Michael (‘Mick’) Smee is one of the select band that proved so inspirational to me – at work and play – during my early teaching years in Colchester, Essex.
His easy human touch, so vital to the studio nurture of young art students, made a lasting impression when visiting his sessions alongside a certain Mister Hay (see elsewhere on this blog).
He did what he did with great generosity and care.
Outside of the teaching I drew great creative inspiration from Mick’s delicious, atmospheric paintings of public house interiors, hinting at a love of a good pint and the daftness of shared blather and laughter.
In fact I’m inside one of these works, now hanging on some unknown wall (it was purchased before I could ever see it).
It commits my own past local, The Shakespeare pub in London, N16 to posterity, from a lost afternoon shared years ago.
No small honour, that.
Alongside his talented wife, Nicola (an illustrator/writer of many beautiful children’s books) – Mick lives near the salt flats of Maldon, in a gem of a village called Tolleshunt D’Arcy (once home to the esteemed author Margery Allingham, creator of detective Albert Campion).
My times as their guest – sitting in splendid company in the garden amidst summer breezes, sampling Mick’s sublime home-made pies after rounds of dark beers over the road at The Queen’s Head – remain some of my happiest memories of that much-misunderstood county.
Mick’s is a reflective sort of approach to pub conversation. After keeping his powder dry he’ll drop in a nicely-timed word-grenade of his own, having gauged the flow – and he can pull off a textbook deadpan expression, before the arrival of with a huge smile.
While it’s also rumoured that he is a practising warlock, I have no corroborative proof of this.