Wednesday, 13 January 2016

I try all things, I achieve what I can

I had a day off from my day-job yesterday (yesterday being, in this case, 12/1/16) you know… A lot of you won’t recognise the enormity of that statement – But those who have met me face to face (or face to any part of my morphologically improbable body) will know that I don’t take time off.  In fact, I often get reminded by my colleagues, in the latter part of the year, “Oi, Dandy, you know you’ve still got 22 days holiday left to take in the next two weeks?”

But anywho, I was off work yesterday and that was the important thing.  Initially, it was because my daughter had her last meaningful parents’ evening at her senior school and I wanted to see if any of her teachers had suddenly become less ineffectual (some had, some hadn’t, as is the way of things) – Please note, I wholly appreciate that Secondary School teachers have a set of problems all their own, mostly that they’re no longer allowed to punish, discipline, chastise, castigate, reprove or otherwise beat senseless their charges, who are often taller, wider, spottier and not beholden to any kind of government ratified rulesets that tie their hands firmly behind their backs – But then some are just namby-pamby twig-eating liberal hippies (My name’s Ben Elton… Goodnight!)

Ah no, don’t go… I haven’t finished yet.

Where were we? Ah yes, day off.  As luck would have it, it was not long after Mrs. Dandy had told me that my presence was required, and then reminded me – a mere fifteen or sixteen times, that I should book the day as holiday, that I was contacted by the massively popular, Norfolk based mixed media artist, Caroline Hack – whom I’ve known, via a plethora of mutual friends on social media, for a number of years, who requested a ‘meeting’.

N.B. Aren’t commas brilliant?

If you’ve not heard of the hugely talented lady in question, then it probably means that you’re just not that into historic whaling or wildly inappropriate Scandinavian songs about whaling, or whaling shanties, or fabric sperm whales, or Moby Dick, or maps, or the scientific study of the actual ratio of Polar-bear head size to polar bear skull size (Did you know, the Inuit name for the polar bear is ‘Nanook’? – I know I didn’t) – If you get the chance to visit her at one of her many residencies, you totally should – She’s very educational. The Memsahib even described her as incredibly passionate (Which is odd, because I only left them alone long enough for me to get the teas in – Earl Grey they were, very nice… I hugely recommend the Coffee House at the Central Museum & Art Gallery in Derby – Good staff, very clean.)

The brilliant Nature Gallery at Derby Museum

We met up in the Nature Gallery of my local museum (see above) – Being two people who had never met ‘in the flesh’ – We agreed that, to make things easier, she would wear a badge featuring a whale and I would wear a bow-tie, as I often tend to in every-day life.  We found each other with not too much bother, as most of the other patrons were less than four feet high and we could see over them – It was a visiting school party, rather than the organised outing for morally corrupt dwarves that you lot were no doubt imagining.  

The reason for this somewhat cloak and dagger meeting was that I’d received the honour of being invested into a world-spanning art project that Caroline has masterminded.  She has produced a limited edition of exactly 100 numbered, hand-made, foot-long, fabric whales that she provides to the great and the good (and myself, and the famous author and mental health Champion James Josiah, and my good friend Nathan – whose wife Victoria has the patience of a saint – trust me) on the proviso that they ‘have adventures’ and are photographed doing so – It’s a sort of global, movable art installation you see, in a ‘here is one of my whales at the top of the Empire State Building.’ or ‘This whale is posed, ironically, on an authentic James Durfee harpoon from 1862.’ Or ‘Here is a whale being held by Russell Crowe on the set of Noah.’ It’s a sort of a big deal you see, made me genuinely proud to be a part of it, and all it cost me was the basing of a character on Caroline in my new book – The fact that I chose to base a Goddess on her didn’t enter into it at all of course. *cough*

I was also introduced to the thoroughly wonderful Andrea Hadley-Johnson and her colleague, Rachel Atherton, both from the museum. Who, apart from being stupendous people in their own right, let us surreptitiously, but very reverently, fondle a real, live (well, not live, obviously – That’d be bloody silly, we’d have drowned and/or gotten horribly gored and eaten or something probably) narwhal tusk.  They’re funny old things you know - quite heavy, hollow, and almost freakishly smooth – Which is due to all the ceaseless fondling I should imagine – And yes, I’m talking about the tusk, not the nice ladies from the museum – I don’t know them anywhere near well enough to be able to say whether the same description applies.

Mrs Dandy, a Narwhal tusk, and half a Rachel Atherton

There was a tiny amount of pomp and a smattering of ceremony, photos were taken, words were said, the Pangolin-whale was introduced to the real Pangolin who resides in the museum’s Nature Gallery and then passed into my greasy clutches with whispered washing instructions and threats that my ownership was merely a ‘Fostering’ relationship and the artist retained the right to instantly repossess it if she suspected any kind of foul-play was on the cards.

Pagolin Whale meets Pangolin (Tweet via Derby Museum Nature Gallery)

At one point, Ms Atherton asked me if I was a ‘Naturalist’ – which is a damn fair question under the circumstances, and she was politely taken aback when I replied, “No, I’m just an idiot, who sometimes names his books after Pangolins.” – Which is, from now on, how I will introduce myself to dignitaries of any type.

On the whole, it was an excellent day, I met some wonderful people, visited a truly brilliant museum (Support your local museum – Both by attending regularly and donating if you can – They are under threat), drank some splendid tea, and I became the owner of a whale, who amongst you can say that you’ve spent a dull Tuesday doing all those things?

For those of you who would like to know what number my whale was, of the strictly 100 whales involved in the project… well, It was number 101, obviously.

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