My wonderful Daddy came up to London to spend the day with me, which – when he first suggested it – was a source of some anxiety to me. Aside from the many years he spent driving me to my ballet lesson and then waiting in the car for me before taking me home* and one occasion when we went to Pizza Hut together – which must have been my first year of Uni – I can’t remember a time that my Daddy and I have been alone together. I suppose this is what happens when you come from a big family, there’s always just too many people around. So, a small part of me worried that he’d come all this way and we wouldn’t be able to find anything to say to one another. I should have corrected myself on that, recognised it as faulty thinking. I have always preferred the company of men, they’re just so much easier to deal with than women (with their ulterior motives and witchy intuition), so I should have know we’d have a good time whatever we got up to.
And we did.
We went to the National Gallery to look at religious art. My dad challenged me to a quick game of Saint-spotting, and I got a bit nervous, sure that I should be able to recognise more of them. I remembered St Peter would be carrying keys, or often sitting with a cathedral on his knee but, beyond that, it was all a bit hazy. So my Dad gave me a quick lesson. Some of the paintings there have so many saints in, it starts to feel a little like a Where’s Wally. “What you have to look out for,” says my Daddy “is the guy who ran around the back and got painted in on both ends”.
One of my favourite paintings for this was The Coronation of the Virgin with Adoring Saints, which is attributed to Jacopo di Cione. There’s a picture above, which I have borrowed from the National Gallery website, if I’m breaking any copyright laws, I apologise. I don’t mean any harm. One of the first things that struck me about the saints that are surrounding, were just how many women there were. “Some people would argue there aren’t enough” says my wise, old Dad. Feminist Theology was never something I really got on with. I gave up, a long time ago, worrying why there weren’t more women in the Bible (not nice ones, anyway). It doesn’t seem to me that it isn’t that God doesn’t like women (check out the statistics regarding vicars and their offspring, I’ll bet more of their kids are female than male – a sure sign that God loves girls best). There are fewer women in the Bible because that was what it was like back then (not fewer women, just fewer important and notable ones). Interesting, though, that all of the women in this painting are standing in the back row, with just a few exceptions.
A quick lesson for you [Apologies that these pictures are so small, enlarging them just warps the image].
We had to leave the National Gallery after a while, because all the pictures of the Coronation of the Virgin were upsetting our Protestant sympathies. I was worried he we might start projectile vomiting like something out of Little Britain.
My Dad told me he hadn’t realised how Protestant his leanings were, until he went to the Holy Land last year. I remember once, when I was a teenager and being quite cross about something a bit too High Anglican for my liking, my Dad said “I don’t know what I did to raise such a Protestant”. I took it as a compliment**.
After all the theological geekery, we went to the Apple store to buy him an iPad. And something about that is why I prefer the company of men.
* he said he would practise his harmonica during that hour, or read, but I’m starting to suspect he might have snuck off to the pub… that’s what I’d do)
** For my Roman Catholic readers, I have to point out that this is some kind of messed-up Anglican humour, and is in no way meant to be offensive…