Wednesday, 21 December 2011

21st December - Friends in Adversity

My advice to you is never try and explain 'the shortest day' to a six year old, no good comes from it and it takes a very long time, achieving very little.  Today is the aforementioned 'shortest day' and so I hope you are doing as we are, and are keeping warm and cosy near some twinkling Christmas lights that seem to defy the gloom somehow.  This is aided by the fact that we can't go out today as we have to wait for the parcel delivery chaps who will deliver between 8am and 5.30pm.  I see a lot of cleaning and tidying in my future to while away the hours...

Anyway, my lovely readers, here we are, almost at the end of Blogvent, and today's picture is a marvellous, heartwarming picture of brotherly love, very suitable for this time of year...

Friends in Adversity (1880) John Charles Dollman
The full title for this is Friends in Adversity: Christmas Day at the Dreadnaught Hospital, Greenwich (Coming Down to Dinner), and you know how I love a snappy title.  Next year, I think I will do a blog on my favourite insanely long picture titles.  Anyway, here we have a lot of gentlemen of the sea, of all different nations, joining together to eat a meal as they are all in the same boat (if you excuse the pun).  Actually, the Dreadnaught Hospital was original called after the ship it was based in, so they literally would have been all in the same boat.  You could have said they were all in the same boat, all in the same boat, but I digress.

Mr Dollman has obviously gone to town in painting fellows of all nations and ages: old, young, black, white, all shades in between and a blind chap with a big ginger beard, everyone is accounted for.  Now, far be it from me to say I wouldn't mind being led down stairs by the rather handsome gentleman in Turkish or Arabian get-up, he has a fine pair of harem pants.  The clothes of the sailors are gorgeously realised, and there is a repeated tone of green-blue, sea-blue, from the Turkish gentleman's hose and top, via the man with his arm in a sling and up the stairs, picked out in the plaque showing a cross and anchor above a heart.  The united themes of 'Faith, Hope and Charity', as symbolised by the plaque, bind the sailors to each other, and they all are together under the banner which reads 'After so many ship wrecks we find a port!'  So many of the men are injured, blind, lame and uncommonly handsome, that the only place they can find the certainty of help and comfort is with their own kind.  For a Victorian message, it's a paradox to explain.  The nineteenth century was hardly the well-spring of brotherhood for all nations, and to me it seems a sizable chunk of time was spent in pinching bits of land and being somewhat bossy in other people's country.  This painting, which isn't altogether overtly metaphoric, seems to show that it is possible to forget the concerns of nation for a moment and find a common cause among people who have served a similar life to you.  Most of these people would not have spoken the same language but they understand that their situation is the same, so there is no conflict.  It would be interesting to know how many sailors of different countries did use the Dreadnaught Hospital, how realistic this depiction is, because although it is an inspiring symbol of brotherhood, it also may have had a grain of truth behind it.

Far be it from me to be suggestive, but am I the only one who noticed that the boy with the fiddle is holding mistletoe?  I'm sure it's a symbol of the love between nations, the aspiration that one day we all may realise the truth that we are all 'in the same boat', so we should put our petty differences behind us and join arms to go down to metaphoric Christmas dinner.  I certainly would never be so tacky as to suggest that my first thought was 'Father Christmas obviously go the old chap with the stick's letter, then...'

Shame on me, I'll make the Baby Jesus cry with my sauciness.

See you tomorrow.


  1. No way - the baby Jesus would love your sense of humor!

  2. Thanks Lisa, I hope he's used to me by now... :)


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx