suggested Wyatt drink a curious mix of Tequila and Vodka which resulted in Wyatt accidentally falling from an upper floor window. He has been paraplegic ever since 1973.

Russell C.J. Duffy said...

Nessa>>>Somehow I can't quite see you playing the part of the dutiful wife hitched to the kitchen sink anymore than Alfreda Benge or for that matter my three daughters.

Illsa Gorrey said...

Lovely couple--some folks were just made to go together! Can't say I'd heard of them before, but I enjoyed learning about them.

Vanessa V Kilmer said...

You are astute in your observations, Russell.

Do you keep posting and unposting posts? My reader found 3 new posts that aren't here, making me nutso. :o

Russell C.J. Duffy said...

Vanessa>>>What happened was this...I was working on two new posts but neither meant to be posted as yet but kept as drafts. Twice I hit the wrong button sending them live and twice I had to go back and take 'em off. Sorry.

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