Anne here —and I'm in New York! I'm here for the annual national conference of Romance Writers of America, which starts in a few days. I always come a few days early, because coming from Australia, jet-lag is always a problem, so I give myself time to recover before the conference starts.
There are people who say jet lag doesn't exist, that it's all imaginary. To those people I say, bah, humbug! — you try sitting 24 hours on a plane and then attempt to interact intelligently with people at a time your body is normally asleep.
A cloister is an open space, usually rectangular, surrounded by covered walks or open galleries. It's usually attached to a church, and is commonly associated with a monastic order of some sort. The word "cloistered" usually means enclosed, and when I first got there, I was sure it had housed an order of nuns or monks at some stage, it had such an aura of peace and contemplation.
But these cloisters were never a home to any monks or nuns — it was built as a museum, taken from and inspired by the art and architecture of medieval Europe from the 12th to the 15th centuries. It's a branch of the Metropolitan Museum.
We went there by subway, and then walked through some stunning gardens, cool forests of tall trees, wonderful stonework, lush perennial beds, up on a rocky outcrop overlooking the city — Fort Tyron. Being jetlagged it was some time before we discovered the actual cloisters, but the gardens were so peaceful and lovely we probably wouldn't have minded if we wandered forever and never found the building. But eventually we did, and it was well worth the wandering.
It's a beautiful place, and contains thousands of ancient, precious and beautiful works of art brought over from Europe. I must confess, I felt ambivalent when I saw so many items taken from this little church in Italy, or that one in France or Spain.
It reminded me that so many ancient works of art have been removed from their original sites and are on display far from their natural home, like the Elgin marbles in London, still a sore point for many Greeks, and the many ancient Egyptian artefacts scattered around the world, works displayed in some foreign site that had nothing to do with their original creations.
Even though I know that these items were purchased legitimately, and even though I was delighted to be able to see them so sensitively displayed in this beautiful site, I still felt a little ambivalent.
Jetlag also played a part in how I responded to the various works of art. I did try to listen to the guide explaining all kinds of no-doubt-fascinating details, but my brain was a little floaty, and my concentration kept drifting off. My friend, who'd arrived a day before me and was therefore allegedly more on the ball, was just as bad, and we found ourselves quite distracted by various artists' portrayal of the Virgin Mary and various saints.
That's what we found ourselves doing with some of the statues. "She looks too smug," I'd say about one statue. "She's a nasty piece of work — look at that hard mouth," my friend would say of another. This one was too superior and sanctimonious, that one was just plain exhausted, poor thing — and look how tightly that poor baby was swaddled.
We treated the various saints to the same irreverent attitude — the improbable warrior angel, this very dodgy-looking magi (magus?) — would you let your child accept a gift from this man?
St Roch — great legs, shame about the buboes –plague sores( he's the patron saint of the plague.) Also his eating habits left a bit to be desired, we thought. His dog, Linus, brought him bread to eat and licked his open sores.
And yes, I admit it was a completely frivolous and no doubt reprehensible attitude to be taking in such an environment. I blame the jetlag.
Today we visited the Met and saw a regency era exhibition called Room With a view, which was charming. But then we went to the Alexander McQueen exhibition and it just blew us away. Amazing garments and a whole undertow of subtext that's not about fashion but about a worldview — quite the most brilliant and thought-provoking exhibition I've seen in years.
We've ridden on the subway and on buses, we've shopped, we've looked and we've tramped all over the place until our feet are aching. Such a lot of wonderful things to see in New York and so little time. Today people will start arriving for the RWA conference, there are various get-togethers planned, wenchly and otherwise, and it will all build up to the RITA awards on Friday night. The finalists are here — and so many wenches among them! And two of my retreat partners, so it's going to be an exciting night.
So I have a tiny window of opportunity to see a little more of New York. And then I'm off to Chicago for a couple of days before winging my way home. Any suggestions for places to visit in New York or Chicago? Any tips on who you think/hope will win a RITA?
And PS, I just heard that my dog back home in Australia has become very ill and might need an operation. So, please, good thoughts for my little Chloe dog.