Sunday, 15 March 2015

You Know You Want It

Have you ever caught a glimpse of something and for no logical reason, really wanted it?  I have. 

This weekend was a bit of a wash out.  It wasn’t convenient for me to collect Dominic this weekend which was a huge disappointment.  Still, I was still looking forward to golf with Alex followed by lunch at the Mangais restaurant.  The first F1 race of the season was kicking off in Australia so, with them being hours ahead of us, it looked as though today would be an early start, Formula One over breakfast, golf and then a leisurely lunch.  Not a bad way to spend a day.

It started raining last night and it chucked it down all through the night.  Alex woke up half way through the race so I made him breakfast while we sat with faces glum as the rain thumped the roof and Hamilton drove 58 times round Adelaide.  With one Ferrari out, Alex was only half interested so spent his time running in and out of the cottage to prove to me that he wasn’t getting that wet.  He really wanted to play golf and I think he has the right temperament to be good at it; only a madman would want to go out in a torrential downpour and knock a ball around.

For his sake, I was praying it would stop raining but had given myself a deadline of nine-thirty; if it hadn’t stopped by then, I’d call the instructor and confirm what he already probably presumed, we weren’t coming.  We got ourselves dressed and at the appointed time, the rain stopped.  We hadn’t even made it to the main road when, with an almighty clap of thunder, the heavens opened again with a real vengeance and suddenly we weren’t riding bikes, we were navigating a river.  Alex rode into a pothole and was stuck. I tried to turn round, caught my front wheel in a submerged rut and went over the handlebars grazing ankle, knee, shoulder and head.

‘Oh dear,’ I said.

I wasn’t going to quit first, though.  I remember once really wanting to do something with my father, we had tickets to the Motor Show at Earls Court but the weather was so bad, so atrocious, that he had second thoughts.  The forecast was for freezing fog, black ice, downed power lines, jack-knifed lorries and closed roads.  I think they were even thinking of calling the Army out.  When my dad cancelled, I thought he was a wimp.

Alex and I made it onto the dirt road on the Golf course before he bogged in again.  I was finding it hard going but not even in the lowest of his eighteen gears could Alex make any headway at all. We couldn’t even walk in the stuff, two steps and the morass had sucked our shoes off.  Even though he looked miserable as hell with the conditions, he still left it to me to suggest we knocked it on the head and went home.

Alex went straight in and I rinsed the mud off the bikes under the deluge cascading off the roof.  Marcia came out onto the veranda, obviously having made none of the preparations women usually subject themselves to if they know they will be seen in public.

‘Are we still going for lunch?’ she asked.

‘Of course, darling, I’ll just get changed’

Somehow, the thought of sitting in an air-conditioned restaurant in the middle of a thunderstorm didn’t really appeal to me, half the fun was being able to sit on the deck over the river and enjoy the scenery but if they really wanted to go, we would.

By the time Alex and I were showered and dressed again, Marcia had changed her mind (come to her senses, more like).  This suited me fine, now Alex was blaming her instead of me.  I rustled up as nice a lunch as I could and afterwards listlessly read a book.  Even though I had selected a Frederick Forsyth, staple fare for anyone bored out of their skull, I couldn’t get into it, instead becoming increasingly annoyed with every technical error: ‘A shaped charge only blasts forward…’, bollocks, try standing behind a High Explosive Anti-Tank shaped charge when it goes off, it’ll do a bit more than ruffle your hair.  It’s like Hollywood when the hero fires a recoilless weapon from inside a car. Jesus, they’d only do it once in real life.

So I started to scroll through past auction results and realized I had just missed Maximilian Schell’s old car.  Maximilian Schell was a fantastic stage and screen actor, one of a bunch of post war German speaking actors who starred opposite American and British counterparts in every classic war movie as either snarling Nazis or, usually in Schell’s case, reasonable Wehrmacht or Luftwaffe officers coming to terms with what was turning out to be a bit of a losing streak.  When, in ‘A Bridge Too Far,’  the characters of Hardy Kruger and Maximilian Schell were discussing where and why all these British paratroopers were landing and the possibility they were after the General, Hardy Kruger said, in German, ‘Perhaps they’ve already landed in the General’s soup’ to which, with an impeccable delivery Schell replied, ‘Yes, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?’  Brilliant.

Now I wouldn’t pay a premium to own a car just because a famous bum had nestled in its upholstery but I would be interested in a one owner, molly-coddled example of an R107 Mercedes SL.  The car had been bought for Herr Schell new by the MFG film studio in 1977 and he had kept it ever since.  He took it for its last outing aged 82 when he married his long-time girlfriend who was 35 years his junior.  At the time this induced a bit of friendly speculation as to which was older, the car or his bride.  Clearly he loved both.  The thing that made his SL special for me was the trim, gorgeous blue coachwork over a saddle tan leather interior.  I would have enjoyed Maximilian Schell’s car knowing that he and I had the same taste.

The exquisite taste of the late Maximilian Schell, a Magnetitblau-metallic V8 Mercedes SL
with saddle tan leather upholstery and an opera singer.

The auction house which handled the sale of this car also does fine art.  I know nothing about fine art except that I can’t afford it.  Still, it’s nice to look at so I thought I would scan the lots in their forthcoming Easter sale.  They give you the choice of either downloading their pdf catalogue or just scanning an excel style list with thumbnail images.  I chose the latter, hardly the best way to appreciate what I was looking at but I pay per Mb here so I am tight. 

The sale is in Salzburg so there were the expected religious paintings, mountainous landscapes and figures in lederhosen and I was scrolling faster and faster when my eye was caught by a quite unremarkable painting.  It appeared to be a group of five figures standing somewhere forlorn but it was the way the subjects were arranged, almost in two distinct groups that attracted me so I clicked on the link to go to the more detailed page.  With a much higher resolution I could see that there was definitely something going on there.  This was a depiction of two groups, together in space and time but separated by some strong emotion.  I could see in posture and expression, the bleakness and lack of detail in the landscape, the pile of discarded garments the strength of feeling between the participants.  There was a story here, raw and savage.  Then I looked at the title of the painting, ‘Duel on the Beach.’ 

I have no idea who Alfeo Argentieri was.  He may be considered a painter of daubs, a waster of good canvas and paint but in my opinion here he has caught men at their most intimate, when they are about to try and kill each other.

It isn’t a large painting, only 40 x 60 cms, and he has been a bit mean with the paint in places.  It is described as ‘Krakelee, Reinigungsbedürftig’, which means it is dirty and the paint is cracked but I like it.  I like it so much I’m going to have a punt on it.  I may be buying what the knowledgeable would be too polite to describe as a heap of shit, I don’t care.  And I suppose that’s what art is all about.  It isn’t to brighten a room up or cover an unsightly patch in the plaster, it isn’t to fit in with the décor, it is something far more personal.  Even as a 200 pixel wide thumbnail, it caught my eye and I have been staring at the high resolution image of it I downloaded all afternoon.  I know that if I am lucky enough to own this painting, it will give me pleasure every time I look at it. 

I know exactly where it is going to go, right above my desk.

One of these gentlemen has seen his last sunrise.


  1. I can't resist a painting I like, and I can't resist on line auction houses and catalogues and when I'm not working I like go to the local auction rooms. My downfall is old French carpets, and Middle Eastern rugs, and 1960s designer lamps and 1960s contemporary art. So I understand where you are at with this picture. I also like the buzz of putting on the bids. I actually don't always want to be successful.

    1. Art Deco bronzes are hard for me to ignore!

      This isn't an online auction where apart from the mad flurry at the end, you might have time to think, this is a real auction with 500 odd lots going through in a couple of hours. I would be bidding against people in the room. With the way the internet connection goes up and down here, I have decide how much I am willing to pay and then set up an absentee bid. Not nearly as much fun, eh?

    2. This is what I meant. I put the bid on against the auction room. I don't know all the terminology. But I have to keep away from it, I bought too much stuff in this way. My local auction house is Gaze at Diss, a good old fashioned auction room.

  2. Exactly what art should be about - connecting with you on some level, even if you don't properly understand what that level is. I was looking forward to the restaurant review!

  3. No doubt an interesting painting and a reasonable choice if the price is not too far off the ordinary pedestrian's reach. In most regards I am as cheap as they come but like you at times I have champagne tastes on beer budgets. Not ninety miles from me the James Julia auction house this weekend had up for bidding the collections of some recognized notables in firearms history. If you have some megabytes left on you internet connection you can peruse the available examples here:

  4. Go for it! I hope you manage to get it and are not disappointed, it seems to really have grabbed your interest and that's the best way to buy art. Hopefully, up there above your desk, you will get lots of pleasure from it

    1. Common sense says I should concentrate on growing your seeds rather than chasing a whim!

  5. I'm not a petrol head, but when my old friend arrived here last year in his Merc 500SL I just had to take it for a spin. I drove about 50 kms in it. What a fabulous car; I imagine the ride is quite similar to the older R107. When you put your foot down, it means business.

    1. I think you've got the point of these cars, it's all about the ride.

  6. Not sure that I believe your comment when you went A over E !! Hope you get your painting.

  7. The heart wants what the heart wants..there is no explaining it. My Pa absolutely loves a painting in the corridor of our local hospital. My Pa as far as I know has no interest at all in art in any shape colour or form but this one makes him stop and stare at it wistfully.....and it is the most straightforward 3 colours in a linear arrangement modern thingy that I think even I could reproduce...I got in touch with the hospital to see if I could buy it and apparently it is worth thousands of I took a photo and I'm going to see if I can have a go at something similar.....but why he likes it I have no idea.....good luck with your bid.

  8. The heart wants what the heart wants..there is no explaining it. My Pa absolutely loves a painting in the corridor of our local hospital. My Pa as far as I know has no interest at all in art in any shape colour or form but this one makes him stop and stare at it wistfully.....and it is the most straightforward 3 colours in a linear arrangement modern thingy that I think even I could reproduce...I got in touch with the hospital to see if I could buy it and apparently it is worth thousands of I took a photo and I'm going to see if I can have a go at something similar.....but why he likes it I have no idea.....good luck with your bid.

  9. You were lucky. My mate broke his neck last year going over the handlebars on his bike. Luckily he's made a good recovery.The old SL's are great. Not sure they would be suited to your location though.

    1. One won an African rally... the old Panzerwagen would probably handle the conditions better than some of these moderns.

  10. Our house is lacking in art and photos at the moment. Since we've moved here and had the kids none of our old stuff seems appropriate to our lives anymore. We will have to get something on the wall soon though as I love a good picture.

    1. I thought you were into minimalist white walls?

  11. Art is a very personal thing. If that original picture speaks to you, go for it! Far better than a printed copy poster of the Mona Lisa that means nothing.

    1. Marcia bought a printed copy of the Mona Lisa! I must tell her what you said...

  12. The only "things" I have ever glanced at and wanted is women. It is like an affliction. I can imagine lying on my deathbed and checking out the ward auxiliary who has just entered the room to change my jug of water. Cor blimey! Much more enticing than any car.

    1. There's so much more to life than sex and death, YP, you should try it!

  13. Very sensible...the car would quickly get bogged down, whereas the painting has some chance of surviving! Good luck with your bidding

    1. Actually, in this alternate desiccating then ultra humid environment I am not sure either would do well!

  14. Ummm The Grand Prix is in Melbourne! It left Adelaide many many years ago.

  15. I am a fan of whatever style that painting is, too. It reminds me of Winslow Homer, some pieces I can't even look at because they are just too sad.

    1. I'd never heard of him but now that I have looked him up, I do like his paintings. Bet you sport the same style of moustache!

    2. Alas, I do not -- but, it's a fair assumption considering where I live.

      Winslow Homer has always moved me, because his paintings have the kind of nuance I can appreciate and understand. Perhaps it was because my father had a great book that explained just one of his paintings (Gulf Stream). The understanding that man had of the outdoors life is remarkable, and wonderfully expressed in his work. Also, he can paint a dory in such a way as to make me want to build one.

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