Monthly Archives: April 2012

It glows in the dark!

Here’s one that got away. Postcard of a limited edition glow-in-the-dark print, Celestial, produced by the Serpentine Gallery in 1998 for Chris Ofili‘s ‘Paintings’ show. I nearly bought this – it was £70, I think, edition of 320 – but there was a really obnoxious Prada-clad woman in the queue in front of me, loudly exclaiming that she wanted a lower numbered edition, darling, and the little serpentinista at the desk was falling over themselves to accommodate her…I suddenly became disgusted with whole transaction (plus, it was just after my daughter was born, so I probably had no money), so I just took the card and felt better about myself.

Looking idly around today, 14 years later, I see that an edition of Celestial would set you back £2500, which goes to show a 3 things: If you know what you’re doing, art is a great investment: If you are going to collect art, acquire a thick skin and insist on the lowest edition number: and always buy what’s available when it’s available.

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Waiting for the worms to come.

It’s not so bad. Here’s an carved plaque from the  C13th church of St Martin, Cwmyoy. The Vale of Ewyas is one of the most magical places in the British Isles (don’t take it from me: just ask Simon Jenkins). We holidayed here every year of my childhood, and there’s not a day when I don’t miss it. One of the last truely hidden places in our over crowded island.

St Martin is the traditional saint of soldiers, and the vale is was one of the sites of the iter of Baldwin of Ford, Archbishop of Canterbury as he preached the Third Crusade in 1188, according the Gerald of Wales. Saints preached in these valleys, raising mighty armies to fight thousands of miles away in the desert. Baldwin left for the east with King Richard 1 Lionheart and the elderly emperor Frederick Barbarossa later in the same year, and he died at the siege of Acre in 1190. It was a long way to go, and a long way from home.

As for Thomas Price at Cwmyoy, he still lies at ‘the crookedest church in Britain’. He doesn’t make death sound too bad; the inscription has a comforting, almost pagan, poetry entirely in keeping with the peacefulness of the valley. Most people know the Black Mountains through On The Black Hill , but the movie and Bruce Chatwin’s miserablist novel are too at odds with my childhood memories to work for me, since I remember the vale as a place of sunshine and dreams. I’d like to write about Tom Price, Talfryn Thomas‘s shifty (and ultimately tragic) Welsh tramp in Survivors (BBC 1975-77), since the vale is exactly where I’d go if there was a worldwide disaster (see also poet  Owen Sheers‘ Resistance), but maybe I should let Thomas rest in peace, on his mother’s lap, waiting for the bridegroom.

Further up the vale is the priory of Llantony, and still further still St Mary’s chapel and David Jones’ monastery at Capel-y-ffin, where Eric Gill lived and worked. But those are cards for another day.

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