Laurie Lowry lives with his ageing mother. He has always lived with her. And she is very much a controlling force in his life. He paints of course, late at night in the attic, every picture for his mum, hoping to earn her affection and encouragement and love, but she says several times that she has never liked any of his pictures. She can’t understand why he paints pictures of grim life in the mills and the streets. But to Lowry these are places of life and colour.
This is a sad tale of manipulation, loneliness, disappointment, and the desire to be loved. Mrs Lowry has never recovered from having to downsize from a nice house in a nice area to living now in Pendlebury, where poor and ragged children run in the streets, and filthy coal men take a bath outside in the backyard. She sees the local people as rats. But her son sees things so differently, to him this place is full of characters, and life, and pictures. And he wants to capture and celebrate this. And he wishes his mother could celebrate with him. He often plays with the ragged children on his way home, and sketches images on scraps of paper as he goes about his day.
Yet he is lonely too. As an observer of life he does not feel involved with it. I get that. I know something of that feeling. Laurie speaks in this scene above about feeling lonely in a crowd. Perhaps because you cannot find your way into the lives of others, because as an artist and commentator you naturally stand on the outside looking in. yet that is a great gift too. And as the years have passed Lowry’s work has meant so much to so many people. I immediately think of Brian and Michael, and their chart topping Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs. Another celebration of Lowry’s work and his gift shared with the rest of us. We are all different. And Jesus was a man who must have found it hard to fit in, hard to feel one of the crowd when he had such gifts and vision. And other-worldliness. We’re told he was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53 verse 3) Yet he celebrated life too, brought colour and dignity to those despised by others. He knew disappointment, loneliness and the pressure of others wishing to manipulate him. He didn’t step into this world so he could keep himself untouched by our problems, he sat in the dust and the gutters so he could help us.
For anyone also who looks back fondly on Brian and Michael…