It’s not that I don’t like museums, in fact I like them a lot, and in some ways the bigger the better. Those gorgeous marble floors and plaster ceilings do it for me regardless of what’s on the walls or in the glass cases. But a couple of hours in any museum is always enough, which, if you add queuing time, makes the bigger places self-defeating. That’s why in Florence last week we shunned both the Academy and the Uffizzi and opted instead for the Bargello, the National Scupture Museum, which on the morning in question was almost deserted except for ourselves and a group of art students looking suitable serious as they took notes behind their leader.
As we entered the Michelangelo Room they moved off, except for one, still sitting on the bench in front of the Bacchus when I decided to take the weight off my own feet. ‘Would you like to hear a story about this statue?’ enquired the young man beside me. I was happy to sit still for a bit longer and I felt he was keen to show off his knowledge, and so I said yes. What he told me was a complex but entertaining tale of how Lorenzo di Medici used the statue to play a trick on the Pope, the eventual outcome adding greatly to Michelangelo’s reputation. Later I recounted it to my companions who had missed the story- telling session.The episode made me think about the importance of story-telling in bringing art to life and reminded me of the Van Gogh and Gaugin exhibition we saw some years ago in Amsterdam where the audio commentary (compulsory because of the crowds) made the most compelling story imaginable of the paintings on show.As to the story I heard in Florence, I can find no other version of it on the web and plenty to contradict it. Was it the subject of someone’s thesis in the making, or did my student or his teacher make it up to test the gullibility of tourists? I can’t say I mind too much either way. It was a pleasant five minutes in the company of an artist and one of his modern-day acolytes. If there was an official audio guide, I doubt it would have been any better.At the time it seemed appropriate to give the student something in return for his trouble, and so I recommended he read The Agony and the Ecstasy, as it happens a work of fiction. I hope a fair exchange.
Since the lovely people at Leaf Books have seen fit to commend me for my ‘short travel writing’ piece submitted in August, it seems only fair to celebrate Kilcreggan , the obscure but enchanting place where it began.
To go next to the article when it’s published in Issue 3 of their magazine, Leaf would also like me to submit a further 200 words (max) on how it came to be written. Which is a tiny bit ironic, as after reading isue 2, I concluded I could do with less of these ‘author commentaries’ as they call them, and a bit more actual writing.
Of course I am the last person to complain about being given a platform – far from it! But I’m not convinced that short (300 max) pieces require this kind of writerly reflection, or that navel-gazing on my part will be of much benefit to the readers. Or maybe I’m just painfully aware that my own article won’t really live up to detailed exegesis? (Oooh, a word I had almost forgotten!) The fact is I went there, I loved it, but the atmosphere was a little strange. Which is what I hope I conveyed in the writing. And so it looks like my follow-up submnission could be brief. Let’s hope that’s what the readers would prefer.
Meanwhile three cheers for Kilcreggan, which will soon have featured in three blog posts, a scene in my latest novel, and now a writing magazine. Small place, big impact!
Thanks again to bicameral for the photo, much better than any of mine.
When writer friend Nicola Bennetts took a trip to Peru two years ago, it wasn’t just to see the sights but to find out about the work done there by Christian Aid and other charities. Her account of the expedition made fascinating listening for our writers’ group through most of last winter, but when she decided to publish the story on Lulu, it was the start of a whole new journey.
It’s widely believed Lulu and other P.O.D. sites are easy peasy and require no special IT skills. Well, that’s true to a certain extent, but if you took twenty of your friends at random, I think you ‘d be pushed to find many over 40 (and quite a few under) including those who regularly word-process, email, store photos and surf the net, who have ever had any introduction to file management – until they use something like Lulu. Add to this the prospect of setting up templates and genereating contents pages in Word, grappling with image files and enduring the idiosynchasies of any web-based application, and Lulu becomes not to much an easy option as a bit of a nightmare. For Nicola, who showed great perseverance in her determination to get a decent product, the final straw was when her book was finally ‘published’ but because of a technical ’glitch’ remained invisible to the public.
But by then the end really was in sight and in just a bit longer than it took to cross Peru, Beyond the Inca Trail was finally launched. My copy arrived yesterday, hot off the Lulu press and looking very good indeed. Don’t be deceived by the cover photo. This was no ordinary tourist trip, but if you’re interested in the plight of asparagus farmers or would like to know what guinea pig really tastes like, this is well worth reading.
I can also guarantee there will be no split infinitives.
Profits to Christian Aid