Resource: St. Paul’s Cathedral, Collingwood, Nelson, Old Jerv and the waste bin

7 May, 2008 at 10:28 pm Leave a comment

I’ve just returned from my two-day-trip to London. A more detailed report with additional pictures will follow some other place; for now, I will talk about St. Paul’s Cathedral, Old Jerv and the waste bin, tacky Nelson memorabilia and some musings on Old Cuddy.

Please say hello to John, 1st Earl St. Vincent. I probably don’t have to introduce “Old Jerv” to those among you who are interested in the history of the Royal Navy, but for everybody else: he was one of Britain’s great naval heroes, paved the way for Nelson’s success and has his own monument at St. Paul’s Cathedral. That one here is a “promotional shot”. The type of picture you might find in an art book. Nice, isn’t it? Good work.

Old Jervis

NEVER TRUST PICTURES.

Old Jervis

Old Jervis inscription

Next time there’s a thunderstorm, I’ll imagine it’s Old Jerv ranting about his monument ending up next to a waste bin. Unfortunately, you can’t see the tables and chairs right in front of Old Jerv’s nose and the “Ladies/Gents” signs a little further to the left.

He shouldn’t complain, though – there’s a judge whose monument is flanked by an identical waste bin and a cardboard promotion for caffee latte. While I can only recommend the coffee (the house-made lemonade and the chocolate muffins are excellent as well), I thought it was a bit – much. An odd sight. And it was not the only one.

The souvenir shop at St. Paul’s Cathedral sells Emma Lady Hamilton and Nelson memorabilia, for example. “Buy the ring of love between Nelson and Emma”. That? Hilarious. Don’t get me wrong, Nelson’s love life was his own business, but you must admit that this celebration of adultery in a church is a somewhat unexpected thing to see.

Up to a point I can understand it, though. St. Paul has to be funded. Renovations have to be paid for. That’s why you have to pay a hefty 10 quid to enter the cathedral. The government fails to do its duty there (just like with everything else, from social and medical services to education, art etc.). But hey – I’m sure Old Jerv won’t mind standing next to a waste bin if this ensures that funds are available for Wills of the Wicked Windsors to land his helicopter in the backyard of his girlfriend. Priorities, folks, priorities!

It’s probably only a matter of time before some clever PR gnome comes up with the bright idea that chocolate boxes in the shape of Nelson’s sarcophagus would be one hell of a smashing gift for Valentine’s Day.

Nelson Trafalgar Square

All that aside: St. Paul’s Cathedral is a “must see place”. The architecture, the artworks are breathtaking, even for an art-peasant like me. I haven’t always appreciated the place, though – when I was a teenager, I’ve been herded with my school mates through St. Paul’s and was bored out of my skull. I was 16. I couldn’t have cared less for monuments of people wearing silly clothes that I had never heard of. London? I wanted to party and go shopping!

The beauty of St. Paul’s, this treasure box of art and history was completely wasted on me – all I thought of was getting wasted.

St. Pauls

St. Pauls

I returned twenty years and many books later, and the experience was a completely different one this time. Because now I “know” those “people wearing silly clothes”. Standing in front of Captain George Duff’s monument, I remembered the touching letter his son Norwich, thirteen years old at the time, wrote home to his mother after his father had been beheaded by a canon ball during the Battle of Trafalgar. It wasn’t simply a monument anymore; the artwork in marble had become alive and told a story.

I’ve seen the drawings and read the descriptions of Nelson’s funeral – so how could I not stand in front of St. Pauls in awe, if only for a short moment, imagining how it must have been on the day of his funeral? That’s when history comes alive. There’s a connections between past and present. Without this connection, I couldn’t write.

Seeing Collingwood’s monument was one of the highlights for me – probably not much of a surprise for regular readers of my journal.

Collingwood

It’s beautiful and, compared to other monuments, not pompous at all. Placed under a window, the sun serves as a natural spotlight. People don’t notice it, tourist after tourist passes by. Collingwood is “not important”. A quick glance at times, but nobody halted to read the inscription. I know this because, geek that I am, I stood there for more than half an hour, just allowing my mind to wander. A good place. A peaceful place.

“Then I will plant my cabbages again, and prune my goosberry trees, cultivate roses, and twist the woodbine through the hawthorn hedge…”

Collingwood

Let’s hope they’ll never place an ice-cream cart in front of him.

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Entry filed under: art, cuthbert collingwood, nelson, resource, royal navy. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Resource/Collingwood: Punishment of Midshipmen; the Collingwood Brothers News: Pirates can claim UK asylum…

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