There that was fun wasn't it?
Spain is great. An entire nation incapable of efficiency. On the up-side, they aren't cursed, like the British, with impatience – which is just self-importance on a time axis.
As well as mooning around in Cafe Comercial with a pencil pretending to be a writer, I also had time to read a bit more about Eric Gill. I read biographies, mainly of authors and rock-stars, as a form of self help. You can spot the narcissists on the Underground, flicking back to the beginning of their Life of Keith Richards, to check how old he was when Exile on Mainstreet came out and confirm that there's still time for them to make that move they've been planning, from second division advertising copywriter to rock icon. I also occasionally read biographies of serial killers, like Fred West. These I find more cheering, because their notoriety is based not on success but chaotic failure. Their lives tend to have a different sort of shape – the temptation for the biographer of a successful subject is to arrange everything neatly around his or her achievements, like iron filings around a magnet – where as life as it is lived feels like so much stumbling, blindly groping for the next moment's gratification.
I started reading about Eric Gill for my next piece in Bulimics' Digest. Gill was a typographer responsible for, amongst other things, the beautiful Gill Sans face, used by the BBC and latterly every single Brit brand looking for a type that's vaguely reminiscent of scouting manuals and books about knots. Gill was also a sculptor of some genius, producing the statue of Ariel at Broadcasting House and Westminster Cathedral's Stations of the Cross – controversially some might say since he managed to have sex with an array of people who weren't his wife, some of whom he was nonetheless related to, and some of whom weren't even people.
Many questioned the appropriateness his work appearing in a Catholic Cathedral. Suffice to say that these people were viewing the situation from a moral, rather than an artistic point of view. The Fiona McCarthy biography deals with all this pretty coolly. It seems like if, as a biographer, you discover that kind of thing about your subject you just have to keep going, because what else are you going to do? I read a biography of Evelyn Waugh which suggested that having sex with 9 year olds in Egypt was just what literary men did in the 1930s.
The comparison with West is slightly facile, since, so far as we know, Gill never kidnapped, killed or tortured anyone. Nor, according to his biographer (however worrying the implications of this might be) did he rape anyone. His daughters grew up to be relatively well adjusted, under the circumstances. And despite these revelations about Gill's lifestyle his reputation is, if anything, resurgent right now.
What he shares with West and latterly, Josef Fritzl, is a kind of dismay at the idea that what he was doing was wrong, or very far beyond the bounds of normal behaviour. All three developed a large extended family for themselves, effectively a small society – with rules they could control. All three were, to differing degrees, technically gifted. West's children describe him as "always working" and as well as his famous contribution to the mystique of the patio, he also constructed Rose's Black Magic Bar for her paying customers, replete with peep-holes and listening devices. Fritzl likewise was able to build and plumb living quarters for his second family. It seems like this willingness to innovate within the physical structure of your home is connected to a willingness to fall back on a jerry-rigged morality that allows you to do whatever the fuck you want.
I'm just saying, unless you are actually a builder, you have no business with that tool-belt.
UPDATE: The more I read about Eric Gill the more he reminds me of Iggy Pop, another small wiry man with a famously big cock.