Catriona Olding (Carmen Fyfe) is a Scottish painter. The daughter of a giant, she was born in 1963 and grew up in rural Renfrewshire on a farm between the Royal Ordnance Factory and the then derelict Formakin Estate. These contrasting landscapes; sinister factory grounds and mysterious buildings and lost gardens of Formakin were indelibly impressed on her heart. For 30 years she was a willing handmaiden in a marriage between her sculptor husband and his Muse (work). In the early years she supported her growing family by working in general, psychiatric and practice nursing leaving the profession in 2000 to begin managing her husband’s sculpture projects full time.
After the marriage ended, intoxicated by the beauty of Provence and in particular the atmosphere, peace and landscape of Cotignac, she moved permanently to the village in late 2014 and with the encouragement of the Spectator Low Life columnist Jeremy Clarke, began to write about her father’s extraordinary life and – with the early 20th century Slade School as inspiration – taught herself to paint. With the support of a few friends she did this while struggling to find work to support herself in France with little money and no language.
Jeremy had already been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer but despite this, Catriona and he began a long distance love affair. Eventually Covid and Jeremy’s deteriorating health brought them permanently together in 2020. They married in March 2023 shortly before Jeremy became paralysed. He stayed in their tiny Provençal troglodyte home, writing his Low Life column, loved and nursed by Catriona until his death in May 2023.
Catriona continues to live high above the village in her troglodyte house working on painting commissions and writing projects.