24 September 2023

Lipstick Sunsets

 Sundown on the Riviera

Camogli:  Giuseppe Pesa (1928 - 1992)

Not much has changed.......

Camogli:  Richard Gibbs (1951 - )

It is summer's end, and the Italian Riviera, or the Riviera ligure, or Levante Riviera, calls me down.  I want to bathe in both the water and the light, to wash off the dust of a certain sense of hopelessness that seems to affect both my life and that of my native land.  

There is something about places by the sea, where, day by day, life is influenced by the tridental vagaries of Neptune, and the diurnal passage of Helios in his chariot, rather than the whims of self-serving privileged individuals whose one aim is to preserve their own well-being......

In Camogli there are fishers and makers of focaccia and those who rely on passers-by like me to rent an umbrella.  And there are young lovers, who have a future, and have hope....

The locks on the chains may be universally a bit naff these days (I've seen more in Cologne and Paris, and it does seem to be a passing fancy....) but as the sun goes down on another day of my hurried holiday away from my duties as carer, a little ear worm stirs and I think of John Hiatt's memorable 1987 album Bring the Family, recorded in just four days in a flurry of post-alcoholic dependence:

There's a lipstick sunset
Smeared across the August sky
There's a bitter sweet perfume
Hanging in the fields
The creek is running high

And I left my lover waiting
In the dawn somewhere to wonder why
By the end of the day
All her sweet dreams would fade
To a lipstick sunset

Yes, I wish I could bring the family.  John Hiatt isn't a Nobel Prize winner and maybe neither his words and voice nor Ry Cooder's slide guitar will be to everyone's taste, but we all have our weaknesses.....

Well, a radio was playing
And that ol' summer heat was on the rise
I just had to get away
Before some sad old song
Brought more tears to my eyes

And Lord I couldn't tell her
That her love was only killing me
By the dawning of the day
All her sweet dreams would fade
To a lipstick sunset

Oh, yes, it is heartbreakingly beautiful here.  No wonder W B Yeats enjoyed some peace here, dropping slow.  Though quite what the irascible Pound found in nearby Rapallo I am not so sure.  But I can relate to Shelley and his funeral pyre on the nearby beach at Lerici.  Is that his spirit out there in his 'Don Juan?'

Camogli is a very pretty little place, with a stony beach and a cluster of houses backing the fishing port and the church and castle.  In the Castel Dragone, Giuseppe Pesa's pictures hang on the bare walls in an exhibition entitled Memoria di una bellezza inifinta (Memory of infinite beauty)....

It is indeed very beautiful, and as the sky darkens and the world turns I slip into romantic nostalgia, a glass of wine no doubt partly responsible, wishing my love was with me.....

Well it's pretty as a picture
Red and blushing just before the night
Maybe love's like that for me
Maybe I can only see
Take away the light

Hold me in the darkness
We can dream about the cool twilight
'Til the dawning of the day
When I make my getaway
To a lipstick sunset

Giuseppe Pesa became enchanted with Camogli some seventy years ago, about the time I was emerging into this confusing world, and he recorded the blues and greens of the sea, the multicoloured houses that rise from the shore, and the chiaroscuro of the sunset luminescence.  His canvases still show the energy and vitality that reflect his passionate and emotional engagement with the world.  For this I am grateful..... thought I also hope that

There will come another day
And I'll make my getaway
To a lipstick sunset


John Hiatt



  1. Heather Clowser. This us so sadly beautiful Richard.

  2. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be but this is still beautiful.

  3. You quote Giuseppe Pesa: "His canvases still show the energy and vitality that reflect his passionate and emotional engagement with the world." Well, so do your writings, thank you

  4. You deserve a place in the Golfo dei Poeti. Nostalgic beauty as are your writings.