Thursday Doors

Ai Weiwei has produced a series of marble doors. This one is in the contemporary art museum in Nice. He says that by making ordinary objects they become art. What do you think?

Thursday Doors – in Menton

Menton is the town between Monaco and the Italian border at Ventimiglia, as well as being halfway between Paris and Rome. It is famous for lemons (planted by Eve when she left the Garden of Eden…) and TB sanitoria. The old town was the haunt of pirates, and this is where most of these doors come from.

Chapelle des Penitents Blancs

Flowers on top, flowers on the bottom.

Pretty pastel colours

Medieval origins of the Old Town are celebrated by the wall plaque.

More old church doors

What a great door knocker

First floor of Le Terminus cafe, faded glory.P1300823


Thursday Doors from Nice

I needed a holiday after my mission in Delhi. Nice was very nice.

Aristocratic Russians loved the South of France. Tsar Nicholas II financed the construction of the Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, which opened its doors in 1912. But not all of them; the door with the marble staircase was reserved for the Tsar, but he never came to Nice so it has remained bolted shut. It is dedicated to the memory of the Tsarevich, who died of meningitis in the mid 1860s in the city. If you visit, engage Tatiana to give you the full tour, she is an excellent guide.

Down in the ilots of the Old Town, the summer heat can be oppressive, so the doors are all angled to catch every breath of breeze. The fanlights above the doors are open to provide natural air conditioning.

The Lascaris Palace (converted into a museum, with a stunning collection of antique musical instruments) looks like an ordinary house in the old town until you go inside. It was built in the 17th Century, but these doors are Italian. The hinges were offset to prevent the bottom of the doors rubbing away the knap of the expensive carpets and rugs. They also prevented drafts and reduced the weight of the doors. Their embellishment in silver plating inlaid into the wood, covered with silverleaf, illustrates the rococo style.

Fancy doctors’ offices, Our Lady of the Port church, doors opening onto the balcony on the Garibaldi Square, painting the door of a chapel at the hilltop cemetery, and a glass-covered walkway to a door in a fine apartment block.


Some ramblings about Mohandas Karamchand

Humans are not born great, they achieve greatness through struggle. And inevitably, they make mistakes on that journey. As the “father of the nation”, Gandhi’s life and sayings have been deeply scrutinised. His ideas changed and evolved throughout his life.


His philosophy moved from benevolent autocracy, to enlightened anarchy, to decentralisation and socialism. His ideas were adopted and adapted by other players, who made them more politically expedient. Others tried to forge a school of thought, Gandhi-ism, of which he did not approve. I learned all this from the two Delhi University students who run Safarnama, walking tours in Delhi from a feminist perspective.

The walking group met at Rajghat, where Gandhi was cremated after being assassinated by a Hindu radical. It is a pleasant park, with lots of open space, flowerbeds and a central area containing a black marble plinth, and an eternal flame. It was very moving.



After the walk, I went to the Gandhi museum to learn more about the man. I shudder to think what he would have made of India’s industrial progress and development over the past sixty years.

God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the manner of the West. The economic imperialism…is today keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of 300,000,000 took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts. (CWMG V38 p243)

It is unfair to judge him by today’s standards. He was a man of his time. In 1883, at the age of 13, he had an arranged marriage to Kasturbai, who was a year older at 14.

His incongruous views about women are difficult to understand. He was a very controlling husband, who did not allow her to make new friends. She felt that this was how he expressed his love. He is reported to have told a colleague that his wife was the most venomous woman he knew. He was very traditional in his beliefs and apparently even approved of honour killings. On the one hand he compared women to deities, and on the other hand he expressed the view that women who have been raped are no longer human beings.

He respected the dignity of women, but said that sex should be just for procreation, not pleasure. Menstruation was a “distortion of a woman’s soul”. He was against contraception and thought that using condoms would make men homosexual. He was trusted enough to be allowed to address an assembly of Muslim women without being blindfolded.

In 1891, he undertook a vow of celibacy. He would sleep with two of his young nieces, not his wife, in order to challenge and control his carnal desires. One author has suggested that he had a homosexual relationship with Hermann Kallenbach in South Africa in 1913, but the book on the subject has been banned in India.

It is not nationalism that is evil, it is the narrowness, selfishness, exclusiveness which is the bane of modern nations which is evil.

He neglected his four sons and did not have a normal family life. He was fastidious about personal hygiene and cleaning toilets (at which Kasturbai assisted him). This has been adopted by the present government of India as the Swachh Bharat Mission – “There is nothing more beautiful than helping those who work to keep our country clean. Take the pledge today. A clean India is the best tribute we can pay to Bapu.”


The cause of many of our diseases is the condition of our lavatories and our bad habit of disposing of excreta anywhere and everywhere. (CWMG: V27 p 154)

The iconic spectacles of Bapu (Gandhi) have been adopted by Swatchh Bharat (Clean India)

He also expressed racist views about black Africans when in South Africa. At one point he even stated that the white race should be the predominant race in South Africa. At the same time, he challenged the traditional view of untouchables, giving them a new name, harijans – which translates as “children of the God Vishnu”. They detested the term, calling it a “dirty word” and preferred to be known as dalits (the oppressed). I can understand how British colonial administrators found him frustrating and incomprehensible to deal with.


I shall work for an India in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country, in whose making they have an effective voice, an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people, an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony. There can be no room in such an India for the curse of untouchability or the curse of intoxicating drinks and drugs. Women will enjoy the same rights as men. This is the India of my dreams.”

Mahatma (Great Soul) Gandhi, born 2nd October 1869, assassinated 30th January 1948.