If I Remember Correctly….

…. the likes of Keating and Baltracchi tell us that to convince our audience that what we’re presenting is authentic, provenance or a back-story is the starting point.

Copying paintings taught me that there was no art without effort. Careful planning, attention to detail and rejection of the slipshod or inaccurate were the keys to, maybe, moderate success. The drama of a fire in a friend’s thatched house was made newsworthy by a quick-witted passer-by, seen running from the conflagration carrying aloft a (my) Cézanne – the start of a credible back-story? – I’m not sure the Hammershoi (the one I would have saved) was so lucky.

But for me, a great deal more interesting and entertaining is the art of the pastiche. The Hillman Special is just that; something which it’s not, though it fits neatly into the casual observer’s idea of things. Randy Regier, an American artist and one time curator of The Museum of the Other American Dream (MOAD) has refined this art form to a point where pastiche and reality are all but indistinguishable.

Regier’s 2007 MFA thesis looked at the way in which social history had been recorded since the Industrial Revolution with the unwitting assistance of the humble toy. He (and other commentators) had been astute in recognising that the development of Western social structures, complete with expectations and prejudices, had been paralleled in the evolution of children’s toys.

What Regier did then (and continues to do) was to embark on an exercise that playfully subverted our memories by presenting us with ‘phantom’ toys (of the period but eluding the memory) simultaneously drawing our attention to subtexts which we, as children, wouldn’t necessarily have noticed at the time, or even since.

Accompanied by convincing back-stories, almost impeccable provenance and faux period packaging to boot, of course, we think we can kind of remember if not the actual toy, then certainly the genre. This subversion (it’s carefully engineered to leave a convincing 1% of doubt) and our response to it, demonstrates to us that history is not unalterable and, more importantly, that the facts of history may not be the truth.

I first came across Regier’s work on a website that I recommend to everyone with an interest in cars, motorcycles, aircraft, boats and everything in between – silodrome.com. The site showcased this unusual pulse-jet propelled scooter produced in the cloak-and-dagger days of the Cold War. That this scooter, its supporting documentation, photographic evidence of a production run and its subsequent deployment in the field had been over-looked or, more persuasively, suppressed, ladled gravitas in buckets on Regier’s confection.

Pre-dating the current ‘barn find’ obsession, the central theme in Regier’s thesis was supported by the story of an almost complete 1920’s, home-built racing car hidden in the basement of an old bakery in Portland, Maine. Unusually, this car was built by a woman, Anna Isaak, whose story started in just post-revolution Russia. She emigrated to the USA, worked as a welder on the Liberty ship programme and died decades later, leaving behind only a suitcase containing a few clues to her racing ambitions and personal history. Regier’s carefully convoluted research culminates in the discovery and recovery of the car.

There’s a line in Frankenheimer’s ‘Ronin’, spoken by Robert De Niro: ‘If there’s doubt, there is no doubt’.

It’s worth remembering.


That’s A Good Idea….

I bought a jar of instant coffee from the supermarket across the road from the hotel and later, unscrewing the lid, saw that there was a small red tab to assist in the removal of the airtight inner seal. Progress! No more bits-of-silver-paper-in-your-coffee woes.

I thought it was too good to be true.

The water pump on the Hillman started to play up just before I left for Norway and, as I can remove it practically blindfold, I thought I’d whip it off and replace it with my previously re-engineered spare – which I did. A 147 mile round trip went off without any problems but, the next morning I was greeted with a large puddle of water on the workshop floor.

The first pump had quite a lot of play in the bronze bush so that had to be renewed and whilst I was at it, I replaced both lip seals, both sealed bearings and, added an extra lip seal in place of the worse-than-useless felt washer which sits on the pulley end of the shaft. I don’t know why I hadn’t done that before.

The other weak point in the design is the drain hole underneath the pump which I assume gives notice of water ingress into the void between the inner and outer bearings indicating a failing seal. I bung this up with Araldite – not best practice but, buys me a few more miles as the water is held by the outer sealed bearing and the extra lip seal. I’m always looking in the radiator and constantly monitoring the gauges so I’m unlikely to be caught out…. in theory.

I didn’t have time to fully investigate the second pump which, I vaguely recall, had caused a bit of trouble before and I’d packed it up with lithium grease as a get-you-home spare to take to Lelystad.

There were a few more paintings in the Oslo National Gallery that caught my eye but didn’t get round to mentioning….

Vilhelm Hammershoi’s, ‘The Coin Collector’; always a bonus to see a Hammershoi and, this charming scene, ‘Braiding Her Hair’, by Christian Krohg.

Picasso was well represented and it was interesting to see three of his works, spanning nearly 25 years, altogether and on one wall. The first, ‘Man and Woman in a Café’, 1903 (towards the end of his ‘Blue Period’)…..

… ‘Guitar and Glass’, 1911….

…and ‘Still Life’, 1927.

Although not a favourite of mine, Picasso was certainly a highly skilled colourist. When I worked in Florida, I occasionally had a game of poker with a chap who was valet to either Mrs Proctor or Mrs Gamble – I can’t remember which but, in his grace and favour flat in Palm Beach, just along from ‘The Banana Boat’ – a bar we’d patronise before Martin would relieve me of what little money I had – was an early Picasso charcoal sketch of a young girl. It was the first time I’d ever seen a work of art by a household name in a private residence. I’ve never forgotten it….

…unlike this entirely forgettable nonsense I tripped over in the gallery; must have seemed a good idea at the time.


All Hands On Deck…

… for the first of the season’s catering events.

Dinner table

Cook and the team got off to a gentle start looking after 21 people for a couple of days in a very grand house in Suffolk. This wasn’t the first time at this particular venue and so, to continue the metaphor, we knew the ropes.

Discreet staff

During a break in the proceedings I spotted an idea for a painting. I enjoy watching shadows and big houses with strange lighting always seem to have plenty of them.

Rear bulkhead bracket

I’ve found a use for the two small brackets that I’d had cut out and folded by the laser-cutting people. They’re perfect for the rear bulkhead and because they’re detachable, I can still gain access to the spare wheel brace if there’s a problem (there’s quite a lot of weight hanging on the back). I showed the door handle the polishing wheel and although I thought it would need to be re-nickled, I was pleasantly surprised at the way it came back to life..

Door handle

There’s just enough pitting on it to make it look right.

Backing plate

The back plate came up trumps as well although the nickel had worn off completely. I might still re-nickel that as it would be better to have a more or less consistent finish throughout on the same bit of equipment.

Tail brace

The lower longerons at the tail have been tied together with a bolt and an aluminium plate – it’s all very rigid now.

Skin support blocks

Apart from shaping the skin support blocks behind the seats, I haven’t really been able to make a lot of progress this week. At one point I decided that perhaps I’d put the door in the wrong place and it should have been a couple of inches further back but the thought of moving it was too much, so it’s going to stay where it is. It was the forward cockpit coaming that threw up this anomaly and it looked as though the passenger side of the coaming was going to be further forward than the driver’s side – contrary to what might be expected. However, I think I’ve thunked a way round that by combining more of the coaming support with the top of the door and keeping the supporting blocks the same size on both sides.

Many years ago, I was introduced to the work of a Danish artist, Hammershoi. I was commissioned to reproduce one of his paintings and I think that it was his style and palette that first alerted me to the world – obviously not disconnected but still somehow separate to our own – of shadows.

Hammershoi copy

I’m jolly glad not to have been a deck-hand in the period when this girl was a girl.