Friday, 28 June 2013

27 June

A second visit to Herculaneum and Pompeii, or at least to the British Museum, where once again it was the high-grade quotidian nature of the show that makes it moving.  By which I man, these people were not at all unlike us.  They had fewer things, and those things were - and why should they not be - beautiful.  But they also dropped their earrings down the loo and scratched stupid graffiti in inappropriate places."A thousand of my sheep graze on the hills of Sicily" wrote someone.  It's a quote from Virgil apparently, which is admittedly pretty highbrow seen from here, but then may have been no more falutin' than, say, a Bastille lyric is today.  Again, my favourite pieces were the stags being drawn down by dogs.

On, then, to Salisbury, and a look about the cathedral, everyone's favourite or second-favourite, and seeming to me to be almost the platonic ideal.  I can't imagine more perfect proportions. It is just dead right.  Here i came upon two whistler engravings made in memory of two sisters, illustrated quotations from Eliot: "the moment of the rose and the moment of the yew tree / Are of equal duration".  Well, hmm, if you say so.  I suppose the idea is that the rose symbolises life and the yew death, and that in our beginning is ur end and so forth.  Anyway, very beautiful.  Also noticed badly done graffiti on one of the effigies, "WW" turning up, worryingly, three or four times.

Finally James Holland talking to a large tent-load of people, ourselves included, in History's answer to Glasto, the Chalke Valley History Festival.  Bucketing down with rain, pitterpatter on the stretched skin of the tent's top, while the sides occasionally lunged inwards, like sails billowing as the result of some malicious bubble-cheeked god blowing at us. Mr Holland spoke about the Dambusters and how different the whole business was to that portrayed in the film..  He was tremendously enthusiastic, funny, clear and moved.  Remarkable was the speed with which the enterprise was undertaken: more or less two months, from proposal to action. And momentous the results.  Not merely eccentric British genius, but rational British genius.  "Bonkers" - I could feel Mr Holland wanting to say "fucking insane" - nevertheless.

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