Summer fires

All in the golden afternoon
….
In such an hour,
Beneath such dreamy weather,
To beg a tale…
“There will be nonsense in it!”‘
Lewis Carroll, preface to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865

gainsboroughwoodedlandscapeThomas Gainsborough Landscape with a Woodcutter and Milkmaid 1755
Oil on canvas

“Nostalgia is denial. Denial of the painful present.
The name for this denial is Golden Age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”
Midnight in Paris, 2011, film written and directed by Woody Allen

“Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.”
Ecclesiastes, Chapter 7, Verse 10, King James Bible, 1611

constablebrightonJohn Constable (1776-1837) Coast Scene at Brighton: Evening, oil painting, ca. 1828
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

      “….colours from the sunset take:
From something of material sublime
Rather than shadow our own soul’s day-time
In the dark void of night.”
(Keats, Epistle to John Hamilton Reynolds)

“Set yourself on fire with passion and people will come for miles to watch you burn”
attributed to John Wesley (1703-1791)

marsdenmoorfire1

“The people who started the moorlands fires are responsible for a catastrophe that has endangered an enormous number of people. People are having to evacuate their homes, livestock has been lost and natural beauty spots have been ravaged. Resources have been sent from fire and rescue services all across the country.” Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack speaking of the wildfires on Saddleworth Moor, Lancashire, England, which spread for 2 weeks during the heatwave of late June and July, 2018

“They never reached a golden age, or found El Dorado. ‘The journey, not the destination matters’, Rachael incanted, out of habit,
while they could see there was nothing left that glittered through the smoke ahead,
and the smell of burnt dirt did not stop rising from the ashes.
Philippa was in too sour a mood to stomach either irony or elegy and she snapped back:
‘Catch on fire and people will come for miles to see you burn’.”
Noëlle Mackay Human Rites 

gainsboroughevening3Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) Wooded Landscape with Herdsman and Cattle

‘And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, a merry crew,
Beneath the setting sun.’
Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), preface to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865

Reunite or Self-Destruct

Second Brexit referendum has 16-point lead as half of Britons back new vote, opinion poll shows

Orpheusand EuridiceOrpheus and Euridice by G.F. Watts c. 1890

Humans are selfish by instinct, like all animals. We are narcissistic, like no other animal. We reason, like no other animal. We squander our natural gifts, like no other animal. We are cruel, like no other animal. We have more regrets than any other animal. We cannot bring the people we love back to life but we can make at least one sensible decision for the common good before we die. (Noelle Mackay)

We, the people, must demand another chance to let our true voice be heard, not the one manipulated last year by a reactionary, zenophobic, racist coup d’état.

We must be able to accept or reject the deal being negotiated to Leave the EU.

And, we must be able to reject Brexit entirely. No reasonable person could claim that the EU is perfect; no reasonable person could claim that leaving the EU under the present conditions is anything but catastrophic.

It is time to stop separating personal from universal destiny. We are all implicated.

Whether you voted Leave or Remain, this Brexit is a mess. I’d have written “a dog’s breakfast” for a cheap laugh if it wasn’t an insult to dogs. There are too many cheap laughs in this world at the expense of things we should value.   “Only connect”.

Pomeranian Bitch and Puppy circa 1777 by Thomas Gainsborough 1727-1788
Gainsborough, Pomeranian Bitch and Puppy c 1777. © Tate Gallery.
Is there nothing else than the love of cute animals that can unite people?
Does humanity loathe itself so much that it will extinguish itself?

Only the delusional, or right-wing billionaires planning to turn Great Britain into Little Englanders’ Tax-Haven Ltd, could still want it. The hopes of idealistic Leavers have been betrayed, the worst fears of Remainers have been exceeded by reality.

It is still legally possible to reverse Brexit. Common sense and self-preservation demand it. “In a healthy political culture, this would be a moment for reappraisal” Ian Dunt.

The present Prime Minister has been too weak so far to turn us back from a suicidal Charge of the Light Brigade on a national scale.

horsedelacroixHorse Frightened by a Storm, watercolour by Eugene Delacroix, 1824. Image source: WGA

Our democracy should serve the national interest, not destroy it. If our representatives in Parliament don’t have the guts to revoke Article 50 themselves, we must advise them ourselves through another Referendum – not a second referendum, but the third since 1975.

Last year’s referendum was advisory. A responsible government would never have allowed the public a vote on an unfeasible option. No government is infallible. Nobody is infallible. History will condemn the political leadership of our times – that doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook.

If history is about ordinary people, not who and what kings and queens had for breakfast, ordinary people must show the future what a human being should be.

Sovereignty lies in Parliament, not the “Will of the People”, a meaningless slogan unless it includes the right to change our minds. If anyone insists that the 2016 Referendum was binding, then they should consider that the 1975 Referendum to stay in the EU was also binding.

Never again should an elected representative of the people have to say, as Margaret Beckett did, “I believe this will be catastrophic for my constituents, but nonetheless I feel duty‑bound to vote for it.”

Nuts.

In future, recanting MPs might have to put one of their hands in the fire before they betray the interests of the people.

Our generation is seeing the British dream turned into a nightmare created by ourselves. STOP IT.  Brexit will be the worst mistake ever made by a modern democratic nation.

Let’s stop Brexit. 

Bored with Brexit? Tough. I’d have given up this blog, ranting at an audience of two, if it wasn’t for the biggest cause of in our lifetimes. It’s not just British lives that Brexit will ruin. The fate of nations is in our hands.

Stop Brexit, I’ll stop boring you.

girl withcageripplRippl-Rónai, Girl with Cage 1892 Oil on canvas
Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest.
Image: WGA

Enlightened Britain died tonight

Brexit Parliament votes to exclude animal sentience from EU Withdrawal Bill

morning walk
Gainsborough The Morning Walk 1785 National Gallery

Our elected representatives in Parliament appear to be unreasoning animals who do not feel pain or emotions as they devour the best of Britain’s past and future.

The EU Withdrawal Bill is a withdrawal from civilization.

“….Brexit is corroding the national consensus on what sort of country we are, tearing the fabric of our society, and pointing us in a third-world direction.” A.C. Grayling, The New European

Everything I love

is either dead or under attack


Gainsborough’s The Morning Walk (1785)

DAMAGED on 18 March, 2017

We congratulate ourselves on feeling so deeply about art that we must be good people or, at least, better than we thought we were a moment ago

THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH ON ARTSY

GAINSBOROUGH IN High Society AT RIJKSMUSEUM

Pretty and Powerful in Pink

Philippe de Champaigne, 1602 - 1674 Cardinal de Richelieu 1633-40 Oil on canvas, 259.5 x 178.5 cm Presented by Charles Butler, 1895 NG1449 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG1449

ABSOLUTE POWER: Cardinal de Richelieu, oil on canvas, 1633-40 by Philippe de Champaigne.
Image: © Copyright The National Gallery, London 2015
“I have the consolation of leaving your kingdom in the highest degree of glory and of reputation”, the dying Richelieu wrote to Louis XVIII, father of Louis XIV. The foundations of French gloire in the reign of the Sun King were laid by Richelieu. He wears Cardinal’s Robes of pink, the liturgical colour of rejoicing in God.

gainsboroughcountesshoweREAL ESTATE, SEX AND FASHION POWER in one woman: Mary, Countess Howe by Gainsborough, oil on canvas, 1764.
Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood House, London. Image: WGA
This exquisite incarnation of 18th century elegance and aristocracy was the wife of a gouty admiral. She had been born into a wealthy, landowning family and was co-heiress with her sister of their father’s substantial property; her marriage brought her into the aristocracy when her husband inherited the title of Viscount.
She is pretty and formidable, sensually alluring and untouchable. The love with which Gainsborough imbues her portrait and the poetically moody sky is thought by art historians to not be an entire illusion, as he was known to become sexually attracted to his good-looking female sitters, a professional hazard for many portraitists of all epochs.

In the same year Gainsborough painted Mary Howe, on the other side of the Channel, the woman who had redefined, owned and commercialized pink, the king’s mistress and unofficial cultural minister of France, Madame de Pompadour, died.

pompadourboucher

Madame de Pompadour by Boucher, 1759. Wallace Collection, London. Image: WGA
SELF-MADE POWER: elegant, gentle, carnal yet intangible, suggestible but not forceful – this is the quintessentially feminine power of influence crafted by the woman herself.

Such a soft, shell-like pink reminiscent of idealized human flesh tones, is flattering next to a middle-aged woman’s skin, but it is also suggestive of the colour of the sky when the sun rises and sets, and, in the iconography of her relationship with Louis XV, the sun god was the symbol of her lover and master, the king. Her favourite portraitist Boucher, was the genius and pander of pink.

MarilynpinkCELEBRATION OF PINK POWER: Marilyn Monroe singing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in the pink satin dress designed by Travilla, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953. Image: Wikipedia
Blatant materialism and feminine predatory sexuality find absolution in pure, sweet, shocking pink celebration of being alive.
Marilyn is the girl whose faults we all forgive.

Pink is the colour of joy.

Angel in a pink dress under a pink glass ceiling

“You may try, but you cannot imagine what it is to have a man’s force of genius in you, and to suffer the slavery of being a girl.” George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, 1876

There are two glass ceilings for female writers and artists, arranged one on top of the other, a crystal palace of prejudice and illusion. There’s the transparent political and economic one, the barrier to equality of status and pay.

The other, under that, or above, I can’t see that far, I don’t understand technical details ’cause I’m a girl, and the light refracts so prettily, I wonder if I should buy that pink hat, is a rose-pink coloured barrier to having your work taken seriously.

This one, the pink one, was smashed in the 19th century by the Brontë sisters and Marian Evans, but they knew they could only break through if their ideas were camouflaged under male names.

They were not worried about commercial failure, or shocking people; they were worried about not being taken seriously.

Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, and George Eliot, would have sold their books under their own feminine names and been admired for their romance and intelligence, for the local colour and dialects of their novels, their compassion for underdogs and their understanding of children and servants, for provocative scandals and the delicacy of their sentiments and morals. Pink.

Compassion, but not passion; feelings but not reasons; intelligence but not intellect; morals but not politics; wit but not humour; nurturing not building; melodrama not abstract symbolism; social satire but not revolution.

Even today, as in her own time, there are readers who attribute the philosophical and scientific principles driving Mary Shelley’s Gothic fiction Frankenstein to her husband.

Writing under male names was not female writers’ modesty, it was a covert declaration of war: “J’accuse”.

Shocking_Pink_SchiaparelliThe 20th century’s rediscovered PINK through Elsa Schiaparelli’s use of textiles dyed in “Shocking Pink” in the 1930s . Image: Wikipedia

Readers still expect women to write pink books, and make pink films, and there’s an awful lot of those, and literary agents and publishers are looking for boy-blue to flag the earth-moving big ideas.

Pink. Tender as baby’s flesh, innocent as the blush on a maiden’s cheek, the scent of rose petals and the sweetness of strawberries with cream, a poetic dream of love, the silken negligée strewn on the candle-lit bed, the colour of a coquettish tongue, the suggestion of sex without the mess.

From the softest bloom of dawn to the blazing glory of sunset, pink is our rescue from darkness, the wistful yearning to touch something greater and better than ourselves, and nostalgia for the people we might have been if experience and temptation hadn’t got in the way. That shade of pink is the colour of creation.

There’s another shade of pink which still giggles and trills and simpers more tea, vicar? Don’t the children look sweet? Look at that baby! A posy for your wife. And it’s charitable, too, a badge of Empathy and Do-Gooding.

Oh, bring me a devil dressed in pink, quick.

Gentle, caring, feminine, innocuous, virginal – wait! Pink can be powerful, depending on the woman wearing it.

195_24434_1 3x 001

Martin van Meytens, Portrait of a young woman said to be Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria, later Holy Roman Empress and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia. She had to fight a major European War to win acceptance of her right to rule, as a woman, the hereditary Habsburg territories. Image: Wikipedia

I, declares the Female Author, might wear pink, look pink, have been born pink, but I write with blood and iron. Dressed in a pink dress, with a garland of pink roses in my hair, I wield a sceptre of fire and hold the scales of justice. I am a woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a writer.

The most successful tragedienne of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the only actor of either sex who fused the two dominant cultural ideologies of the age, Neoclassicism and Romanticism, was rare in having her work taken seriously, but she herself was not. Though she was acknowledged by many to be  a better actor than her male contemporaries, she was not given equal status to them.

And she was furious: Perhaps in the next world women will be more valued than they are in this.” (Sarah Siddons.)

Soon after publication of the Bells’ first novels, and a decade later of George Eliot’s, everyone knew or at least suspected that the authors were female, just as Robert Galbraith’s cover was quickly blown in 2013. But the books had shouted so loud that they had already shaken the glass ceiling until it smashed.

END OF PART ONE

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A shaggy dog story….with added treats

Pomeranian Bitch and Puppy circa 1777 by Thomas Gainsborough 1727-1788
Pomeranian Bitch and Puppy oil on canvas, circa 1777 by Thomas Gainsborough. © Tate, London.
The dogs in this most sensitively observed, tender and fluffy of all canine portraits belonged to the painter’s good friend, the musician Carl Friedrich Abel.

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