Keats and Chapman
were driving through France endeavoring to enjoy the scenery and
customs afforded by that historic country. Unfortunately the friends' chronic lack of funds
made their travel arrangements less than satisfactory, especially for
Keats who criticized Chapman's purchase of a clapped out Citroën
Acadiane, “We would have been better off with an ass and cart; this
frightful jalopy is bound to break down.”
his companion's lack of faith in French engineering. At which point
the gear-box fell out.
eventually arrived to take the defunct vehicle away. As the two
ex-tourists watched their van being loaded on to a trailer Keats
turned to Chapman and pointedly observed, “What we have here is a fourgon conclusion.”
I recently saw a film starring Will
Smith, he was on some kind of mission, possibly redemptive. It was an
unremittingly sententious spectacle, but worth watching because of
the jellyfish that fascinated our hero;
W. Smith is not alone in having
jellyfish in a jar.
My jellyfish are made of rubber,
they're aquarium decorations I bought in a pet shop. My initial idea
was to have them in my fish tank -
- but the flourescent lights
highlighted the fishing line that anchored the bouyant jellyfish;
the line isn't so apparent in their present setting.
The body of the specimen jar is a vase
bought in IKEA. The base is made up of a couple of ash trays. An
inverted biscuit tin forms the lid whose glass apex is the top from a
candy jar. The lid and base are sprayed black. The jellyfish are
tethered to lumps of lava and Salvinia natans floats on the
surface. I'm hoping that the water will be turned green by the
sunlight and give the display an ethereal feel as well as hiding the
In the days since I wrote that last
sentence (so laden with a prescience born of vast experience and
astute observation) the water has stayed clear as that of a mountain
stream and the jellyfish have turned green;
From Samuel Johnson's 'The Vanity of
There's a statue in Bordeaux's Jardin
Public that commemorates the life of Alexis Millardet (1838-1902). On
the dais teeters a naked young woman proffering a bunch of grapes.
The grapes are dangled because Millardet was a professor who
specialized in viticulture in the University of Bordeaux's science
faculty. Along with Ulysse Gayon (1845-1929), the oenological
chemist, he developed the anti-mildew 'Bordeaux Mixture' that's so
widely used today.
The monument was erected in
1914. The original bust was in bronze and was the work of Gaston
Leroux (1854-1942). It was melted down during the German occupation.
Photograph taken by W.R.
Fisher in 1936
The stone replacement bust was carved
by Alexis Callède in 1953. I don't know who made the young woman. I
presume she is naked because she's a muse, or a nymph, or a maniac,
although I like to think of her as an absent-minded lab assistant.
Despite the interesting alternatives it's most probable she's a muse,
or a nymph, as the prof is wearing a toga or some such so as to place
the work in a lofty, classical setting and thus render it anodyne
viewing for families strolling in the park. Unfortunately it doesn't
make it anodyne viewing for me.
It's the layers of artifice I find
disturbing. Of course the whole thing is artifice, ceci n'est pas
une lab assistant and so forth, but it's not just that, it's
doubly that. It's not a sculpture of Millardet, it's a
sculpture of a bust of Millardet, I know this because he (i.e.
the sculpture of the bust of Millardet) is not acknowledging the
kind, or possibly disingenuous, offer of grapes, in fact it would be
very weird if he did so as he has no hands to receive them, no
stomach to digest them and, incidentally, no loins to be stirred by
the bunch’s bearer. Or perhaps he's staring stoically ahead
precisely because he has none of these attributes. Or perhaps
he's ignoring her because she is a lab assistant and he, as her
superior in the work place, doesn't want to be accused of exploiting
his supposed droit du seigneur. Not that he could anyway.
Or maybe he's looking away in a fit of
pique because the focal point of the ensemble is clearly not his
head, but the eye-level haunches of his callipygous minion.
'Callipygous'; it has the affected air
of a Victorian nonce word, the hard 'g' seems out of place in a term
for 'fair-buttocked'. 'Fair-buttocked' sounds even worse. The
contemporary 'bootylicious' is so much better, it evokes fun and
desire; pity I can't bring myself to say it, I'd sound ridiculous if
I did, pervy even. I can say 'callipygous', I can hide behind its
mock learning, but with 'bootylicious' I'd be all too easily