THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain

Posts categorized "The Blogger" Feed

Sweet 16

I started this blog sixteen years ago today. Since then I have written the equivalent of several novels in short posts mostly about civil liberties. The British Library is archiving it apparently. One day an historian may analyse just how wrong I was about everything. The Don Quixote in me hopes he'll instead explain how wrong politicians, apparatchiks and social "scientists" were not to agree with me!

Their mightiness in comparison to swordplay have never been clear to me, but I've had occasional indications that my words might have made a difference. I can only hope so. In terms of prosperity and life expectancy, humanity continues to advance, so maybe our political errors don't matter as much as my worries suggest. I must hope for that too. 

Anyway, if you have been, thanks for reading.


Day 6 on the Thames Path: Tower Bridge to Canary Wharf – Mission accomplished

Rather than give up on my exercise regime during Lockdown #2 (a mistake I made during Lockdown #1), I resolved to walk the Thames Path in sections from Hampton Court to Canary Wharf. Walking is less efficient as exercise than swimming. According to my tracker, today's walk burned only the calories I would usually expend in swimming for an hour. In fairness, I have done better than that on other, longer sections – but all the walks took more time too. I have never enjoyed physical exercise. I only do it as medicine. Walking costs too much for my taste.

Work on the Tideway (aka the "Super Sewer") and the presumably-furloughed employees who usually open the gates through Docklands housing developments subject to daylight hours rights of way, meant I spent too much time out of sight of the river. Today this was often just a Thames-proximate Path. On a couple of occasions I took the opportunity to go down alleyways that led to a river view, only to have to come back to Wapping High Street, or wherever, to resume my non-riparian stroll. 

IMG_1260

I was surprised by how smart Wapping is. Huge amounts of money have clearly poured in since the days when locals bemoaned the closing of the docks post-containerisation. There are elegant wharf and warehouse conversions; some of them by Housing Associations so not (intentionally) occupied by the wealthy. Even the social housing (always detectable by the state of the balconies, even though the cars outside – often Jags and Mercs these days – are no longer a reliable signal) seemed mostly very pleasant. Rather than an area of deprivation, it looked (after considerable redistribution of wealth, presumably) a very agreeable community to live in. It's nice to know someone's enjoying the proceeds of my lifetime of work, I suppose.

I spent some of the most fun times of my life working on the negotiation of lease for a major initial tenant in One Canada Square (the Canary Wharf Tower). The banks who financed the development had committed to lease there themselves, provided x,000 square feet was let to other banks by a deadline. I suppose they wanted to make their borrower prove that the Wharf would work as an extension of the City of London. Our client was a bank and its lease hit that limit – as it turned out – in the last hour before the deadline. Our client's negotiator didn't know the details, but had sensed that something was up. He procrastinated to get us as close as possible to the deadline to maximise his negotiating advantage. Such was the landlord's desperation in the end that our lease was ridiculously favourable. I had a lot of fun devising imaginative, plausible (but impossible) demands to help him delay. 

Passersby may have thought I was appreciating the architecture when the sight of that building made me smile today, but in truth I was remembering the only time I was paid to take the p*** for months. I know some of you think that's what lawyers always do,  but I promise you that was the only time for me!

My health club opens next Wednesday and I have two swims booked, b.v.*, already. So my walking days are (I hope) over. I can't say I have enjoyed the activity itself, but I have enjoyed getting a sense of the shape of London. I had been to many of the places before, but had not fully understood where they were in relation to each other. Walking through a city will fix that for sure. In fairness to walking, you can combine it with photography – and you can get to see new things worth photographing. Swimming's no good from that point of view. Still, I shall be going back to it – and motoring to my photoshoots!

The photos from the final day are here. I hope you enjoy them. 

*Boris volenti.


Day 5 on the Thames Path: Vauxhall Bridge to Tower Bridge

This is one of the shortest sections of my planned walk, but richest in photo-opportunities. From the MI6 Building to the Houses of Parliament, Lambeth Palace, the more famous bridges, City Hall and (more poignant to me) the various buildings I worked on when I was a young property lawyer.

My then firm was neither one of the genteel Inns operations handling aristocratic estates nor one of the corporate City outfits where "dirt lawyers" are looked down on. Our reputation was on the aggressive side (snobs were known to call us "spivs") but I believe it was the best place to learn the ways of the racy, exciting real estate business that is still (even after almost a decade of retirement) the world where I feel most comfortable. It was my experience at that firm that made me feel far more a real estate person than a lawyer.

I wouldn't bore you with the details of old deals even if professional ethics permitted, but I remembered them fondly today in all their long-forgotten details. There is one building featured in today's photographs which has such complicated subterranean boundaries that I'd bet I am still the only person who fully understands them. I remember the reaction of HM Land Registry when I suggested to them that they could only be properly represented by a hologram.

There's a life lesson that I reflected on today though in how little all those things we agonised and fought about matter now. I missed key moments of my daughters' lives to deal with issues the people fighting over them have long forgotten. I hope my daughters are wiser than I was when their time comes.

The walk barely needs describing. The most casual visitor to London will recognise most of the landmarks featured so the captions to the photographs will suffice. If you can't name a prominently-featured building, then I took a fee for legal advice in relation to it!  The photographs are to be found here and I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed making them.


Day 3 on the Thames Path: Kew Bridge to Putney Bridge

C3C21FA7-7E8A-409B-B857-7E577E96EDB7
Kew Bridge is close to home. I crossed the bridge to the steps I ascended, exhausted, at the end of Monday’s walk and set off. I’ve spent a lot of time on this section of the Thames near my home in Chiswick, but never on the opposite bank.

The guide book I’m using to plan my days says:

This is one of the greenest and most beautiful lengths of the Thames Path, with no irritating diversions. Just after Kew Bridge the path passes Kew Pier, from which boats depart for Richmond, Hampton Court and Westminster. The following stretch is pleasantly countrified, along an unmade track with trees and flowering bushes on both sides, which at points join up to form a canopy overhead.

I passed Mortlake and the local cemetery where it’s likely my earthly form will one day be incinerated, and walked on to Barnes, where the cultural references include blue plaques for the founder of the Royal Ballet and Gustav Holst plus a Stormtrooper from Star Wars on some local’s balcony. 

I ate my sandwich lunch, prepared by Mrs P2, on a bench outside St Paul’s School. A Remembrance Day service was in progress, ending with The Last Post. I’d been feeling footsore and sorry for myself but this reminded me of what a real problem was and inspired me to take on the final march for the day.

After Hammersmith Bridge (closed for emergency repairs to the great inconvenience of locals) I passed the London Wetland Centre and had the chance to see progress on the new stand replacing the one where my seat used to be at Craven Cottage. Having been excluded from my football home by our COVID tyrants it was quite nostalgic to see the place. From there it was not far to my destination and the bus home from a stop on the middle of the bridge. 

Today’s pictures are here


Day 2 on the Thames Path

236F7799-E416-421E-88DB-51C6A98F8CE5
I was quite proud of yesterday’s effort but before I could blog about it received an email of encouragement from a long-time reader who told me he’d had a similar idea for lockdown and had walked the South Downs Way from Eastbourne to Winchester. That’s eighty-four miles and he did it — not in twelve days as I plan to do mine — but in five! His last day of walking was twenty-nine miles. I feel embarrassed now to describe my paltry stroll, but can only say well done, sir! 

I returned to Teddington Lock, where I finished on Friday, and set off on the sylvan South Bank path. I hoped to make it to Kew Bridge but decided to get to Richmond first and see how I felt. Rain was predicted but didn’t arrive. At Richmond it just didn’t seem like enough of an effort so I pressed on thinking I would stop when I’d had enough. The path had no earlier options to end, however, as it ran alongside Kew Gardens. I’m a member there and could have cut across — if there was an entrance on that side. There isn’t, or at least not until half a mile from the end. Exhausted I sat on a wall and ate my sandwich then pressed on. It was seven and a half miles and (while fit readers may snigger) it was almost beyond me. By the time I got home having taken a bus from Kew Bridge Station, my total for the day including to and from Overground Station and bus stop was eight and a half miles. 

My photos are to be seen here if you’re interested. Even through gritted teeth I found the route beautiful in Autumn colours. 


My political journey

I grew up around clandestine Conservatives behind Labour lines in the North. The North-East of Wales to be precise, but the border was in sight and our TV came from Manchester. My family were old-fashioned Tories; God, Queen, Country and leave business alone (except when it’s foreign and shouldn’t be allowed). I was forbidden coca-cola because there was nothing wrong with dandelion and burdock. My family were mostly that kind of provincial c(C)conservative. 

Apart, that is, from an eccentric great aunt who had been Labour all her life. In 1946 she had voted for her brothers’ transport company to be expropriated. Of course she used the euphemism “nationalised” but she knew - and relished - what it meant. She used to say such endearing things to studious young Tom as “children educated by the state should never be allowed to leave the country - you owe us and should stay to pay your debt.” She was against private education too, so rather insisted on this imprisoning debt. I think the imprisonment was part of the appeal to her controlling nature. Unlike the rest of our family of tradesmen, shopkeepers and truck drivers, she worked as a civil servant and looked down on us money grubbers scornfully even as she grubbed our money.

She was a terrible advocate for her party; far too openly authoritarian and far too liable to speak of the masses as cattle. She was a snob too. Even as a Socialist young man, I thought her ideology sprang more from contempt for the masses, than from love. They had to be helped, poor dears, because they were so obviously bloody hopeless. How lucky they were to have her. Recognise the type? It's not new.

My teachers were more effective recruiters. Of all those who taught me from the age of 4 until I left University at 21, I think only two were Conservative. I can’t even be sure about the first one - a French teacher at secondary school - as it was scarcely a safe admission to make so far inside the Labour heartlesslands. There was just something about her demeanour that suggested it. As for the second one, he was an eccentric homosexual law lecturer; about 500 in gay years. He tucked his shirt into his underpants and pulled them up above his trousers. He was in advance of hip hop fashions, perhaps, but the overall effect, when combined with a tendency actually to drool in the presence of attractive male students, was off-putting. Perhaps he was a double agent making Conservatism as unattractive as possible? He said sensible stuff about the Berlin Wall at Debating Society though - to jeers from Leftist students. After the fall of the wall, leftists affected always to have opposed the totalitarian excesses of the USSR and Warsaw Pact but believe me it was all “our socialist brothers” back then. There were leftist opponents of the Soviets in my university — the Trots who thought the Revolution had been betrayed and should be continued ferociously forever. Over at Oxford at the time, Tony Blair was one of those.

By the age of 12 or 13 I thought I would vote Labour when the time came. By 14 I was reading a grovellingly flattering biography of Marx. By 15 I was reading the Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital in translation. I heard the siren words “from each according to his ability; to each according to his need” and — for a while — I was lost. As an earnest young intellectual bathing in big ideas, I thought I was going to change the world. Of course as an adolescent male seeking to assert his independence from his father, the fact that my Marxism made him a villain was a bonus. Poor Dad. How he worried about me. How embarrassed he was when I was suspended from school for my revolutionary activities (selling Free Palestine and The Thoughts of Chairman Mao on school premises and being Welsh chair of the Schools Action Union, which organised the only school pupils strike in British history under the slogan “Don’t take the cane, break the cane!”). It was all from love of the masses of course. I didn’t see that I would be delivering them into servitude to a grim regiment of people like my steely-eyed great aunt — merciless and free from doubt or moral restraint. 

There was one good consequence of this nonsense. The late Mrs P. was no communist herself but, years later, she said she was first attracted to me because I was the only boy she knew “who was at least trying to think”. If I had never been an aspiring Maoist thug, there would be no Misses P today.

If Ricky Tomlinson, his band of thugs and their pick-axe handles had not turned up on the building site where I was working in my school holidays I don’t know if I would have continued on that path. I have compassion for my deluded enemies partly because I think “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” I hope I would have read myself out of the foul swamp I’d read myself into but had I arrived at University a leftist, I might well have been lost forever. There were many clever fellow students there who read nothing that challenged their Marxism and I could well have become their mindless comrade.

Just as my daughters owe their existence to Mao Tse-Tung’s sociopathic violence so I owe my classical liberalism to Ricky Tomlinson’s rough thuggery. It's funny how these things go.

To be continued...

 

 

 

 


The Last Ditch Blogiversary

The Last Ditch (Archives): The opening shot.

Fifteen years ago today I uploaded the first post to this blog. The link above will take you to it. Almost no-one read it then and you may well think they were wise! I had fewer than 25 hits and remember being rather miffed. In truth, I completely missed the point of "social media"at that stage. Just as many MSM journalists still do, I made the mistake of thinking a blog was direct competition for them. Months later, a reader gently explained to me that it was far more like a conversation in the pub than a leader column in The Times. He advised me to engage humbly with other sites and to ask questions on my own blog – to join in the conversation rather than just "pontificate" like a golf club bore. 
 
Image 13-03-2020 at 16.43
Fifteen years on, I have written the equivalent of a novel or two on these pages. I have found my modest place in the information eco-system. This is a backwater of the internet's great flow but my circle of online friends means a lot to me. The Last Ditch is all I could reasonably have hoped it to be fifteen years ago (had I understood what I was embarking upon). It is my internet home. 
 
Years ago, the British Library contacted me and asked for permission to archive my posts for the benefit of future historians who won't have letters or diaries to read. They'll have so much other data online, however, that they'll need a lot of AI to sift it! If the worst happens, at least future historians can say there were a few of us warning against the legal, economic and societal wrong steps that were leading our civilisation to potential disaster.
 
I began blogging because I was angry about the assault on liberty in Britain by a Labour government led by a third-rate lawyer who didn't understand the key principles of the Common Law. Specifically the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2005 had upset me hugely. The MSM didn't seem to "get it" either and hundreds of editorials positing a false dichotomy between liberty and safety had exasperated me so much that I felt I had to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. Over the years, I began to blog about a wider range of subjects, but Liberty is always the theme.
 
It proved great therapy, if nothing else. It made the late Mrs P. a little happier. "You've found someone to share your concerns with other than me and that's great" was her take on it. I have missed her as my proof-reader and editor since she passed on. She was good at deflating a tendency to pomposity that my readers are too gentle to take on.
 
It's odd that, with all the leisure retirement brought 9 years ago, I have posted so little. When I was a Stakhanovite labouring on the front lines of international capitalism, I found time to post every day. Now it's once or twice a month at best. "If you want something done, ask a busy man" they say, and perhaps they have a point.
 
It's not that I care less than I did. I still worry that the Rule of Law, habeas corpus, the presumption of innocence (the "Golden Thread that runs through English Law" as Rumpole said at every fictitious opportunity) are little understood by the narcissistic, rent-seeking wretches inevitably drawn to power. I simply know that, at 63 years old (as I shall be next week) the responsibility has passed to the next generation. At best I can offer the odd word of advice, but if they take our society to constitutional and economic Hell, it's now their shout.
 
I worry, but I certainly don't despair. The next generations are no more a single unit than mine was. For every mouthy "woke" person there are 99 or more hard-working youngsters taking care of business and looking after themselves, the people they love and their communities. One of my daughter's school-friends has dedicated her working life to free market think tanks, for example. She's young but she's already done more to educate people about free market principles that I – who have lived my entire life by them – have ever done. The Misses Paine themselves, educated to the gills at the greatest single expense of my life – are contributing to the economy. Their generation certainly has a lot of leftists and identarian idiots in it, but so did ours. The number of idiots amongst them will wane as their lives progress. I was a young Maoist before I became first Chairman of my University Conservatives and then a Classical Liberal. I was a Welsh Nationalist before I came to despise people who attack others because of their prehistoric ancestry. I have been all kinds of idiot in my youth and have no locus standi to judge youthful fools now. I believe in the human spirit and its essential aspiration to be free, even if it doesn't always immediately understand the best path to that freedom.
 
The more young people have to conserve (not just economically but in their key social relationships) the more conservative they tend to become. Even the Leftest of the Left (e.g. Diane Abbott) make conservative choices about their own children's' education. We can view that cynically, or (as I prefer to do) we can smile at how the market works – not by force but by the gentle persuasion of Smith's "invisible hand". In the end, wisdom is at least partly the ability to reconcile our past idiocies, errors and hypocrisies with the reality of our lives.
 
Thank you to all of you, my gentle readers, in the past decade and a half. You have educated, inspired and encouraged me far more than I have been able to do for you. I am fond of you all (even my pet hostile who seems to have deserted me lately). Today, I have repeated my original error by pontificating rather than conversing. Despite that, please feel free to share in the comments what blogging, tweeting etc. has meant to you. 

Heaven

I have still not found my lost faith but if I do and make it to Heaven, it will be like the place I took Mrs P II tonight. The one fixed point in this trip to the Côte d'Azur was, as it has been for me on every such trip for over twenty-five years, the Restaurant de Bacon at Cap d'Antibes.

BDAC7FCF-390C-4B7C-860C-308E4FFEB3A9 7E2FF2A7-8ADE-4C79-8B7A-3083B4AD1953

If it's not a cheap place, that's partly my fault. When a kind client took me there to Sunday lunch for my first visit, it was a local institution; too far from Cannes to pick up trade from the various festivals and trade fairs held there. It was even further from Nice. The local bourgeoisie in Antibes and the wealthy types with villas on the Cap knew it well enough but that was it.

Over the following years I took many clients and contacts there from all over the world. As I returned each year with a new batch of guests, I would see my former guests hosting other tables. On one such occasion, every table was hosted by someone I had introduced. Except, that is, for one presided over by the bemused gentleman who had first taken me there. He was mildly irritated, I think, that I had spread his secret local knowledge so widely.

One family vacation we met a Russian client there who had brought his family to Antibes for their holidays so he could take them to "the Bacon". One Christmas in Chester I was telling my family that "the best restaurant in the world" was in Cap d'Antibes. Our waiter asked me if I was talking about the Bacon and when I replied "yes" he said that he had trained there and would call the owner to tell him what I had said.

E14C79CC-B850-4BA8-87C2-EDCDCCB4E201

The strange thing is that I loved it before I learned (on my recent diet) to love fish. I never willingly chose to eat it anywhere else. As we drove there in the evening heat, with Speranza's roof open to the moist air, I began to worry that I had built it up so much that Mrs P II might be disappointed. When I realised that, the old gentleman who took care of me so assiduously on that long-ago first visit having sadly passed away, the family had sold it to a new owner, I was even more worried. I need not have been. His spirit lives on. The food is as good as ever. The wine list is as spectacular as always. The service is just as impeccable.

Our waiter spoke such good English that we did not at first believe he was French. In all my years abroad working with speakers of the world's most widespread language – ESL – I have known lots of people who have achieved commendable fluency. I worked with lawyers for whom English was a second or third language and yet they functioned in it at a level most natives could not hope to reach. Yet I never met one like this young man, who could pass for a native. French cuisine's gain is French espionage's loss!

Sated and happy, we drove the long way home along the coast, rather than taking the autoroute. This allowed Mrs P II to get a sense of the South of France. It's not all Russian billionaires, bling and super yachts. There were also ordinary French families walking together through Juan-les-Pins and young people from all over Europe partying vigorously on the dark beaches as we passed. I played "Where do you go to my lovely?" by Peter Sarstedt to explain to her how a young me had first heard of a glamorous lifestyle unknown to my happy but modest childhood. He sang of Juan-les-Pins as we drove through it and I smiled. 

Tomorrow is our last full day on the Côte d'Azur. On Monday we are back on the road, heading first to Beaune.


Back to Italy

We have enjoyed restful days at our temporary home in Mougins; former home of Pablo Picasso and my favourite village anywhere. On Monday we dined with friends who are lucky enough to live there permanently. On Tuesday we visited my second favourite village, St Paul de Vence; formerly the home of Marc Chagall. But today we are back in Italy for an overnight stay,

EAE01013-16AE-41EA-9FE0-04CBECC63742
EAE01013-16AE-41EA-9FE0-04CBECC63742
EAE01013-16AE-41EA-9FE0-04CBECC63742

We were originally meant to make this tour some weeks ago and had it neatly planned so that we passed through Maranello – home of Ferrari – to take the factory tour. We had to delay the trip because Mrs P II had visa problems, but could not reschedule the factory visit to fit in so neatly with our journey. So we rose early and set off at 0700 this morning to be here for our appointment at 1430. Google Maps told us the trip would take five and a half hours, but by broadly complying with the speed limits we were able to shave enough from that to have a leisurely lunch at a nice local restaurant as well as a tour of the Ferrari Museum.

The Ferrari factory is impressive. The pace is slow. Each work station on the V12 line in the vehicle assembly building has 55 minutes to finish its tasks. There are some robots to handle tasks too dangerous for humans (e.g. immersing valves in liquid nitrogen before seating them in a hot engine head to ensure a snug fit when the temperatures match) but mostly it's artisan work. The aluminium for the engines is forged on site. The forge is the original one installed by Enzo in the 1940s but most of the rest of the factory is ultra-modern. I can show you no pictures alas, as we had to sign a non-disclosure agreement before proceeding with the tour and photos are strictly forbidden. As a keen photographer I generally won't go where my camera is not permitted but as a keener Ferrarista I broke that rule today. The photo here is from the museum.

The other guests were Ferraristi too. The only non-owners allowed on the tour are Formula One sponsors. Our guide, Giulia, took us to the engine production and assembly departments, the V12 vehicle assembly line, the Racing Team department (comprising almost one-third of Ferrari's staff) and the FXX workshop.

The FXX programme involves the production of racing versions of the road-going models. They are not street-legal and live at the factory for their first two years. The lucky owners (by invitation only) have their cars delivered to their chosen tracks by Ferrari. They arrive with a team of mechanics and all the necessary kit. You show up, drive and the car is then taken home again. I witnessed one such race at Silverstone a few years ago and one owner was not so lucky that day. He roared out of the pits and hit the opposing wall to ironic cheers from the spectators. His race-day experience was over in seconds and his car returned to the FXX workshop for expensive repairs!

I learned today that there’s an even more exclusive such hobby. The Scuderia’s non-championship-winning F1 cars are auctioned after two years to pre-qualified clients who must have bought a minimum number of other Ferraris (of certain specifications) in order to bid. If they have the engine removed, the winning bidder can take his car home. If not, it remains at Maranello, is maintained by the F1 team mechanics and brought to suitable events at the owner’s request and expense  

For me the highlights were firstly seeing the place Speranza and her engine were first united and secondly being in the holy of holies, the F1 building. No recognisable fragments of this year's three cars were on show. It was more like a laboratory than a workshop. The technicians were analysing every component before the cars are reassembled for the next race. They are dismantled and rebuilt every time, with whatever refinements the team devises (and F1 rules permit). It was also special just to park Speranza at her birthplace and be told by a kindly young receptionist that she is “a pretty one”. I’m sure she says that to all the visitors. It may even be a requirement of her employment contract. I don’t care. It made my day. 

Our tour over we were taken to the Ferrari Store and presented with a book as a gift. The other tourists went to the museum but I did not presume on the patience of my new wife (it’s our five monthiversary today) by dragging her around it a second time!

Tomorrow we will take our time returning to Mougins. We will dine with a friend at Nice (a French photographer I met on a workshop in the South of France a couple of years ago) on the way back so we’re in no rush. 


Another day in Florence

Our B&B is agreeably like staying in someone's home. We had a simple breakfast on the terrace in the morning sunshine before setting out, dressed in our lightest clothes, to face another 30℃ day. The queues at the Uffizi Gallery were an hour long, so we bought tickets in advance for the afternoon and headed to the Duomo. The queue there was around the block too, but seemed to be moving quickly so we took our place at the back. Forty-five minutes later we were by the door when a German guide leading a group of tourists barged them all in ahead of us. There is no hope for a united Europe if we cannot even harmonise basic politeness! 

It was a minor frustration and soon we were inside. Given the magnificence of the exterior, the inside of the cathedral is surprisingly plain - at least by the standards of Catholicism. It's elegant and beautiful though and we paid the fee to enter the museum in the crypts too, where excavations have revealed parts of the foundations from different periods. Our museum ticket also entitled us to climb to the viewing platform around the Dome but, rather to my relief, that was fully booked until next week. We contented ourselves by visiting the Baptistery instead  

5CA36BB3-4C3B-422A-8F83-4702897167E6
5CA36BB3-4C3B-422A-8F83-4702897167E6
5CA36BB3-4C3B-422A-8F83-4702897167E6
5CA36BB3-4C3B-422A-8F83-4702897167E6
5CA36BB3-4C3B-422A-8F83-4702897167E6
5CA36BB3-4C3B-422A-8F83-4702897167E6
5CA36BB3-4C3B-422A-8F83-4702897167E6

What can I tell you about the Uffizi? Just as Hamlet is, to moderns, a play full of familiar quotes, so the Uffizi Gallery is full of paintings and sculptures you know on sight. For Europeans, they are a part of our cultural subconscious, even if we may only have seen them on book or album covers rather than in the flesh, It was an exhausting exercise, in our enthusiasm, to try to stand in front of every one - even so briefly as to rather insult the master who made it.

I was so tired as we headed for our hotel that we decided to eat early and head back to our rest rather than change and come back out again for dinner.

Tomorrow we have a longish drive (more than five hours) to our home for the week in the South of France. We have no deeds to do when we get there however so can take our time and look out for a pleasant place to break the journey for a long lunch!