Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Cautionary Tale Of Olympia and A Balcony Rail

It was quite skillfully done. A bit like being mugged whilst you were out shopping and not realising it until you had got home and were having a cup of coffee. With hindsight, the signs were there from the very beginning.
"So what do you think of it?" I asked my wife who was almost having to squint in the face of the bright sunlight being reflected off the perfectly painted white walls of my balcony.
"It is very good, did you really do all this?" The question was as superfluous as it was insulting. Of course I had done it all and the fact that various parts of my skin, hair, clothes and shoes were flecked with spots of B&Q Best White Masonry Paint was ample proof of the pudding.
"And what about the rail?" I reversed out of her line of sight so that she could now see the three balcony rail spindles painted a curious blue-purple colour. Did I detect a slight nervous swallowing back of bile juices from her throat, reminiscent of the look on Tracy Barlows' face when she was sent down for 15 years for murdering Charlie Stubbs? Was there a moment of hesitation whilst she searched for suitable words?
"Well, it's certainly different" With those four words I knew just how Edouard Manet had felt when his painting of Olympia was submitted to the jury at the Paris Salon. I, like Manet, had dared to be different. I could have taken the easy way out and painted the balcony rail with "Dulux Spring White With A Hint Of Bird Droppings". As my friend Manet would have said, "I could have painted the dear lady wearing her Sunday Best and having a cup of tea"


No more was said. The seed of doubt had been planted and over the next 48 hours it germinated and began to push its thrusting shoots through the top-soil of my consciousness. This morning I woke up at 6.30, nudged my wife awake and said : "I think I will repaint it white". Strangely enough she didn't grunt and say "what on earth are you talking about?". She knew. She had been waiting. As always, she had worked me like a marionette. Oh, she was very gracious about it. "No, I think you were right to go for a bit of colour. Perhaps we could get white with a hint of daffodil yellow" Manet was being told that it was quite a good idea to show Olympia reclining. Maybe on a chez-lounge wearing a blue velvet dress with an Astrakhan collar.


And so, as I spent most of the day repainting over the blue, conforming to the mores of twenty-first century decoration, my mind walked the streets of Paris with Edouard Manet. Of course, he held out and eventually found recognition at the Salon des Refuses. But there again, he wasn't married to my wife.

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