Bhat Boy likes to point out that his mother Jean was a cleaning lady and his father Roger a spy. All I know is that they were welcoming and kind when they took me in as a lodger. I had just returned from my mother’s funeral in Europe and would start the third year of my art history studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, as a “mature matriculant” from the Netherlands. Their eldest son, Gary, was a gifted physics student (and is currently a Professor at Bath University) and young Ian was mainly drawing maps or decorating an antique doll’s house. He and I became friends for life when he discovered I had added a double toilet to the doll’s bathroom, in the shape of the little plastic thingie one kept one’s contact lenses in; it had two lids, thus making the perfect toilet. For dolls.
Ian (now Bhat Boy) would come to my room and we would talk about art. He was a great listener and enjoyed leafing through my books. Much later, in an interview, he said that our conversations had been important to him when he was deciding on his own future in art. The evening prior to my leaving Canada to continue for an MA in Paris, Bhat and I had an official date. In restrospect it was one of the best dates I’ve ever had. First, Bhat produced a bag of sticky toffees, then we went to the park and climbed trees which he said he had “carefully chosen for me”; we were called down by a grumpy gentleman who thought we should behave. When he drove off we immediately climbed up again, just to prove a point. We played football with a pine cone and studied the pond life. I was thirty-eight, Bhat was thirteen.
After Paris I settled down in Bern, to work in an art gallery. Much later, when Bhat studied in Florence, he would come up for long weekends. I gave him healthy meals and we visited the Swiss museums. On one occasion, in the city of Lucerne, we stopped in the old town to look at the shop windows. Standing in front of one of the city’s many chocolate shops we discovered a life-size crib with a baby bear fast asleep and insects crawling all over it. All made of chocolate, of course. The one and only time I have seen a grown-up man with tears of laughter running down his face.
Lots has been said and written about Bhat as an artist. For me, what keeps our friendship going in spite of the geographical distance, is his delicious sense of humour, his golden imagination, his generosity. And sometimes, unexpectedly, getting a sense of the man he has become, down to earth, no fool, very caring and very brave. I love him to bits.
Elsa Fischer comes from the Netherlands, studied Art History at Carleton University, Ottawa, lived and jobbed on four continents and currently lives in Switzerland’s capital where she is a “yelpie” rather than a “woopie”. She tries hard to convey her love of poetry to the natives and is a member of a workshop for expats. She has two pamphlets in the UK and poems published in magazines and anthologies. She endeavours to age with grace.
Read Elsa's poem about art by Bhat Boy here.
Elsa was a finalist in our Ekphrastic Sex contest. Read her work here.
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