Or How All Good Things Come to an End

John Howe writes: I confess to being a creature of habit. Good and bad, of course, but nevertheless…

Closing weekend this weekend in Saint-Ursanne. The banners and statues will remain in place until the end of September, but the rest will be packed away.

Also, given that Alan Lee will be there on the Sunday, a certain amount of congestion is definitely going to occur. I think he will remember his first visit to Switzerland as being… very busy.

The organizers have edited a lovely series of postcards (yes, I know it makes little sense to have these at the END of the exhibition, but put it down to my pain-in-the-neck attitude concerning quality and atmosphere.) They can be ordered via the official site. Most of the photos are courtesy of (the very talented) professional photographer Darrin Vanselow.

Click here to view the postcards
At any rate, as a creature of habit, I initially found difficult the requirements of weekly driving to Saint-Ursanne as the statues were taking shape. Now that I no longer need to, I awake before dawn Tuesday mornings wondering just what it is that’s missing. Initially I looked with some dismay at my “days-John-Howe-present” calendar, now that my presence is not required, I find that I miss being dragged out of my lair. (On the other hand, I’ve finally realized why I don’t teach or give courses on a regular basis.)

I was intending to write something witty and philosophical about how all good things must have an ending, but a certain precipitation of things-to-do has left me high and dry, well above the tideline of idle creativity. Also, with the two books appearing this fall, the curiously dismaying lull that follows delivery and proofreading is now nearly over as the publishing dates draw closer and most spare moments are consumed by details-to-supply, resized-images-to-send and articles-to-go-over just in case I-didn’t-mean-to-say-exactly-that.

Actually, just now I am struggling with essential trivia like just how much was the fine that the Greek court condemned Heinrich Schliemann to pay to the Turkish authorities for smuggling Priam’s Treasure out of Troy under his wife’s red shawl. One source says 5000 dollars, another says 50,000 francs (but WHICH “francs”, or are these the piasters that Turkey used prior to switching to lira, about the same time the judgement was made) or 10,000 francs (or dollars, it depends). And how much is that worth in today’s currency?
Or what year was it in A.D. 1?

Or why do historians call the Phoenicians a “merchant race”? (Is that ALL they did? Are we a “computer race”?) or seem to think the inhabitants of Mohenjo-daro were dull because their bricks are all the same size?

Or more practical matters, such as how much of the face of the northernmost colossus of Memnon was intact before Napoleon’s troops decided it would be perfect for target practice? (As for the one Severus Septimus so summarily stacked up again, which of the blocks are made of sandstone and which of quartzite? And will my editor pay my trip to go see if I asked politely?) Or what might the ceremonial fire-bowl of a high priest of Cahokia have really looked like, or a view of Ultima Thule? How do you walk a songline? What colour was Eve’s hair, and how many legs did that pesky serpent have? Could anyone read rongorongo? Who wrote the letter from Prester John? How many towers in storied Camelot, and how far by boat to Avalon?
Where have all the unicorns gone?

So, with all these interrogations buzzing like pesky bees around (and in) my little head, this witty and philosophical newsletter will not be written. (If I can remember one-tenth of what I’ll have written for the book at hand, I’ll be amply satisfied.)

Thankfully, there are other distractions.

Saint-Ursanne will be auctioning off the sculptures and the banners, as well as the ink-jet prints from the Cloister. A 25-foot fern was JUST what your garden needed? There still might be room in the garage for a 75-foot dragon? That banner of Gollum would be just perfect in the stairwell? Now’s your chance, the auction is here. Starting once the show closes, and ending on September 30th. (The auction pages will be in English, French and German. If they are not quite ready by the time this goes on line, they will be very shortly.)

See you in a few weeks.