Thursday 13 October 2011


Good morning!

Recently I’ve been thinking about life, the passage of time, regrets, opportunities death and decay and I thought that would make a nice jolly cocktail for today’s post.

So let’s begin with vanitas.


Yes, that’s how I reacted – I bumped into someone on the way home yesterday and they said “Vanitas”.

No actually, that’s not accurate, they said – “Hey watch where you’re going sunshine!”

Sunshine; there was a lot of it here yesterday, I was bathed. As I drove home in the evening the sunset was , er, er, vanitisiimo!

Yep I made that word up, that’s the good thing about vocabulary – if you don’t know what it means you can use it for anything!

So after I bumped into this person yesterday, and I had apologised for not looking where I was going they wandered of muttering under their breath – “Vanitas, Vanitas”

It was like some strange curse.

As soon as I got in I looked it up on Wikipedia – I’m eager to learn new things - and I discovered that it comes from Latin and roughly means emptiness – and apparently “corresponds to the meaninglessness of earthly life.”

I studied Latin at school and nobody ever taught me this. In fact I can’t be sure what they taught me, I struggled for five years in Mr. Howard’s class and when it came to the exams and I had to translate a tract of the stuff I just made it up.

Apparently I was way off the mark and I failed the “O” level.

But now I’m interested so I read on.

That’s read as in “red”.

English can be as confusing as Latin sometimes.

Did you know that Vanitas is a type of symbolic work of art especially associated with Northern European still-life painting in Flanders and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries, though also common in other places and periods?

I didn’t, I just copied and pasted that from the Wikipedia page.

So now I’m thinking why would a stranger that I bumped into on the way home from work and curse me in this way = “hey, you’re a type of symbolic work of art!”

Or maybe it was a compliment?

Either way I am well interested now so I read on (that’s read as in reed because now I’m in the Café des Sports and I’m reading the page as we go along).

Now if you have been paying attention you will have noticed that we have already covered “life and the passage of time” as outlined in my opening paragraph – life because I told you a little about mine yesterday and passage of time because we have just jumped from the 16th and 17th centuries to right here, right now in the Café des Sports.


So death and decay has to come into the equation for this post to be a vanitas itself, because, apparently, vanitas themes were common in medieval funerary art (I think I know what that is) and at some point they started to reflect “an increased obsession with death and decay”.

Bit like October then?

My friend dies, the fruit from the trees drop and rot into the dry earth?

And I loose my notebook?

I’ve been searching for it everywhere – it has my Aunts phone number and I haven’t spoken to her since she tried to feed me to death on her birthday.

Hey! Life and death in the same sentence!

Wikipedia goes on to say

“Common vanitas symbols include skulls, which are a reminder of the certainty of death; rotten fruit, which symbolizes decay like ageing; bubbles, which symbolize the brevity of life and suddenness of death; smoke, watches, and hourglasses, which symbolize the brevity of life; and musical instruments, which symbolize brevity and the ephemeral nature of life. Fruit, flowers and butterflies can be interpreted in the same way, and a peeled lemon, as well as accompanying seafood was, like life, attractive to look at, but bitter to taste”.

I know what you are thinking – why doesn’t he just let us read the Wikipedia page for ourselves?

What you SHOULD be thinking is about those bubbles.

What’s going on when supporters of West Ham Football Club sing, “I’m for ever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air.”?

I used to go to Upton Park with my friend Peter Hearn and stand on the North Bank with the home support.

Actually we stood a little to the side of the home support, we were 17 and a little intimidated by the men.

Peter was a fan, I was just a friend who went with him – but I did enjoy the excitement off, and occasionally on the pitch.

It wasn’t their best season.

But bubbles?

Are they really death and decay?

I understand the skull, but bubbles?


Wikipedia is beginning to loose me here.


What did I learn from all this?

My partner died.

Life is short.

I’m ok but things are ephemeral.

Life is meaningless.

If I get an opportunity, it’s best not to regret.

Always better to regret what you did, than what you didn’t do.

Gusti gave me an opportunity, I took it.

It was great.



Greg Rudzinski said...

Hey Popps,

Today you are heavy into philosophy. Meaning (any kind of meaning) is only a bit of spin that we put on our chaotic world. All will still be spinning after we go and waiting patiently for the next guy.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Hopefully you didn't get sea sick reading it ;-)

Anonymous said...

shell, fig, pomegranite ,opened walnut.......what do these symbolise?
dates, grapes....

popps said...

Hi greg - you flatter me, thank you for suggesting that my post is philosophical and not just babble!
But, i agree with meaning being spin.
Your blog?
Seasick not, impressed yes, i realise how inept i would be at sailing without a lot of study, which is a shame because a fantasy is to drift of into the blue yonder.
Perhaps i'll have to settle for a moaring?

popps said...

Hello anony.
The clown in me is tempted to answer - fruit salad?
The rest of me is tempted to answer .....
Or maybe the rest of me is simply tempted?

Anne Hodgson said...

So sorry for your loss.

Vanitas, in vain, vanity - our whole early Christian philosophy is come a'knockin. I saw beautiful Dutch and Italian paintings at the Mellon Gallery in Washington last week, with the tulips (and the dates and the berries) perilously over-ripe. Vanitas. That does not, however, make them meaningless. On the contrary! I have a big ol' bouquet sitting on the table right here, reminding me how beatiful the fruits of the Earth are, especially in the fall.

To judge from the picture of the two of you, you guys did not tread softly.

popps said...

Thank you Anne.
Autumnfall is a fantastic time.
Good enough to eat - the weather here at the moment is delicious.
I hope it is with you in Washington and/or Potsdamm.