The lopsided passenger ratio on our luxury liner was accounted for by the high percentage of the sons of European emigre’s (mostly Greek and Italian) returning for a visit to their ancestral homelands. The gunwales were almost awash with these handsome lads, AND they oozed charisma to boot. Gloom. I had a couple of contingency plans up my sleeve, but I had not counted on being outflanked by this lot of Latin lovelies.
For some inexplicable reason (and one never to be repeated) I had kitted myself up with a suit! Not any old suit but a nice little pale linen number. The ensemble was given added glamour by the addition of a matching tie and classy suede shoes. When would I get to play this card? If at all?
Another such irresistible lure (or so I thought) was my genuine interest in the current vogue of existential philosophy. It wasn’t so much the goings on of Jean -Paul and Simone and their writings, but reading the novels of Albert Camus.
‘The stranger’ was impressive. When things were becoming unglued, I loved his concept of ‘the glorious indifference of the universe’. (my translation, others call it benign) [Editor: or “the tender indifference of the world” if you’re a Guardian reader!]
Hmmmm… Perhaps a bit heavy for a chat -up line. Of course, this combination of couture/ culture could backfire. Perhaps I might be approached by a woman of a certain age, of academic appearance, and clutching the complete oeuvre of Immanuel Kant’s metaphysics. These books would choke a horse.
She would be thrilled at the prospect of intellectual exploration and exchange of ideas that our relationship would provide for the next 30 days. I went to the library and got out a copy of ‘The Cruel Sea’.
Back to life on the ocean wave. The good ship Ellinis only stopped at five ports on this mammoth journey. They were Auckland, Panama City, Curacao, Tahiti, and Southampton. The happenings at one of them had fairly lengthy implications, to say the least…
A year of working in the theatre was drawing to a close. It was time to move on and go and see, for real, the artworks that I had been studying. Theatre life had been good, not only the painting, but also doing behind the scenes drawings of touring dance companies, the Russians in particular.
Working on a pantomime was great fun and was to have later repercussions. This one was all about the sea, with submerged wrecks, sea creatures, all manner of sailing ships and, of course, lighthouses.
Some things still stay with me.
1. How to get a dead level horizontal line running across 10 metres of stretched canvas.
I bet Raphael and his mates did this in Renaissance times. Simply attach a cord to the correct height at either end, ‘chalk’ and tension said cord. Stand in the middle, pull the cord back like a bowstring and let it go. SNAP! There is your line.
2. Painting scrims was also fun. This involved painting on an open weaved fabric (difficult), but when completed, if it was lit from the front it could be a brick wall, lit from the back it virtually disappeared.
3. My last theatre experience. This was at a different theatre and consisted of a one- man show of the most withering satire on Australian life. This guy was stunning, a class act. His name? Barry Humphries.
OK. How to get to Europe? The Boeing 707 was well and truly around by now, but pricey. The next cab off the rank was the good ship Ellinis. If one thumbs through the current crop of cruise liners, at jaw dropping prices, it might be tempting to put the Ellenis in this class. Not quite. Somebody less charitable than me described it as 8 million rivets sailing in formation. Unfair and untrue.
Prospects of loads of female company for the best part of a month lent a certain sense of anticipation to this sojourn. What diminished said keenness was, to put it mathematically, the male/ female numbers ratio.
It was lopsidedly male.
Paul has a visitor
Qualifying session full on. No quarter given. Live speeds 10 times what you get on TV. Noise sublime. Paul foraged for a mocha for Mumbles. Nectar. Teensy tribulations forgotten. Paul’s tactical expertise was invaluable, sometimes Mumbles could easily cope with being treated as a chop short of the barbie.
About mid afternoon they returned to tent land. Mumbles felt a zzzzz coming on, Paul suddenly got domesticated…..
Later. Paul was running the Dyson over his shag pile carpet, closely following the printed track of the Monaco street circuit. This was cleverly woven into the fabric.
Was that somebody calling to him? Turned off the Dyson, chucked his Fangio apron behind the Aspidistra and looked outside. This wasn’t any old somebody, this was a Drop Dead Darling and no mistake. ‘Hi’, she trilled, coming from a countenance that would launch a thousand battle cruisers. ‘Sorry to trouble you, my name is Marie Claire.
I came by this morning and heard some fab singing. I mean FAB. Who was this guy who did that old Tassie Classic, you know the one, ‘Banjo Barry, the bastard from the bush.’ … This was a revelation. He must be Tasmanian. Her doe- like eyes widened. ‘Was it you?’ Paul a bit thrown by this. ‘No, no,’ he said, ‘He’s a friend of mine’.
As he said that, he spotted an empty Islay single malt bottle poking out of the bottom of Mumbles tent. What happens if our boy emerged from his boudoir and tripped over the guy ropes yet AGAIN? Little Darling pressed on. ‘Look, I run the Frisco Folk Club down by the Eateries. We are doing our last gig tonight and my top of the bill have got a better offer. Can you friend help us out? What’s his name, by the way. Paul hesitated. He dumped the Mumbles. ‘Mojo Makepiece, Mojo for short. He is doing a bit of choir practice at the moment for tomorrow’s church service. Shall I send him down to you?’
‘PLEASE DO,’ she pleaded, ‘I would so love to meet him.’
The sweet smell of Givenchy wafted through the air as she headed off. ‘We will pay him’, she called back.
Paul finished the dusting, re- arranged the flowers, and settled down to read ‘The Complete Technical Guide to the maintenance of the F 1 gearbox’. Great stuff!
Next: Mumbles meets MC!
When he awoke from a troubled nights sleep, our man did not feel like breakfasting on another dollop of ‘beyond aesthetics’. Instead, he noticed that several shorter pieces had been appended to this magnum opus ….in effect, slighter ruminations of Artspeak.
These pieces were dignified by their brevity, if not their gravitas or syntax.
He started on this little gem. ‘The significance of an ordinary item…. an inventive and unusual exploration of the cultural history of the button with all it’s metaphorical and lexical suggestiveness’….(true!) or… ‘In a process of palimpsest, the work evolved or was reused or altered but potentially still bore visible traces of its earlier form…. the result is a body of work that reflects themes of female identity, diversity and transition. (Gosh!). or ‘What follows is: impossibility to believe in discussion for imagery…..#towards aphasia, towards immobility, for a progressive identification of consciousness and praxis….
Was our man developing a morbid fascination with this tosh? Rather like watching kitsch soap operas when nobody was around? He was armed with acres of this twaddle that would make the winter nights fly by.
Nights! Nights! His dream hurtled back.
He had invented an ABM machine! (An Art Bollocks Machine) and it had made him a fortune. The punter simply keyed in the show he or she was doing. As a demo he chose a show called ‘An anthology of socks full of cold porridge’ (international of course.) This opened more bollocks doors than a French farce. He asked for 3x A4 pages, double spaced, paid his money, and Bingo! The machine chuntered out the result. Terrific stuff!
This market was huge. Think of anything, as is now academic, call it art, and good old
ABM would do the business. It did a fabulous job on ‘German battle cruisers and the suspender belt’. An international touring show, people now speak of little else.
He had a rude awakening. A one- legged seagull had befriended him and was demanding some breakfast. The bird seemed quite keen on snacking on the recently arrived paperwork. He pecked at it. Wanted more. Was it edible?
Let’s find out in the final episode…
Having recieved a message from a collector of my work, who needs to downsize, there are a few older paintings available to purchase. This does not happen very often! And it is interesting to see the transition and development of my work. Email me if you are interested in purchasing any of the following: