We were down, Annie and I, in St Andrews recently, in the rarified atmospheres of an Art Historians’ conference. As it was held in honour of Professor Peter Humfrey, Annie’s one-time supervisor, who is supposedly retiring (which means he’ll be back at work next term – don’t ask me how that is, I don’t understand such things) and Peter is an ackowledged expert on renaissance Venice, Venetian art tended to be the theme of the two-day shindig. And very fascinating it all was, with lots of speakers giving short lectures on many arcane matters all within the general theme of renaissance Venice. A bit of a challenge for me, since I can’t sit down for five minutes without starting to fall asleep, and I seemed to be the more challenged the more interesting the talk was, but I strove manfully with my lower nature; and of course in a place like St Andrews a decent cup of invigorating coffee is never far away.
Welcoming and pleasant as everyone was, it was hard not to feel a bit of a fish out of water. I was just there as a tag-along with Annie, as we don’t really get out much. My badge (apparently an essential adjunct to every Conference of any merit) read Charlie Ashton, Independent, which I realised after a bit people found rather alarming. “So what do you actually do?” was fired at me more times than I found strictly comfortable. I – em – I (what do I do? well, I have to finish planting the potatoes; and the peas; have to put up the guinea-pig runs; running out of chopped firewood; the junipers and some oaks and hollies and fruit bushes to transplant still; identify another clay-pit for our next cob-job; turves on the caravan roof – oh God, there’s so much to do – and what was that other thing? oh yes – writing…..) “I’m a writer actually – nothing to do with Art History, I just came along with Annie….” – Oh, I see! Have I heard of you?….
Ah, that’s what they mean with that “what do you do?” thing. What are your credentials? What research have you been engaged in? What exhibitions have you organised? Where are you a professor of Something?
Alas, mumble mumble... (No, I’m not really modest, it’s just….)
Actually the main reason why Annie and I go anywhere like conferences is to stay in a B & B and get some (a)240 volt electric lighting and (b)television (yes, since we had a TV, quality has definitely finally slid over the edge into the abyss but who cares? TV is tops). And (c)a bath. Oh yes. – Unlimited hot water, stretching out, wallowing, and it stays warm and you feel so soaked and soft and well-wallowed. That’s what we call a holiday.
However, that’s all to change. For behold –
– our own bath at Coldhome is ready to use, a little ahead of the little bathroom it’s situated in and where once the cattle mooed. The bath has officially been used: Will was the first guinea-pig, when he was staying with us the night before his interview; then Maddy, then Ellie before their recentest visit to their granny. I wanted to record the actual event on camera, but Annie says such pictures on this blog wouldn’t be Nice.
Don’t get me wrong, we were always fairly clean. But our old bath was a one-butt-and-two-feet affair, and strictly functional, apart from you could contemplate your knees close-up. Being more hard-core than Annie and I, Rachel and Charlie R are to get our butt-and-two-feet bath now and that’s an upgrade for them.
And so I suppose there’ll be no more conferences.
I found a poem about Venice I’d written a few years back. Now it has a dedicatee, as every poem should have, and is on a Venetian-themed card painted by Annie, celebrating Prof Humfrey’s “retirement”. It begins the second deciad on the “poems” page.
Annie was in a great rush to get us down to our (last?) conference in time (in time to have a hot bath first, that is), so she picked up a speeding ticket round about Dundee. When I posted off the form to the police this morning (that’s the one that said it warn’t me guv, it was my wicked Partner wot dunnit), I also posted a CD (yes, in an envelope, into the letterbox) which hopefully will mean Anna can get “The Eagle and the Egg” up and running.
Upcoming: the second Baddo and Nazir story “An Experiment with Vampires”. I have to set these things down in black and white or I’ll never get round to doing them.