Portrait of a lady


“I made Mackerel Pate for us, I hope you like Mackerel Pate?” was almost the first thing Josie Monroe said to me when we met at her home in north-west London.

I already knew a fair bit about Josie, via my client from Optegra Eye Health Care. Josie had quite recently undergone Cataract surgery at a specialist London eye hospital, and the surgeon had been so impressed with Josie and her joie de vivre, that he asked if she would give a presentation to potential patients who are deciding on surgery - this is exactly how Josie had become a patient in the first place. She told me that after visiting three hospitals, she felt confident to try her luck with Optegra.

Josie is eighty-four years old. She attends ballet classes three times a week, and is still making art through various mediums - the only allowance being, she cannot lift the heavy blocks of stone required to sculpt, so sometimes she has to ask someone to do that little task for her. As her eyesight started to worsen because of the cataracts, it was the idea of not being able to continue pursuing her passions that spurred her on to seek treatment. She is a true inspiration, and one can only hope that they could maintain this level of energy at any time in their life, let alone in their eighties.

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We talked over mackerel pate & crackers. She said she wanted to give me something healthy. I learned a lot about Josie’s earlier life - how she had been an art teacher for more than forty years, finally retiring aged eighty-one. It was a candid conversation, and some details, I assured her would never be divulged.

Throughout the shoot we talked whilst I positioned Josie and myself, shifting furniture, and being sure I was getting the angles I desired. Josie told me how she had introduced a Basic Design course to the Art-school’s curriculum, against strong resistance from other staff. My understanding was it would give students a good grounding in aesthetics, and how things work (in any situation) to give a pleasing visual effect. It turned out that the course was extremely popular. As I crouched on the floor, and positioned Josie amongst her artwork, checking for any distracting items and tweaking the composition, she remarked “you’d have done really well on my basic design course”. Praise indeed.

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With the shoot complete I started to pack up my bags. Josie went to the kitchen, and returned with the leftover mackerel pate, saying “we have to eat it or I’ll be eating mackerel pate all week”.