'MY LIFE IN ART'
THE LIFE AND PAINTINGS OF GEOFFREY JOHN HALL
 
 

 

MY EARLY LIFE IN TOTTENHAM

 I was born, not hatched, as some would have you believe, not in Tottenham but Stoke Newington. I had some illness from which I was not expected to recover so I was whisked away to University  College Hospital in Gower St., London. It was never discovered what was actually wrong with me (being born in Stoke Newington no doubt) Anyway I now have Westminster as my place of birth giving me the status of Aristo whereas I am and shall remain one of life’s hobble-de-hoys. So, when I was chuck….that is  discharged from the hospital, I did not return to Stoke Newington but Tottenham. Why?  No idea but I was to remain there for the next 9 years. My nan looked after me. She made me play (By myself) in what was laughingly called the front garden. Postage stamp would have been a better    description. Still, those poor folks in the East End had it much worse. Across the road from us was a grocer’s store run single-handedly by Mr. Roe. He always wore a white coat washed and ironed immaculately. It matched the colour of his hair. Anyway, one day one of those milk floats came down from the dairy near Turnpike Lane. It slowed to a crawl just outside mister Roe’s shop to deliver the milk.

 

What followed was like one of those disaster movies where everything is shown in slow motion. I stood there frozen to the spot while the vehicle slowly but surely toppled over on its side. What brought us all out of our reverie was an ear-splitting crash as 200 hundred milk bottles smashed to the ground. Next thing the dairyman calmly walked from this picture of desolation armed with a broom and began sweeping up the debris as if it was an everyday occurrence while all the cats in the area treated themselves to a free breakfast! I wonder if anyone else remembers it?   
 
 

My parents were divorced when I was 7 (which was unheard of at the time) so my mum and stepfather moved away from N.15 and tried settling down in south London but none of it worked so we returned to the place we knew. Of course, we couldn’t return to Blackboy Lane, so we found a house in Oulton Road. Remember I was very young. I was also desperately unhappy which made what happened on one occasion baffling. My mum had approached my Dad with some papers she wanted him to sign so they both went into the front room. They weren’t aware that I was already in there hidden behind a sofa reading a comic. It suddenly went very quiet which I assumed they were reading the papers they were about to sign. I stood up to leave the room when I discovered they were holding hands! Holding bloody hands! After all the misery and hatred they’d caused the rest of the family with the vitriol they’d showered over us.

 So anyway, while I was still in Woodland Park Junior School, I was nearing one of the classrooms on my way to playtime when I realised one of the rooms was unusually quiet. I entered to find that all the boys were huddled ‘round one lad. They would occasionally say something. He made some action across the paper in front of him looking bored stiff all the while. I managed to jostle my way near enough to see what was happening. To say I was astonished was an understatement. The boy was very simply drawing whatever was asked of him. And to the level of an old master. His name was Brian Fendick, and it was he who awakened in me the desire to become an artist!

 A number of years later I saw him on the Central Line underground, and we got talking. Then I asked him how he was progressing expecting him to say he was at least, as part of his chosen career, still using his artistic talents but his reaction grew into that of total bewilderment. So much so that I was beginning to question if I had the right man. After a little more probing we established that it was he. And then he dropped the bombshell. He was a quantity surveyor and remembered nothing about art.  I was dumbstruck. It was like Michelangelo becoming a double-glazing salesman! Was Fendick put on this earth simply to point me in the right direction?  

      So anyway, I had failed my 11-plus and was considered the family buffoon. What didn’t help was that I was on the brink of puberty so you can imagine the sulks and arguments- and I was just as bad. So, I was shuntered off to South Grove Secondary Modern. Just one step above Borstal. The sort of place Dickens wrote about.
 I was crying myself to sleep every night not having the emotional strength to cope with it. I kept saying to myself,” you’re better than this” but life didn’t agree with me. Except, there was one man. I think his name was Blunden or Blundell or something. He was an art teacher. I could tell he was as lost in his reason for his existence as I was. I had at last found the one person who could steer me in the right direction. This might be why there is such drive in Tottenham for creativity. I can imagine all those lost souls searching for the answer to the question,” Why am I so good at what I do when it all seems so hopeless?” Someone somewhere has seen your talent and will guide you. Somebody in Totters (as we affectionately called it) will come to your aid.

Now back to the art teacher. Let’s stick with Blunden. I remember he was teaching us perspective of a street scene when he looked over my shoulder (he was one of those people who just appeared, most unnerving). He said,” yes all very good Hall but you have a four-foot drop from the pavement to the road”. He never said such things in a sneering way and never so loud that the rest of the class could hear him. It was our private little joke. I’d never come across anyone as kind as him before. Both he and Brian Fendick were gentle souls and I admired them. I said to them that we must meet up in the future to discuss our life’s journey. We agreed knowing that we probably never would.

 




 EARLY BEGINNINGS - A SIMPLE SKETCH OF HOUSEHOLD ITEMS 








EARLY RURAL LANDSCAPE    

 

So, back to the milk float. By now the dairyman and Mr. Roe were becoming concerned.” I must get back to the depot so they could send some help” he was about to start running up Blackboy Lane when this sharp suited chap offered assistance. People who survived World War Two did things like that, being so grateful that they’re being still alive to do so. The small group all turned round in wonder at how he could help, then parted to reveal the biggest vehicle we’d ever seen. It transpired he had just purchased a new Morris Oxford. It caused an absolute sensation. He lived at the other end of the Lane and, wondering what the commotion was all about, drove down to see, thankful to be able to move off and leave all the children jumping up and down on the running board behind.

Horse driven wagons were still the order of the day. In fact, I can still remember the stables halfway up Blackboy Lane. Two other things spring to mind. I was asleep in bed when this almighty thud woke me up. I wondered what it could be, so I looked out of the window to see a head looking back at me grinning while guiding a concrete pole into the pavement. I got dressed and rushed downstairs to see what had caused this disturbance when I was met with the first 171 London bus stop

THE 171 BUS ROUTE WOULD GO DOWN BLACKBOY LANE

THE 41 BUS ROUTE - WEST GREEN ROAD
Right outside our house! Of course, what seemed exciting at the time quickly changed to annoyance, especially when I was in bed trying to sleep while the great big red thing just stood there rattling away while driver and conductor discussed Spurs chances in the cup! 

The other matter concerned a group of spotty faced Herbert’s getting up at 7.30 a.m., marching around the vicinity blowing as hard as they possibly could on their bugles.
Now I’m not a vindictive lad but it was every Sunday !


The boy’s brigade they were called (among other things). The problem is that I have perfect pitch which was great when I went to work for Decca Records but not so great when these young lads played their music just slightly out of tune. I know, I’m a miserable old so and so and these young chaps were after all doing their best so let’s leave it there. When Spurs won the double in 1961, we all walked along to the town hall in absolute silence. Very strange



THE SPURS PARADE 1961 TOTTENHAM HIGH ROAD (Nr BRUCE GROVE)

 

GEOFF'S  EARLY WORKING LIFE
As we have discovered, Geoff had a very ordinary upbringing and one of the pastimes he enjoyed most was sketching items around the house. He would later make frequent visits to the big art galleries in London, such as the National in Trafalgar Square. He discovered that you could obtain a license to sketch pencil copies of the Old Master paintings which enabled him to further hone his skills.

One of his early jobs on leaving school was working for a company in Shepherds Bush, immediately opposite the BBC studios in Wood Lane named the City Display Organisation. He was doing some design work and one day his boss asked him to draw a map of London with a route line through it. When asked why, his boss told him to mind his own business and just get on with it. A week later came the news that Sir Winston Churchill had died, and his funeral was to be held later that week. He was watching the announcement on TV and suddenly the BBC then displayed the very same map that he had been asked to draw the previous week.

THIS WAS NOT GEOFF'S ORIGINAL MAP BUT A LATER ONE USED BY THE BBC
After a few years he then got another job at the Decca Record Company where he was also doing graphic design work, which he enjoyed but it didn’t pay very well. He was able to supplement his income by accepting commissions from people to paint portraits and sketches for them. He carried on for a few years but had always wanted to earn his living by doing real paintings. He then received a commission from the Royal Artillery asking if he would be interested in painting in oils a picture of the victory parade by the regiment in Trafalgar Square, which had taken place celebrating the end of World War II.


THE ROYAL ARTILLERY - PARADING THROUGH TRAFALGAR SQUARE  - Original painting by G J Hall

 

MAKING THE BREAK - BECOMING A FULL-TIME ARTIST

The commission to paint the commemorative  picture of Royal Artillery victory parade proved to be a great success, so one day he decided to take the plunge and start his own business as a full-time artist. It would appear that he has never looked back since that day and has had a successful career with paintings and also doing some TV work.

Geoff once had a painting of his featured on a regional TV programme which created a great deal of interest. Following the programme, the switchboard was jammed by people wanting to obtain copies of his painting and he also received a number of commissions. When he arrived home, he was further surprised by a message on his answerphone from Channel 4 asking him to become a judge on a new programme they were about to launch called ‘Watercolour Challenge’.

Another venture saw Geoff producing plays for hospital radio. One such play was a pastiche on ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ which was recorded before a live audience. Later plays were to follow, some of which were narrated by the great Peter Cushing, and the series were called ‘A Sting in The Tale’.
 

 

 A COLLECTION OF GEOFF'S WORKS - LANDSCAPES









THATCHED COTTAGE - NEAR SITTINGBOURNE KENT



EPPING FOREST - LONDON




 
POPPY FIELD - NEAR BLUBELL HILL - KENT
 

HURRICANES  ABOVE DOVER




 

A COLLECTION OF GEOFF'S WORKS - STREET SCENES
 
 
ST PETER'S STREET - CANTERBURY
 

 



   

 

 

A COLLECTION OF GEOFF'S WORKS - TRANSPORT SCENES








 
 

 

 
Over 50 years have now passed, and Geoff still continues with his painting. Many are displayed in exhibitions, and he has also reproduced many of his works on greetings cards and other merchandise.

Please find below a copy of the front cover of Geoff’s Autobiography that makes a wonderful read and contains many more examples of his fine paintings.

A lovely story about a boy from Tottenham who’s talent as an artist has served him well !

Article written by Geoff Hall and edited and illustrated by Alan Swain - February 2023