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Thursday, 22 November 2012

A Day of Cultural Contrasts


I want to share with you a strangely satisfying day of contrasting culture. This morning, my wife and I travelled to our nearest city, Hull, to view some of Da Vinci’s drawings on exhibition at the Ferens Art Gallery. Hull is not noted for its culture, though both Philip Larkin and John Godber produced some of their best work in the city. And, of course, it is the birthplace of William Wilberforce, whose influence on world culture through the abolition of slavery must be considered great.

To get back to the Da Vinci: A few weeks ago, we were in Paris and spent some time in the Louvre, where, over the heads of the multitude, we saw the Mona Lisa in its original form. It was distant, because we were unwilling to elbow our way through the throng, and it was protected by non-reflective glass to protect it against the assaults of the multiple flashes from the tourists’ cameras (the signs asking people not to use flash have little or no effect on those who haven’t a clue how to actually use their cameras, of course).

Today, in Hull, we joined a much smaller number to walk in peace and quiet around an exhibition where we could get up close to the drawings made by Da Vinci. The subtlety of his technique, the detail captured by his eye and the skill of his translation of reality into pictorial form were aspects I will treasure for a long time. That we could actually examine them as closely as if reading a book, spend uninterrupted time before each of the ten examples, study and absorb the brilliance, was wonderful. Information boards enhanced the experience and the gallery staff were on hand to enthuse and guide where necessary.

An exhibition I urge you to visit if you’re anywhere near the city. It’s on until 23 January 2013. The drawings are on loan from the Royal Collection, by the way.

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Because we are not city lovers, we rarely visit without a specific purpose. Today we also decided to go to the cinema to watch the latest Bond movie. Skyfall is a very typical Bond film with plenty of chases, improbable action scenes and occasional sexual encounters, understated so that the films can be watched as family entertainment. Though it’s always puzzled me that film classification allows extreme violence to be witnessed by young children, yet prevents youngsters seeing the natural state of human beings. Never understood why nudity should be considered bad for children when violence and killing is apparently considered acceptable. But that’s maybe a subject for a different post.

The film is the best of those starring Daniel Craig. There is a great story and more interaction and narrative than the previous efforts. The film is also full of surprises. Naturally, James wins most of his unlikely fights, defeats his enemies and gets the girl. I won’t spoil the story for those who haven’t seen the film. But, if you’ve been less than impressed by the previous outings of Craig’s Bond, you will find this one a real improvement.

As I say, a day of cultural contrasts. But a very enjoyable day in spite of, or maybe, because of, that.

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