About Me

Tollesbury, Essex, United Kingdom
I was born in the Summer of 1969 in Dagenham, just on the border of East London. School was largely unproductive but enjoyable, setting me up for something of a wayward but interesting life! On leaving school I had various jobs including putting up stalls at Romford Market, working in a record shop, putting up ceilings, gardening and road sweeping. After resigning from an insurance company to play in a band, I found myself unemployed for two years. Then finally I got back on my feet and I've been a psychiatric nurse since 1997. I wrote A Cleansing of Souls when I was 22 years old and followed it up with Tollesbury Time Forever almost twenty years later. I started writing The Bird That Nobody Sees in September 2011 and it was released in July 2012. In terms of writing, my heroes are Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck. I would also include Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits as literary influences. So that's me I guess - scruffy, happy and in love with literary fiction, music and life...

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Juliet, Venus de Milo and Luther Blissett

I have just returned from five days in Verona, a beautiful little city in northern Italy, and I got to thinking about what it is that sustains, what lasts through the centuries and what it is that attracts us still to those paintings, those buildings, that architecture and such. Then I began to wonder about whether we have made any progress at all  since those old and ancient days.

Europe is so full of wonder. Living just a short flight from places like Barcelona, Paris, Rome, Madrid etc is such a privilige. I have been fortunate enough to have been to Paris, Venice and Verona over the last few years and it was when looking back on those short trips that I felt some kind of link between the various experiences I had there.

Now I am not an art historian or anything like that. I struggle to tell one artist's work from another and sculptures have never really been my thing either. And having watched an interview with Tracy Emin the other day, I was pretty much ready to throw myself out the window. But The Louvre in Paris has always been a place I've wanted to go. I went years ago but wasn't really ready for it. The last time I went though I was entirely enthralled. The scale of the paintings, the beauty of the building and the incredible feeling you get when you are so close to something so old - all wonderful.

And then there was the Venus de Milo. To my shame I had never seen even a photo of it - my abiding reference point until that time being a line in Brown-Eyed Handsome Man, a Chuck Berry song.

So there it was, no arms, half-naked, and not the prettiest of faces. On its own, as in the picture above, I could take it or leave it. But you put it in The Louvre surrounded by people from all over the world, their cameras attached to their faces like gasmasks and you truly see the splendour of it. Sometimes you only see perfection when you are presented with something that appalls - and seeing the crowds pushing and having their photos taken beside it, ticking it off their lists as something they've 'done', to be honest I had tears in my eyes. I wanted to lead her away from all this where she could breathe again. It was like a freak show, a circus. I was embarrassed to be a part of it all. And the statue of Juliet in Verona, which is in the courtyard of the house purported to be where Shakespeare set Romeo and Juliet, fared no better.

Verona is stunning. I have never been in a city more peaceful, more beautiful, more relaxing and more friendly. Truly it is wonderful. As stated above, there is a statue of Juliet in the famous courtyard. And as you can imagine, that is a courtyard to which many a tourist is attracted. Like I said before, I don't know really what is good art or bad art, good sculpture or bad sculpture, but there was something about the statue that reminded me of the Venus de Milo. It was only when people started flooding into the courtyard I saw what it was. People had their photos taken with Juliet and almost every single one of them delighted in placing a hand on her right breast - from children, to grown adults, there was a procession of people who were more or less falling over each other to do it. No wonder she looked so sad.

But what of Luther Blissett? Well that's when Venice comes in. A few years ago I was sitting in a backstreet in Venice (about the only place we could afford to eat!) when I saw over my shoulder, stuck upon an old church wall, a sticker. It had a red and black striped background upon which was the proclaimation "Luther Blisset is God." I must say it did make me smile. For those of you who don't know, Luther was a footballer who played for Watford in the eighties before being transferred, incredibly, to AC Milan. He was a good honest player who was by no means as talented as many even in the Watford team. And that's what made me smile - Luther Blissett had been loved by someone so much in Italy that they stuck a sticker on a wall in Venice that had been there for at least twenty years. Whilst I was considering the greatness of this I heard a loud American voice (not the first I'd heard in Venice it must be said...)

"Honey, who is Luther Blissett?"

An equally abrasive male voice answered:

"Probably one of those artists or sculptors they have around here. Maybe he built that church the sticker is on?"

What can I say? Olden days and modern times and art and history and sculptures. It's such a strangely beautiful world in which we live. I just can't help but think though we've lost the wonder in standing still that would so give us a greater appreciation of everything. So on behalf of modern times I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise to Venus de Milo and to Juliet. I think you're both beautiful.

And I'll leave the final words, as is fitting, to the great Luther Blissett when he spoke about his time in Italy:

"No matter how much money you have here you can't seem to get Rice Krispies."

Life. I love you...


Champers said...

Verona is one of my favourite places in the whole world. If you rub Juliet's right breast it is considered to give you good luck that's why people queue to do it. Also if you are having problems with your love life, if you post your problem through the Capoletti's letter box, you will get a reply !

Nick Wilford said...

I agree with what you say, Stu... people are so eager to pack everything in and move on to something else. So they're not really looking at what's considered to be so beautiful. When we were in Rome we went on an excursion which included the Trevi fountain. It took half an hour to walk there and we were only allowed to stay for about three minutes!