Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Five O

So I'm fifty. I said farewell to my forties on Monday with a trip to the Tate Modern to see the Cy Twombly exhibition. I never ever saw myself getting to fifty. In fact I'm not sure I ever saw myself getting to forty. It feels strange.

We had tried to get away from dull old England but failed. In the end we went to London for a long weekend. We stayed at the Goodenough Club in Bloomsbury and treated ourselves to a suite. It was my first visit to the Goodenough, but it certainly won't be my last.

We crammed quite a lot into out trip. We went to the Hammershoi exhibition at the Royal Academy, which was lovely in a quiet and austere kind of way. You could almost hear the clocks ticking and the rattle of carriage wheels on the cobbles outside. Lots of women looking out of windows or reading unseen books. Interiors are already intimate, but the presence of someone viewed from behind seems to make them even more so. Lovely paintings, if a little sad.

Cy Twombly at Tate Modern was a different kettle of fish altogether. My son found the Hammershois difficult because they were so muted, but found Twombly even more so. He was like the little boy in the Emperor's New Suit of Clothes, saying 'More scribbles' every now and then.

And do you know sometimes he was right, I think. Sometimes there just isn't enough there. But when there is - as in the Four Seasons paintings, they are fantastic. Just like at the Doig show a while back, I came away very much inspired to get back to my own paintings.

We saw Prince Caspian, which was not nearly so bad as I thought it might be. I have mentioned some of my thoughts about C S Lewis elsewhere, but this was not a book I knew. Hellboy II was a lot better though. The imagination behind the look of the monsters was very inspiring. The winged Death figure was especially good, I thought. I made a mental note to push things a bit more. The only downside was one of the elements of the film is almost identical to an element in one of the stories in Tales from the Tunnel's Mouth. But there you go; it will look like I've copied Hellboy, but it was written ages before. Honest.

We spent our last morning in Westminster Abbey which was a little exhausting. Too many tombs. It looks like a salvage yard sometimes, there are so many indifferent Victorian statues vying for attention. The tomb of the unknown soldier is easily the most moving, lying quietly, albeit garlanded in poppies. The anonymity seems particularly striking and poignant among all the me, me, me of all those names.

But the medieval parts are still fresh. The Chapter House is lovely, as are the royal tombs. There are some incredibly inventive miserichords. The ancient throne is great. It would have been good to see Edward the Confessor's tomb, but there is not general access to it. The famous Cosmati Pavement was being restored - although, to be honest after Venice and Rome, it did not seem quite so amazing as all that.

I came back to lots of emails. One from Francis Mosley giving me more reasons to be cheerful (after having sent him a list of reasons why I have been miserable). And there was some cheer to be had elsewhere. The British School in Rio was in touch with my timetable (which looks fun but exhausting). I am in Brazil from 27 September to 4 October and coincidentally, Rocco who are publishing Uncle Montague's tales of Terror in Brazil, also got in touch to see if I can do an event for them whilst I'm over. I have to admit that it is all very exciting.


  1. A belated happy birthday!The weather improved so that's one less reason to be miserable.

  2. Thanks Peter. You are so right. In fact I am going to stop typing right now, get on my bike and soak up a bit of that sunshine.