At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017


For some reason which I cannot explain, I woke up with an image in my mind, startlingly vivid, yet in my subconscious entirely unrecollected for many years. A painting reproduced in a book which I read when I was ten. Having learned to read Dutch fast and fluently in the first year of grammar school, in the second year when I was sick for several weeks I taught myself how to do the same to the language we spoke at home, that being English. I quickly exhausted my home school assignments, and had run out of stuff to read suitable for Netherlandish kiddies of my age.

[It helps that like Dutch, English is a Germanic tongue and shares many words in slightly different guise. The alefbeis is the same, peculiarities of spelling are not a great stumbling block, and though English borrows and butchers Latin to a far greater extent, there are always clues. No, rifle, fragile, precipice, praecipe and Penelope (the daughter of king Icarius and Periboea) did not form a significant part of my speech, and as a result I remained foggy on their pronunciation for several more years. Riflay, froggeelay, prissipay, presspay... and fair Pen-nuh-lowp, pining for Oddy Sauce. But also pinda, pisang, ketjap, and senang.]

Pretty soon I was reading more mature stuff.

No, not smut. Though I did know many of the scientific terms for parts of the human body (circulatory system, the renal and digestive organs and functions, plus human reproduction), which is just as good. I would not appreciate smut for several more years, and even today I do not know which of my parents actually owned Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure ('Fanny Hill'), a happy literary discovery when I was twelve.
It is very British nastiness. Fascinating!
Oh, the words it contained!

When I was ten I was still innocently discovering the world, in copiously illustrated books about Adam and Eve, the Leviathan, the Crusades, the Rape of Mexico, Columbus, Pizarro, Savonarola, Brueghel, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Gutenberg, Zhou Dynasty Bronzes, and the Tang period.

From that last came the painting below.

[Ming Huang's Journey to Shu (明皇幸蜀圖), from the Palace Museum in Taipei]


In the year 756, after a reign of forty three years, the emperor Hsuan Tsung (唐玄宗) fled the rebels advancing on the capital, and with his entourage headed to Sichuan (四川), which anciently was named Shu (蜀).

The text accompanying the painting spoke fascinatingly of Turks, ministers and chancellors, concubines, eunuchs, corruption, and angry military officers finally demanding the execution of the pleasingly plump consort lady Yang (Yang Kueifei 楊貴妃), whose relatives had destroyed the nation and caused the upheaval that forced the court to depart for the safety of Chengdu (成都).

Subsequent thereto, many of her relatives also ended up dead.

For a ten year old, reading all this was thrilling stuff.
And required frequent recourse to a dictionary.

The scenery shown above particularly excited my mind, as such verticality is, you understand, rare in Holland. Non-existent. Incomprehensible.

The painting has aged well, those faded hues are pleasing and elegant.
The mental image is still thrilling and vibrant, the soaring peaks remain as other-worldly and near-unbelievable as they were then.

Possibly what I ate late last night brought this up. Chicken pesto pizza.
It was rich and delicious, brimming with greasy goodness.
And covered with a sploodge of hot sauce.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


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