Who gets to decide?

We’re sat for our second night in a small layby on a road that carries a car once every half a day, right beside the Brest/Nantes canal. The French don’t do canals as you and I know them. They do big canals. Even their small ones, like the one we’re on, are three times as big as ours. This doesn’t mean that you can take a supertanker down one, as a French family found out last night. They got their old (but lovely) Dutch barge stuck in a lock just up from where Doris is parked. The canal emergency services were called (one man, a Peugot Boxer and a circular saw), and an hour later with the upstream sluices open – forcing the stuck mega-barge through the lock like a cork out of a bottle, all was well.

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That’ll be stuck then

Between the last blog and now we’ve pottered. I suppose the best thing (other than doing v little) we’ve done is visit Chateau de Kerguehennec, a modest chateau in the woods. We stayed there for the night, and before we watched one of the DVDs we’d brought with us, we popped in and had a look. First, a plus, it’s all free. Second, it’s a pretty place with plenty of park for walkers. Third, and at first, not so good, the chateau is renown for its sculpture park. This is true. It does have a sculpture park – all modern bits of metal and wood stuck together at jaunty, incomprehensible angles – but hardly inspiring. Inside (which is also free!), is more modern art including a special trip upstairs to see the special gallery … mmmm.

Now, I know not a great deal about art, save that I have painted and drawn, to the point where we do have some of my stuff on the walls at home. But, I am no expert. What gets me about modern art, isn’t that it’s – cliché – trash. I say that because I think I understand the curves and the colours. The indecipherability and simplicity. I get why some people might find that attractive. What I don’t get, is who decides? Why is Tracy Emin’s bed any more of a work of art than our daughter, Rebecca’s? There both as untidy. What makes, I kid you not, a piece of wood leant against the wall in the chateau (titled, mysteriously, as ‘Leaning’), any better than one that I could put together from B&Q. Who gets to decide? It’s a mystery to me.

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But … and it’s a big but. We opted for the special ‘upstairs tour’. A woman gave us ticket with a specific time, which was 90 seconds later then the person before you, and 90 seconds earlier than the person after you. You had to put all of your stuff in a locker, get a special briefing from another woman by a lift. Then get in the lift on your own (one, which the manufacturer happily stated, would take 8 big Americans), get out in the dark and be briefed (quietly) by a third person, sat in the dark on a chair. And then feel your way around the exhibit.

It was all dark. No, sorry, black. There was the odd bit of light. And even though there was only 90 seconds between visitors, you were on your own. Spooky. It was like when I did an outward bound course as a 16 year old and ten of us were sent down a mine, roped together with no torches and no watches – but with dried food enough for a day. You couldn’t see a thing. Your pupils could have been the size of dinner plates and you would have still been blind. All of us lost track of time. When we got out I thought we’d been in there for 12 hours. Actually we’d been underground for 24 hours. Weird. Anyhow, back to the exhibits, which were room-sized and subtly lit: they were just fabulous. It was like a coal mine, with hundreds of repeated black objects, massive swirls, a sunken desk and chair – and a room which looked liked one of those from The Da Vinci Code, with black skull shapes on black shelves. Fabulous. Worth every penny …

Anyhow, we found the canal, parked up, cycled to a local town, watched TV, ran this morning and then did not a great deal. Except that I have written …

I’ve forgotten how difficult and all-consuming this is. Each book is at least 120,000 words, that’s one-and-a-half times the maximum length of PhD thesis. And I write one of them a year – this is my fifth. When you finish, it’s like getting to the end of a marathon. ‘I’m never doing that again.’ Twenty minutes later, that’s a distant memory and you’re up for the next challenge. The problem with a new book is that you have to start with a lot of description. New characters require introduction. Even old characters need to be set into their new environment. And it’s tough. I read today on Twitter that an unimaginative person can write 500 words (that’s about a page) in 10 minutes. An imaginative person takes 10 times as long. You’re telling me. However, I’m now well into Chapter 2 (out of 22), and 8,500/140,000 words down. And I’m exhausted.

Never mind. At least I’m getting paid well.