Part 34: They're All Sitting At My Table

Nicko: Ah, there we are.
Dave: Where are we?
Nicko: Wherever it is we've just arrived.
Bruce: You mean: whenever ...
Nicko: Ah, whatever.
Adrian: Nice, sunny spot, this place. I like it here.
Bruce: Ah, but I see civilization has reached these shores already.
Steve: What shores? We're in a bloody city.
Bruce: Just a metaphor, a way of speaking, dear 'Arry. The shores of time, littered with the debris of human interaction.
Steve: Looks like an ordinary construction site to me. Look at these huges pulleys and ropes. Neat.
Nicko: Hm, I think they're repairing a church. That scaffolding doesn't look too reassuring to me.
Janick: Maybe we should go and ask them where we are? Anyway, who's got the paper with the mission?
Dave: Me. It says: "Find a historical brush". Maybe we need to break into a lady's bathroom? Could be embarrassing.
Nicko: Wishful thinking, Davey-boy.
Dave: I said: "embarrassing".
Adrian: Yes, but you probably meant: "embracing"
Janick: Let's pop in a pill, before we meet anybody. Better be on the safe side.
Bruce: Those stone masons seem to talk Italian, if I'm not mistaken.
Steve: So we're probably in Italy.
Janick: Then we just need to find out in what period. I bet we're sometime in the Renaissance.
Bruce: How much?
Janick: Huh?
Bruce: How much do you want to bet?
Janick: How about a pint? Payable tonight in the Nag's.
Bruce: Deal. So, what century you'll bet on?
Janick: Well, the Renaissance century ... thingy ...
Dave: The Renaissance isn't a century, it's a period.
Janick: Oh really? Well, that period was in a century, wasn't it?
Dave: I s'pose so ...
Steve: I suppose so too: in the 15th, to be precise.
Bruce: Harry!
Steve: What?
Bruce: You're not suppose to help him. This is serious business: my pint is at stake.
Janick: Anyway, I bet we're in the 15th century.
Bruce: Great. Ok, I bet the 16th, how about that?
Janick: Deal.
Adrian: That done, can we go and talk to the blokes? Those masons don't look like they're too busy ...
Bruce: That's the Italian far niente ...
Dave: Like the Far East?
Adrian: I'll go and ask one of them. Maybe I find something out.
Nicko: Adrian seems to have bonded with the blokes. Good good. Maybe they'll invite us for a wee libation ...
Bruce: Great, we will meet Dante, Machiavelli, Cesare Borgia ...
Steve: What, all at the same time?
Bruce: Ehm, no, I don't think they were living at the same time. But approximately, they did. In my century.
Steve: Your century, huh? What century would that be? The century of the blabbermouth?
Bruce: No, the 16th, of course.
Nicko: I'm not too keen on meeting this Borgia bloke. I once read he was a bad fella.
Dave: Are there no famous Italian ladies? For the brush, you know ...
Bruce: There was Lucrecia Borgia.
Nicko: That was the sister of the bad fella.
Janick: Not a good idea to steal her brush then.
Dave: No, probably not.
Adrian: Ok, I found something out: the masons told me that this is the Basilica of Saint Constantine.
Bruce: Aha? Never heard of it.
Adrian: Probably not ... but I found out something more, hehe.
Steve: Don't keep us on tenterhooks, tell us.
Adrian: The construction site you see here is not a repairing job for the old church. They've decided to built a brand new huge church over the old one. And if I tell you the name of this church, you'll know where we are ...
Nicko: Well ... ?
Adrian: Saint Peter's.
Janick: The Vatican?
Steve: Oh no, we'll have to deal with nutty church zealots again. I hate that.
Bruce: Oh damn, the 16th century was the heyday of the Spanish Inquisition.
Dave: Good thing we're in Italy.
Bruce: Ehm ... that didn't matter too much to the Inquisition, Davey. The Catholic Church held sway over the whole of Western Europe back then.
Dave: Not good.
Steve: Let's tackle this logically: does anyone of you know what year Saint Peter's was built in?
Janick: What is this, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
Nicko: Can I use my phone-a-friend lifeline?
Bruce: You want the exact year?
Steve: Decade would be fine too.
Bruce: Eh ... no, actually I don't know it, to be honest. Not really. I could make an ingenious guess though: the 16th century.
Steve: Hm. I'm really quite worried about that Inquisition thing.
Nicko: We already had Inquisition. I wouldn't be worried about that, 'Arry. What's the fun in confronting us twice with the same problem?
Steve: How should I know how these BBC blokes reason? Maybe they think: Arry almost drowning in the Guadalquivir was a huge hit. Maybe him being burnt at the stake in front of St Peter's will get even more viewers in front of the telly.
Bruce: Don't be so paranoid, Arry. If you're dead, they can't send you on any more missions. Trust me, they wouldn't want that.
Janick: Maybe we don't even have to meet a cleric ...
Steve: We're in the Vatican ... of course we will meet a cleric.
Dave: Do you think we have to find the Pope's brush?
Adrian: Not as interesting as you'd hoped, ey, Dave?
Dave: No, not really. I can imagine a more thrilling prospect than a bald old Pope.
Nicko: A bald Pope wouldn't need a brush.
Bruce: If this is the future Saint Peter's Basilica, then the Sistine Chapel must be somewhere nearby.
Adrian: Unless it hasn't been built yet.
Bruce: True. Can we have a look around, please?
Steve: You wanna play tourist again, Bruce?
Bruce: Oh please, just a quickie. I always wanted to see it, but on my last visit to Rome twenty busloads of Japanese tourists took over the place.
Steve: Alright, but we'll all go. No solo-flights. Not this time.
Dave: It doesn't look too dangerous. Very peaceful indeed.
Steve: Believe me, once they get it in their heads that we're heretics or some such nonsense, the peace will cease abruptly. Very abruptly. I'll be on my guards.
Nicko: This could be your Sistine Chapel, Bruce. It doesn't look finished, though. Do you think we can sneak in?
Bruce: Let's have a lookie ... oops, that latch wasn't securely locked. Well, might as well get in now.
Adrian: Maybe they won't be too thrilled if we just snoop around.
Bruce: Nah, they don't mind ... it's a tourist attraction.
Adrian: Not in this time.
Bruce: Ehm no, probably not. They're not selling entrance tickets, either.
Steve: So we better be quiet ... if somebody finds us in here, they might think we want to steal something.
Bruce: Yes, I'll be quiet, don't worry. Wow, isn't that cool? All these frescoes and sculptures? And that enormous cupola. Amazing! People back then knew what art was all about.
Janick: Look at that huge scaffold. Looks like there's some construction going on in here as well.
Nicko: Maybe we have arrived just in time to witness the painting of the famous ceiling. Who did the paint job again?
Dave: Da Vinci?
Bruce: No, Michelangelo. I read somewhere that he ... what's that?
Steve: What?
Bruce: Yuk, there's blood dripping on my shoulders ...
Dave: It's dripping from the scaffold above our heads. Do you think somebody got killed up there?
Michelangelo: Don't worry, sires. It's not blood. I just spilt some of my scarlet colours. I'm sorry that I stained your clothes. Are you the papal inspectors?
Bruce: I don't know. Are we?
Steve: Just keep it vague. We don't want him to get suspicious.
Bruce: Ehm, are you Michelangelo?
Michelangelo: Yes, I am.
Bruce: Do you mind if we come up and have a look at what you're doing?
Steve: Bruce! Have you seen the size of that thing? You want me to climb up there? It doesn't look too solid.
Nicko: Come on 'Arry. If Mickey here can hang around on it painting for hours, it must be solid.
Bruce: You can stay down here if you want. Keep a lookout for the Pope or something.
Steve: Hmm, no I'm coming with you. I prefer to hear what you're babbling. But let's cut this visit short. Don't forget, we still have to find that brush.
Michelangelo: Be greeted, sires. Give me your hand. Watch out, the planks are a bit slippery from the dripping colours.
Janick: Wow, what a view you got from up here.
Dave: That's one hell of a project you have set yourself, mate.
Michelangelo: Oh yes, the work is not easy. But for the honour of embellishing the Chapel, no sacrifice can be too great.
Bruce: And you really paint all this while lying flat on your back?
Michelangelo: For some parts in the corners I have to, yes. Those are the tricky bits. But mostly I can stand up. Still, it's a pain in the neck, so to speak.
Adrian: Are you ok, Steve?
Steve: This is awfully high. But I'm ok. Just don't shake the scaffolding too much. Can we get down now?
Nicko: Aren't these figures you're currently painting a bit distorted, Michelangelo?
Michelangelo: Oh yes, but they actually have to be. You see, the ceiling is not a flat canvas. If you're standing down there looking up, you need to see it in the correct perspective. If I painted them straight now, you would see them distorted from down there. And that would be a disaster.
Nicko: Ingenious. Never would have thought about these problems.
Bruce: So what are you currently working at? These bits here?
Michelangelo: Yes, this is part of the Creation scene. I'm gonna paint Adam in this blank space. But first I have to get the mould off again. That's tedious work.
Dave: Mould?
Michelangelo: Yes, you see, sometimes the plaster is still too wet and mould easily grows on it. I have to start all over again, if that happens. But I'm working on a new method ...
Bruce: Interesting. What would that be?
Michelangelo: I'm mixing a new kind of plaster, hopefully it will reduce the mould. Actually I put it on over there, see that spot? Next to Noah's Ark? Well, I put it on some days ago, and no mould. So it works. I'm gonna use it on the entire ceiling now. I call it intonaco.
Janick: Very interesting.
Michelangelo: You're not some of Raphael's spies, are you?
Dave: Who's Raphael?
Michelangelo: Another artist. Pope Julius II's pet, actually. He's my fiercest rival. If he'd had it his way, he would be painting the ceiling now. Wanted to snatch the job from me, the little rat.
Adrian: Well, you got the job, though.
Michelangelo: Yeah, I got it. Actually they only wanted me to paint parts of it. And the rest would be for Raphael's glory. Luckily he has some other commitments still, so I'm able to go on for a bit. If I manage to impress the Pope, maybe he'll let me paint the whole ceiling. But it's not easy to make a name for yourself. Artists are fast forgotten, in this day and age.
Bruce: Don't worry, I have a pretty good feeling that your ceiling will become very famous.
Michelangelo: I don't even hope for fame ... as long as they let me finish this job. But Cardinal Carafa doesn't like my style. He calls my work obscene, just because I painted a few naked bodies in the Last Judgment fresco over there. As if people didn't have other worries than clothes on Judgment Day ...
Adrian: You got a point there, mate.
Steve: Yes. How about we get down now?
Michelangelo: Not that I wouldn't have other works to finish.
Bruce: Oh yes, like the Pietà, for example.
Janick: Bruce! Don't say such things. What if he hasn't started on that one yet?
Bruce: Oops, I forgot.
Michelangelo: Have you seen my Pietà? I must say, the Pope was impressed by it. I'm pretty proud of it myself. One of my first major achievements.
Bruce: Ehm, yes, we saw it, somewhere. Pretty statue.
Michelangelo: Well, I still have to design and build the tomb for Pope Julius II. But somehow I constantly get interrupted by other projects.
Adrian: Isn't that the current Pope?
Michelangelo: Yes, of course.
Dave: You build his tomb while he is still alive? Isn't that a bit macabre?
Michelangelo: Well, memento mori. Think about your afterlife. You can't be prepared early enough. Besides, if he commissions his tomb, he can make sure it will look exactly the way he wants it.
Dave: I see. Still ...
Bruce: It's like the pyramids in Egypt. The pharaoes also ordered the building of their tombs during their lifetime.
Michelangelo: Yes, I suppose you could compare it to that. Though the Pope probably wouldn't like to be compared to a heathen.
Steve: Ehm, guys, sorry to interrupt this nice chat, but don't we have a mission to do somewhere else? Somewhere nearer to the ground, maybe?
Adrian: Poor 'Arry, you're a bit pale around the nose. You're right though, we should be getting on with the mission.
Michelangelo: Actually I'll come down with you, I need to stretch my muscles a bit. Let's go down. What mission were you talking about?
Bruce: Oh, eh, just a little work we have to complete. Nothing of interest.
Dave: There wouldn't be any ladies living here, would there? Maybe a lady with particularly nice hair?
Michelangelo: Ladies? Well, there are maids and cooks and household staff for the clergy of course. Except for the cardinal's chambermaid, the women aren't too pretty, though.
Dave: Bad luck. I guess it will be the Pope's brush, after all.
Michelangelo: What do you mean?
Bruce: Nothing. Just ignore him. What are your other projects, apart from this little plastering job?
Michelangelo: Plastering job?
Bruce: Sorry, it's actually great what you're creating here. Amazing colours.
Steve: Oof, now I feel better. Solid ground under my feet again.
Michelangelo: If you're interested in my other projects, have a look over here. This is a job I'm doing for an Italian Duke. He commissioned a painting of The Lord's Last Supper.
Bruce: Ah, the Last Supper. That one is famous.
Nicko: You haven't painted much of it yet.
Michelangelo: No, I haven't really been inspired. And with all this ceiling painting, I don't find the time to get on with it.
Bruce: Just a good advice: don't paint too many disciples.
Michelangelo: Too many? What do you mean?
Bruce: Well, I mean, don't paint more than twelve.
Michelangelo: Of course not. Everybody knows there were only twelve disciples at the Last Supper.
Bruce: And no kangaroo.
Michelangelo: What's a cang-garoo?
Steve: What are you talking about, Bruce? Australia has probably not even been discovered yet.
Bruce: Monty Python's Last Supper sketch. Haven't you seen that one?
Dave: Yes, I have. It was hilarious. Where he painted three Christs.
Michelangelo: Three Christs? I don't understand.
Adrian: Never mind Bruce and Dave. What they're saying usually doesn't make too much sense.
Steve: Couldn't have said it better, H.
Bruce: Thank you very much.
Michelangelo: Well, anyway, I don't think I can finish the painting. I'll just tell him that he has to find some other artist to do it.
Nicko: Why?
Michelangelo: I have too much on my plate already, what with the ceiling and the tomb. I don't think I can meet the deadline for the painting as well.
Bruce: No, but you have to. That painting is gonna become famous.
Michelangelo: Well, there's never a guarantee for that. And if I accept the job and then I can't finish it on time, the Duke will become furious.
Bruce: Never mind him. You'll finish on time. I'm positive. Just go on painting. Look, it's not that difficult. You paint a table, only one Christ in the middle, twelve apostles to his left and right, a bit of bread, cheese and wine on the table, nothing too fanciful. And that's it. But trust me: it'll be all the rage, even in a few hundred years.
Michelangelo: Hmm, it's not as easy as that, my friend. I need time to prepare, to make some sketches. Time which I don't have right now. If you don't mind, I need to continue my work now.
Steve: Sure, go ahead. We also have to go. Nice meeting you.
Michelangelo: Yes, it was a pleasure. I'll just quickly rinse my brushes and it's back up on the scaffold again.
Nicko: Ah, outside it's really warmer than inside this gloomy chapel. I'm gonna film around a bit. This construction site is mighty interesting.
Adrian: Wait!
Steve: What now?
Adrian: Did Michelangelo just say "I'll just quickly rinse my brushes"?
Bruce: Yes, he's probably cleaning his paintbrushes. I suppose you have to clean them, otherwise the colours will mix and cake together, and it will all become one messy muck.
Adrian: No, you don't understand: he said "brush". As in: "Find a historical brush."
Janick: Fuck, you're right. That's the famous brush we need to find.
Dave: No old Pope's hairbrush. Good thinking, H.
Steve: Shit, let's get back in, before he has clambered up these scaffolds again. I don't feel like making that trip once more.
Nicko: Good thing you made the connection, H. That saves us an embarrassing break-in into the Pope's bathroom. I wasn't too keen on that anyway.
Dave: Me neither.
Bruce: There he is, still cleaning his tools.
Steve: Thank God for that. How should we proceed?
Dave: Maybe we could simply ask. He seems like a nice bloke.
Steve: Yeah, but these guys are always so protective of their tools. Remember Gutenberg? He was positively miserly with his stupid little letter-stamps. And Edison? We had to steal the things on both occasions.
Dave: Well, if you occupy him, I can nick his brush. No problem.
Janick: Let's ask first, maybe. He's an artist, not an inventor. They might be more generous. Shakespeare gave us his piece of paper without any trouble.
Steve: Oh yes, I remember that one. The only mission where we didn't have to run for our lives. Wonderfully relaxing.
Bruce: The BBC manager thought the footage was a bit boring ...
Steve: I think the BBC manager is a bit ...
Bruce: Ah! Hold it. No swearing in holy places.
Steve: Huh?
Michelangelo: Oh, you're back? Have you found what you were looking for?
Nicko: Ehm, actually, we noticed your paintbrushes.
Michelangelo: Yes? What about them?
Dave: We were wondering if you could spare one?
Michelangelo: Why?
Steve: Well, the thing is ... we kinda need a brush, to do a bit of paintwork ourselves.
Michelangelo: Are you from the construction site of Saint Peter's?
Bruce: Yes! Correct. We're architects, and we need to show the masons how we want it done. So a brush would come in handy. Mind if we take this one?
Michelangelo: You're architects and you don't even have quill and paper with you?
Bruce: Ehm, we got robbed on our way here.
Steve: Bruce! Keep it simple.
Michelangelo: There are thieves everywhere. Last night somebody stole some of my sketches. I suspect Raphael is behind all this. It's a conspiracy to discredit me with the new Pope.
Janick: Isn't he a bit paranoid?
Bruce: He's a struggling artist, you have to understand that.
Steve: Well, we would be very obliged if you could spare one of your brushes.
Michelangelo: I suppose I could give you one. Take this one. It's quite old and I wanted to throw it away anyway. You can have it.
Dave: Thanks, mate. We owe you one. I'll buy your Last Supper when it's published. In hardcover.
Michelangelo: I beg your pardon?
Steve: Nothing. Ignore him. Ehm, we don't want to keep you from your work any longer. Don't fall down your scaffolds, mate.
Michelangelo: I'll be careful, don't worry.
Bruce: And remember: not more than twelve disciples and only one Christ.
Michelangelo: I'll remember, thank you.
Nicko: Ah, back in the TM. That was an easy mission, don't you think?
Steve: Apart from that heart-stopping experience under the Sistine ceiling, yes.
Adrian: I think you should take a course against your acrophobia, 'Arry.
Steve: These courses don't help.
Bruce: Sceptic.
Steve: Realist.
Bruce: Chicken.
Steve: ...
Bruce: Oooh, I'm getting treated to an angry Arry look.
Steve: ...
Janick: Let's push the button and go home. I'm looking forward to getting online to check whether I've won my bet.
Dave: Yes, and I'm looking forward to reading the Da Vinci Code when I'm back home. It's about his famous Last Supper painting, and now that I met the artist in person, it's probably even more interesting. I wonder why they called it the Da Vinci Code, seeing that the painting was done by Michelangelo.
Bruce: Oh, fuck! How stupid of us.
Steve: You're right. The Last Supper was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Adrian: Haha, and Bruce was trying to convince Michelangelo to finish his painting.
Nicko: Maybe he never finished the task after all ... and that's why his painting never became famous.
Bruce: Oh damn, I just hope I didn't get his hopes up. How silly of me. But that was Monty Python's fault. Why did they put Michelangelo in that sketch?
Adrian: Maybe they did it to get people like us into funny situations.
Bruce: You may be right. Anyway, we should mention this joke on our BBC episode. I'm sure the Python guys will be pleased to get some credit.
Janick: Right, and now let's get back and check what century we were actually in ...
Bruce: Well, the 16th, of course ...