Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Could someone turn up the heat?

I realize that in some of my previous posts I was noting (strike out, complaining) about the lack of sun here in London. Having been here two months (!) I realize that this was naive. There is plenty of sun. It's hard to predict, and doesn't necessarily last a whole day (let alone a few days or week), but it's there. But so far missing: heat. It can turn sunny but still with a stiff breeze to keep things nice and cool. I was on the continent last week, evidently, and there things were back to normal: clouds=cool, sun=warm. This will take some getting used to, and plenty of Ryanair... Cheers, BB

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Punchline missing

The punchline is rather missing to this post. Nonetheless, here we go. A bit like the New Yorker, I'll run a contest for the best punchline provided. Cheers, BB

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Alien abduction! True story! (or Let them eat art)

Despite a lot of snobbery of various aspects of life in London, visual art does not seem to be one of them. What is exists - admittedly not as much as New York - is available to all. And galleries seem genuinely pleased to have the populi circulating through their veins. I went to some sort of celeb-studded opening the other night. Just phoned up and asked whether I had to r.s.v.p. I was told, quite unusually, that it was open to the public. So while celebs who seemed very familiar but that I didn't really recognize milled about surrounded by long-legged gazelles, I puttered around, looking at the art and wishing I had worn better shoes.

Then yesterday I dropped by the Hayward Gallery. This is a different concept: art that is actually fun, in a creepy Close Encounters meets conceptual art meets downtown clubbing meets futurism meets medieval torture kind of way. As you approach, you see these ominous figures watching you from nearby buildings:

although in fact they have been mistaken for would-be jumpers. First off as you enter, you join a queue. That's right, you queue for art just like attractions at Disney World. I know it sounds bad, but it turns out to be essential to the art. Because as you wait, you watch people entering this gaseous box:

Entering, disappearing, only to reappear as ghostly apparitions:

Then you go in yourself. You've imagined what it is going to be like. A bit like the smoke machine at a club you think. Not quite. It's intensely bright and entirely blinding. I can't see beyond arm's reach. And oh by the way, I can't breathe. I take a few steps in and lose all sense of orientation and space. It's not panic that I feel, but rational fear. Fortunately I can walk in a straight line (a skill that has come in handy more than once) so I somehow make it to a wall and exit, quickly, quietly. No fun house this one, though fascinating. Then I make my way up and join the next queue. Again I wish I could complain, but the queue is part of it. From the outside you see a sieve like box:
And through the little holes you see this:

What you're actually seeing is through to the other wall. The inside is a bit like an alien space ship with metal rods protruding creating a 3d space (or is it a maze?)

Finally, on your way out you pass a gallery that is truly beautiful torture chamber:The guard stopped me from taking more pictures, but imagine the outline of a human body in wire mesh which in turn is surrounded by a superstructure of a wire lattice. Are they being tortured? To me it looked somewhere between the dynamism of a futurist art work and the stasis of sleep. Paradoxical, but there it is.

Is it art supposed to be fun? No harm if it is I say. Not to say that all fun events that take place inside galleries are necessarily art (e.g., some of the sillier installations in the Tate's Turbine Hall). But is there a danger of art veering off into entertainment? Undoubtedly, but it's a fine line that one must not be afraid occasionally to walk.

Friday, June 15, 2007

So I was in New York last weekend

It's a bit like meeting the ex. There's various things you might feel: nostalgia, anger, loss, desire, revulsion. So I was in New York last weekend and did not feel any of these. Instead, what I felt was a sense of exotic beauty that I have previously associated with visits to Paris or Venice. The feeling that it's unique, wonderful, magical. For me, it's a moment in which all my senses seem to click and pass on a tingling sensation to my brain: a slightly warm, humid breeze; the smell of pollution and garbage; cars shooting down the street; pedestrians crossing in every direction; little shops, not all elegant, but all ready to trade. It felt claustrophobic, which was also why it felt cozy. All this on the rather undistinguished block where I live.

Next train...

to the stars...


Thursday, June 7, 2007


I took the morning off from the flugelbindery today. I started with a detoxifying (hangover clearing) run in the park. Then I became one of those people who you see ambling about mid-morning, a shopping bag or two accumulating about the shoulder like a trophy of the hunt, drinking a skim cappuccino at sidewalk table and basking in the cloudy sky. One of those people about whom you wonder how do they do it? Don't they work? I begin to suspect that most, like me, are on day parole and that just a few are of the creative, leisured class of second wives. But I digress.

I have noted in these pages the cloudy skies of London. Today was one of those days. Sometimes my observations might have seemed like complaints, and indeed sometimes they were. Even though today the thick clouds kept it cool, there was something very intense, saturated about the colours. The grass, the tree trunks, the flowers, all looking slightly damp, existed with such intensity this morning. Would I always enjoy even the cloudy days if all my mornings were like this?



Wednesday, June 6, 2007


One of the many civilizing features of London are its squares. They are scattered throughout the city, even in seemingly dense commercial areas. You turn off the main road, and in the distance you see a lovely little green patch...

You step closer and you see beautifully manicured lawns and grand trees:

These are the lungs of the city. They open up the vista, let the sky in, and clear the air. Your heart flutters. You imagine reading a little book of poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning you happen to have tucked into your bag under the shade of an oak tree (or perhaps catching up on the latest mags).

You work your way around to the gate only to discover:

I feign surprise, but of course this is a feature of London that I had discovered on previous visits. These little gems are private property, belonging to the buildings that abut the square. Nothing wrong with that I suppose. I do believe in private property and whatnot. It's just a little bit disconcerting when your momentary flutter is betrayed by the facts. What next? Will they require key access to walk on the sidewalk (footpath)?

Not quite, but more on that some other time.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

New Yorkers pop up where you least expect them

A New Yorker I encountered on a recent trip...

Not unexpected I suppose in a context where mummies are quite fashionable. Churchill, Becks, or Robbie Williams (a local friend will have tell me who exactly this last fellow is) not spotted.


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