I’m no art expert, and I’d not try to convince you otherwise. I’m not even an art amateur. I could list off a few famous names, sure. The obvious ones. Picasso, Van Gogh and Constable. But I’d be hard pushed to match many pieces of artwork with their creator. Sure, I could point at a fat Henry VIII and declare my admiration for Holbein. I’d probably have a decent success rate with Banksy. But if this quiz were played in The Who Wants To Be A Millionaire format, I’d need my three lifelines to get to £1,000 and would be lucky to leave with that sum still written on a cheque in my name.
This isn’t to say that I don’t like art. I do. I make a point of visiting galleries and exhibitions. I do like some of the stories behind the work. I love the atmosphere. And most of these places have cafes that do a jolly decent cream tea. But if the conversation with my gallery visiting buddies gets too technical, I am liable to turn the chat towards football. That’s my area of expertise. Failing that, how about this coronavirus business? If things get too desperate, I just play my trump card. Isn’t the Donald just the most awful Nazi since…? Well. You know who.
I like the painting above. Love it, in fact. It’s a photo that I took last December of a Canaletto that hangs in the Wallace Collection in London. I constantly aggravated Mrs P during our time there by constantly referring to the chap as Cannelloni. I then further aggrieved her by suggesting he would never make it as a centre forward in the Premier League. But then we both agreed that, at the very least, he’s a good deal nicer that the Donald. Probably.
The Wallace Collection is housed in the magnificent Hertford House, which is a very manageable stroll from Bond Street underground station. It’s absolutely chock full of art, antique furniture, china, history, wonderful stories and all housed within the most glorious architecture. It’s a feast of colour. A riot of imagery. A genuine treasure trove. There’s a sophisticated ambience about the place. And…you know that the Premier League title is Manchester City’s this year, don’t you? For the chasing pack, it’s really just about who comes second.
But let’s return to the Wallace Collection. Well, if only we could do just that. But, lockdown. So we can’t. Not just yet. But we shall, eventually. There are a number of ways which will signify to me, a return to normal. And every step towards normal is a win. There are some big wins to be had. A foreign holiday tops that list. It’s doesn’t have to be summer. I’ll settle for autumn. In fact, I’d settle for a flight departing December 31st. I haven’t once this millennium been trapped within the confines of the UK for an entire calendar year. I’d prefer not to break that run.
Getting into a theatre to see a show will be a win. Mrs P and I have tickets to see Duran Duran and Nile Rogers in Hyde Park in July. That would be a big win. I’m just waiting to hear from the National Trust about their plans for 2021 before I buy a Joint Membership from them. They have a thousand potential wins waiting to greet us. But right now, I’d happily settle for a safe, relaxed trip to the metropolis to revisit the Wallace Collection or any of the bazillion similar galleries that call London home. A meal in a restaurant. A simple day out on the train to see a wonderful city slowly coming back to life.
An awful lot of people, including some quite distinguished social commentators writing in widely read print and digital publications have rather written off London as having reached the end of its shelf life. Their articles read rather like an obituary. We live in a new world, apparently. A nervous world where we’d all rather keep well away from everyone else. A world based at home, which is now relocated well outside of the city, and a place we seldom leave if we can possibly help it.
This doom mongering, I tell you with all the confidence I can muster, is abject nonsense. Everything we have most missed in the series of localized and national lockdowns are found in our cities. Everything that the doom mongers most lament that we have lost. They are centres of arts, music, industry, commerce, finance and retail therapy. That will never change. Nor will the most important feature of our cities. They are centres of life itself. They’ll be back. I’ll be back. And so, I’m sure, will you.
We have a Big Issue office in Bournemouth. Big Issue, if you’re not from these parts, is a magazine sold by the homeless to give them a means of earning money. It’s a scruffy looking place, but perhaps that’s how it should be. The window is always covered with the latest issue.
These are not great times for Big Issue sellers. The high streets where they ply their trade are largely deserted. And few people have cash on them these days. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen a Big Issue seller since the pandemic started.
As for Captain Tom. He has since died from Covid 19.