Three years since my last Tile Hill exploration. Brexit has been followed by the pandemic and now there is a War in Europe: '
Wham, bam, thank-you, ma'am,' as David Bowie once said in a wildly different context.

Right now, Britain is a seriously poorer place than it has been at any time previously in my life. For a baby boomer like me, who was passably young through the 60s and 70s (thanks, in part, to the aforementioned David Bowie), who gratefully observed the London art scene in the 90s, and whose mother and father were still alive and helping to fund his creative endeavours until 2014 and 2016, respectively, the last few years represent a drastic downturn in fortunes.

But I don't opine. I'm still full of energy and ideas and there are projects that I have every realistic hope of carrying through to at least my own satisfaction. Including this one. Today I have been driven to George Shaw's Tile Hill by John Wilson, my friend since we met in a tiny corner of the huge quadrangle of Downing College, Cambridge. We came here several years ago, after I'd posted the main set of essays on this site. But that was more of a general reconnaissance, soaking up what the Google Street View camera couldn't give me, and apart from walking the streets more or less at random, taking photos here and there and having an afternoon pint in the Black Prince, I don't remember too much about it.

Today's walk has more purpose and will start from the south-eastern edge of Tile Hill. In fact, it will start from the car park attached to the Audi dealership a short distance from the A45 as it heads north through Coventry. John is the proud owner of a BMW and he doesn't think that parking his gleaming motor on the likes of Roosevelt Drive would be a good idea. He doesn't want a scratch on its burnished copper paintwork, and I can't blame him for that. Nor would I blame any member of the Tile Hill community for deliberately
scritching said car. To see a vehicle like this parked outside your house, while two middle-class men - still young-seeming, though actually in their mid-sixties - get out and stroll around, taking photographs of the environment (your home territory, for fuck's sake) for their own private and obscure satisfaction, might well incite thoughts of class war in any red-blooded Tile Hill inhabitant. It is five miles from Kenilworth to Tile Hill. They are worlds apart.

Twenty minutes walk, then, until we get close to the vast majority of sites that have been photographed and then painted by George Shaw. He too, when talking of his trips back here, mentions his uneasiness as a returning, visiting adult who has used his education and his talent to move up in the world, and to settle down far from Tile Hill. 'At home he's a tourist,' is another of those lines from a pop song - circa 1980 in this case - that pops into my mind. Gang of Four was the band's name. Look it up, dear reader, if you feel inclined.

Actually, this afternoon is off to a relaxed start. We have to walk through one of the woods that surround Tile Hill, and it's giving me a chance to lose any self-consciousness I have about carrying a Date Painting around all afternoon. The deep-edged canvas says 'JUNE 22, 2022', and I'll say more about it shortly.


In addition, I've also got in my backpack a book of George Shaw's work. It's called
Of Innocence if you open at it from one end, containing 14 paintings of Tile Hill that were exhibited at Anthony Wilkinson's Gallery in 1999. But if you turn it over, and turn it upside down before opening the book, its called Of Experience, and contains the same 14 views of Tile Hill, painted from 2019-2021. I expect to be referring to this book quite a few times today, though it's not my intention to chase up all 14 views. That way exhaustion lies.

A brief aside. My main project since February 2021 has been an investigation of On Kawara, the conceptual artist and Date Painter based in New York, who died in 2014, a couple of years before that other art-parent of mine, David Bowie, kicked the bucket. The day before yesterday, I led a Date Painting workshop at John Wilson's home and the results can be seen and read
here. There was no time to do a new Date Painting today, but my painting from two days ago has been enlisted to connect these two projects: George Shaw and On Kawara. Surely Jonathan Watkins, director of the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, having presented both artists to the West Midlands public via solo shows at the Ikon, is conceiving a joint exhibition of their work even as we walk.


It's the 'My Back to Nature' show of George Shaw's work that I'm thinking of in the above photo. George's time in the woods which he linked so successfully to other wood-and-tree-based work that hangs on the walls of the National Gallery in London. Glorious figure-compositions by Poussin, Titian and the rest.

This old fellow has been on a bender. Very much on his own in the disinhibiting wood. Drinking cans of lager until he puked? Well, I dare say these woods have seen a lot worse than that.


Actually, that's less than satisfactory. I haven't spent enough time looking for the right tree. (On the other hand, most of the trees look about right.)

I think the unsatisfactory thing is that I haven't looked at
My Back to Nature for three years. I may have to come back to this.

My main focus today, is on the map, below. See the blue line that starts near the right edge and eventually reaches the wood that I'm now walking in. (The blue line goes on from my present position; don't be getting ahead of me.) I need to remember which way to go once I get to the Tile Hill edge of the wood. Many options will present themselves and I want to get stuck in to the subjects of the paintings.


If I go right, then left, then I should get my bearings.

First, let's pause here. It's not just the England flag that I recognise from a painting in Shaw's
The Lost of England series, which I researched in 2019. I spent a long time looking at this freshly refurbished block of flats, thinking it was the site of one of George's paintings. It wasn't in the end, but I'm taking this photo anyway, as a tribute to my own process.


I'm now close to the centre of Tile Hill in so far as it has any centre. In sight now is what's called The Banana Flats, which is one of the views Shaw captured in Of Innocence / Of Experience. I get out the book and show John the two photos. First, Post-war style, as painted nearly fifty years later, in 1999:

George Shaw. Scenes from the Passion: The Banana Flats, 1998. Humbrol enamel on board, 43 x 53cm

I close the book, flip it over, turn it round and open it up again. Voila, another twenty years have passed. Another landscape made with Humbrol paints, but the hand that made the image has handled its paint-loaded brush with more fluency. Or am I just assuming it has?

George Shaw. The Banana Flats Revisited, 2019-2021. Humbrol enamel on board, 43 x 53cm

I then attempt to set up and take my own photo. In the end I have to stick fairly close to the sad tree stump, because the Date Painting keeps blowing over in gusts of Tile Hill wind.


The yellow flowering bushes - let's call them bushberries - give a pleasant feel to Jardine Crescent.

John tells me: "Those post-war planners gave it their best shot with limited resources. But seventy years on it's not a patch on the crescent I took you to in Royal Leamington Spa the other day."

"I suppose not. And I don't suppose they nick-name that Regency gem 'The Banana Flats'."

As I say, we are close to the middle of Tile Hill. Where the library is, for instance. But also there is a neglected spot that Shaw has made several paintings of. I'm not sure how such a very basic little space has survived. It's now protected by various fences and layers of graffiti so that it has become untouchable. Trying to get a close look at it, reminds me of being in the Louvre trying to approach the
Mona Lisa. It's simply not going to happen.


It's not far from here to the Black Prince, so we cross the waste ground accordingly. Once I have the approximate position of the two paintings I have in mind, I take this photo:


Then I turn to the 2019-2021 version of the painting. Which is delicate and other worldly:

George Shaw. Scenes from the Passion: The Black Prince Revisited, 2019-2021. Humbrol enamel on board, 75 x 100cm

The sun is fairly low in the south east. Which means it's a morning scene. A spring morning, I'd suggest. Same spring morning as recorded in The Banana Flats Revisited? Did George walk through Tile Hill taking photos much as I'm doing?

Twenty years before, it was a rainy day somewhere between late November and April that was captured for posterity. Fascinating how the focus of a composition can change from the wet shine of pavements and streets to the warm directional glow of morning light.

George Shaw. Scenes from the Passion: The Black Prince, 1998. Humbrol enamel on board, 75 x 100cm

In both exhibitions I'm following up, the above view of the Black Prince was juxtaposed with a view of the same building from right angles. In other words, if we walk to the middle of the left edge of the above composition, and look toward the middle of the image, we would see this:

George Shaw. Scenes from the Passion: Christmas Eve, 1998. Humbrol enamel on board, 43 x 53cm

That's the classic, 1999 painting. Which was my favourite at the time and which is discussed at length in the 'Of Innocence' essay near the top of this website's menu.

The twenty-years later painting is this next one. The subtle lighting effect has moved from inside the winter pub to the enveloping summer sky.

George Shaw. Christmas Eve Revisited, 2019 - 2021. Humbrol enamel on board, 43 x 53cm

I can't take a photo of the equivalent view today, because there are people washing cars for a living on the tarmac area adjacent to the pub, and the group of young men would be bound to clock us setting up the Date Painting and taking the picture. They might imagine we were trying to expose their entrepreneurial activities to HMIT.

"I suppose I could go over and tell them this is an art project, and ask if they are OK with me taking the photo," I muse aloud.

"Hmmm," replies John, rising to the challenge of finding humour in the situation. "I was thinking of giving them the keys to the BMW, telling the guys where it was parked and making an agreement to pick up the valeted car in, say, a couple of hours."

In the end, I search for the photo I took here in 2013. Finding it, I realise that though today John looks youthful for his 65 years, he looks older than he did eight years ago. Indeed, if we were to meet in Tile Hill every five years from now on - and I hope we will do at least that - we would notice the difference in ourselves every single time, as we crawl towards our respective, inevitable final states. For now, I give you the Black Prince, an accidentally ironic composition:


I need to consult the map. Where next? I realise that if I turn right just before The Banana Flats on Jardine Crescent, a road will take me to Aldrich Avenue, where three locations from 'The Lost of England' can be found in close proximity.


So I head for Aldrich Avenue, and before I get there I see the three garages that was the basis of The Buildings of England. I ask John to set up the Date Painting for me, and take the photo before he has walked clear of the shot.

There he goes, my gravebound friend. "Wait up for your playground pal, lad."


Yes, my timeworn - but not yet timetorn - twin, wait up for your other half!

Is it apt to quote
Riddley Walker at this point?

Never did the good luck brother
Turn around to help the other.

No, it is not appropriate. We have both been good luck brothers.

Round the corner (uphill rather than downhill, so John has to turn around all right) we soon locate this next spot. Site of
The National Game, again from 'The Lost of England'.

George Shaw. The National Game, 2017. Humbrol enamel on board, 46 x 55cm

I dug fairly deep into this composition in autumn of 2019. Let's see if I can remember what I did.

First, I took a still from
Stalker, the cult film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, and, overlaid that on the puddle.


I then introduced Boris Johnson to the mix. He had been lying low in Tile Hill, awaiting the result of the Tory leadership contest. But on hearing that he'd been made leader of the Party, and so appointed PM, he was able to reveal himself. From the playing fields of Eton to King of England!


That was three years ago. Boris got Brexit done, and Brexit has been a slowly maturing disaster as very many people thought it would be. The disaster-in-waiting of Brexit was followed by the overnight disaster of the pandemic (not Johnson's fault) which was followed by the expensive disaster of war in Ukraine (not Johnson's fault).

It's all taking its toll on the health and wealth of the British people. Many, many people are broke 'n' busted in this country, and things are going to get worse for the working class people of places like Tile Hill. The price of domestic gas, for goodness sake! The cost of keeping warm next winter.

Actually, this dead-end corner of Tile Hill has had a makeover. The garages have been renovated and the ground has been re-covered. Already the surface is being impacted on by the rain and by vehicle treads, but it's a lot flatter than it was when Shaw painted it for 'The Lost of England'.


As I write, the date is actually, JULY 6, 2022. I caught Covid on the train back to Scotland from Birmingham and am only now beginning to get my energies back.

JULY 6, 2022. Johnson has been caught lying, again and again. Caught lying and partying during lockdown Caught lying on behalf of a sexual predator chum. Well, people have had enough of his dishonesty. Yesterday he lost his Chancellor and his Health Secretary. I've a feeling that Michael Gove is just biding his time before delivering the
coup d'état.

"Alas, poor Boris. I knew him, Horatio."


I am going to write some things about Shakespeare before the end of this text, but I will leave it at that one line from Hamlet for the moment. And move on. Time we called in at 57 Roosevelt Drive.


I have not explicitly mentioned this house as being George Shaw's childhood home before. That's because George didn't want me to. His mother was still living there until relatively recently. Then she went to a local care home to end her days. I believe the Shaw family no longer have an interest in this house. If it's still owned by the council it will have been rented out to another household. And I expect it is still owned by the council. I don't think George's father agreed with Margaret Thatcher's policy of council tenants being able to buy their houses. Though I can't be certain of that.

I see there is a Mercedes parked in the drive. Good job John and I didn't assume we could park the BMW here.

Of course, 57 Roosevelt Drive would be from where George set off on many of his day's walks, both as a child and as an artist. The series of paintings that make up the series 'Ash Wednesday' amounts to a trail of landscapes leading from and returning to the above front door. For instance, this next place. Another site where George recorded the presence of a mature tree. Again, no room to park the BMW.


If the three Shaw paintings made at this site are placed in date order - 2004/5, 2009 and 2017 - the result is this triptych:

George Shaw. Ash Wednesday: 8am, 2004/5: It is Finished, 2009: Another Minute's Silence, 2017.

Now we have stage four: tree stump much reduced. Or at least we would have if George Shaw ever chooses to paint this view again.

Close by is another Shaw site. I'm not using a map at this stage, just stumbling from one well-remembered painting to another. On the patch of land behind whatever kind of grey metal box that is on the pavement, used to stand a traditional, red, telephone box.


Though the telephone box wasn't there when George made The Telephone Box Revisited in 2019-2021.

George Shaw.Sunday Evening, 2019-2021. Humbrol enamel on board, 43 x 53cm

One has to smash through the time barrier to 1999, to come across the red box itself.

Now ET can phone home. Home? Hamilton, 2240. "Is that you, Mum? How are you? How is Dad? Are you watching the tennis? Or is it the golf? You are watching the tennis, the golf and the cricket simultaneously just as you did throughout your glory decades of the sixties to the nineties? Glad to hear it."

George Shaw. Scenes from the Passion: Sunday Evening, 1998. Humbrol enamel on board, 43 x 53cm

"…I'm so glad to hear your long forgotten voice, Mum. But I have to go now. I'm with a pal, John. No, not our John. You know him though, one of my chums from Cambridge, where you drove me in the mini. Yes, time does fly, Mum. Yes, nothing lasts forever, Mum. Yes, I will be seeing you soon."

I have guided our nostalgic footsteps to Hawthorne Lane. This is an important site for George Shaw as it marked the boundary between the suburban streets around his childhood home and the wilder woods.

Let us again take a shallow dive back through time.

First, today…


Next, The Fall Revisited, a painting dated, 2019-2021.

George Shaw. The Fall Revisited, 1999. Humbrol enamel on board, 75 x 100cm

You wouldn't know why Shaw had called the painting this, until seeing the 1999 painting, The Fall:

George Shaw. Scenes from the Passion: The Fall, 1999. Humbrol enamel on board, 75 x 100cm

It's a spot that George Shaw has returned to repeatedly. This next painting is Landscape with Dog Shit Bin, and it is from 2010.

George Shaw. Landscape with Dog Shit Bin, 2010. Humbrol enamel on canvas, 56 x 74.5cm

If I was to turn around and look the other way, I'd be looking at a garage that is still there and which was used in 'The Lost of England' series, a painting called Polling Day. But I hold my ground. And take in the great gnarled and noble tree that is common to the above 1999, 2010 and 2019-2021 pictures.

Having taken this next photo, I take off my pack and place it on the ground close to the casually tossed Date Painting. I then return to this gateway and enter Tile Hill Wood in order to find a spot to take a leak in. As I go through the gate, I greet an elderly woman who is walking her dog.


By the time I return through the gate, the woman has sidled up Hawthorne Lane to the vicinity of where John stands. My friend tells me in an aside that he has had to save the Date Painting from being pissed on by the dog. Which explains why the Date Painting has been slipped into my haversack. The dog's owner doesn't look as if she intends to walk much further, so I walk over to her and ask her something with the help of the book I've taken from the bag.

I ask if she knows about the local ponds. I tell her that George Shaw, a local artist (she nods as if she has some vague knowledge that such a person might conceivably exist), has painted one of the ponds, and I open up the book and show her
The Forgotten Pond.

George Shaw. Scenes from the Passion: The Forgotten Pond, 1998-99. Humbrol enamel on board, 43 x 53cm

She absorbs the scene and tells me that within the wood there are several ponds. And that there is also a pond or two in Pig Wood, which is down there. She points south, back the way we have come.

Meanwhile, I have turned to the 2019-21 version of
The Forgotten Pond. The Forgotten Pond Revisited.

George Shaw. The Forgotten Pond, 2019-2021. Humbrol enamel on board, 43 x 53cm

As The Forgotten Pond has effectively become a non-pond, or at least an invisible pond, I realise I would do better to show her The Pond at the Edge of the Wood. Here it is, as painted recently:

George Shaw. The Pond at the Edge of the Woods, 2019-2021. Humbrol enamel on board, 43 x 53cm

And next is how it looked about twenty years ago. A lot of the details are unchanged. But the atmosphere is completely different. The old picture looks like something you might see in a Ladybird Book. What to Look For in Summer, Tile Hill edition.

George Shaw. Scenes from the Passion: The Pond at the Edge of the Woods, 1998. Humbrol enamel on board, 43 x 53cm

I don't suppose it's every day this woman gets shown paintings of Tile Hill ponds by a man who has to keep opening, closing and turning around a hardback book. But she handles the novelty of the situation well enough.

She tells us that the wood we're standing in has just such a pond at its edge. And that if we enter the wood and turn right we will eventually come to it. I tell her that we will do that.

The woman, who is in no hurry to leave the conversation, tells us that she is taking a break from her home on Roosevelt Drive, where her husband lies ill in bed. She doesn't use the word dying, but she tells us that he has bone cancer and prostate cancer and that a MacMillan nurse is regularly in attendance.

I mention that George Shaw, lived on Roosevelt Drive, and ask if she knew the Shaw family.

She didn't know them. She lives at Twenty-something (I'm not picking up everything she says, though I'm doing my best) Roosevelt Drive, on the main part of the road, whereas 57 is on an offshoot of the main road, effectively a dead-end street. That's true. So I try another way in: "How long have you lived here?"

"I've lived at Roosevelt Drive for 50 years. My husband has lived there for seventy years, since the house was built."

That makes sense. These are post-war houses and would have gone up in, say, 1952. Apparently, her husband's parents owned the house, but that his father died young and so the woman we're talking to moved into the house with the son, who had taken over the mortgage, and they looked after his mother until she died, also fairly young. Indeed, we're told, her husband's parents were 51 and 69 when they passed away.

We stand as a loosely connected group of three, with the dog patiently nosing around in the nearby grass.

She tells us that it's her sister-in-law that is with her bedridden husband now. His health problems really are severe, as all the arteries leading to his heart are blocked up. However, he has had a good 24 hours. He is a tall man and the authorities turned up this morning with an extension that could be added to the end of the hospital bed. At last he can stretch out in the bed and get a proper sleep.

John comes up with a few appropriate words. That her husband must be happy to be still at home at this stage of his life, being cared for by his family though with professional back-up on hand too.

She nods at this. I see her breathing in all the reassurance that her local surroundings can muster this summer afternoon. If it wasn't us she had bumped into for a chat, it would have been someone else. We don't make a move to go until she does.

"Bye then."

"Take care. Remember to look after yourself as well."

"Will do."


John has been moved by this conversation. And why not? So we chat it over then walk in silence for a bit. If we kept walking in this direction we would eventually come to Banner Lane. This is where the Massey Ferguson building used to tower over Tile Hill, though not literally, it was too far to the west. That building, now demolished, that Shaw alludes to in his superb painting
We Are Making an Old World: a huge painting mostly consisting of red sunset. Surely one of his most important pictures. Now owned by an institution in Luxembourg, as far as I know.

We make a right turn, as instructed by the woman we were talking with. As we walk north, I remember what I wanted to say about Shakespeare. William Shakespeare of Stratford did not write the plays of Shakespeare. Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, did. I am still trying to get my head round the implications of this. It had made a kind of democratic sense that a grammar school boy born in the sixteenth century had written the plays I'd studied as a grammar school boy in the twentieth century. Now it turns out they were written by a man who had been educated by a series of personal tutors, a brilliant boy who went on to get degrees at both Oxford and Cambridge while a teenager, then went on the Grand Tour, staying in Italy for a year so that he could perfect his Latin and Italian. When he got back to Britain, he set a dozen plays in Italy, mostly sparkling comedies. Young Edward De Vere was every bit as entitled as Hamlet was, he just happened to be a bit more mature than angst-ridden Hamlet when he eventually chose to write about this particular protagonist.


Hamlet's father dies when Hamlet is still a young man. Edward de Vere's father died when he was 13, and his mother quickly remarried. De Vere married his stepfather's daughter. But he didn't believe that he was the father of her first born, and so refused see her or the child for five years. Which speaks to the plot of
A Winter's Tale as well as Hamlet. There are dozens of such links between de Vere's life and the events of the plays. I'm going to be following all this up soon. The plan is for this to be more or less my last Date Painting for a while, as I've gone through On Kawara's biography to the end of his days. The plan is also for this to be a single visit to the Tile Hill website, just to keep the latter ticking over and up to speed. Having said that, George Shaw has a new exhibition of work opening at The Box in Plymouth, and I will have to visit that.

"I'll be delighted to go for you," says John, "and record it with a full set of photos."

"You mean just swish on down to the south coast in the BMW?"

"I won't even need to do that. You know how things stand."

I always thought that the Forest of Arden that occurs in
As You Like It, was a neat bit of evidence that the man from Stratford truly wrote the plays. But the novel on which the play was closely based also has the action go from court in France to the Forest of Arden, so that doesn't help. The bust that went up over Shakespeare's remains in the church at Stratford, as recorded in a sixteenth century engraving, was to a wool merchant. It wasn't jazzed up, with pen and paper added, until the middle of the seventeenth century. William Shakespeare of Stratford hardly put pen to paper all life long!

Meanwhile, as I set up the following picture, John is kindly looking up the Ages of Man speech from
As You Like it.


If I remember rightly, it's something of a stand-alone speech, justified only by the fact that 80-year-old Adam has been employed by young Orlando to be his servant as they travel through the Forest of Arden.

"Found it. The speech is delivered by Jaques."

"Remind me of his words, if you will."

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

"I guess we've reached the slippered pantaloon stage, John. I have noticed that I've lost bit of muscle in my legs since turning sixty. How about you?"

"The sixth stage sounds fine. We just don't want to move into stage seven."

"Like Tile Hill man."

"Not at any cost."

Avec prostate cancer. Avec blocked arteries. Avec bone cancer. Avec everything."

"What about Tile Hill itself. Could it be said to be dying?"

"Not at all. Tile Hill was born in 1952. It had a sunny childhood that its inhabitants look back on with nostalgia. But since it's fortieth birthday it's been a case of continual maintenance."

"You mean that for every building destroyed, a new one has risen from the ashes?"

"Not true though, is it? I'm thinking of George Shaw's paintings:
The End of Time, The End of Care, The End of Work and The End of Pleasure. The closure of a pub, a care home, The Massey Ferguson tractor factory and Tile Hill Social Club."

"There isn't much unemployment in Coventry, Dunc. I think you'll find that there are jobs available in local care homes and hospitals, even for you…And there are plenty of open pubs."

"No, there aren't. And don't mention The Black Prince."

"The Lost Pond."

"Never heard of it."

"Sorry, what I mean is I think we've found
The Pond at the Edge of the Wood."


"I think you're right. Let me make it official."


I refer to the map again. Because I know where I want this journey to end. In the playing fields at the very northern edge of Tile Hill, just south of Broad Lane.


Right here in fact. This is
The Goal Mouth from 1999. It was the image used on a gatefold card announcing an exhibition of George Shaw's work once. I wonder who I carelessly sent the card to.

George Shaw. Scenes from the Passion: The Goal Mouth, 1999. Humbrol enamel on board, 43 x 53cm

It was also one of the fourteen landscapes in Of Innocence.

And here is the equivalent image from
Of Experience. That is, this scene was painted twenty years later.

George Shaw. The Goal Mouth Revisited, 2019-2021. Humbrol enamel on board, 43 x 53cm

Have I got the right place? I think so.


Let me just try that again. I want to do justice to this beautiful book, which Anthony Wilkinson sent me, and to the deep-edged On Kawara-inspired Date Painting:


There was another painting made at this spot in 2009, This Sporting Life. When George came across the goal posts in a state of collapse. A state of affairs that couldn't have lasted for long.

George Shaw. This Sporting Life, 2009.. Humbrol enamel on board, 43 x 53cm

Now it's as if there had never been a football pitch marked out in this park. The End of Play?


This is where I intended to end up today. Because it's a location of multiple George Shaw paintings that I've only recently become aware of. However, I'm now thinking I should have ploughed on from east to west until I got to Banner Lane and the location of the old tractor factory.

From Audi car park to former tractor factory somehow makes sense.


I ask John if he will Google "George Shaw, open quotes, We are Making an Old World, close quotes."

"Funnily enough, that takes me to your website, Dunc."

"Good. Please scroll down until you get to a painting that's all red."


"Can I see?"

George Shaw. We are Making an Old World (detail), 2012.. Humbrol enamel on board, 147.5 x 198cm

What a magnificent painting! Tile Hill. Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans long term post-industrial strategy.

But that's just a detail, can I see the whole canvas?

George Shaw. We are Making an Old World , 2012.. Humbrol enamel on board, 147.5 x 198cm

Magnificent! The toast of the principality of Luxembourg. I just hope that the Luxembourgers know what they've got.

Just a few more steps to the end of the park. Let's stagger them.


This is the site of another painting from 'The Lost of England'. Half of the wall has been knocked down and there is some kind of redevelopment happening. Do they never stop digging up Tile Hill?

George Shaw. The Painted Wall, 2017. Enamel on canvas 92 x 121cm

No, they never stop digging it up and doing it over.

Inspired by this painting, I had Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson taking turns at kicking a football in between the goalposts marked out on the bricks. I left the scenario with Farage threatened with prison and Johnson running up to kick with cannonball intent.

Well, that's all over now, baby blue.

Social housing. What a positive concept. Worth protecting? I should fucking well think so.


As I've already made clear, I'm home now. I've taken a lot of trouble over this text and Covid has taken a lot of trouble over me. But we seem to have reached an equilibrium. Covid has done its worst; I have done my best.

George Shaw. The Painted Wall, 2017. Enamel on canvas 92 x 121cm. Digital intervention by Duncan McLaren after On Kawara.

Thanks, dear reader, for your attention.

Thanks, Dear George, for your forbearance in allowing me to add my Liquitex panel to your Humbrol composition, though I am aware that the original needs no such embellishment. Besides, those Tile Hill winds will already have blown away my makeshift addition.

And the wind, it windeth every day.


I had a thought last night as I lay in bed, wide awake. In the publicity for the present show of George Shaw's work at The Box, Plymouth, the exhibition is described as being in three parts. One, paintings of Tile Hill. Two, more recent paintings of George's mother, the interior of the home in Tile Hill now sold, and various ornaments. Three, paintings of the artist walking down a country road on the way out of Tile Hill.

On the face of it, this could imply George was - as of now - finished painting Tile Hill. Just as he reported to the
Evening Standard back in 2015 that he was finished with making Tile Hill landscapes and was moving on.

George was 30 in 1996 when he painted his first Tile Hill landscape using Humbrol enamel. On Kawara was 33 in 1966 when he made his first Date Painting using Liquitex. On Kawara knew that he had found a subject for life. In other words, the very idea was to paint each day, on that day, until he couldn't any more. That day came nearly fifty years later, in 2013, the year before he died. I believe On Kawara kept painting the date (at the very least, one day per month) until much closer to the end, but he decided at a certain point that the paintings were not technically good enough to be seen by the public.

In the same way, I'm assuming that part of George's idea is that he will make these paintings of Tile Hill until he can't any more. That this is what the idea is and always has been, though sometimes he may forget this, or regret the situation, or change his mind about it.

I omitted to include this painting from 'Scenes of the Passion' on my walking day. It's called
Pig Wood, and is one of the smaller size of paintings, 33 x 53cm. Sorry, tell a lie, it's the bigger, early size, 75 x 100cm


A beautiful summer's day? Quite so. And the equivalent (same size, same composition, one has to assume) made in 2019-2021:


As far as I can tell from the reproduction in the book, the image is all black. But I trust that the painting was made in the usual way, with the same-sized brushes, striving for accuracy. It's a precursor for what's to come, when George Shaw is sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans almost everything.

What he won't be, in that final phase of life, is
sans Tile Hill. That's what this painting suggests, anyway. I could be wrong. I could also be wrong about This Country and the mistake that the sitcom's creators, Daisy May and Charlie Cooper have made in saying that there is to be no more of it.

And now I must get on with July 10, 2022. Not painting it, I hasten to add. Living it.


George has been in touch with some interesting perspectives.

He points out that I inadvertently came across one of his compositions in the woods. (Oh, the irony.) He means this painting from about 1999,
The Strange Tree, a painting his father liked as the tree seemed to be a survivor, 'growing up and out of its own fall'.


Sure enough, John and I came across this tree, which features in the photo I took shortly before reaching the pond.

George goes on to tell me that he had been talking with Jonathan Watkins recently about the Date Paintings of On Kawara, and so to read about my Date Painting traversing Tile Hill had come as a well-timed surprise.
'And the date of your painting, well, the day, June 22, is more or less midsummer and the first day of a world without my mum.'

In his new exhibition at Plymouth, George shows seven paintings of clouds.
'Each one is a view above the house my mum was dying in and the house she spent fifty years living in, the last one being June 21st, 2019. In the back of my mind, amongst other things, was the thought of Constable’s cloud studies. These have always reminded me of On Kawara’s date paintings. Recently some meteorological bod has discovered their accuracy when set beside weather reports of the particular day Constable painted each one - very much date paintings.'

'The house I’m talking about is the house you visited. I’ve not seen it since that summer so it was quite a shock. It remained a council house, as you presumed, and was returned as social housing as my mum and dad would have wished. The sale of council houses was very much not in agreement with my parents view of the world and heralded the beginning of a selfish decade the legacy of which continues to today. Dad tended the front garden of that house nearly every day and it’s very sad to see it dug up and gravelled. We never owned a car.I took cuttings from the roses that he planted which now grow and bloom here in my house in Devon.'

It may be that George really has cut his ties with Tile Hill. Not really, though. The scenes will always be with him. The streets, the buildings, the derelict buildings, the new buildings and the paths that weave between them.

'As I’ve said before, Duncan, I don’t like to say too much in response to what you offer because I enjoy hearing what you make of it without my size eights trampling all over. Amongst my many irritations is ‘interpretation’ in gallery spaces - something I try to avoid when looking at other’s work and try to discourage in exhibitions of my own. Watching you wander through my own history is very strange, very Ballard, and very disconcerting. Which is of course very welcome. The Plymouth exhibition, called, The Local, (Gang of Four’s lyric very much to the fore) has examples of a series of paintings of barriers, bollards and barricades - all warning me off, telling me to go back to where I come from. The concluding paintings are self portraits called Effoff, Effing Off and Effed Off. Of course, as you’ve noticed, my farewell tour is now in double figures ….'

And as for Shakespeare this always tickled me, from Henry Fourth, Part One

SCENE II. A public road near Coventry.
Bardolph, get thee before to Coventry; fill me a
bottle of sack: our soldiers shall march through;
we'll to Sutton Co'fil' tonight.

I've looked up this scene and the lines quoted are followed by a speech by Falstaff describing the poor physical state and socio-economic status of the 150 soldiers he has under his command. Here's an extract from it:
'A mad fellow met me on the way and told me I had unloaded all the gibbets and pressed the dead bodies. No eye hath seen such scarecrows. I'll not march through Coventry with them, that's flat. Nay, and the villains march wide betwixt the legs as if they had gyves on, for indeed I had the most of them out of prison.'

Back to George's email: '
And put me in mind of Chesterton’s The Rolling English Road, the background music to those self portraits (as I walk the Coventry Road).


I have just looked up the poem, 'The Rolling English Road'. Four verses, out of which I must quote the first and the last:

'Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.'

Verses two and three keep up the alliteration in the place names of the last line. That jaunty tone is dropped for the final verse:

'My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.'

I think it is a clear-eyed George that is walking the Coventry Road away from Tile Hill. Forever walking the Coventry Road. Away from Tile Hill.