At last…

IMGP0025 I have it. Almost two months after it arrived in Argentina, my beloved painting,  my copy of a Hamish Blakely, is finally in my apartment in Buenos Aires. Of course Carlos tells me that it is really a flamenco painting not a tango painting at all, and maybe he is right: the woman’s hair, the man’s clothes… ah well, what the hell, to me this painting is the symbol of the start of my tango journey. Maybe it becomes even more of a symbol if it is not truly ‘tango argentino’. Then it tells the truth of my early steps in tango: a passionate enthusiasm, yet lack of understanding; a fixation on how things looked and not how things felt; the flowers I always wore in my hair…  yet I love this painting. It has a quality of light which too symbolises my journey. The light strikes the figures and surrounds them. Today I know that light surrounds me also: the lightness that comes with understanding and living with my own truths.

This picture has journeyed. I bought it in Southampton, England, in an exhibition in West Quay shopping centre. It was one crazy Saturday as my divorce was about to come through. I was  to move into my new apartment within days, newly single, and fresh to tango. I wanted the painting as soon as I saw it. It was a ‘new life warming’ gift to myself. An impulsive moment, a credit card, and the painting was mine. It hung in my apartment and watched me practice my first wobbly ochos. It remained in England when I left, and kept an eye on the place. It was there to welcome me back in February, and it was then I decided that I could not leave it again. It was destined to come with me to Argentina: the symbol of my new life must be with me IN my new life.

Do not believe anyone who offers a ‘door to door’ shipping service to Argentina. It just isn’t possible. At least not with a painting. It took me 2 months, and a wasted trip to Ezeiza airport just to get the import paperwork sorted: in this case a ‘guía aérea’ was required from the shipper TNT before customs at Ezeiza would even consider releasing the painting. So in the end on collection day, after many phone calls and emails to England and to TNT in Argentina, we spent 2 hours in TNT Barracas (absolutely in the back streets of Buenos Aires) waiting in line for the said papers, followed by 4 stressful hours in customs Ezeiza. I coped fairly well with the endless trail to Office 1, Office 3, Office 2, Office 1, the building across the road with the white door, Sector C in the building across the road with another white door, Office 3, Office 2, Office 1, the Banco Nación inside the customs complex, Office 3, Office 2… you get the idea. I coped less well with the news that every day that the painting had sat in Ezeiza was going to cost me USD$4 plus 21% tax: it had been there nearly 2 months. I nearly lost it completely when I was taken to identify the painting and the box was slit open with wild abandon by a customs official brandishing a huge knife. At that point I shouted, ‘Cuidado POR FAVOR!’ I then actually cried as I began to believe that they were going to let both me and the picture out of that ghastly compound. Thank God after touching the canvas they put a lowish value on it and I only had to pay 25% of that as a customs fee. All in all, before I left with the battered, bruised and patched up box, I had parted with upwards of $1200 pesos, many hours of time, and a considerable amount of patience. Carlos had a few more white hairs.

As I write this some days later, the painting is on the wall. Carlos has used his English bought ´laser level’ for the first time, and is happy that the thing is vertical to a degree of perfection at which I can only marvel. We can now call it ‘our painting’ and it has its final and appropriate resting place for a while at least, in Buenos Aires.

There is no question that to get the things you dream of, you have to be prepared to fight, be patient, be persistent, never consider giving up. For weeks I truly doubted that I would ever see this painting again. But time, effort and determination got it here on my wall. The story of this painting reflects my own journey: perfectly packed and organised with a destination in mind; unexpected months in dark places with no certainty of ever seeing the light again; being unwrapped by loving hands; discovering a new place in the world to show the colours of my soul.

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Every morning when I wake up to see my painting, I will be reminded that I am alive, I am free and that I must never give up fighting for my dreams.

And here’s a thing. Those who know my name will realise that there is a coincidence in that my name lies in that of the artist who painted this picture. But the weirdest coincidence of all is that after writing the title of this post, I just remembered that the name of this painting by Hamish Blakely is: ‘At last’. My painting was probably never in any doubt, that in the end, it would be here where it belongs, with me, in Argentina.

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3 Responses

  1. Sally, I think it’s a tango painting!

    Do you remember “my tango painting?” The one with my red Flabellas in a suitcase? I brought that with me on the plane from Mexico.

    Isn’t it funny how much some things can mean to us?
    I’m so glad your painting is now home!

  2. So glad you are reunited! Think I might have been one of the people encouraging you to try the shipping in the first place! I just wanted for you not to have to say goodbye to all your special things and to spend a little on yourself; to take some of your old home with you, for it to be possible. Possible it was, just not as easy as I had hoped! Well done for riding the bureaucratic roller coast and triumphing once again.
    Love you big sis x

  3. Equally delighted that it is with you ‘at last’ and that your perseverance has gained the result in the end. Let it stay with you as a reminder that sometimes the hardest things to obtain are the best – and that if you really want something, it’s worth working/waiting for it, not just accepting the easier alternative or the excuse.

    Love you xx

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