Saturday, December 04, 2010

Culture Makes You Better

Sometimes the well known, at least to me, syndrome of teaching in front of a class having a sort of rejuvenating and disease defying effect simply doesn’t work.

That happened on Friday when, in spite of feeling generally ok-ish on Thursday, the end of Friday didn’t come at all as soon as I would have liked and my eventual return home was to take to my bed at once!

I put this relapse down to coming in to school a day too soon after the virus that I brought back with me from the UK had worked its evil on my system and kept me away for a day. I am sure that there is a lesson to be learned somewhere in my attitude towards not feeling well and going to school which needs to be drummed into my brain in double quick time!

Today however, apart from the stubborn cough which punctuates my progress, I felt fine and to prove it I took a bus into Barcelona to start our five day “holiday.”

Meeting up with Suzanne was only managed after the frustration by my new phone’s refusal to let me answer a telephone call.

I suppose that I should not be surprised by this inability of the machine to accomplish what it is ostensibly designed to do when all the other functions of the thing are so much more interesting to me.

It is true that my generation of mobile phone users have an almost morbid fear of making a call because we believe that it “costs the earth” and that it is “much cheaper on a land line” – never mind that I am in a foreign country and god alone knows what they are charging me.

I do realize that this is mere paranoia and that I should knuckle down to the realities of life and accept the phone as simply a part of modern life – but I can’t.

I subscribe to enough of the Protestant Work Ethic to believe that mobile phones are, in themselves, little more than an extravagant frippery. We were happy enough with tin cans and stretched string when we were lads and the smooth, gleaming wafers of sleek technology are mere indulgences to high-faluting notions of self importance and nothing more.

But I have started reading out-of-copyright pulp sci-fi stories and I am more than half way through a novel by Baroness Orczy and there is a whole slew of stories by Doctorow that I am about to devour – and all of these are on my phone.

I am slowly discovering the other applications and the quality of the photos that I can take on the phone is substantially better than on my last one – and so on.

It would just be an advantage if I could work out to receive phone calls.

The exhibition of Artists’ Jewellery was interesting but essentially unsatisfying. The individual pieces were sometimes astonishing but the lack of context and the complete absence of process in the display of the pieces meant that there was a much better exhibition waiting to be staged with the exhibits that the one that we saw.

Far more satisfying was the meal we had a lunch time in the excellently situated restaurant in MNAC. It was the first time that Suzanne had been there and she was much impressed.

Although today was bright it was very cold and there was a warm wintery selection from the menu to combat the weather which Suzanne chose: chestnut cream soup and fillet of dory with a pil-pil sauce. I, on the other hand, went for a defiantly summery choice of salad of caramelized apple with tuna belly followed by carpaccio of cod. My sweet of ice cream seemed more than fitting. At least the coffee was hot.

The real success of our cultural foray was the exhibition in the MirĂ³ foundation which was “Let us face the future” British Art 1945 to 1968.

This is a major exhibition with an astonishing range of paintings from Hockney to Sutherland taking in some iconic paintings from the period along the way.

It was one of those exhibitions where one (well, I) emit little squeaks of pleasure and surprise as a new delight comes into view. Delicate drawings by Hepworth and Moore contrast with the impasto of Auerbach and Kossoff while the figurative is pushed into other worldliness by Freud and Bacon.

Delicate landscapes from Pasmore and Nicholson in the 40’s are contrasted with later works including Pasmore’s “The Snowstorm: Spiral motif in Black and White” of 1951. There are a couple of delicately crude Kitajs; wavey Rileys and grotesque Hamiltons – including the wonderfully named, “Portrait of Hugh Gaitskell as a Famous Monster of Filmland” of 1964.

All in all an exhibition to return to and one for which I do not begrudge the cost of the (hardback!) catalogue – especially as I was given a small reduction in its price for sheer unadulterated cheek!

As the catalogue is in Catalan there is even less encouragement for me to let my eye slip from the pictures into the morass of incomprehensible text. But I will make the effort. Especially as it might be the sort of exhibition to which we could take the kids.

Now its time for me to read by phone before bed!
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