Monday, April 18, 2016

Valparaiso - in the centre


 Building in the centre, oil on card, 14.5 x 11 cm

Valparaiso, shop in the centre, 14.5 x 13.5 cm, oil on card


There are fine trolleybuses painted green and ivory. There is graffiti or, as some idiots call it, street art, and it`s nasty and disfiguring. There are schoolgirls in hideous grey uniforms which include monstrously thick grey socks. Why humiliate your children? A legacy of British influence, I fear.

There are innumerable solid little shops and to get anything you go and ask and an endlessly patient soul gets the stuff from the shelf then puts it in a bag. There is very little to choose from, making selection easy and making one feel grateful when you find roughly what you`re looking for, Then he writes the cost on a chit which you take to a minuscule kiosk about a metre away. Then you pay (sometimes its the same person that put the stuff in the bag, they`ve just walked along behind the counter metre or so). Then your chit is stamped or initialed and you return to the other counter to pick up your stuff. Obviously, this Soviet style system is extremely slow, but I suppose it makes theft next to impossible.

Neruda's house is not especially interesting, though the steep walk there is. The Fine Art Museum isn't that interesting either but does tell you something about late nineteenth century tastes and their insistence on imposing a certain cloying sentiment over everything, so that the depictions of nature are most unnatural and forced. Thus, the few impressionist pictures there come as a tremendous relief.

There are stray dogs all over the place and consequently dogshit everywhere.  The town is disintegrating- there are bits and pieces falling off buildings and everything seems to require renovation. Some of the funicular railways work and they are marvellous contraptions. People sell a bizarre array of used goods over near the bus station, laying out car parts, childrens clothes sweets or whatever you might imagine on the ground. That reminds me of Ukraine just after Communism, though the sellers faces are considerably more cheerful in Valparaiso.

The city is falling apart, for sure, but it is doing so with a certain geniality and a  Tom Waitsian style that is utterly  beguiling.


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