Thursday, July 30, 2015

Brought to book

Mac the Knife’s observation that the most difficult element in politics was, “Events, dear boy, events!” came back to me with a bump when I visited the printer that was to be entrusted with the sacred task of publishing The Book.
            The place was barred, empty, with ‘To Let’ signs on the window and the phone number of the letting agent prominently displayed!
            Not one to be dismayed by such an occurrence, though I obviously was, I reverted to my mother-fostered shopping persona and stood a while in uffish thought and then made a bee-line for a place that would help with production or at worst a suggestion of where to go.
            In the event, they have suggested that they could publish the book and I am now anxiously awaiting their price.  The hardback version that I hoped to produce seems to have died the death, and perhaps (making the best of a bad job) that was one refinement too far in reality.  So, the book will be a paperback, but at least with a full-colour cover!
            The translations of Autumn Trees have been completed and I am now waiting for my other collaborators to do their stuff.  When those elements are placed in the book final pagination will allow me to complete the indexes and we are good to go.
            It has been a long journey but, as we get nearer (interesting use of the royal plural there!) to publication the more excited I get.
            Enough on the book!  I do not want to tempt fate by saying too much in a semi-triumphlist way this close to completion!

The weather has been almost unbearably hot over the last few weeks and we are now in a cooler overcast mode.  It has tried to rain on a couple of occasions, but apart from a few drops squeezed out of humid air innundation has remained threat rather than reality.
            One practical consequence of the hot weather is that the roof of the local swimming pool has been fully retracted with the, to me, illogical result that swimmers do not have to wear the supremely irritating (and in my case surpurfluous) swimming cap.  Why they are compulory when the roof is closed and not when it’s not, is one of those little mysteries that I do not want to find an explanation for.  Quirks should be enocuraged!

I continue to use my bike to go swimming and for other limited perigrinations.  But I never go very far.  I have now become expert in finding my way around Castelldefels by limiting the number of ‘hills’ (road bridges) that I have to slog up.  The main road linking the beach part of Castelldefels to the town passes along the side of the Olympic Canal and there is a dedicated cycle lane which is completely separated from the road.  Unfortunately it follows its own undulating and eccentric path and has rather more lack of horizontality that I like and so have I found a longer, but more level, way to get to where I want to go.
            When I am on my bike I become fiercly bikocentric and regard all pedestrians and car and motorbike drivers as self-evidently The Enemy.  I am particularly intolerant of walkers who invade my stipulated bicycle space and have become a querrulous cycle bell tinger.  I have also become, less poetically, a post-pedestrian mutterer, as I grumble sotto voce after passing each miscreant who has had the termerity to venture onto My Ground!

Reading about the Renaissance as preparation for the final course in my OU degree seems to have died the death at the moment, but work on the possible collaboration with Guevara’s great-grand-nephew about a modern photographic response to Guevara’s 1916/17 series of swimming pool paintings has taken its place.
            I did do some slight research on public bathing in the early twentieth century, but that will need to be developed further if I am to produce something written with even a glaze of academe about it!
            My problem is that the books I need are not, unsurprisingly, exactly to hand in Catalonia and the ‘research’ hardly justifies a trip to London and the British Library.  I have compensated by sending out a few enquiries via email, though I am not sure how far those are going to get me.  Especially in the holiday period in which we are now sweltering.  Still, ever optimistic, I am clearly working under the ‘Anything is better than nothing’ philosophy cherished by the male line of the Family Rees!

Monday, July 06, 2015

Lazy lacuna

For a person who enjoys writing as much as I do, there is not really any convincing excuse for not having produced more entries in this blog than the inescapable accusation of laziness.
            Admittedly I have been completing the last assignment for the Open University course on Modern Art of the Twentieth Century – but that was handed in (or at least sent off via the internet) on the 26th of May, and while that might have explained the lack of other written work leading up to this date, it does not really explain the lack of words after it.
            I propose to ignore everything and write as if there was an unbroken daily chain stretching back to when there really was an unbroken daily chain of blog entries.

Come September I will be plunging back in Art History and doing my last course for my degree (I think, you never really know with the Open University, as you need much more than a mere degree to work out the fiendish complexity of how a degree is actually worked out given the courses, modules, exemptions and the phases of the moon than have to be taken into consideration.  And don’t get me started on the impenetrable calculations which go into deciding the class of degree that you get!) in Renaissance Art.
            I am fondly hoping that this course will have less pretentious theory and more taking about the actual paintings.  It says something about the works of art that we will be considering that I have had to search out my old copy of The Penguin Dictionary of Saints so that I can work out why the various slaughtered fanatics with the shining heads are carrying miscellaneous hardware, botanic specimens, weapons, models, keys, books or body parts.  Decoding paintings is hard work at the best of times, even in the modern era when we have plentiful primary documentation to work with, it is even more taxing when we are dealing with paintings whose moral, religious, social and artistic purpose is more distant.            

          But it is stimulating to find out that even the smallest and seemingly most insignificant details might have a truly significant importance.  And this is not just like finding a bee in an Italian painting and being told that the name for the insect in Italian is a pun on the name of the family that commissioned the painting; or that the material used in a tomb is actually an elegant comment on the antiquity and power and wealth of the person who caused the tomb to be built well before his own death. 

            You will notice that there are no specifics in those examples because I am too hot and sticky and lazy to go downstairs and find the books that I would need to fill in the names.  I can, at least, remember that the material was porphyry – a word that I knew and I have used, though it is only recently that I actually looked it up and discovered its unlikely source.  I am sure that I will not be able to stop myself ‘sharing’ my discoveries as soon as the next course gets under way.
            Assuming, of course, that I have passed this one.  Although the work was given in at the end of May the results are not due to be posted until, possibly, the end of this week.

The ‘proper’ restaurant in MNAC, Barcelona’s main and most prestigious art museum on Montjuic came into its own again last week when I met Suzanne on Tuesday and had lunch and catch-up.  Both the conversation and also the food were excellent.
            I have always recommended the restaurant as having the most breath-taking non-view from the large windows.  The restaurant is in the front of the museum and, as the whole edifice is on a hill it commands a sweeping vista of the city up to the surrounding hills.  But, and this is the point, not of the most interesting parts of the city.  Admittedly the large fountain was, for the very first time in all my visits to the museum, working!  That made up for the lack of detail in the expansive panorama which you always assume will be more impressive than it actually is.
            If the restaurant had been on the side of the building then you would have been able to eat looking out towards the sea and would have had an excellent view of all the more famous monuments in the city.  But it isn’t.  Still worth going there and having a meal.  Never let me down, and the lamb shank I had this time was outstanding.
            I did also go and visit a possible candidate painting for the final essay that I have to do on the Renaissance Course.  You have to write about a work or works that you have actually seen, so one of the vast collection in the museum is a given.
            The one that I glanced at was actually commissioned by the city of Barcelona almost 500 years ago, or possibly more (again, I am not prepared to go downstairs to determine exactly when) and there seems to be an interesting divergence in the appreciation of the painting: some critics claim it as one of the first works to bring the Northern Renaissance and the techniques of oil painting and a particular approach to perspective to this area.  They also laud the particularisation of the characterisation of the five donors which appear in the painting and say that this is a dramatic moment in the history of portraiture.  One other critic that I noted while browsing through expensive books that I have no intention of buying dismissed the painting as a mediocre copy of a Van Eyck and complained robustly about its lack of originality.  At least there is a controversy, I am sure that I could make something of that!
            I may work on the painting through the summer and see what information I can get together without too much ‘research effort’ to see whether it is a viable candidate.  I am greatly encouraged by the fact that the contract for the painting figures in one of my set texts and is conveniently translated into English as well.  That is a very good start.

Toni is now back home after an eleven-day stay with his mother, looking after her as she recovered from her recent and successful operation.  To celebrate his return, any excuse, we went out for lunch to the restaurant of the hotel where most of Cardiff will be staying for the publishing event of the year in October.

Talking of which.  My bits are done and edited.  As the days follow each other I am starting to worry, a little, about whether my original plan is going to become a reality.  I still have faith, though each day when nothing happens lessens my optimism.

Still, the sun is shining and even at night there is a more than pleasing warmth.  Admittedly, sleep is impossible without the gentle wafting air of an electric fan, but that is a small price to pay for the sun.  Though not at night.  Obviously.

I am trying to get back to putting my poems on line and have added one, Fatal Flaw, which can be found at  Though, come to think of it, I am not sure now that the second word should start with a capital, no, I think that Fatal flaw is better.

Wednesday we are back up in Terrassa for a birthday.  Never a dull moment.