Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Skin deep


Somebody accused me of writing about horseflies yesterday because I had run out of subject matter.

Although it is true that if I have nothing to write about, I write about it anyway, but unless you have experienced what it is like to be outside my workshop trying to shape marble whilst keeping more eyes out for the bloody things than are actually in your head, then you will not appreciate just how large they figure in my Summer working life in the country.

When I had a workshop right in the middle of town, Summer brought different distractions, and these usually came in the form of young women who were dressed for the weather. The other distraction was the almost daily ritual of celebrity-spotting.

A lot of very big names came to our yard - I stood next to Barbara Streisand as she made the ill-fated phone-call to her brokers which lost her a small fortune. She was very short, very hard and had very piercing eyes.

Gary Glitter came to my workshop with a young (but not that young) girl, and I was surprised at how tall Prince Charles is, compared to his mother. Jennifer Saunders was there as well, but not at the same time. That would have been like some mad Shell poster, with every type of wildlife there could possibly be, packed together in about one square yard of British countryside.

I think just about celebrity must have visited Bath at one time or another - it must be one of those 'must see' places to tick off your list. I mean, can you imagine someone in the public eye admitting to never having visited Paris? Unthinkable.

For this reason, Bath has always been a shallow, almost fatuous place where nothing of any real importance has ever happened. It is a smallish town which calls itself a city, and it is entirely composed of facades which bear no relation to the rooms and real lives behind them. Historically, it has always been this way and is despised by many serious people for being so.

So unlike Bristol, which is only 12 miles up the road. Bristol has a buzz to it which is kept fresh by a seemingly continuous influx of young, ambitious people, some of whom move there after they have grown up in Bath. Once they get there, you never see them again.

When I first moved here in 1971-2, it was a retirement town, packed full of genteel retirees with one foot over the threshold of the gates of death. They didn't like us young lot, and made it very clear.

Well we cleaned the place up for them - in more ways than one. Every building was black from coal-smoke, and could be bought very cheaply. I have friends who bought houses for £2000 then which are worth about £1 million now.

After a brief spell of disinterest, tourism is now the main industry here as it always has been, and the infrastructure which services it affects every aspect of life in the city.

I like the tourists - they make me feel lucky to be here, having lived in towns which empty in the Summer. Anyway, it's too late to move to Bristol now. I would like a nice little flat in central London though...

32 comments:

  1. Hello Tom:

    Horseflies are loathsome - we sympathise.

    Bath is lovely - we actually rather liked it in the 1950s when the stone everywhere was completely blackened by coal dust. But perhaps that is perverse.

    Tourists are tourists - but they contribute greatly to the local economy and must be blessed, at least in part, for that.

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  2. I LOVE Bath and am quite envious that you live there…… but, it's a bit like Cambridge. I go there quite often and I always think that it must be a bit annoying with all of the tourists. My sister and BIL lived in Cambridge when he was at University there and she said that she was always getting ' bashed ' by backpacks !! Still, there always has to be a compromise.
    A little pied-de-terre in London would be lovely …. not worth it for us as we're only 20 minutes away. XXXX

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    1. I'm on the look-out for a small S Ken mews house for less than £150,000. If I find one, you must come and stay.

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    2. Thanks Cro but, I shan't be holding my breath …….. I doubt that you will find a cardboard box for that price !! XXXX

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  3. Central Brighton is a great place to live; exceptionally vibrant. But the bloody tourists are a pain, as soon as the sun shines it's inundated.

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  4. We don't get many tourists in the east.

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    1. Norfolk Broads? My sisters went there in about 1958, I seem to remember. They both came back pregnant, by the same brothers.

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    2. Ok, I made that up, but they did go to the Broads.

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  5. Most of the students leave here in the summer, which is just fine with me. I like when they are here, but I also like the break from them.

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    1. We never get breaks these day, unless we turn into tourists too.

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  6. They seem to be a pervasive and ubiquitous blight, the tourists. Two million a year through my township. And they don't improve the local economy; they don't carry even a credit card in their spandex.

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    1. We love them - even the Jane bloody Austen ones.

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  7. Tom, since the world cup is on the box in many Bath hostelries maybe you can say something interesting about the lamentable history Bath City AFC or the Romans as they are called. On second thoughts maybe not.

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  8. I am bloody impressed that you can think of a subject to write about everyday …… it usually takes me two weeks to think of something and then it's pretty pathetic !!!!!!! XXXX

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    1. I treat it like a job. I need treatment.

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  9. As far as your subject matters go, I have always admired your ability to pick up any occurrence or thought that may happen during a day (or night), to follow your thoughts wherever they may lead you and to publicize it all in a way that is interesting to all of us and that is keeping us engaged. Nobody could possibly guess what your next topic may be because it could be anything that you come across or think about on any given day.

    As far as the tourists go, the most annoying thing about them is their backpacks. They are almost like battle devices that allow them to rudely push through everywhere. Italian tourist, however, always manage to look sooo stylish! That's how they roll, you can't fence that shit in. (I stole that last line from someone. I thought it was so cool.) Hehe!

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    1. With a comment like that, I am going to give you a star-rating. I think that Italians have become so un-stylish these days, even London has more personal style than Rome now.

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  10. The trouble with a nice little flat in central London (who wouldn't like one) is the price. I always think that Bath chairs were named after all the elderly residents of Bath - am I correct?

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    1. Not really, they were a one-man replacement for the Sedan Chair, invented here in Bath, and supposed to be for the infirm who came to take the waters.

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  11. A little flat in London --sigh -- maybe if I win the Jackpot? (And I know exactly where that flat should be). But Brighton would also be nice.
    And Prince Charles looked much handsomer in person than on the newspaper photos.

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    1. Oh, so you met him as well? Did you notice the polo-accident scar?

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  12. I would love to visit Bath, which has featured prominently in many books I have read. It's interesting what you say about the facades. In Vancouver we call a building heritage if you maintain the front wall only, literally the facade, and paste it onto a modern highrise constructed behind it, designed of course to "complement" the heritage wall. It's very odd seeing these spindly walls propped up during construction and odder still to see the resulting building.

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    1. Yes, that happens all the time here. Whenever I see it, I am thankful that we don't live in an earthquake zone.

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  13. I'm giving up on Google Blogger tonight - it has slowed down to the point of near standstill, and I cannot be arsed with it.

    I try again tomorrow.

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    1. I'm having the same trouble Tom …. it's taking an age for anything to load. XXXX

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    2. I too... some things vanished, appeared again after hours...

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    3. It seems to be vaguely better now. They must have been doing a little 'maintenance'.

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