October 8-14, 2022
SATURDAY 8 Yesterday we travelled by funicular to a cathedral at the top of a hill, from where we got a panoramic view of Lyon. I complained about the trees obscuring part of our vista.
📌 At the museum of contemporary art they had a big concept in action called the Manifesto of Fragility. It was surprisingly coherent for such a vague title, pushing together two themed exhibitions – one about life and death and another about place and society. The first I won’t pretend to understand, the second was a compelling study of modern Lebanese art that featured, says my wife, an unusually large number of women artists. The collection made us want to visit Beirut.
📌 Lunch in Jacobins after a minor scare about a missing wallet (eventually found safe and sound) included a creamy mushroom soup and what amounted to a poached-egg bourgignon, better known as oeufs en meurette.
📌 My wife thinks Lyon has an awful lot of piano shops. And too many car parks in prime riverside locations.
📌 On an afternoon cruise on the River Saône the tour guide managed to pull off the most exquisite performance of “bored” ever seen.
SUNDAY 9 The anti-Liz (Truss) stories are both mounting and gathering pace. Simon Jenkins urges Tory MPs to remove her immediately and install Michael Gove as caretaker. I can’t see that happening because it would signal to the public that the Conservative Party is a dead duck. Minimising the size of the defeat at the next election is the only way forward for most MPs.
📌 Whenever we visit art galleries in other cities I especially enjoy seeing the work of local and native artists. Here in Lyon from the Musée des Beaux-Arts my favourite Lyonnaise artist was David Girin.
📌 The train journey from Lyon to Paris leaves you with no doubt why agriculture holds such a precious grip on the French psyche.
📌 It’s 10 years to the day since the stroke that nearly killed me. I’d never wish to be sentimental about the road I’ve travelled since then, but having lunch in Paris with my wife and sister will be enough for the time being to make me look forward to better times.
MONDAY 10 Michael Gove yesterday, Rishi Sunak today. The list of suggested caretaker prime ministers is growing as fast as the widespread belief that the country is politically paralysed.
📌 Returning from holiday always makes me itch for the next one. Travelling by train in Europe feels like a good fit so I’m already on a mission to learn French (because on this trip I fell back in love with the country) and to pore over the Seat 61 website at every opportunity.
TUESDAY 11 The daily prompt from Duolingo to resume my French lessons included a promotional note saying that more people are currently learning to speak Irish on Duolingo than there are native Irish speakers.
📌 I read some news yesterday that school teachers trying to control disruptive pupils have discovered a common cause for bad behaviour: hunger. Then this morning celebrity chef Jamie Oliver gave a radio interview arguing for the extension of free school meals. He made some very dismissive remarks about politicians – the PM included – who claim to want growth in the economy but refuse to accept that only a healthy, properly fed population can make it happen.
📌 I’d like to think Covid accidentally spawned a new virus that infects people with kindness. In France recently I experienced a concern for my wellbeing from railway staff that seemed quite spooky at the time (for France). And today a bored pharmacist in Boots managed to elide vibrant conversation with medical tickbox questions. Then again, all of this could be because I’m obviously old and decrepit and they pity me.
WEDNESDAY 12 It’s so exciting to watch the prime minister squirming on TV. All the horrible reports depicting her as being totally clueless are given flesh when she tries to answer questions from fellow MPs. What comes out of her mouth is an incontinent stream of nothing. It’s as if her entire method of leadership is built on not explaining anything to anyone.
The Tories are debating their options under Liz Truss like a party of chefs fretting over different ways to unscramble eggs.Rafael Behr, the Guardian
📌 In Art Class we built landscape canvases with tissue paper and PVA glue. Next week we will paint onto it a scene supposedly inspired by Turner.
THURSDAY 13 Liz Truss has labelled her critics the “anti-growth coalition”. For some, being part of this guerilla gang is a badge of honour and need no prompting to reheat the argument that measuring Happiness and wellbeing per head of population is a better indicator of prosperity that GDP per head.
📌 The stitchwork of Cecil’s six crazy hippies drawing is starting to shape up and it’s a dream to work on.
FRIDAY 14 Friends from Brighton came to London yesterday to apply for a visa to visit Goa at Christmas. They’ve recently returned from a trip to Turkey and have a new travellers’ philosophy. Previously their approach was to “leave something to come back for”. In other words, don’t worry if you don’t visit the Louvre on this trip to Paris because it will still be there the next time you visit. This has been a abiding mindset for many years. Until now. Yesterday they said their new philosophy was to treat every exotic holiday as if it’s their last. In Turkey this included taking a dangerous riverboat trip from which they very nearly failed to return.
📌 So exciting to be watching the BBC rolling news as Liz Truss’s grip on her government fades to nothing. I was fascinated watching Boris Johnson’s exit, but with every minute Truss makes Britain look like it’s in the last act of a disaster movie. In Spain recently I was surprised to see how interested TV news pundits were in this UK political car crash.
📌 To the Royal Academy for a last chance to see the fabulous Milton Avery exhibition. Rarely does a collection show so well an artist’s artistic progress through line, composition and colour. The portraits were our favourites, though it was fascinating to see how Avery’s portraiture came to influence and change his landscapes so dramatically.