Thursday, 19 February 2015

Terre a Terre

Went to dinner in this restaurant in Brighton the other night as part of a thank you to the friend who's been putting me up here for the last week. It was her choice. Terre a Terre is a vegetarian restaurant. I know to many of my friends that will sound dismal, with dull and samey food. I wish they'd all been there. The range and depth of flavours is exciting and the food beautifully cooked. The place shouldn't have to carry the baggage that goes with the label 'vegetarian restaurant'. If it was judged as a 'restaurant', which it is, it would be showered with plaudits.
You may remember I mentioned going to Tom Kerridge's Marlow cat a little while ago. He has two Michelin stars, and while the place was enjoyable enough the food couldn't hold a candle to the food at Terre a Terre for invention and taste. Go if you get the chance.

Platonic love

   I've been reading some posts by a blogger whose stuff I always enjoy and in one post he reviewed Plato's idea that origin of love lies in admiration. We look, Plato says, for somebody who has qualities we admire, and that we know we lack, and through association hope gradually to acquire them. We open ourselves to the idea that we can be changed by a lover whom we admire.
   It's neat. Is it a description of what goes on between lovers? It seems that sometimes philosophers and philosophies must first establish their world then postulate on its basis. Unfortunately their world may not be other people's reality. I like Plato's neat world. Other people's worlds are often messy. It immediately occured to me that even if you admire qualities your lover possesses I wouldn't have said it's a given that one is capable of absorbing them. Does that mean therefore that having failed to absorb the characteristics you lack you aren't in love?
Ordinarily, I think, in any relationship which reaches some level of intimacy those in it often start to demand change, usually, of habitual things which they've comes to dislike - his addiction to his favourite smelly trainers, for example, or his nose picking.
   Sorry! This is making me facetious. Such things are separate from the admiration which may have brought you together. They may, however, be a sign that more fundamental differences have surfaced.
   I do wonder if it is really possible to change one's character. It used to be that this question was answered with a definite no. One's character, it was said, is a combination of heredity, and upbringing. You're settled by the time you're thirty at the latest it was said. Nowadays there is divergent opinion. If you really want change it might be possible provided you are persistent and really want it.
   But is it a good idea to try to change for the sake of somebody else? Perhaps that isn't Plato's proposition. Perhaps he supposes there's a level at which one has already seen that one's character needs 'improving' so any attempt to change it would be done for oneself not for somebody else. Is that really achieved by loving a person one admires who has those qualities? It's possible but the parameters for the birth of love through admiration are therefore set by self knowledge and that's something in pretty short supply.
   I'm not convinced that this Platonic admiration, involving the subsummation of aspects of the loved one's character into yourself, is a complete explanation of the way of love. Admiration, yes. Recognition that the object of admiration has qualities you like and may not have, yes. But as for then developing them yourself? Only maybe. I have a feeling that there are people, disparate people, who are happy together, accepting of their differences.
   Perhaps Plato is right that they've found something to admire, but as for changing themselves? Wouldn't the end, if achieved, be a form of self-love? Someone will be waiting in the wings to tell me that love is always only self-love. I find it hard to accept, I suppose, that a relationship can be reduced to a pattern.
   It goes without saying (always the preamble to saying it anyway!) that Plato's is an immeasurably greater mind than mine. I see the concept of admiration as a route to love, and I understand that people do change other people, and sometimes we should be relieved that they do. But there are other states and I just have a feeling it's often not as clear as Plato would like.


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

I've tickets to see the Sargent exhibition tomorrow at the National Portrait Gallery. (Ooo! I've reverted to Times Roman, I see. Can't be arsed to change it back. My brother gave me this Nexus 7 on which I'm writing - except it's hardly writing - and it has something of a mind of its own.) This means I have to get up early and catch a train to Victoria. The tickets are timed, you see, which means no luxuriating in a friend's very luxurious guest room. I'm staying with her in Brighton which is a place I've never really worked out. I've been here before - many times in fact - and there's much about it which I like but somehow I've never developed any particular modus operandi for enjoying it. I'm not explaining this well. And it's not interesting

Sargent acquired the reputation of being flashy and facile. This was because he painted the rich and famous in gorgeous style, with a bravura technique. Personally I think the judgement is facile. He found painting easy, and that didn't suit those who thought it should be the product of protracted intensity. It's all well argued out in the literature so no real point in again going over it here.

In my opinion he didn't only flatter. This portrait of the Pailleron children, for example, is disturbing.


The famous portrait of Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau), I believe, isn't in the exhibition. It scandalised Society at the Paris Salon of 1884 and ruined Sargent's career as a portrait painter in France almost before it had begun. Here is a tantalising bit of it. I'm deeply annoyed with an unappreciative friend who listlessly wandered past it in the Metropolitan and aggravatingly was subsequently totally unable to satisfy my demand for enthusiasm.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Normal is an abyss or a bun

I view my life as though it's almost at its end: holding it under review and finding myself anxious that I made no mark. That can't be normal. One should be out there doing stuff. My habit of introspection is ingrained, and while it's far from being a despicable thing it probably shouldn't be one's default position. When one reviews one's life and finds little in it, then it becomes like staring into an abyss. Its emptiness becomes attractive, drawing one in. There's everything to be said for having a short attention span. A jam doughnut (among many other things) will infallibly draw me away from the edge.

Monday, 26 January 2015


Self and ourselves

I remember! The proposition was that I've forgotten how to blog. My posts used to be quite open about myself. I've been re-reading some of them and find that I'm surprised by how much I revealed not just about myself but about my life and the people in it. Even a little scared by the potential harm that might have done: or perhaps did. Too late now, but I don't see me recapturing that person. Much too wary. My then self revelled in telling more or less all. Perhaps it's a better way to be. Now I might be hurt less, but maybe I miss out on, what? Experiences? We all know that experience teaches us to resist experience.
At its most basic, living is no more than being alive but we qualify living as though there are different ways of being alive, and arrange them in a hierarchy of worth. Sitting in a shed all day some consider a life style less worthy than going out and having fun. And then again these two styles, that of the hermit and that of the hedonist, are considered less worthy by some people than a life spent in public service. I try not to take this view, since I generally have a problem with censoriousness, but perhaps I am a bit more inclined to it than I like in myself. The trouble is we don't know what we're meant to be doing. Naturally some of us embrace beliefs and creeds, either worked out for ourselves or adopted from somebody else, which tell us what to do with our lives; some of us think pleasure's good enough; some of us think to learn more about ourselves will eventually satisfy us. Many more of us don't think too much about anything, and are seemingly happy enough. But all this is a luxury of wealth and leisure. In many parts of the world people's lives are spent struggling with or fighting against poverty or oppression or both. In too much of the world the luxury of debating meaning is subsumed into an effort to stay alive.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Funny thing 

I've forgotten how to blog. Wrote to my MP a little while ago about fracking and got a courteous reply which didn't give an inch on the Government's intention to amend the law of trespass so that frackers can excavate around our houses in order to wash the gas out of shale. Apparently the Energy Department says everything will be alright. That age old principle of natural justice that one can't be a judge in one's own court doesn't apply to the Energy Department. If they say there's no problem then there isn't a problem. I was talking to a friend who signed a petition to his MP on this matter and he got precisely the same answer, word for word. The defences are up, frackers have paid the money, and fracking is what we're going to get. Apparently it's all so deep we won't feel a thing. So water, sand, and chemicals will be blasted at the rock under our homes in order to extract the gas. More shit left in the ground for future generations. My MP says we've already allowed other people access to the ground under us, so what's a little fracking between friends. So far as I know gas, electricity and the Underground (his examples) don't extract stuff, or pump chemicals in.
The real problem, of course, is the political system. It's incapable of facing up to the fact that fossil fuels are finite, and eventually we'll be forced to put more effort into finding alternatives. Politicians find it difficult to take decisions which will affect their chance of being re-elected. Which of them is going to buck the vested interests, persuade electors that they will have to cough up more money for new power projects, and take unpopular steps to restrict energy use?

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Taken to lunch in Tom Kerridge's two Michelin starred pub in Marlow today. You have to book ages in advance to eat there but I was the lucky beneficiary of somebody having to drop out because of a book launch they'd forgotten they were supposed to be at. Not a real book, it turned out, but an online book about elearning. Don't really understand what that is, and nor did any of her friends, so at least I didn't have to spend the time being puzzled by arcane technicalities.
The food was okay. Well, mostly alright, sometimes beautiful. Can't say I took to Portobello mushroom puree, and the halibut was fairly tasteless, but then the ultra fashionable salted caramel filling in the chocolate cake had me marvelling, and the pork crackling was such as I can only dream of producing. Anyway my point isn't about the food: and only tangentially about its (silly enough) cost. I'll say for the place that it has gone a long way toward knocking the stuffiness out of this sort of experience. I was expecting it to be trying to make me uncomfortable, which is my experience with some places not remotely as good, but it's relaxed, friendly, with nice staff. It did make me uncomfortable, however, but in a different way. The conspicuous consumption, which such places represent, leaves me with feelings of unease. They embrace the conspicuously privileged and mask the disparity between those with money and those without, perhaps to the point where we are able to forget it. I'm not so sure I'm yet ready to do that.
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