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Showing posts from 2010

Forward the creative spirit!

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On the tour itinerary of every visitor to London is the Westminster Debating Society, or as it also known, the Houses of Parliament, a gothic block on the banks of the Thames comprising two houses - the House of Commons (lower house) and the House of Lords (upper house). Each house refers to the other as ‘the other place’.


One or two historic and memorable speeches have doubtless been made within its chambers, but no more visionary and moralistic speech than that delivered to the Lords at 9 p.m. on the 18th day of the month of July in the year 1978 by John, Viscount Amberley, Earl Russell.


In parliamentary jargon, his speech is described as a ‘response to an unstarred question during a debate on Victims of Crime’. He began by addressing the question of what a modern society should be:


‘A modern nation looks after everybody and never punishes them. If it has a police force at all, the police force is the Salvation Army and gives hungry and thirsty people cups of tea.If a man takes diamond…

Eze and the Earth Goddesses

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Las Ramblas, Barcelona (& the rest)

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A couple of years ago I tried to learn Spanish but quickly gave it up. It wasn’t that the language was difficult, just impossible to pronounce. But I wanted to learn as I was planning to make my first ever visit to Spain. Then I thought what the hell. After all, doesn’t everyone speak English? And if they don’t understand what I’m saying I’ll do what all people throughout the English-speaking world do in such circumstances: I’ll talk louder. 


I don’t know why it had taken me so long to visit Spain. In fact, the country had always had a kind of fascination for me, partly because of its recent history, its civil war, but also its topography, the plains, the mountains, and the intense summer heat. Its cities, too, particularly Madrid, but as the budget airlines from my town only went to Barcelona, this is where it would have to be. Besides, everyone told me that it was a wonderful city, so I was almost excited about going, and almost excited is about as excited as I ever get.


I flew out on…

Graham Greene lived here - OK?

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Graham Greene (1904-1991) was one of the most celebrated and successful writers of the twentieth century. He began his long career as a novelist in 1929, his many books including Brighton Rock (1938), The Third Man (1949), The Honorary Consul (1973). In the 1960s he was so famous that a man was going around Europe pretending to be him. To his many admirers he inhabited a world known simply as Greene-land.
So anyway, in June 2008 I was in Antibes in the south of France, where Graham Greene lived for many years from 1966, and decided I would like to see the apartment block where he lived, and what better place to enquire its whereabouts that the main tourist office.
One of the assistants was wearing a Union Jack lapel badge, so I went over and asked her if she could tell me the location of Graham Greene’s residence in Antibes. “Who?” she asked me with a puzzled voice. “Graham Greene”, I said. She asked me to repeat it. “Graham Greene”, I repeated. She asked me to write it down. I wrote it down. …

Rome, AD 2006

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To travel through time is a wonderful dream and an impossible reality.  For if it were possible to travel through time then a man could travel back and kill his father while he was still a boy, and then the man would never be born and so could never travel back to….. you get the picture.  
But imagining for one silly SciFi moment that time travel were a possibility, where I wonder should I go ?  Perhaps to London around 1602 and to the newly-constructed Globe theatre for the first ever performance of Hamlet, with Dick Burbage as the eponymous hero and the lad himself as the Ghost (allegedly).  
Or maybe to Kansas City circa 1940 when a young alto saxophonist by the name of Charles Parker, Jr. got up for a jam session blow already playing what would be the new bebop and was hooted and jeered off the stage (once more allegedly).  
But no, it would be neither of these, but to Rome in 51 BC that I would set my time-travel digit, the year the mighty Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in defian…

Raoul Dufy

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Le Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nice has a fine collection of colourful paintings by the French artist Raoul Dufy.

Dufy was born in Le Havre in 1877, and in 1900, after a period of military service, won a scholarship to the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.  He was initially influenced by the impressionists, and then by the Fauves, or wild beasts, with their bright colours and bold contours.
After a brief flirtation with cubism, Dufy finally created his own distinctive style, working in both oils and watercolours, with many of his works depicting bright and colourful scenes of the French Riviera, including many in its capital, Nice.  Below is a painting of the majestic sweep of the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels) in Nice.

At the top of the post is another view of the Bay through an opened window, this one painted in 1928 and entitled Intérieur à la fenêtre ouverte, and below is his painting of Nice Casino (no longer there) which the artist painted in situ on the Promenade des…

Côte d’Azur

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In May 1980 I spent two aimless weeks tramping around the hinterland of Provence, visiting sites of Roman antiquity: Arles, Nimes, Avignon, Orange. I remember being in the grounds of the Palais des Papes in Avignon, mindlessly watching a lizard trying to hypnotise me, when a member of the CRS, unseasonably overdressed in riot gear (it was a hot day), indicated for me to leave.  They cleared all the grounds, the palace too, and herded us into the square just outside, la place de l’Horlorge.  The reason soon became apparent when a procession of Young Communist demonstrators arrived,  banners waving and slogans shouting, clearly peeved over something.  I wanted to photograph the ’event’, but had left my camera in my hotel, and although the hotel was on the square, right there where the demonstration was unfolding, the hotel management, for perfectly reasonable reasons, had locked the door and the closed the window shutters.   The restaurateurs had done the same, but their customer diners…