The Way We Lied

She led him away through other rooms of sculpture and paintings, pointing out favourite artists and striking features. Then suddenly she said, “That’s enough for now. I’m taking you out for a break.” And slipping her arm through his she walked him out of the gallery and across the road to a terraced cafe fronting the beach. She chose a table outside in the sun and once they had ordered, told him to describe what he could see.
Nick looked down at the beach with its scattering of late summer visitors, their windbreaks
billowing slightly in the soft warm breeze, the children running back and forth with brightly coloured buckets and spades. “Seaside, sand, typical beach scene,” he said, turning back to look at Mary. She did not look pleased.
“Take another look at it and think about what you are seeing,” she said.
So he looked again and he thought hard and he wondered what she wanted him to say. He did not like failure. He usually knew what to say in every situation; persuasive words had always been his best skill in business. But all he could say when he replied was, “I see yellow sand, green sea and blue sky.”
“Good, that’s more like it,” she said. “Now we are getting down to the essence of the scene. If I were to show you some strips of colour, that blue, next to that intense turquoise green, with a little strip of white and then a large expanse of pale gold, you would know what it meant, wouldn’t you? If the proportions and the colours were right, you would begin to feel the breeze and see the ripples of the waves and hear the gulls above the children’s cries of pleasure.”
He nodded as he looked at the seascape. It was beginning to make sense. He felt as if his eyes had shifted focus and he was seeing more clearly than ever before. He could see how reducing the view to its components could still convey its essential qualities. “I think I am beginning to understand,” he said and he was gratified when she patted his hand in approval.
After a brief lunch with only ascetic water to drink, although other diners were enjoying crisp white wines, Mary said, “Now we must get on. We have more work to do.”
She led him away from the beach and the mesmerising sea, back along the lanes, up hills and round corners, until they came to a small door in a house. Mary halted before guiding him inside, saying, “This is where the sculptress Barbara Hepworth lived and worked. Part Two of your education is about to begin.”


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