I got a completely different impression of the hotel today: the room next to mine was open, and I saw a normal-sized en-suite hotel room with recent furniture rather than 1950s. The photo shows my room number in marker pen in case you don’t believe it: I hardly do. I have a cold. Should I just go home, or go to the Tate as planned? I have a feeling I might miss something.
I enjoy initiating conversations, and want to clarify my thought: this view of Venice, the moon here, the sun over here, that is clearly not a single view, is it? The woman agrees, there is night and day in the same picture. That is night, or perhaps that. “Painting set free”, they called the exhibition: for me today that fits “Steamboat off a harbour’s mouth” with the swirl of black and some white showing an emotional, rather than physical, storm.
Before A disaster at sea– the caption refers to the Amphitrite scandal where the captain refused to allow the convicts to be rescued, in case they absconded, and most died- I find two elderly gentlemen discussing Michael Frayn. They like his plays but not his novels. I interjected, “You don’t have to finish it if you don’t like it.” To call that crass is too harsh, but in the ball park. The one sitting closer turns to me, and says, “I did not hear your question,” then, “You will have to forgive me, I am rather hard of hearing. I did not hear your question.”
We got talking anyway. Frayn went to Kingston Grammar school, and they live in Kingston. I can’t remember his novel which I read. “Quite,” he says, “You would remember it if you liked it.” What would I recommend? I have just been reading Octavia Butler, African-American SF. She imagined a church as horrible as could be: if all the wickedness is outside our Group, then anything we do is justified. Anything comedic? Um. No, not recently.
I responded to his gentle, probing questioning and then said something of what I have been doing.
-You’ve had it quite hard, haven’t you?
-Yes. I am gentle, and I have heard that called weak, and so I have sought strength in vain, hating both my gentleness and defensive, failed attempts at strength.
He tells me that I need a partner. He has been with his third wife for 35 years, no, since he was 40- 38 years. She is his best friend: that is more important than passion. He hopes I may find such a partner before I am forty, and shares a “friendship kiss”, just on both corners of the lips.
In the last room, there is a picture which is almost entirely white, mixed- I don’t remember the technical details- with something which makes it glow and shine. In the group, one of us was surprised I had not noticed something about her. What, you did not see-? I am, not ashamed, for it is where I am, but sad that I am so internally focussed, on my own responses not the world around. Shame turning to sadness seems a great healing to me.