Friday, 27 April 2018

Whose diary?

A good few years ago now I made a visit to the Turner collection at the Tate Gallery. I was with a friend, I'll say she was a close personal friend, so it was kinda natural that we'd go on a visit to London together. I'm not exactly sure how I was expecting the visit to got but I was really looking forward to it, however this close personal friend decided for, whatever reason, that she take the opportunity to demonstrate how blithe indifference, thoughtlessness and lack of regard for others can turn a simple trip into a nightmare. Almost as soon as we crossed the threshold of the establishment of interest she started with her 'I don't think much of this... it's just a mess' and 'my little niece could do better'. Okay so one might expect a little dismay at first from someone who hitherto had little exposure to the world of art history or Turner. After some judicious instruction one might expect to quell most such disquiet to find it displaced by a sense of inquiry spurred by curiosity at a new experience. Er--no such luck in this case, not only did my ministrations fall on deaf ears, she seemed intent on pressing her opinions repeatedly and, I'm afraid to say, extremely vocally.

I've been on dozens to trips to art galleries and good few of 'em with friends who were totally unacquainted with the world of fine art and this is the only instance that one of those companions behaved in such a manner. I feel I should stress now just how tedious and embarrassing her behaviour became. It seemed as if the mere sight of a group of gallery goers staring in quite appreciation at a painting, would goad her into action. She'd saunter up to 'em as close as she could and say something like, 'Tuh! I don't get what the fuss is about'. Since that day I've spent many hours wishing I'd found the strength of will to strangle her to death in front of the Fighting Temeraire. I'm sure after the testimony of the many gallery goers who witnessed her behaviour that day, I would've been acquitted on the grounds of provocation and mental suffering.

Anyway, what this little anecdote is meant to illustrate is the principle that inconsiderate behaviour doesn't have to be extreme to cause distress and offence. It can be something as seemingly innocuous as person expressing an opinion on art. I feel sure this kind of thing has happened to you, I personally think of this as my Alf Garnett day. It was like one of those instances where Alf would be attempting to listen to the radio or maybe watch the Queen's speech on telly. Alf would be trying to get a bit of culture and his efforts would be sabotaged by Dandy Nichols and the other philistines who surrounded him. It is though in George Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody, where I feel this kind of experience has been most aptly exemplified. If ever you find yourself having a bad day at the hands of a person or persons like my close personal friend grab a copy of the diary to reassure yourself you're not alone.


  1. I once went to the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow with a women Id met through a couple I knew (let's call them Sandy and Joan). What I didn't find out 'til later was that this couple had told her I was too critical. This sprang from my honest, meant to be helpful observations on Joan's daubings she'd produced when having a stab at water colours in an art class. She'd asked my opinion and I'd given it, not realising that all she wanted to hear was how good she was (she wasn't). My merely saying that the mount on one of her paintings was a bit squint was enough to make her classify me as 'too critical'. Anyway, back to the other woman. As we walked around the gallery, she thought nothing of saying what she thought of several exhibits, but after I'd voiced a couple of opinions, she suddenly rounded on me, saying that Sandy and Joan were right - I WAS too critical. So it was all right for her, but not for me, simply because her view of me had been pre-coloured by what the couple I knew had said about me. Which has nothing much to do with your tale, but I was reminded of it while reading your anecdote - mainly because you'd probably view me as too critical as well.

    1. Hi kid, well you should always strive for honesty and while that can seem difficult, even costly on occasion, it's the only way to maintain self respect. But while we all have our opinions and a right to express them, what my friend was guilty of, was expressing her views in an inappropriate manner and out of context. It would be like walking up to woman in the street you thought was particularly ugly and saying, 'Crikey how can you bare to stare in the mirror long enough to put on your lipstick?' you just wouldn't do it would you? Although I have witnessed such encounters but they generally involved people be deliberately offensive.