Monday, June 4, 2012

Flowers from Santiago, Travel


 Flowers from Santiago, red background, oil on card, 12 / 14 cm   SOLD

Thanks to the rain, I stayed in and painted these flowers in the hostel..


Travel is largely detestable, as, of course, might be said about life in general. It is valuable, I find, to hold in mind Thoreau's wisdom: "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". One would prefer not to be one of the mass, of course, but I guess there is consolation to be found in knowing that one is not alone.

Travel offers a different version of detestableness, in which the loathsomeness of the overfamiliar and routine are replaced with the hatefulness of what is strange, dangerous and or merely foreign. The traveller also has to endure a sense of passivity and gratitude for not being robbed and raped at every street corner they pass (though it is true that in compensation we gain a corresponding sense of relief: "super, the ATMs work", or "we managed to find the hotel", "the bill's correct, we did have two beers!", as if these are remarkable).

I tend to take the view that the nastiness of the unfamiliar has at least the virtue of being interesting and therefore life affirming, whereas the vileness of the routine is frequently life-reducing, in that often something eminently likable- say the view of the sea from the top of Hanover Street, Edinburgh- becomes, by visual ennui, robbed of charm- much as love affairs become rotten in the forced, relentless proximity of marriage, and ones object of desire transforms inexcorably from prince or princess into banal but necessary irritation.

On a more practical note, the British Foreign Office has a wonderful site in which they publish information about foreign states and any incidents of note to those intending to travel to them- in other words a litany of official harassment, terrorism, crime and war.

 This site serves to confirm the usual prejudices about "abroad": to generalise: Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian - fine, ditto Northern Europe; latin - probably ok; anything else be wary.


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