Sunday, March 25, 2018

Two milestones, a new child (though not mine) and some throwaway comments on ‘art’

The next three weeks will mark certain milestones in my life.

First of all, I shall be hanging up my eyeshade, pot of glue, em rule and the finest collection of pencils known to mankind since Alfred the Great and drawing a line under my life serving in Her Majesty’s Press a week on Wednesday (that’s Wednesday, April 4, in those who still deal in new money). By then I shall have fought the good fight of keeping the public informed of the latest diets, a motley and substantial body of opinions held by some of the shallowest minds alive today and generally helping to preserve and protect the Public’s Right to Buy a Newspaper for almost 44 years.

If I had the strength and purity of heart to carry on until early June, it would be a round 44 years, but fighting the good fight does take its toll. And anyway I read somewhere that if you are to retire (and live in Old Blighty), you are best advised to do it before the turn of the tax year which this year is a day after my capitulation on April 5. I have no idea why that is a good idea, but I’ll – for once in my life – go with the flow.

That Wednesday would have been my last shift for the week, so I shall make it my last shift for the year and, well, for ever. A statistic which still amazes me is that by then I shall have been working shifts for the Daily Mail for well over 27 years. I worked my first in September 1990 (and until December 1995 was also working shifts on other nationals). Quite how I haven’t been rumbled, and they most certainly had their chances given my long list of dropped bollocks and cocks-up (only a sub-editor would be prissy enough to write ‘cocks-up’ rather than the far saner, though strictly incorrect, ‘cock-ups’).

As I usual, I am organising a leaving-do and am going through the equally usual distress over whether I have been too optimistic about the numbers who might turn up and have ordered to much food, or whether quite a few will attend and I haven’t ordered enough. The folk I work with cannot get away from work until after 10pm, but I have invited others around the building with whom I am friendly and who don’t work that late and so shall be in attendance from 7.45pm on. Will the scoff the lot? Or not? These things make for worries.

. . .

The second milestone will come on or around April 13, the following week, when, God willing and there are no complications, I shall become a grandfather. My daughter is expecting a baby girl. She will only be 21 in August, and although in times gone by young women began having their children from their late teens to early twenties, more recently the trend has been for having them later, so I pretty much expected never to be a grandfather.

Well, now I shall, and as I have always like children and as far as I am concerned they can never make enough noise the sails – God willing, again – see set for a fair wind. It is, of course, always silly to count your chickens before they have hatched, and who knows, when the young lass is hitting her tweens and might by then have a sibling or two, I shall be in my late seventies, so perhaps I shan’t be to chuffed to have youngsters running around disturbing what, I assume, will be my afternoon naps. Let’s see. But if you have a heart, wish my daughter well (and, of course, all other young women about to given birth to their first).

In keeping with modern times, she is not married, but I am pleased to say she is in a strong relationship with a hard-working man who is just a few years older than she is. Still, I do sometimes wonder whether after all the spoiling my wife has been handing out she will is quite ready for the hard work. But then, if she isn’t, there’s not a lot she can do about it now. (As for spoiling, I spoil both of my children, too, but in very different way.)



A week later my son, not 19 until May 25, is off – on his own – to take a look around Central America. I can’t claim not to be a little apprehensive, in that trouble in the countries he intends visiting if often in the presence of a firearm, which is not the case in Bodmin and Newquay where he has so far been spending a little time. But …

He was going to go with two friends, but for one reason or another they both bowed out and he decided to go ahead with the trip anyway. Well, God speed (and take care).

. . .

That is pretty much all my personal news taken care of. I haven’t bought any more laptops or phones, so there is nothing to report on that score. What, as I think I have pointed out before, my retirement will bring is confirmation either way or whether at heart I am really only one of life’s bullshitters or not. I like to think ‘not’, but it is up to me, and only up to me, to prove the point. In a way I am rather looking forward to it.

Quite how my wife will cope with having me around all week, every week remains to be seen. To be frank she all too often gives the impression of barely tolerating me, and I am, unusually, I grant you, for once not exaggerating. I shan’t here go into too much detail (for one thing she would not be able to give her side of the story) but our marriage has most certainly not been a Cornish rerun of Romeo And Juliet. But then I suspect hardly any marriage is. I do all too often get the impression that she regards me as little more than her means of making sure the bills are met, but maybe I am being too cynical. And maybe not. But what the hell. I shall be 69 on November 21 and with a bit of luck I could have a good ten years ahead of me, so it is up to me to put it to good use.

. . .

Driving back from The Brewers Arms in South Petherton where I usually drop off for two large glasses of wine before carrying on my journey, many different things occur to me which I think might be worth exploring in this blog. To explain that a little, I find that I am not a great thinker when it comes to ‘thinking’, and that I hone my thoughts and beliefs far more in debate (preferably with someone I don’t agree with) or by writing (as in this blog).

For example, last week I went to the workshop of a – I think rather good – potter called Paul Jackson, of Helland Bridge, to buy a wedding present for my niece and goddaughter who is getting married on May 26. In the event I didn’t buy something (it was to be a plate because plates are more easily carried in a suitcase than another piece, but a, well, jug). Here are a few images of some of his work.




Among other things, I like his colours.

I am that curious sort who prefers his art to be wholly useless and just something to be enjoyed. And unlike Seth Cardew, who I used to visit in Spain but who died last February, Paul’s pieces are just that: pieces which exist solely to be themselves and exist. Yes, there are other approaches to art, but that is mine.

I mention Paul because we spent some time (and were later joined by his wife) talking about ‘art’ and I found myself again expounding on my rather contrarian views on ‘what art is’. I think I might have mentioned this before, but my view, my conviction, in fact, though a conviction which flies wholly in the face of accepted notions, is that everything produced, from the plastic arts, to the literary arts to music is ‘art’. But that most certainly doesn’t mean that it is necessarily per se worthwhile.

The distinction comes when we consider individual ‘works’ in themselves. So I am far, far more inclined to making a distinction between ‘good art’ and ‘bad art’ as opposed to the current and contemporary view of ‘this is art’ and ‘this is not art’ and that the judgment is made by experts. If nothing else my approach if far more manageable and, if this doesn’t sound to naff, far more democratic. I do so hate snobbery in any and all of its forms, and the ‘art world’ is chock-a-bloc with such snobbery.

As a parting thought I shall leave you with the observation that a Picasso is only worth the several million it can command at auction solely because some sap or other (usually to show off how much moolah he has and that he can afford it) is willing to pay several million for it and outbid anyone who threatens to spoil is bout of boasting.

If the consensus were somehow to gain ground as to be the overwhelming consensus that Picasso ‘is OK, but most certainly not the great artist we have so far seen him as’, just watch those market valuations plummet. Here’s another example: we now know that the renowned sculptor Eric Gill was not just a paedophile but an incestuous paedophile. Does that have any bearing whatsoever on how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ the art he produced is? Of course, it doesn’t, and it would be cant to suggest otherwise.

Several years ago, the British potter Grayson Perry (I’ve only seen his work in pictures and never in real life, and I can’t say think it is ‘better’ than Paul Jackson’s, i.e. I prefer Paul Jackson’s) gave the BBC Radio 4’s Reith Lectures, and in three on subsequent weeks, he tried to ‘define’ art. Well, by his own admission Perry didn’t manage it, but there was a anecdote he retailed which does slightly illuminate what I am talking about. He recalls how he was once talking to a New York art dealer who sold pieces to the very rich and asked him whether there were any works he found he could never sell. ‘Yes,’ the dealer told him, ‘ anything which is too big to get into the lift of an upscale Manhattan apartment block’. Seems like a throwaway anecdote but it on just a little reflection it does tell us rather more than we think about the ‘worth’ of art.

Pip, pip.



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