Being intellectual and educated can be very hard work you know.
We had some overseas clients from Paris visiting our Headquarters and guess who was assigned to entertain them? Just because I can speak French does not necessarily mean I enjoy such assignments.
I had to accompany them to a pre-arranged expedition to a famous art gallery to admire the latest exhibition they had on; as well as the other works of art which are on display there all year round.
My heart was all a flutter with boredom.
I really don’t know how someone has to behave in such circumstances. As we arrived we were all given fancy brochures, all pre-paid by my organization, detailing the displays of the art exhibition and featuring miniature photos of the various paintings on show. I couldn’t help but wonder why they didn’t give us the brochures in advance and we could have looked at the photos in the comfort of our homes or offices, instead of having to come all the way here.
Our guide started talking as soon as I lost interest in what he was saying.
He mentioned words like pre-Raphaelite period, Impressionism and Cubism; and I remember well he kept talking about Robert Delaunay which for some reason seemed to impress my French guests. I remember the name well because Jack Delaney is the landlord of my local pub, and perhaps Robert’s brother.
Anyway, we got moving under the expert leadership of our guide from large room to even larger rooms.
I can never work out how long you’re supposed to stand in front of a painting and admire it.
Is it five minutes? A little more? Or what?
I mean … I can see a whole room with thirty or so paintings hanging on the walls in as many seconds.
That’s it … seen it. Let’s move to another room.
But the guide stood there by some masterpieces and talked for ages about brush strokes, lighting and shading, the use of color and various other words whose meaning I did not know.
The French guests seemed to enjoy it and murmured amongst themselves “C’est magnifique … Oh oui bien sure … Merveilleux …” which I suppose was the whole intention of this expedition in the world of total monotonous tedium.
Now please don’t consider me a total Philistine only interested in the beauty of the balance sheet and the profitability of the bottom line. I’ll admit that these are figures to quicken my heartbeat and the more profitable the balance sheet the more excited I become. But there are some other bottom lines which do interest me.
For example, when we were beside some paintings of nudes I tried to show interest and stood there admiring them for more than the obligatory five minutes or so. I attempted to start a conversation about the various shadings and the clever use of the palette to its full extent but our guide quickly moved us on to something quite boring like a painting of a bowl of fruits.
“Now come on!!!” I thought, “I’m trying to be educated and intellectual here! I too can appreciate great art when I see it. Let’s wait here a bit longer.”
It was too late. The snobbish know-all guide had moved on to another room with his party and left me all alone amongst the bathing beauties. I looked at the inscription underneath the painting by an unknown modern artist and it said that it was inspired by “Le dejeuner sur l’herbe” by Edouard Manet.
In order to educated myself I quickly Googled Manet's painting on my pocket sized computer gadget and I was somewhat confused by the brush strokes and the use of color. But hey … it’s French so it must be good. As good as croissant and baguette with Boursin!
But alas the moment had gone as were our guide and my overseas clients.
I quickly hurried from room to room and finally found them admiring a plastic sculpture of Mickey Mouse.
At last … we’d arrived at contemporary art and the end of our tour of the gallery. I looked forward to taking my French guests to sample some real British culture.
A pub lunch with a pint or three of Guinness!
Now do you still dare to call me a Philistine?