Something extraordinary and rare is happening in London: we have an incomparable El Greco exhibition in our midst. It doesn’t really matter that it’s being staged in the rebarbative dungeon-like rooms of the National Gallery’s Sainsbury wing basement, for even those inconsiderate walls are alive with the strange music of El Greco’s vision. For a few months the dungeon becomes a sacred crypt, filled with the fluttering spirits of El Greco’s agonies, ecstasies and visitations, with a wild chant that cannot be stilled.
Last Saturday must have been a difficult day for St Paul. His cathedral, still covered in patches of scaffolding like pins supporting badly broken legs, was teeming, inside and out, with women in dog collars. In the crypt, an hour before the grand celebration of the tenth anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood, there were women priests of every description: fifty-something tiggywinkles with thick NHS spectacles; red-cheeked 30-year-olds, their clerical collars just visible above green fleeces; Laura Ashley skirts and sensible slip-ons mixed with smart black trouser suits and high heels.
Last Monday afternoon Professor Lewis Wolpert CBE, FRSL and I sat in his chaotic study in the Anatomy department at University College, London, quietly regarding each other. Professor Wolpert seemed to me to be superior to myself in every way possible. He was better-looking, better-dressed, more self-assured, miles more intelligent, and probably richer. It was a great comfort, therefore, to know that, like me, he has thrown the wrong number and tumbled down the longest snake on the board.