September 25: nothing is impossible; the two bowers

There is a poster on London Underground with the message Nothing is Impossible or, rather I think, Impossible is Nothing, which is the highly conventional and untrue message of the contemporary world. It is being drilled into us by celebrities and sportspeople, as well as politicians at all hours of the day. Question: what is your message to the kids? Answer: You can be whatever you want. It is, of course, the great American lie. Anecdotally, the odd fish will slip out of the net and be able to escape the index that their class and upbringing has branded on them, but these are astonishing exceptions, which is why they get the coverage. Anecdote is not data. I’m sorry to be the bearer of this news and such a kill joy, but someone must deliver the facts. Most children dreaming of celebrity success remain in the obscure.

However, it is worth preserving this mantra as an aspiration. What you need is two bowers (Keats has a liking for this word). The bower where you house your aspiration where Impossible is Nothing and the other bower, truth bower, where you face the facts, some things are impossible, Impossible is Something, we do not live in Mickey Mouse world. There are two bowers which we must harbour simultaneously and they contradict each other. It is a kind of Schroedinger’s Cat episode. The bower that helps us get the best we can out of the world and ourselves and the other bower, the one no-one talks about, that refuses to make suckers of us all.

September 4: Hotel Bacon

In many of the paintings of Francis Bacon, especially the later ones, there are what appear to be glass cases or pods that enclose key figures in the drama of the painting. You may see an agonist slumped over a toilet seat or a sink unit, sometimes almost melded into the white armitage shanks porcelain so that they are one with the fixtures, and around them a clinical transparent box. It is something that has come into the world of contemporary theatre. The glass box is now a cliche of metropolitan production. I have seen countless Jacobean tragedies with on-stage murders taking place in a glass case where literally nobody hears you scream. Yesterday I spent the night in an unnervingly ill-conceived Bacon hotel in the town of Bedford. The modernisation of the rooms took the form of the installation into rooms of a glass pod for a toilet, through whose mildly frosted glass you could be observed and heard (there was a round hole the size of a big fist in the door) urinating and defecating. Add to this the fact that I was in the final stages of my recovery from a particularly violent case of food poisoning and you can imagine the fun. The tryptic of Hotel customer with bathroom fixtures will soon be up for auction at Sotheby’s. Reserve price £61 million.