To while away the hours on the road, Rowena has begun a long story which she intends to continue for the whole of the journey. So far, it concerns three brothers - one a bank manager, one a magician and one who keeps falling asleep, and they have set out on a journey. I couldn't help suspecting this was really an allegory about me, but apparently it is a story whose meaning will only evolve in the telling. Unfortunately the brothers frequently arrive at cross- roads, and a choice has to be made as to which path they will take next, so it is hard to let one's attention wander entirely.
Tomorrow we go over to Warwickshire, to stay with poor old Archie Ogg, whose Arts Centre was closed down last year, after a particularly virulent controversy and massive withdrawal of funding. I understand that, since the tragedy, he has refused even to mention the word 'art', so it should be a safe house.
TUESDAY: Arrived at Archie's. Rowena and I tried to keep the conversation to international crises and that kind of thing, but something serious seemed to be troubling him, and I feared he had been sucked back into cultural questions. Sure enough, over supper he suddenly burst out with 'the terrible things that are happening to Radio 3'. He told me he had rounded up a few people in the arts to monitor 'the catastrophic move down market'. He said: 'What we are talking about is what I call serious music.' There followed a discussion of what precisely one did mean by serious music. This is an obvious instance of the superiority of nature. You could never get into an argument about whether or not something was a serious tree. It is all very sad.
WEDNESDAY: At breakfast. The Radio 3 morning sequence was on very loud, with Archie in a state of extreme tension, intermittently shouting 'how disgraceful'. A piece of music started, and he banged his cup down. 'Now I just do not believe this. You perhaps don't recognise this tune Gordon, and why should you? - But I can tell you, because I happen to know, that it is the theme music to Fame. On Radio 3] Unbelievable]' The disturbing thing was that I did recognise the music. It was in fact Berlioz's Overture, Le Corsaire. But it seemed cruel to say so. Clearly, this unfortunate man has been literally maddened by the changes to Radio 3, and lost all his powers of musical discrimination. I hope Mr Nicholas Kenyon realises what he is doing to his listeners. Then the telephone started to ring, with the other monitors calling in, and we said our goodbyes.
The plan today was to hack up to Cheshire, and track down a stone circle Rowena remembers seeing there once, though it sounded a bit man-made to me. I have now completely lost the thread of her story, and I think she has too.
For several miles on the outskirts of Birmingham we found ourselves tailing a car with a very large bumper sticker. It read: 'I HAVE SEEN THE ARTSATORIUM AND I COULDN'T BELIEVE MY EYES. ' I was hoping Rowena would not notice it, but she did. I explained that it was once a lovely old Arts Centre in the middle of nowhere, which had been taken over by someone I knew slightly (Robin Reeves), and utterly transformed on 'interactive' principles into a tourist trap. Definitely worth avoiding. She managed to find it on the map, and insisted that we take a quick look.
It was, as I expected, inexpressibly horrible. 'THE ARTSATORIUM. WHERE ART IS GREAT.' Wall-to-wall noises and holograms. We entered something called 'The Michelangelo Experience', which features a life-size latex animatronic model of Michelangelo's Adam, wearing underpants ('as seen on TV's South Bank Show'). You touch your finger against its outstreched finger, and the creature goes bzzzt, blinks and gives a little jump.
A voice behind us said: 'Yes Gordon, you have seen the future of Arts Administration, and it goes bzzzt. Welcome to the Artsatorium]' It was Reeves, wearing an orange suit. I was in rather a state of shock myself. He said: 'Now let me show you something else. We call it the 'But is it Art Gallery', and we've put in it replicas of all those weird and wonderful things that have gone by the name of art in the 20th century. Most popular with the punters, and I'll tell you why, Gordon: because they are allowed to have an opinion.'
Happily at this point the whole building blacked out and we made our escape. I suggested to Rowena that we should head straight for the Lake District, and she agreed.
THURSDAY: Spent the day looking at Lakes. Can't get enough of them. Very restful. Ah.
FRIDAY: More Lakes. I feel it is almost enough now.
SATURDAY: On the road again. I was getting a little weary of Rowena's story (which she has resumed), and stopped to pick up a hitch-hiker. Agreed to take him on to Berwick-on-Tweed, where we are stopping tonight. We chatted amicably about the countryside for a while. Then, without any warning, he announced that he was he was 'a tumbler', on his way to the Edinburgh Festival - - but he had become accidentally separated from his troupe, and it was very important for him to get there before the opening parade tomorrow. I expressed only the most mild interest. But he went on: 'Did you know, there is a debate about tumbling? Some people say it's not a proper art form.' I turned him out at the next service station.Reuse content