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Iconography: 1 and 2

Iconography: 1 and 2

It’s a sunny afternoon in England. Neil Young is singing ‘Powderfinger‘. As he sings I find myself in an American landscape; I’m armed and ready to defy the odds … ready to shoot even …

It’s strange: the allure of American culture. It’s strange to live through the myths and images of ‘America’.

From: ‘Notes on the making of the English psyche.’

Footnote: The photograph shows a still from the BBC’s coverage of a farewell to the Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed.

The Cote d’Azur: a villa in Cap Ferrat

Beatrice - in memoriam

Beatrice – in memoriam

Not far to the east of Nice there’s a villa. It’s on Cap Ferrat. The villa is just about perfect. It’s pastel pink, rose pink, and sits beneath a diamond sky. The gardens, too, are simply lovely: every 20 minutes or so the fountains in the French formal garden burst into life: water dances – in flowing spangles – all to the sound of the most beautiful moments in classical music.

The villa was established by Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild: she filled it with exquisite works of art – Meissen porcelain, Gobelin tapestries, carved rose quartz and jade, works by Fragonard, furniture made by the finest French cabinetmakers … And now, she’s left us a gorgeous treasure on the Cote d’Azur.

(A note on ‘high culture’ – even if we’re not supposed to think it.)

Composition in light and dark

Cap Ferrat: Composition in light and dark

Saint Tropez: All in a dream

St Tropez: before a dream

St Tropez: all in a dream

Perhaps dreams really are the ‘high road’ to the unconscious …

(Note: The photograph of the wonderful car was taken one evening as the sun went down in St. Tropez. The boat behind the car is called ‘Dream’.)

Drawing – out from the shadows

Drawing the shadows

Study of Jo – out from the shadows

“I would rather look at a ten-centimetre Bonnard drawing or a twenty-centimetre Rembrandt etching than at many recent ‘inflated’ public pictures.”

(Source: Jeffery Camp – in his book on drawing)

Some girls

Black and white (Nantes 2014)

Black and white (Nantes, France 2014)

The beautiful girl is tall and her blonde hair catches the sunbeams. It’s high summer. She walks down the street – and she attracts many admiring glances.

After a while she turns to me and says:

In fact, it’s sad really. Remember: some girls never get to be looked at.

(A short note on culture and aesthetics)

10 great songs about England



I was in Ben’s Collectors’ Record store over in Guildford. Ben was playing some great songs over his loudspeakers. One of them was Crazy Horse doing ‘I don’t want to talk about it.‘ Then there was ‘American Pie‘ …

I listened.

I was still listening as I searched through some of the old blues records that Ben had placed in the ‘Blues’ section. Blues LPs are rather thin on the ground nowadays and Ben’s blues’ section reflected this. Still, I bought a copy of Muddy Waters’ LP ‘The Folk singer‘. It cost £5. As I was paying Ben I noticed a copy of ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band‘ which was propped up in a cardboard box. I looked at the cover. As I looked I was reminded of the fact that there are some great songs about England on that wonderful LP such as ‘A day in the life‘.

But as I left the record store I thought of nine more great songs about England. Here they are:

Common people’ by Pulp

Grantchester meadows’ by Pink Floyd

Ghost Town‘ by the Specials

Three Babies’ by Sinead O’Connor

Streets of London’ by Ralph McTell

Friday I’m in love‘ by The Cure

London Calling’ by The Clash

Goodbye England (covered in snow)’ by Laura Marling

Let England shake’ by PJ Harvey

P.S. ‘Waterloo sunset‘ by the Kinks should be on such a list. So should Cream’s ‘White room‘, ‘We’ve gotta get out of this place‘ by the Animals – as well as David J’s ‘Stop this city‘ and ‘Money for nothing’ by Dire Straits.

Villiers and the Prince

Typewriter with feather

Typewriter with feather

Villiers is a playwright. He does lots of other things apart from being a playwright. Such as? Well, he goes rowing in the Atlantic Ocean; he visits places like Trinity College Dublin or Cezanne’s Aix-en-Provence or York Minster; he’s an active member of the Joseph Conrad society; and, what’s more, he reflects on the sociology of the United Kingdom. Villiers is ‘Old School’; he’s frank and forthright; he hates political correctness; he’s a tall and handsome man.

The other day Villiers found himself twiddling his thumbs: he was waiting for the hour at which he would join his fellow oarsmen before the ensemble would set off to engage with the waves of the grey and stormy sea. Villiers reached for his phone and dialled my number:

‘Hello Rob.’

‘Hello Villiers.’

Villiers explained that he had ‘an hour or so to fill’ and that he had decided to bring me up to date with his ‘comings and goings’ – as well as his observations on the state of the nation.

‘You know’ said Villers, ‘we’re bathed in mediocrity. England’s in decline. The UK is in decline. People don’t read, People don’t engage with the great writers. People don’t even know how to use the language properly.’

To underline his point Villiers told me about Wimbledon and the men’s singles’ final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer: ‘In the post-match interviews they showed that they had a much better command of the language than most native English speakers. It’s shameful.’

By now Villiers was feeling totally cheesed-off. He told me how Joseph Conrad had achieved a better grasp of the English language (and its uses) than his English wife. He told me how George Orwell wrote with admirable and pristine clarity, how Thomas Hardy’s prose brought time, place and character ‘alive’…

‘I’ve almost given up hope for the future,’ announced a despondent Villiers. Then he mused: ‘I wonder if our next King will make a difference. He, Prince William, was watching the match between Djokovic and Federer. He’ll be King William. Yes, I wonder …’

I started to imagine this – but I sensed that something was wrong. I thought for a moment – and then I said:

‘But isn’t Prince Charles going to be the next king?’

Villiers paused. He seemed to be thinking …

And then, as if a great lacuna had crept into the labyrinths of his mind, he replied:

‘Oh, I’d forgotten all about him.’

St. Tropez – the star of the show

Women at the Balustrade by Kees van Dongen

Women at the Balustrade by Kees van Dongen

Here’s the star of the show. And she’s by Kees van Dongen

You can find her in St. Tropez’s museum of art – ‘Le musée de l’Annonciade’