Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Ultima Thule

Getting to St Andrews is a trek and no mistake. You get to the Edinburgh bypass and think: nearly there; not far now. Then it takes ages longer than you expect to get to the Forth Road Bridge, which looks so near on the map. But the worst is yet to come. Fife is Scotland's answer to East Anglia, in spades. Tiny meandering roads, on and on you go, narrower and narrower becomes the road. Unsettling signs invite you again and again to visit 'Scotland's Secret Bunker'. When I presented myself at the reception desk of my hotel, the news was broken to me that my room was on the third floor and the lift was broken. I stumped off in a huff to find some lunch while the lift was attended to. I drew a blank at the first establishment where soup was to be found, if I looked, 'in little pots in the fridge', except there weren't any left. I walked on and on to the far end of North St where there are two eateries - one a 'bookshop/eaterie' - on opposite sides of the road. I tried the bookshop-cum-cafe first, wishing to buy a book by Meaghan Delahunt, the tutor at the Creative Writing department with whom I had an appointment. The proprietor told me that because it was a Christian bookshop (not obvious from the establishment's name outside) - ' we only have books on reconciliation or redemption'. (This is a local shop for local people?) , 'Her book is about Tolstoy's wife, so maybe...?' I said. He smiled and shook his head. So I went across to The Point (where 'food is The Point' - geddit?) Where Wills met Kate. I found the only spare table and had delicious Thai sweet potato soup a pot of tea and a smoked salmon and cream cheese wrap with salad leaves dribbled with balsamic vinegar and started to feel the life inch back into my extremities. For some reason, I had stumped out of the hotel with a very heavy and badly designed book bag whose handles are slightly too long to be able to let it dangle, and too narrow to allow it to be carried securely on the shoulder. Revived, restored, I walked round to Market St and along to a bookshop where I found a copy of a book by Meaghan Delahunt. Not the one about Tolstoy's wife (The Blue House - which Meaghan now tells me is not about Tolstoy but Trotsky), another one, set in Greece. I also looked for a postcard to send to my Swedish date who had sent his suggestion for a name for the book of this blog, as requested, on a postcard (so literal-minded, those Swedes). As a matter of fact, it is a very well chosen and exclusive postcard, of a collage by the Russian artist Kasimir Malevich (in Swedish transliteration, Malewitch) 1878-1935. I have a favourite picture, a lithograph entitled Homage to Malevich by the Scottish artist Ian Hamilton Finlay, a present from my sister who worked with Ian H F on and off for 40 years. The image in the Hamilton Finlay lithograph is of a flaming cross falling downwards. The collage (pictured above left) is entitled 'An Englishman in Moscow'. This is not the title suggested on the card for the book of my blog, which is the catchy if surreal: From Farningham (or Kent) and Moffat (or Scotland). There is a slogan on the collage which I have been trying to decipher in case that might be appropriate. I am indebted to the web for the following explanation of the collage's meaning:
  • The visible world is not what it seems to be - one thing conceals another.
  • Familiar themes in this painting:
  • The notion of concealment - expressed here most obviously by the covering of half the subject's face
  • Cutting and slicing - denoted by the wartime images of the sword and bayonets, as well as the scissors and the saw
  • The ladder - with its reference to raising up or to a higher perspective
In words:
  • Zatmenie - at the top of the painting - is the word for eclipse. It is has been divided into another two words that convey the notion of "beyond the dark"
  • Chastichnoe - at the bottom of the painting - is the word for partial. It has been divided in such away as to isolate the word 'chas' (hour) from the suffix of an adverbial adjective, -noe (hourly)
  • The spiritual elements (candle, the Orthodox church, the cross made of candle and sword) all seem to say that with time the scales (fish) will fall from our eyes, and we will truly see clearly.
What, I ask, has this got to do with an Englishman?? In Moscow? But never mind, it is a wonderful image. Thank you, Gunnar.

No comments:

Post a Comment