I was going to do a post about the difference between sacred and secular art, but then I got sidetracked by my search for a Cuturi air-hammer, Model D, pencil-sized one, which I am trying to purchase for some very lightweight marble carving.
Well, I ended up doing a post on the difference between sacred and secular art anyway, as illustrated by some of the images I came up with in my search for the air hammer.
The above is how they use these carving power-hammers in Italy, where they are all made. Note the Madonna copy. Note the traditional newspaper hat as well.
This is how they employ the hammers in the good old USA. Where's the newspaper hat? This photo is also taken from a sales point for Cuturi hammers.
Here is another American site which loves these Italian air-hammers so much, he has wrapped them in the Stars and Stripes before photographing them and posting the picture up. I began to think that the obsession with 'butts' in every context was a peculiarly American thing, especially when I found the picture below, also brought up by searching for Cuturi air-hammers.
Then I looked a little closer. This sculpture was made by an old, very British friend of mine called Barry Baldwin, who used to run a stone yard just outside Bath, and one of whose sculptures adorns our local Waitrose supermarket, albeit at such a height that even I forget it is there most times I walk past.
Now I think about it, Barry's idea of a good holiday was to go down to the Tex-Mex border for a couple of weeks of honky-tonking, so I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised.
Yesterday's post-count of 1666 put me in mind of the Great Fire of London, and that - in turn - put me in mind of Samuel Pepys and his wonderful diaries.
Pepys did two distinct things when the fire crept nearer to his home in Axe Yard - he buried a huge and expensive Parmesan Cheese in the back yard of the house, and he sent his wife to a place of relative safety a few miles away whilst he helped the King of England to set an example to the rest of the populace by actually pulling down a wooden building with ropes as a fire-break. Can you imagine a King going out and rolling his shirtsleeves up in London should such an event occur today?
Also, I didn't realise that Parmesan Cheese was available in England in 1666 - I bet dried pasta or tinned tomatoes weren't.
Of course, Pepys being Pepys, his prime concern when sending his wife away from the conflagration was that she guarded his stash of gold coins - many thousands of pounds-worth - against theft from the relatives of the house where he sent her.
When he went to visit some time after the fire began to subside, he obviously asked to see the money so he could check it by counting it. His wife told him that she and the relative had buried it for safety against his specific instructions, and when he asked where, she pointed to a large tract of desolate land.
He went to the land with a spade to dig it up, but his wife and the relative had forgotten to mark the spot, and not only that but they also informed him that they had split the stash up into many different quantities and buried them in many different places, just in case one should be discovered. That way, she explained, they would not lose the lot.
Pepys spent several days from dawn to dusk, digging random holes in the wasteland until he had uncovered all but a few hundred pounds worth of gold coins, then cut his losses by giving up searching for the remainder. He had to go back to town to earn some more, and to hang around in the suburbs would have cost him more in the long-run.
Somewhere South of the river in old London town, there lies - probably beneath a high-rise apartment block inhabited by hoodies - an undiscovered stash of gold which once used to belong to Samuel Pepys.
I think the Parmesan survived, but even if he had not dug it up, it would be inedible by now.
Us forty to eighty year-old inhabitants of Blogland have the same attitude to current affairs as they do in the rural, middle-England village of Ambridge - we don't often like them impinging on our little world of food, art and rants.
'The Archers' were/was heavily criticised by some recently, by actually reporting on the flooding of farms in Worcestershire as they happened, in real time.
Normally, a nuclear bomb goes off in Europe, and about six months later, Jill will say to Shula, "Wasn't it terrible about that nuclear bomb going off in Belgium? Those poor people - I feel quite sorry for them with all that mess to clear up."
This time, the hard rains were still afallin' when a handful of them rallied round their stricken neighbours about 40 miles away, and travelled off in two tractors to rescue sheep and take them to the higher ground of Brookfield Farm.
This was The Archers fulfilling their original brief to be a service to the agricultural communities of G.B. - a service which has, up until recently, been falling behind in favour of the sexier business of illicit affairs and cut-throat business practices involving sausages.
The agricultural advisor drummed-up a bit of Dunkirk spirit by encouraging the scriptwriters to force David and Tony to perform an act of altruism which they - under normal circumstances - would not be able to afford.
Well I don't know about you, but I'm rather worried about (as Mrs Dale used to say) the situation in the Ukraine.
I am no expert, but I feel I need to become one quickly, just in case that nuclear bomb really does go off in Belgium.
This is all I understand as of the present:
The Crimea is strongly pro-Russian, Kiev is not.
There are two major oil pipelines running through the Crimea which come from Russia.
Germany depends on Russia for 40% of all its oil imports.
Germany is the biggest supporter of the Ukraine becoming part of the E.U.
The USA resent the E.U. as much as they resent Russia, but have massive trade-deals in place which the E.U. would dearly like a piece of.
The Western part of the Ukraine would dearly like to become members of the E.U. and Russia would dearly like them not to.
The Crimea would dearly like to be aligned with Russia, if not return to Russian territory after Kruschev gave it away 60 years ago, and Kiev would not.
Yesterday, the British Government made it transparently clear (by accident/on purpose) that they would like to keep all their pet Russian oligarchs on board by opposing the Ukraine entry into the E.U. and opposing economic sanctions against Russia.
Em has just belatedly commented that it is a shame that Germaine has lost a follower with her recent ill-informed foray into the world of eco-bollocks, and her massively helpful comments directed toward all the floating voters currently watching the Levels being topped up on a daily basis in the flattest part of Somerset.
Well, I have never really been a follower of Germaine (surprise), and I responded by saying that she has always been a deeply silly person, and age hasn't improved her. In a nutshell, it takes a combination of colossal silliness and similarly sized egocentricity to come out with the sort of fatuous and half thought-out ideas about really serious issues that she has been specialising in for over 40 years now.
I used to imagine myself mellowing with age, but the only wisdom that age brings - in my experience - is the knowledge that the worst personal traits that we all possess to one degree or another, will always be magnified through backward telescope of time, though they look smaller to us as we peer down the wrong end of the objective lens, and we look even sillier when we do this in public.
I have a friend who is proud of being set in his ways, but the trouble is that he stopped thinking about things at the very point of his early retirement. He stopped listening to other people too, and pretends to be deaf if he is challenged when formulating his response to a sentence put to him by someone else, long before the sentence is finished. His mother did him no favours all the way through his upbringing, but the most damage she ever did to him was to die and leave him enough money to stop thinking for the rest of his life.
I had a brief role-model at the age of about 50, and he took the form of a huge and benign country gentleman who doted on his grandchildren, taking them for long walks across the Somerset Levels (yes, them again), all the time feigning utter enthralment with every tiny discovery or event in their little lives.
Freddy had suffered the most appalling torture under the Japanese during WW2, having been captured in command of a mountain gun-battery on the North West Frontier. As an ex inmate of Changi Gaol, I couldn't believe how well adjusted he was to ordinary Somerset family life in the years of peacetime, but after he died, his children hinted at a darker side to him which he kept well hidden from his adored grandchildren.
His wife went looking for him on the morning of V.J. Day, and not finding him in the house, suspected that he had just wandered off on one of his usual walks, possibly to feed a pet pheasant which had adopted him, not knowing that he quite often shot his brothers in the air if they happened to fly over him when he had a gun in his hand.
When he didn't return within the usual time he spent on these walks, his wife looked a little harder for him, and found him hiding in a broom-cupboard beneath the stairs, which was roughly the same proportions as his solitary cell in Changi.
Some prisons are self-made, and some song-birds will choose a cage when faced with the insecurity of freedom in the vast, outside world.
Yesterday, a man who looked just like Benny Hill - including hat and raincoat - was riding round and round town on an electric bicycle with a trailer, belting out American Christian music to go with the excerpts from the Gospels pinned to a huge A-frame at the back.
After his fifth circuit, there came a ring on the door buzzer, and I went down to see who it was. Standing patiently in the porch was Germaine Greer. She must have trawled her way backwards from the photo of her exposing her fundament until she had worked out the precise location of our compact but adorable city apartment, probably using all the pictures I had taken out of the window.
She was not happy, but then again, neither was I.
"Are you Tom Stephenson?!" she demanded, her eyes popping through two sets of crocodile hand-luggage and her white hair blowing in all directions, despite the absence of any strong wind.
It was then that I fully understood the nick-name given to me by a couple of cruel friends (who, incidentally, have emigrated to Australia) - Germaine Greer. John occasionally calls me Margaret Rutherford, but he only has the odd photo to go by. To see me standing side by side with Germaine after a night on the town would change his perception forever.
I snapped out of my fascinated reverie and answered, "No."
Germaine mumbled some insincere apologies, glanced up at the statue of Queen Victoria to try and get her bearings, then turned to go.
"Wait!" I found myself shouting, "Tom Stephenson doesn't exist. That's just a name I use for my blog, trolling, and all the negative reviews on Trip Advisor!"
Her head turned before her body did, and she slowly approached me with an almost audible growl. I began to regret my inexplicable outburst of honesty, but this was - after all - Germaine Greer, and I may never get the opportunity to speak to her again.
I had to think quickly. "I expect you have come about that photo of you on the blog?" I didn't wait for an answer as she was getting a little too close and weighing-up her handbag with a few, quick up and down movements of her powerful right forearm.
"That photo reminds me of a really good joke. Would you like me to tell it to you?" I didn't wait for an answer to that question either.
"What do women put behind their ears to attract men?" She remained disconcertingly silent.
"Their knees!" I accompanied the punch-line with a nervous shriek of falsetto laughter, but nary a smile showed itself on the old antipodean's cracked features. Her eyes did narrow slightly, but I don't think this was as a result of the bottled-up laughter.
I adopted a studied, crestfallen attitude and reluctantly invited her up. Best to face the music, I thought, and best not face it on the doorstep.
All that hacking through dense vegetation down in Australia has kept her very fit indeed - she virtually bounded up the four flights of stairs and once in the flat, showed no signs of laboured breathing at all - unlike me. This was a bad sign.
She accepted my offer of tea with a wordless nod, and I went into the kitchen to make it, leaving her standing in the living-room and casting her eyes about as if she had just broken the door down in a drugs-raid.
When I returned with the cups and saucers tinkling in my trembling hands, I found her standing next to the desk and examining my camera which she had taken out of its case, weighing it up like her handbag and turning it over and over as if trying to find something overlooked on the previous rotation.
"What kind of Olympus is this? I've never seen one of these in Britain before."
She seemed to have calmed down a little, and I tried to utilise my recently acquired knowledge of her interest in photography by telling her of its provenance and the long journey from its birth in Japan, to little old England via the USA. It was like hypnotising a cat, and pretty soon she had the lens-cap off and was taking pictures of the Portland Stone version of Victoria through the window of the sun-lit flat.
I knew that all of this was only putting off the inevitable, and that - sooner or later - the subject of that photo on my blog would be sure to arise, even if the subject of the Somerset Wetlands did not. Then I had a brilliant idea.
"I know!" I exclaimed with genuine enthusiasm, "Why don't we recreate that photo of you lying on the floor, completely naked and exposing your butcher's dustbin for all the world to see?"
At this, she looked thoughtful, and gazed into the middle distance of the outside world without the view-finder of my digital Olympus.
"I dunno... it's been a long time and... well, I'm not as young as I used to be, y'know..."
"GWAN!" I encouraged her, "You know you want to!" I had a slight growl in my voice at this point, and it seemed to fire her up to the idea.
"Well... aw, what the heck. Let's go for it."
Pretty soon, she had her ample backside stuck firmly to the coarse, wooden boards of our Georgian living-room, and it made little squeaking noises against the paint as she adjusted her position to my directions whilst I composed the shot, occasionally looking at the 40 year-old original which I had brought up on the iMac for reference.
It was at that point at which I awoke, head down on the keyboard with a small strand of saliva coming from the corner of my mouth.
I've been listening - or half listening - to Germaine effing Greer since the early 1970s, and now I wish she would just return to her recently acquired rain-forest in deep Australia and leave everyone else alone.
She has just finished a couple of tirades here in Bath (for the 'Literary Festival') and during this time she has used her recently acquired knowledge about all things globally worthy.
She has long since run out of any novel ideas about women and the anatomy specific to them, and she has nothing new to say about Aborigines or even the Native Americans who she adopted to such an extent that she - at a party in Cambridge - declared herself to be an honorary member of one specific North American tribe, without their knowledge or consent.
Now she is right here in Bath as I write, telling the already depressed and wet folk of the Somerset Levels that they are - to all intents and purposes - making a FUSS ABOUT NOTHING, and that they should just relax whilst a few feet of water invades their living spaces and farms, whilst she relaxes in complete dryness wherever she happens to be staying right now.
She actually said, "WE ARE USED TO REAL WATER IN AUSTRALIA. WE DON'T GO, 'EEEW - A FOOT OF WATER HAS COME INTO OUR HOUSE!' WE JUST GET ON WITH IT".
She went on to say that we should all just leave the Somerset Levels alone to flood, as they have been doing since before we tried to 'EXPLOIT' them.
The Somerset Levels used to be - up until about 600 years ago - PERMANENTLY under water. Many people spent a lot of time and money DRAINING them, you silly cow, and the present authorities are undermining the work of generations by allowing them to turn back into unwanted bird-sanctuaries.
Germaine Greer - please go back back to your rain forest in Australia, and stop adding to the misery of people who you have never been interested in, and you only now express any disapproval of in order to sell your BORING BOOK.
Below (so it hopefully will not appear in the heading of this post) is an early, self-promotional picture of Ms Greer, before anyone started to listen to her.
I think this picture may have appeared in 'Spare Rib', but I may be wrong. Whatever, she wanted it to be published then, so she can hardly object now.