I heard in a BBC podcast last year that there's a (new) city in China full of nothing but factories churning out copies of western Old Masters. Each artist specialising in one of the latter and producing a conveyor belt of indistinguishable replicas. There was no suggestion these were being passed off as originals – at least not to the first buyers – but one has to wonder. Anyway, the thought occurred to me today – Is anyone engaged on replicating any of Damian Hirst's stuff? I imagine not.
One of the signs of the times? El País on Sundays used to give us an eight-page supplement on Galicia. This is now down to just 2 pages in the centre of the paper. No supplement at all.
A microcosm? In the space of a couple of years or so, the two Galician savings banks Nova Caixa and Caixa Galicia begat Novacaixagalicia, which begat Caixa Novagalicia, which begat Novagalicia Banco. Along the way a handful of directors paid themselves millions as one entity faded and another rose from the ashes. Which action they're now chatting about with the judicial authorities. No doubt it was all signed off by a separate director who – non-accidentally – hadn't the faintest notion of what he or she was doing. Being a ballet dancer or something equally estranged from the world of businessmen. And of crooks.
From time to time I talk about what I see as a somewhat lax attitude towards safety here in Spain. I was reminded of this when reading that for a Halloween disco in Madrid the emergency exits had been barricaded – preventing escape – and that the maximum capacity of the venue had been well exceeded. When there was a stampede caused by an imbecile letting off a flare, four young women died and one was seriously injured. But this may not, in fact, have been a case of a negligent approach towards safety; it's possible that the people running the event deliberately barricaded the exits so as to stop non-paying customers getting in. If so, it was beyond reckless and must surely be punished severely.
When I wrote about Lisbon last week, my intention had been to refer to George Borrow's masterpiece, The Bible in Spain. But I could find no mention either of St George's church or its tomb of Henry Fielding in the book. However, my knowledgable Dutch friend, Peter, insisted they were there in the very first chapter. And so they are. Sort of:- With all its ruin and desolation, Lisbon is unquestionably the most remarkable city in the Peninsula, and, perhaps, in the south of Europe. It is not my intention to enter into minute details concerning it; I shall content myself with remarking that it is quite as much deserving the attention of the artist as even Rome itself. . . . There is no monument of man’s labour and skill, pertaining either to ancient or modern Rome, for whatever purpose designed, which can rival the water-works of Lisbon; I mean the stupendous aqueduct whose principal arches cross the valley to the north-east of Lisbon, and which discharges its little runnel of cool and delicious water into the rocky cistern within that beautiful edifice called the Mother of the Waters, from whence all Lisbon is supplied. Let travellers devote one entire morning to inspecting the Arcos and the Mai das agoas, after which they may repair to the English church and cemetery, Père-la-Chaise in miniature, where, if they be of England, they may well be excused if they kiss the cold tomb, as I did, of the author of “Amelia,” the most singular genius which their island ever produced, whose works it has long been the fashion to abuse in public and to read in secret.
Entrance to St. George's church
'Pere-la-Chaise in miniature'
Henry Fielding's tomb. Or at least a pointer to it.
Still on the subject of Lisbon, it seems I was in serious error in suggesting that the Pastéis de Belém contain apple. They don't. They're made essentially of egg yolks, to a still-secret recipe. Sorry about that.
Finally . . . I see that Spain's big film star – Penelope Cruz – is the featured model in the 2013 Campari calendar. Neither of them really need any publicity from me but here it is. You have to say La Pen looks pretty good. But natural?