Month: September 2014

Reading in Georgian: Pirsomani ფიროსმანი

I want to move away from children’s books and read something more interesting. Palitra, a Georgian publishing house, have a series of books about “დიდი ქართველები” (Great Georgians). These are aimed at children, it is true, but they are not fairytales, they remind me of the Ladybird Books I grew up with in England, from which I learnt a lot.

a sample of the "Great Georgians"

a sample of the “Great Georgians”

I usually borrow them from the Mediatek and return them having just looked at the pictures. The biography of Pirosmani (ფიროსმანი) is the first I have actually read in its entirety. My wife helped me with every sentence (she is better than Google translate).

Niko Pirsomani is possibly the most famous Georgian painter. He was born in the village of Mirzaani (მირზაანი) in Kakheti (now part of Georgia, then part of the Russian Empire). At the age of eight he moved to Tbilisi in the care of his newly married elder sister, Mariam.

Young Niko moves to Tbilisi with his sister and her husband.

Young Niko moves to Tbilisi with his sister and her husband.

Unfortunately Niko’s sister died of cholera and Niko had to support himself working as a servant to wealthy families.

Niko taught himself painting and developed his own distinctive style. One of his specialties was painting directly onto oilcloth (the medium being much cheaper than canvas). At the age of 20 he opened a painting workshop with another self-taught artist, George Zaziashvili, where they made signboards.

Painting signs for bars in his distinctive style.

Painting signs for bars in his distinctive style.

Pirosmani had other jobs in his life, he was a train conductor and at one time he sold dairy products near to where McDonalds is now located in Rustaveli Avenue. As a painter he struggled and often had difficulty even affording the materials for painting.

Vazha Pshavela sometimes visited the bar where Pirsomani was painting.

Vazha Pshavela sometimes visited the bar where Pirsomani was painting.

He was very shy and although he greatly admired the poetry of Vazha Pshavela, when Vazha visited the bar where Pirsomani was working, Pirosmani was too shy to introduce himself.

Members of the art establishment were slow to recognise Pirosmani, although they noticed his signs all around Tbilisi. He did exhibit some paintings in Moscow at an exhibition for self taught artists. The Society of Georgian Painters, founded in 1916 by Dito Shevardnadze, invited Pirosmani to its meetings, but his relations with the society were always uneasy.

Reading about Pirosmani on the beach in Gerogian

Reading about Pirosmani on the beach in Gerogian

Pirosmani suffered from poverty and ill health throughout his life. He never married although he was besotted by a French actress, Margarita, who he painted and sent many flowers which he could ill afford. In his last years his lodgings were a former broom cupboard under the stairs. he died in 1918.

Pirosmani in his room under the stairs.

Pirosmani in his room under the stairs.

When he died in 1918, his passing went virtually unnoticed, and it is unknown today where he is buried.

Pirsomani’s reputation grew after his death, Pirosmani was the subject of a film made in 1969, that won the Grand Prix at the Chicago Film Festival in 1972.

In 2013 to celebrate the 150th birthday of Georgia’s most famous painter. 108 works taken from the national archives were showcased at the national Gallery in Tbilisi,  the largest-scale exhibition of Pirosmani since the 1970s. Pirosmani Exhibition

There are at least 44 other books in the series, I shall try to read some more:

Palitra "დიდი კართველები"

Palitra “დიდი კართველები”

Turning fifty: Marking the decades

3rd September 2014: I hit the landmark 50th birthday, a half century. It doesn’t worry me as much as 60, but it still seems a lot older than I am. I had hoped to make the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella around now, but it didn’t happen, maybe next summer. Hindus believe when you are 50 you should make a pilgrimage, your earthly needs should have been sorted and you can focus on your soul or spiritual needs.

Marking the decades:

10… I had a party with a few friends in Slough (UK) from different areas of my life, neighbours, school or cub scouts. I knew them but they didn’t really know each other, I don’t remember a lot about it, but it wasn’t a great success. 

20 …  In the evening I went with my friend Jonathan to see Alan Hull (of Lindisfarne fame) at the Putney Half Moon in South West London. A good gig. 

30 … I celebrated in a Pakistani restaurant in Meaux, France with Chrissie, my first wife and two of our friends and students; Corinne and Bernard.

40 … I hired the local swimming pool in Worcester, UK for an hour. I had invited lots of people but only a dozen showed up and only half of those brought their swimming costumes. Not a great success….I should have learnt from my 10th birthday experience!

50 … In Kobuleti, Georgia. I visited the Princess Cafe with my current wife (hopefully till death do us part this time), Lia, her sister-in-law and Mari our niece. the food was vegan, as it was a Wednesday (following the Orthodox tradition on Wednesdays and Fridays we have no animal products). No big celebration just an enjoyable meal to mark the day. 

Celebrating my 50th Birthday in Kobuleti

Celebrating my 50th Birthday in Kobuleti

baked mushrooms

baked mushrooms

Mexican Potatoes

Mexican Potatoes

Vegan Pizza (the Mayonnaise was without eggs and there was no cheese)

Vegan Pizza (the Mayonnaise was without eggs and there was no cheese)

 

Will I reach 60? No plans of how I will celebrate, hopefully with Khatuna but whether in Georgia or elsewhere, who knows?

Did You Miss Me?

Did you miss me?

Did you even notice I was gone?

I have spent two weeks away from the Internet, as someone who wakes up and logs on, gets home and logs on and regularly sees their life frittering away on Facebook and other Internet sites, this was quite a feat.

Kobuleti

Kobuleti

I went to Kobuleti, a Black Sea resort in Ajara, Western Georgia. I purposely left my electronic notebook at home and avoided Internet Cafes.

"Bounce" on Nokia phone

“Bounce” on Nokia phone

At first I was a little bored, I even played the games on my very basic Nokia; no smartphone it only has three games Snake, Beach Rally and Bounce. That didn’t entertain me for long. I went to the beach and made towers of pebbles…a kind of stone age entertainment.

Pebble Tower, Kobuleti Beach

Pebble Tower, Kobuleti Beach

I took four books in English and read all four, I had to slow down on the last because I didn’t want to be deprived of reading matter. I also took three books in Georgian and managed to get through a simple biography of the Georgian painter Pirosmani, with my wife’s help.

Holiday reading. 4 books in Englsih...read. Three books in Georgian...read the biography of Pirosmani.

Holiday reading. 4 books in Englsih…read. Three books in Georgian…read the biography of Pirosmani.

Reading about Pirosmani on the beach in Gerogian

Reading about Pirosmani on the beach in Gerogian

I took a sketch pad with high hopes of doing some drawing but all I managed were a few biro sketches in a little notebook.

sketches in biro

sketches in biro

Without the Internet, I wrote no blog posts and kept a physical (pen and paper) diary….I have a few ideas for blog posts from my trip (starting with this one).

Diary, Coca Cola and a collection of Galaktion Tabidze's poems at a beachside bar.

Diary, Coca Cola and a collection of Galaktion Tabidze’s poems at a beachside bar.

Facebook informs me:

“123 friends posted on your Timeline for your birthday.”

Facebook doesn’t inform me how I can see these messages.

I also came back to 93 notifications and 9 messages, my camera had 1309 photos, which I’m still sifting through. I didn’t hear any football results and was completely oblivious to world news events. It was weird.

The days were a routine of swim in the sea, relax on the beach, lunch, siesta, swim in the sea again, evening meal then a promenade along the beachfront. There were a few breaks from this routine, a visit to the neighbouring resort of Batumi and its botanical garden and an invitation to a Georgian feast (სუფრა) in the countryside at Ozurgeti. One day it rained and then there was nothing to do, except shelter in the guest house and read or chat.

When it rains in Kobuleti options are severly limited.

When it rains in Kobuleti options are severely limited.

Will the experiment change my Internet habits? We shall see. I should reduce my Facebook activity as most of it is doing very little to develop me as a person. I didn’t miss the Internet as much as I had imagined I would, there were times reading that I wanted to Google something,  like a picture of a 1938 Panhard Dynamic when reading Alan Furst’s “Mission to Paris” and I wanted to find more out about the Dominican Republic and the dictator Trujillo when reading “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz (that was the last of my books in English and I took my time, it was worth savouring…I have four or five book reviews to write up in the coming days). Would I do it again? Maybe for a week or two, but I don’t envision quitting the Internet forever.