Thursday, September 21, 2006

Da Vinci Mode

Looking at the small selection of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum I am reminded of myself. Not that I have a long white beard or like drawing pictures of men with four arms and four legs, but that I, too, like to put down all my thoughts on paper. I have always been a diary keeper. There are some surprises there for a few people if I go before they do.

Earlier this year I started an inventory of all my possessions where I write a short description of every object I own, how I came by it, how much it cost etc. For some things I’ve done a little drawing. It took me about three weeks to complete the living room. There are 110 objects in there alone. Admittedly most of them are DVDs but that is a lot.

Before I started on the bedroom, I took five bin bags of clothes I didn’t remember I owned to the charity shop. The count is up to 156 and I haven’t even started on the wardrobe. I wonder what will become of this list and all the other lists and notes I’ve made over the years. When I move to the tropics, hopefully within the year, I might dig a hole in the sand and bury them all in a time capsule. It would need to be a big hole though because this body of work is now occupying one large filing cabinet, thirty box files and eight large plastic boxes.

Leonardo’s drawings were distributed to his friends and acquaintances after his death. The Queen ended up with about six hundred of them. I hadn’t realised they were so close. I don’t know that anyone will want my doodlings. I can imagine friends being offered a drawing and saying, ‘can I not have that pink top with the lacy collar instead please?’

If you google Leonardo da Vinci you get 3,800,000 entries. That’s more than Tony Blair or even Princess Diana. If you google me you get one and that’s for this blog. I fear my only hope of immortality rests with future generations. I will either have to cull a little or save up for a large lead-lined box.

It is fascinating to look at some of Leonardo’s inventions in the context of five hundred years of technology. His design for a tank was visionary, although having it made of wood may have been self defeating. It would be a bit like a jelly submarine or a chocolate fire engine. I wonder how some of these inventions would go down on Dragon’s Den. Would they say, ‘well the idea seems sound but I can’t read backwards Latin. You need to work on your presentation. Come back when you’ve mastered PowerPoint.’

I have had a crack at most things but not inventions. It does my head in just thinking about how sound waves work. Anyway anything I’ve ever considered needed inventing has usually been done already by either Gyro Gearloose or Inspector Gadget.

To be in the presence of the spirit of a great genius is humbling and it makes you a bit sad that there is so little of it around these days. There’s Stephen Hawking obviously but I’m pretty certain he can’t draw. It would be nice if more people did put their thoughts down on paper. Last year I saw the Diane Arbus exhibition at the V&A. In addition to the photographs there were many of her notebooks. Looking at them was like being on a really scary ghost train. We could do without the musings of a Madonna or Robbie Williams but I wouldn’t mind sifting through the dust mites that inhabit the dark recesses of the mind of say a Salman Rushdie or Jeanette Winterson.

I may spend a little time on the inventory this afternoon. I have just thought of something that needs inventing – a virtual time capsule. It’s true, genius does spawn genius. Now all I have to do is find a geek to partner me up as I don’t know the first thing about programming – one can’t know everything.

Clever cartoon by Chris Madden

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