THE first time I saw the Mona Lisa in person I was literally stopped in my tracks. That’s because two young Americans were kneeling in the doorway, unfolding a map of the Louvre. One of them was explaining in upwardly inflected Californian that it would be cool if they could like find a john on this floor because it had been like hours since he’d like peed and he really needed to like pee or whatever. I said, “I’m sorry,” and they said, “It’s cool,” and I realised that they thought I was apologising. So I stepped over them and entered the room where the most famous painting in the world hung. At least, I think it was the room where the most famous painting in the world hung. Because you can’t actually see the Mona Lisa. What you see is a scrum of about a hundred anxious people in flip-flops, bobbing and craning to get a better view of the bobbing and craning heads in front of them.

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