Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Saturday 12 June 2010

An unexpectedly sunny and hot day (French weather forecasters are no more certain than ours) - so what else to do but get on a bike and wander?

Motor scooters seem to be much more in fashion than in previous years, silencers, sadly, rather less so, or my tolerance levels have gone down. A style note (a pity I couldn't get to my camera in time): a young man easing to the front of traffic queue on his scooter - the clothes and the beard said "earnest student revolutionary", but his scooter looked to have been styled by not so much a friend as a fanatical devotee of Dorothy, painted as it was in ruby red glitter, with the helmet to match, and a scruffy scrap of a dog to complete the ensemble. Definitely not in Kansas any more.

Eventually I arrived at the Grand Palais. The place was surrounded by police, as today was the grand opening of the Russian National Exhibition, and Vladimir Putin was in town. Crowds were gathering across the road at the Petit Palais, but it seemed most of those were waiting, somewhat impatiently, to get into the Yves St Laurent retrospective.

Through the glass doors of the Grand Palais, one could see some sort of skating show was in progress. Various flunkeys bustled in and out with the kind of self-importance only minor flunkeys display; gradually, they started to wave up cars from the long line outside. The stretch limousine with the flagpole oozed away around the back of the building. The police relaxed. To one side, a group of cops gathered round a van from which emerged trays of heated takeaway boxes. Show over.

At the side entrance of the Grand Palais, Russia had familiar neghbours and rivals: the exhibition of Chinese Taoism is in its last days, with no waiting queues, so I dropped in.

Taoism's longevity, the beauty and intricacy of the art it inspired and its influence on science and medicine all impress; but the complexity of the legends around the pursuit of immortality do confuse a little. The three pure breaths, eight immortals, five acred mountains, eight trigrams, five elements - museum fatigue begins to set in.

But I was quite taken by the Queen Mother of the West, keeper of the Peaches of Immortality: "dishevelled, with the tail of a leopard and the teeth of a tiger, she excelled at whistling."

No comments:

Post a Comment