Thursday, 21 November 2013

The House of Details

 I went up to London yesterday, to visit an old friend, Leo Amery, who has opened an exhibition of his work this week at the Menier Factory Gallery.  It was a day of contrasting weather: at one point in the late afternoon the north bank of the Thames was brightly sunlit while the south bank lay in shadow.  This gave some interesting opportunities to see the one reflected in the other.  Here, St. Paul's Cathedral is seen shimmering within the foyer of the Globe Theatre.

Leo is based in the Dordogne these days, where he has his workshop.  He works in stained glass, which he had to pack and drive all the way from Martel to Southwark.  Carefully.  If you've ever driven off a cross-channel ferry, you'll know that dreadful lurching jolt as you move off the ramp, that rattles your duty-free bottles alarmingly.  It appears everything arrived safely.

My friend has two sons, and the eldest, Joey, is severely autistic.  Leo comes from a distinguished political family, and has become a consummate activist on behalf of autistic children in France, where attitudes and standards seem to lag behind those in Britain.  He has some shocking tales to tell about arrogant and dismissive officials and medical staff.  That curious greenhouse-like structure, The House of Details,  is his attempt to interpret and convey something of the autistic experience of the world.  As he writes:
For some people, the first time they enter The House of Details there is momentarily an invasive or overwhelming feeling at the quantity of visual information that is not easy to take in and/or make sense of. This may be a permanent part of perception for some people on the autistic spectrum.
We took the opportunity of this exhibition to arrange a mini-reunion of some college friends, with the result that we were in need of somewhere to eat.  While nosing around  the backstreets of Southwark looking for a restaurant, the so-called "Shard" building is inescapable -- all  1004 feet of it.  Apparently it costs £25 to ride the lift to the top and see the view.  Um, no thanks.


Rob Fuke said...

I’m not sure if attitudes and standards towards autism do lag behind Britain. I have a couple of friends who have autistic kids and the support they receive from the state is pretty good. Arrogant and dismissive officials? I’ll go along with that. I’ve been pondering the question for years and think that they are due to the dreadful education system which encourages only those with some ability. The rest are told that they are a waste of space from day one. This would explain why I find myself living in a country where there is a very high proportion of screwed up people (and the second highest suicide rate in Europe). As I have already said in my blog, the abundance of people with huge inferiority complexes make them perfect fodder for posts where they can be obstructive - les ‘petits fonctionnaires.’

Zouk Delors said...

If these are representative of the sort of photos you will take once the leash of your quotidian drudgery is severed next year, I'm looking forward to it. Not a scrap of orange safety netting in sight!

PS Monsieur Fuke 'as a bleug? Ou est-ce?