The National Gallery

The train was, as overcrowded as I might (or indeed should) have expected. It does not take long to ascertain from the general prevalence of scarves and cans of lager that a Welsh Rugby match is to be played in London today. The man standing next to me on the train talks at his mobile phone for the entirety of the journey. I was not certain whether there was anyone at the other end of the line.

I finally arrive in London. A group of Kurdish protesters have gathered in Trafalgar Square, carrying banners bearing the words ‘Free General Occalan Now.’ I make my way through them and walk through the doors to the National Gallery. Two men stride past me, one of them astutely observing that ‘you could almost mistake this for an art gallery!’ ‘Yes. You could,’ a door attendant retorts, not quite beneath his breath. I stray around the paintings residing in the east wing. The majority, though not all, of the paintings here belong to the nineteenth and twentieth periods.

I’m eventually struck by the way in which Holbein had caused the perception of objects in his paintings to alter according to the angle from which they are viewed, an allegory of the manner in which reality has differing aspects that alter according to one’s standpoint. Another example of this would be Velasquez, whose work abounds in mirrors; a woman reclines upon a bed, her back to the viewer. A mirror is held up to her face, allowing the onlooker to see her from two different angles.

When I leave I decide to go shopping, and walk into a shop, whose name I forget. A man with viciously cropped hair and urban camouflage trousers is waving a small plastic wand with a pink star at the end in the air. The image is oddly metonymic.

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