I planned to write this on Monday. Yesterday. Failed miserably. Then, today, all day? Same. Weird but I just can’t seem to focus and my head is full of everything! It hasn’t been helped by the fact that the dodgem (Becca’s antiquated but mostly reliable Corsa) pulled a sickie yesterday throwing up some light on the dashboard which refused to go off. Something to do with the alternator, apparently, according to the manual. Why now? I give up with cars; old cars. Pre-Jeep, my old Golf GTI, 16 valve power machine had to, quite literally, be prized off me! It refused to start in the cold weather and had shamed me by breaking down in all the worst of places: the exhaust once fell off on Queensferry Road causing a newsworthy jam but that was nothing in comparison to its parting gift – the clutch dying, mid-roundabout, somewhere near Portobello and the By-pass in the blistering heat. Two young children in the back, I remember the AA guy giving me instructions as to how to get home – should it disengage again – which involved lifting the bonnet and hooking something on to something else! I had to do it many times but, regardless, I loved that car and would still have it now, if only.
My Jeep? Ex-display, it was the first and only new car I have ever had. My right arm. How I loved the early years when I could drive anywhere with confidence but twenty years on, the end was painful. Persistent lights on the dashboard and a power steering which sounded like the groaning of an old ship. Almost a year, now, life has never been the same. Try as I might, I cannot replace W14 BUR with just any old car. Practical, that may be, but I have an aversion to cloning and they, all, look the same. Once upon a time, every make and model of car was distinctive; individual. One could spot a BMW immediately with its square boot and innate elegance. Similarly with a Mercedes. Golfs were chunky with, again, defined lines – and were a proper size. No more. A Golf has shrunk to the size of a Polo which, quite honestly, today, could be a Robin Reliant! Audis might just as well be Mercedes and as for the nouveau four by fours … nothing short of naff, to borrow from Princess Anne’s vernacular. So, hanging out for my Wrangler while driving a Corsa! Perfect. Not proud, for the most part, but, somehow, returning to the dodgem when exiting Marks on a Friday, still gets me. Not helped by Manny who, I think, would prefer I wore a balaclava in an attempt to salvage my dignity! Perspective at all times. He should be thankful I don’t own a pair of white stilettos!
Anyway, the reason for this prolonged car chat? Eagles – as in Seventies icons! They are playing at Murrayfield tomorrow night, something I have been looking forward to since November. Now in their seventies, this is it. Never again. The last time. Summer of ’76, cheesecloth and flares, their music has been the soundtrack to my life – my favourite – and I wouldn’t miss them for the world. However, dodgem in garage needing an alternator change coupled with worst rail strike for thirty years and the odds were stacked against me. Taxi for two, both ways? Sometimes in life, the decision is taken from one’s hands. It was going to be some mighty expensive night but I would think about it later. For now, all that mattered was the chance to wallow in the nostalgia of the unforgettable songs which have been my constants through the highs and lows. ‘Just too busy being fabulous’ to ‘Take another shot of courage’ …
Turns out there is a God! Mid-way firing up the printing machine, the phone rang with the news that the dodgem was ready to go. Really? That doesn’t happen to me – but it did and so, now, Wednesday, the Eagles await. My reader may remember that I entered a Radio 2 competition in 2019 to see them, live, in San Francisco on 11th April, 2020. My favourite band, my favourite date and, fittingly, in California. I had won, for sure. Tell that to Claire in Bognor Regis, or whoever it was that took my tickets – and who never got to go thanks to Covid! Life moves in mysterious ways. Tonight, Matthew, it is 1976 once more … I cannot wait and, yet, I can for, then, the looking forward is gone.
As ever, this has taken a random turn, particularly as my intention was to write about the amazing exhibition we saw in Edinburgh on Saturday – Van Gogh Alive. Not to be missed. Becca had seen it in London last year and enthused about it but it was the beautiful brochure which captivated me, filled with his paintings and words. I had never associated Van Gogh with words but how ignorant was I? Anyway, the exhibition has been in Edinburgh since February, I think, and is coming to the end of its run. Van Gogh Alive. How appropriate for, in a huge tent, his paintings, through the years, are projected onto every ‘canvas’ – literally, the complete 360 degrees – alongside his revealing quotes and all accompanied by the most beautiful classical score. Truly enthralling, one is transported through the five periods of his short life, learning of his inspirations and his moods through his paintings and his words.
Everyone is aware of Vincent Van Gogh. No, scrub that. This is 2022 and we already know that there are many breathing the same air to whom the likes of Neil Armstrong, Nelson Mandela and Anne Frank mean nothing! God help us. Anyway, those not living under a rock are familiar with the Dutch painter and his most famous paintings – Sunflowers, Starry Night – but his notoriety is also borne of the fact that he brutally sliced off part of his own ear! I am ashamed to say that I knew little more about this creative genius – until now.
The exhibition is magical. Totally enthralling and informative in the most ingenious way. Everything is larger than life: the paintings, the quotes and the music. He is alive as one is taken on the journey through his life, made acutely aware of his joys and his sorrows. It was weird but we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. Arriving at 5.30pm, the ‘performance’ is on a loop and we sat through it three times, only emerging at 8.30pm. We could have stayed indefinitely. There is so much to be gleaned that one, constantly, sees more. Myself, I spent the entire first ’round’ entranced by the quotes projected around me. Desperate to read and remember each and every one of them, I started to photograph them on my phone. Second time around, I felt satisfied that I had caught them all but, now, I needed to concentrate on the magnificent paintings … The accompanying score, too, is genius. So evocative, it transports one from The Netherlands to Paris, to Arles, to Saint Rémy and, finally, to Auvers-sur-Oise ending with the self-inflicted gun shot which extinguished the light. He was only thirty-seven years old.
Culture. Knowledge. How I crave it. This exhibition was invigorating and I learned so much. Vincent Van Gogh put his heart and soul into his paintings, his happiness and his pain, and, only with this new-found understanding of the man am I fully able to appreciate his genius. For my part, I learned, too, of my compelling passion for words. I was, positively, lost in his quotes while dwarfed by his magnificent artwork. Seems it is innate. Spending time in the shop before leaving, I was thrilled to find a book of his letters – and one of his paintings and so much more! I loved every minute of it and would happily return. Amazingly, Becca has just discovered that there is to be an exhibition of his actual paintings in Rome in October. The stars have aligned.
‘I can’t change the fact that my paintings don’t sell. But the time will come when people will recognise that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture.’
Vincent Van Gogh
He knew … I’m glad.
This is Trish, signing off, unchecked! Rushing back to 1976 …