Retirement parties -- and more on the trains (sorry)
In the old days, when I showed up at a retirement party, it was for someone who seemed very old -- a senior colleague whom I didn't know very well, or someone who had taught me. Now, retirement parties are for friends, who seem pretty much my age. And I find I have a quite different attitude to their style and choreography ('would I like this for me?' tends to be a question niggling at the back of my mind).
On Wednesday I went to the party for John House, who is leaving the Courtauld Institute after thirty odd years. He's on the far left in the picture (inter alia, he works on Monet and Manet -- hence the faint outline of the "Bar at the Folies Bergeres" you see in the background).
Anyway he can't have felt horribly old, because his old PhD supervisor (Alan Bowness, in the middle) also turned up to celebrate his pupil's retirement. You know that you are still young, so long as your old teachers are still walking the planet. (This actually reminded me of going to Frank Walbank's 90th birthday party a few years ago -- and his old Director of Studies was there to give a little speech. Imagine being 90 and still having your old DoS at your party.)
On this occasion one of the best stunts was a cever little elegy for the honorand, composed by John Lowden, on the right in picture.
To understand this properly, you need to know that the Courtauld used to be basedin Home House (pronounced Hume), before it moved to Somerset House, on the Strand; and that one of the keys to understanding Manet's "Bar at the Folies Bergeres" is the precise angle of the mirror...!
Elegy to a House
A time there was when House was linked with Home
But that time passed: out House was swept by broom
South and East to Somerset’s Strand he moved
Old House in new, new home in old, by garret rooved.
And now regretfully our House is Houseless as before
Each of us wonders who now will tell how fares the final score?
Stands the mirror still at that fictitious angle?
And is there Bass for tea in the quadrangle?
The journey "home" for me was not so fun. On the 7.45 from King's Cross and there was not a seat to be had, indeed about 30 people standing in my carriage. The idea that the the rail company has the nerve to plaster the station with safety notices (see picture) and runs this kind of death trap (what would happen if the train had to brake suddenly) is a disgrace. Dont put you feet on the seats? Chance would be a fine thing.
This time wasn't as bad as last week though. For a start two nice young guys stood up at Letchworth and gave their seats to two of us oldies (I usually find the 'giving up your seat for an old person' a bit of an insult.. but on this occasion I was full of gratitude). And when I got to the barrier, there were a couple of station staff, including my adversary of the other week. But on Wednesday we exchanged a friendly, happy chat about how disgraceful it was having to stand all the way.
What a difference a few days -- and a bit of sympathy -- make. I went home pretty content.