In memory of David, by Toby (his Social Buddy)

Painting

David and I got matched up through Louise at Age UK. She did such an amazing job as I don’t think she could have matched me with anyone more perfect. I saw a lot of myself in David and I think he did in me too. We both had so many overlapping interests and hobbies it actually made us laugh a lot. Pre-covid I would visit him weekly at his house in Ramsgate and spend a few hours chatting about all sorts of things, we both loved the sea, history, gardening, collecting antiques etc so we didn’t run out of things to talk about.

Once covid hit and we were told not to visit our elderly buddies I continued to call David once or twice a week, check up on him and see if he was ok or needed anything and would chat for a bit… planning to do things or go places once we could again. He took a turn for the worse not long after his birthday and was omitted to the hospital and finally into a care home for end-of-life care. It was hard to contact him whilst he was in the hospital, they wouldn’t allow visitors and he didn’t have a phone but I guess the only good thing about him being on end-of-life care was it was a loophole in the restriction that allowed me to go visit him again in Folkestone. I had to sit in the garden outside his room but again I’d go up for a few hours and chat with him and he’d tell me tales of his life as usual.

I had the idea of a portrait of David very early on to meeting him. I thought a series of portraits of the elderly clients at Age UK would make for a great series of paintings and would help raise awareness not only for the elderly in the UK who are lonely and vulnerable but also for the charity itself. This was all pre-covid lockdowns etc so basically got put on hold until I could actually meet other people through Age UK. I told David about it during one of our visits and he thought it was a great idea and told me he’d be happy to be the first person I painted. Again, it got put on hold until we could meet up again properly and I could paint him from life.

I decided to paint it finally as I knew he was in end-of-life care and I really wanted him to see it. I asked if I could take some photos of him when I was with him in Folkestone on one of my last visits before he passed. The painting is this image I took. I added in his medals which he was extremely proud of and his Queen’s Medal story was one of the first ones he told me so I knew it was important to him. It includes Spitfires which he loved. His father was a Spitfire pilot during the Second World War and was shot down and MIA over Malta. He never saw him again nor did he know what happened to him and he spoke about it often. I had his pose looking up at the Spitfires to represent this longing to know what happened to his father. He loved tattoos like me so wanted to include them also. His love of the sea, like mine, was one of his biggest passions, we really connected on our love for the ocean so had to represent it in the portrait also.

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