millionreasons: (london)
Saturday, we went to both a wedding party and a football match (it was hard to find something in my wardrobe suitable for both events). The football was Clapton FC (based in Newham) vs Newham FC (based in Plaistow), both tiny non-league teams. The ground had a broken washing machine in the corner and you squelched through mud to get to the stand. As it was pissing it down, I spent the first half in the club house (a scout hut with a bar), next to the radiator, but braved the weather for the second half, when Clapton pulled a goal back. The fans (Clapton Ultras) were very vocal with their support and songs and flags and anti-fascist chants ("racist" was their main insult). At the end, the players applauded the fans and the fans clapped back, a requited love affair, giving each other something to do on Saturday afternoons.

I expected a load of old geezers and dads taking their kids because it's cheaper than Leyton Orient, but there were a lot of young people, several hipster boys with beards and waxed 'taches and overly tight jeans. If the club house sold Kernel beer and deep fried pickles, they'd have been in heaven (if you're a heterosexual girl wanting to meet a left-wing boy, you'd do a lot worse than come here of a Saturday). I was taken with the Tudor hunting lodge next door, latterly a pub, now a Grade II listed wreck, although there is a campaign to save it.

We got the train down to the City and the tube to Old Street, where we entered, through a semi-secret passageway, the Magic Roundabout, a pop-up burger joint, disco and cocktail bar, literally on Old Street roundabout. I'm pretty sure drinking on a roundabout would get you arrested in most towns. It'd been decorated all in gold for Neil and Shingo's wedding party, complete with a table of cheese, balloons and some synchronised dancers doing a routine to Trouble by Shampoo. The area was covered, but the tail-end of Storm Abigail was blowing through, so we left the wedding area and sat with the civilians, next to the outdoor heaters. We shared a table with some talkative Kiwis. It was kind of adorable to meet twenty year olds still enthusiastic about London rather than 30-40 year olds, moaning about house prices or planing to move to Kent.


They invited us for a curry, but we had another engagement, Declan's birthday at the Mucky Pup. We walked through lukewarm Islington, past a house party, a fluffy cat, annoyed by the rain, a half-lit cycle path, nouveau luxury flats, to the pub, which apart from having changed its nick-naks on the wall, looked exactly the same as when we were last here. It's the one remaining un-gastro pub in Islington, pool table taking up what was once the public bar, rubber bats attached to the ceiling fan in the saloon bar, scuzzy toilets, Monster Munch for sale along with non-craft beer. I like an unsticky floor as much as the next person, but I felt at home there, something that was brought home on Sunday when we went for brunch at a new place in Stoke Newington so fashionable that people were prepared to queue outside to pay £7 for a sandwich, albeit a delicious one. Gentrification is about more than money; it feels like we no longer fit in amongst the social media managers and personal brand builders in the cafes where they need the table back in 45 minutes.
millionreasons: (marnie)

I thought I'd better write about what I've been doing, so that when I look back on 2015, it's not just book reviews. Last weekend, Dave's parents were here and we got up unconscionably early on Saturday for the 10.30 a.m. tour of the BBC's New Broadcasting House. The tour cost money and I felt that we should have been able to bring our TV licence along and point out that we've already paid for it, but given that the Tories are trying to squeeze the Beeb to death, maybe  we all have to do our bit. New Broadcasting House, a lot smaller than it looks on the TV, is stapled onto Old Broadcasting House, the art deco building on Portland Place - the one Orwell used as a model for the Ministry of Truth ("in his novel Room 101", the guide erroneously told us), with its Eric Gill reliefs and lovely lights. During the refurb, they found an etching of a girl that Gill had hidden in the building - I'd really hate to know what else they found.



We were taken around by two enthusiastic young people, who told us that, despite all the Dr Who paraphernalia in the foyer and gift shop, drama is not filmed there, it's mostly news (we could see the studio and the worker bees typing away) and radio. We were taken to a fake studio where Dave's mum read the news and then a teenage girl improvd the weather. I didn't know that the weatherwo/men have no script and are only told how long they have to fill (on a slow or fast news day) at broadcast. We also went into the 1930s concert hall in Old Broadcasting House and Dave's mum (again) and Dave recorded a 2 minute radio play, complete with sound effects. We also saw The One Show studio. That table's a bit grubby, I tell you. Needs a bit of Windolene.


We lunched at Melt Room and then went onto the Chatsworth Road festival, complete with vintage fayre, music, dog show, food and free photoboth tomfoolery.

Sunday, we traversed the Forest Gate Jumble Trail and to the rather nice CoffeE7, then over to the Angel Canal Festival where I held an owl that hated me, then down to the Lexington for the last Hangover Lounge before it moves to the Betsy Trotwood. Drinks were quaffed, gossip was exchanged, records were played (the last one being, oddly, the old theme tune from Coronation Street).

Tuesday, I attended the Commonwealth Writers Prizegiving glitzy gala. Well, it wasn't that glitzy, I felt a bit over-dressed in a frock. Writers aren't known for their snappy dressing, I suppose. It was held in Pall Mall in Marlborough House, a Queen Anne-era mansion, which reminded me of the Painted Hall in Greenwich. It was terrifying walking into the do as everyone was already talking to someone, fortunately there were anthologies of last year's stories hanging around, so I drank wine, ate nibbles and read the book until a woman started talking to me. Then other people started talking to me, and some asked me about my writing, like I was Julian Barnes or something ("Where do you get your ideas?" "How do you write your characters?"). The winner of the Europe and Canada regional prize, Jonathan Tel, was the overall winner, so it was nice to lose to him. I came away with a goodie bag and an invitation to join a writers' group in Kings Cross.

Friday, I travelled to that strange place known as West London. Well, it's not that strange, I used to live on Goldhawk Road, just around the corner from the gig venue. That's changed, that's changed, I said as we walked around, that Cash Converters below the flat where I lived was a Caribbean cafe, greasy spoon Cafe Rest is now a Chinese. It seemed to have degentrified rather than got posher. We were going to the Shepherd's Bush Empire to see some bands. Again, I was more interested in the architecture than the support bands, specifically the beautiful Edwardian detailing. The headline band, Alvvays, were a bunch of fun, a Canadian Camera Obscura, a Toronto Shop Assistants, a Canuck Sweetness-and-Light-era Lush. The lead singer told a funny anecdote about Noel Gallagher, they played their hit, as predicted, at the end and the crowd went wild. I don't think I've seen moshing at a London indie gig before. We, fortunately, were sat down I can't stand up for 3 hours anymore. They ended the encore with a Kirsty MacColl cover. Despite being the oldest person there, I enjoyed it.

Saturday we went to the Tate to see the Babara Hepworth. I think they just sent a van down to st Ives and collected all the bits. I wasn't hugely impressed. I preferred the Fighting History exhibition, featuring various British and European artists painting wars and conflicts from Ancient Rome to the Poll Tax riots.

Most moving was the Miners' Strike exhibition with a video of the Battle of Orgreave reconstruction by Jeremy Deller. I didn't realise that Yorkshire Main was still open when I started at Edlington Comprehensive in 1985, I thought it had shut down during the strike (there were legendary tales of pitched battles between miners and police on the school playing field). The exhibition detailed how the print unions refused to print scurrilous headlines about Scargill and the NUM, that the steel unions wouldn't smelt steel with Nottinghamshire coal. I was 11 at the time and knew that the miners were right and Thatcher was wrong, but I didn't realise how it was, really, the last great union movement. Nonetheless, I was irritated last week by Zoe Williams' assertion that the nineties were all about hedonism and it wasn't until the late 90s that protest started again. I remember marching against further mine closures in 1992, the Criminal Justice Bill in 1993, in various anti-fascist demos (the BNP got their first (only) councillor in Tower Hamlets in 1993), at various Reclaim the Streets actions, and although I didn't attend them, I remember Leytonstonia and Newbury and the anti-road protests. Williams doesn't even mention the great Poll Tax Revolt of 1990! (maybe she should go to the exhibition). The Nineties did not start in May '97.

Which leads us to Mr Jeremy Corbyn, Corbs, Jezbyn, close friends get to call him JC. I find it somewhat ironic that an old school leftie, steeped in collective action, is now hailed as the new messiah. I find the presidentalism of British politics depressing - in May, it was all: Will people vote for Ed? Will Ed make a good PM?, ignoring the fact that it was the Labour party that was trying to get elected: the shadow cabinet, the MPs, the grassroots and member suport.

The right wing press will have a field day with Corbs (once they stop comparing a woman who complained about a man's sexist behaviour to a political party that murdered 11 million people), as will the right of the party who think the first thing the Labour Party would do on winning an election is cancel Trident. I would hope - and maybe I'm hopelessly wrong - that the first thing a Labour government would do is reverse a decade of government cuts. Corby was voted in on an anti-austerity ticket, not on a CND ballot paper.

If you've been a back bencher for thirty odd years, you're able to say what you feel and, with a hefty Islington majority, vote against your own whips if you want to. So his opinions on Trident, Hamas etc are his own. That doesn't mean that he will force them down the throats of the entire Labour party. I presume that he will have learned from Tony Blair's top down style and won't be a dictator. He believes, so I assume, in the NEC and in collective decision making.

However, a left-wing Labour party might bring back SNP voters, but it's the marginal seats of England that Labour needs to win. Will a Corby-led party convince the selfish and stupid and easily scared swing voters of middle England that immigrants, benefit scroungers (sic) and London latte drinking liberals aren't the enemy, but the fat cats of the banking world, the newspaper magnates et al? I hope that a reinvigorated, voting against the government Labour party will change the way people feel, as they did in the forties. I want the partisanship of the '80s before Blair blurred the boundaries of left and right. If Labour don't win in 2020, then at least the left tried. As a miner put it, better to fight and lose then roll over and accept it.

We went for lunch/afternoon tea at Cinamon Soho. They brought the pots of tea straight away but forty minutes later, we were still waiting to be served. Eventually the food arrived, but it was the wrong (meat) order. They took it away. Twenty minutes later we finally got our meal. It was delicious: mini slider pakora, veggie quail Scotch egg, potato bonda, toasted green chutney sandwich, scone with chilli jam, masala sticky toffee pudding, but I considered arguing about the mandatory service charge, given that it was so terrible. I decided against ("I'll just make a passive aggressive comment on Twitter"), however the manager came over and dramatically crumpled up the bill, telling us that there was no charge due to the wait. Five hours in and we're already getting redistribution of wealth!

millionreasons: (wine)
Yesterday, we went to a Bank Holiday-cum-Birthday barbecue in Forest Gate. Upon learning that the house two doors down was empty, I decided that my dream was to live in E7 and raise a cat. By four o'clock, it was raining (it is bank holiday after all), and so the BBQ became a grill-less party with free flowing rum and ginger beers and curry flavoured popcorn. I tried to invite myself to a joint stag night that neither of the grooms wanted to have. A five year old punched me on the bum and I was tempted to say: "You'll have to buy me dinner first", but considered that Alphabites, spaghetti hoops and a Nesquik probably aren't the way to my heart. I had to apologise for throwing shade on Wenlock and Mandeville. I met an Italian who not only liked curry, but said that he didn't mind the English weather. If you've ever met an Italian in England, you will know that this is highly unusual. By 10.30 p.m. we'd been there for 8 hours, so it felt like time to go before the alcohol from the back of the cupboard (Limoncello, Ouzo, that weird herb liqueur that someone's always got) came out, and so we got the Overground and then walked from South Tottenham back home, stopping in Grodzinski's on Stamford Hill for eclairs and post-Shabbat atmosphere. It was better than a kebab.


Jun. 23rd, 2015 09:11 am
millionreasons: (london)
The anti-austerity demonstration starts at 12 sharp. Or it would have done, but the police hold everyone until 1.30, presumably thinking people would get bored and leave. We march behind Arts Emergency, then the pink bloc Everything for Everyone. The NUM march next to the Green Party. Marxists march with Class War. Animal rights activists, pro-Palestine people, Charlotte Church - all of humanity is here. There’s a lot of lurve for Jeremy Corbyn, the only Labour leader nominee in attendance. The police guard the war memorial monument and the boos and hisses go up as we pass Downing Street. Some shoppers on Fleet Street boo us, presumably because we are in their way, "Dossers," one woman says, as if the only reason people protest is because they have nothing better to do. A confused stag party, dressed as characters from computer games, try to cross the road. We take a quick break in Pret A Manger, bastion of capitalism, but here, it has failed as there are no sandwiches left; so much for supply and demand theory. However, the manager is chill with people using the toilets.



A better review from LRB blog.

After Parliament Square, we walk away, back into normality, though the tourism of St James Park, past the pelicans. We meet Martin for his Central line birthday pub crawl at Holborn (some of the stag Marios are in here), moving onto that weird little pub next to Oxford Circus that I’ve passed a myriad of times but never been into. We stand outside and immediately it starts to rain, so we move onto Bond Street, a pub Rob’s sister used to work in during the late 90s. It’s now a Japanese bar so we have sake, which tastes like Fino sherry. Onto Marble Arch, a pub down a side street I could never find again; the cricket is on but we leave as England need 7 runs from 8 balls to win, I take my gin and tonic with me but leave it in Marble Arch tube station, onto Lancaster Gate where I’ve run out of drinking energy and retire, hurt.


Sunday, I go sit in Springfield Park for Music Day with Claire, Nic and Trev. The park has split into two - one half is thirty-something dads who've taken their kids to the park for Fathers' Day and are drinking beer  the sunshine, watching a garagey band called Hot Dog Girl and pretending they're at Glastonbury - and the reggae/rap side, populated by white dreadlock-wearers with dogs, pretending they're at Womad. It reminds me a bit of the Green Fayres you'd get in the 90s/early 2000s where the local dub band would play and the council would give away free low energy lightbulbs and the travelling veggie van would be down from Nottingham.

We get the tube over to Hyde Park for the British Summer Time gig featuring Chic, Grace Jones and Kylie. I hope Grindr have turned on their back up servers. Chic are three quarters of the way through their set and are playing Le Freak when we enter. They go into a late 70s megamix mash up of Good Times and Rapper's Delight and then play Let's Dance. I wonder if they're going to do Notorious, but instead Nile brings on his celebrity pals, Sam Smith and The Edge. He's a living ledge, don't get me wrong, but it all feels a little bit cheesy. I'm presuming the backing lady singers aren't the original Chic-ers, they looks chic, but very young. Mind you, the portrait in Mr Rodgers' attic must be grimly gnarled by now.

Whereas Grace Jones's attic would be full of the body fat she doesn't have. The woman is the same age as my mother but she has never appeared on the stage of Bawtry Amateur Dramatic Society wearing nothing but a glittery bowler hat, a thong and body paint. At least, I hope not. She (Grace, not my mum) prowls the stage like a hungry lion, disappearing for costume additions, playing Slave To The rhythm, which she hula-hoops through, and Pull Up To The Bumper (I remember her performing the 1985 re-release on TOTP and DJ Mark Goodier saying: "I don't think this is about cars." No shit, Mark. I think even I, aged 12, knew that). She sings a few bars of Amazing Grace (why not go the whole hog and do Me and Mrs Jones?) and then, clad in a gladiatorial white head-dress and what strongly resembles the rug you had round the toilet in the 80s, decides to go for a ride on a security guard, in what is either the best or most terrifying five minutes of his life.

Dom comments that the queues for the beer tent are much smaller than when he was here on Thursday for The Strokes. Indeed, the atmosphere is very gentle. There's no lager laddy behaviour, just lots of twirling. When a man treads on my foot, he apologises. I think we should probably get rid of straight men. Maybe we could keep a few, who pass a strict test, for reproductive and carrying heavy things purposes* but really, how much better would the world be with just women and gay men?

Kylie is fully covered up, dressed like the Red Queen and her backing dancers look like sweets, wrapped up in bows and dots: an Alice in Wonderland/Nutcracker mash-up. Either that, or it's a few leftovers from a PSB live show, apt since Your Disco Needs You sounds like a rejected Neil Tenant song.

The pint sized pop princessTM does all the hits, including a cover of Bette Davis Eyes, which is quite nice but a bit bland. Maybe this is the probs with Kyles; she's a consummate performer, but she's just too family-friendly. Despite the murder duets with Nick Cave, y'can't imagine her doing anything really avant-garde. She'll carry on ploughing the same rainbow field for some time to come, chucking out the odd cover version if her career dips.

*maybe the England cricket team too.

Art, bitch

May. 24th, 2015 04:02 pm
millionreasons: (london)
Into a deserted, rain-swept West End to do Art (and shopping. And eating). We visit the Photographers' Gallery's annual Deutsche Bank prize, this year featuring heartbreaking photos of murdered or raped or assaulted black, gay South Africans. It seems horribly ironic that horrific homophobia is so rife in South Africa, where gay equality is enshrined in the constitution and same sex marriage has been legal for almost a decade.

There are also rather odd, old photos of Soviet sunbathers and Viviane Sassen's Rothko-esque abstract pictures, more like paintings than photography:

My favourite entry, also South African, is from Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse about Ponte City, a tower block in downtown Joburg built for whites in the apartheid era, abandoned by white-flighters to black South Africans and immigrants, now in the process of regneration/gentrification: the current occupants booted out. It reminded me of the tale of Balfron Tower and indeed, the views from the tower were comparable to those in Poplar despite Southern Africa and East London's geographical dissimilarities. Best were the towers of photographs of windows, doors, and windows to the world (TVs) in each of the flats.



Into Soho, we go up the stairwell of an NCP car park on Brewer Street and enter into the backend of the Matrix simulation. The darkened room contains three light boxes with swarms of ball bearings swooshing from side to side like massing insects, punctured by dizzying bursts of strobe lighting, sending my teeth into fits. In the back room, fifty computers trill out information, I expect cloned Kraftwerk members to be standing behind each projector. It's like living inside a hard drive as the machines burp out noise and flickers and sheet lightning flashes of inspiration.



C.P Snow would be delighted (I think) with this mixing of the two cultures. Comments in the visitors' book are a little more "London" than your average Turner exhibition commentary: 'I still don't understand super-symmetry, but I like it!' and the more prosaic 'Science, bitch!'


Oct. 7th, 2014 10:13 am
millionreasons: (pankhurst)
Sunday we went bowling but Saturday was art, plus arguing about TVs in John Lewis (makes a change from couples disagreeing in Ikea). We went to the Royal Academy for the Anselm Kiefer retrospective and then onto Hauser and Wirth. I saw an Kiefer exhibition at the South London Gallery some years ago; the paintings were called things like Dark Light That Falls from the Stars and I was very affected by the grey, intricate, pestilent pictures. This exhibition moved me less, perhaps because I was hungry, perhaps because to provide VFM, there were 12 rooms, perhaps because the South London gallery is more of an intimate setting. Anyway, I did like that Kiefer seems to be half painter half sculptor, there were paintings of trees, with twigs attached, another with triffid-like dead sunflowers hanging off of it (he is the anti-Van Gogh).

At H&W, I wanted to see Pierre Huyghe, but ended up in Paul McCarthy next door. Yes, we went to see porn by mistake, honest, officer. The thing about painting people shagging, with overlays from rude magazines, may have been shocking in the 70s, or to Mary Whitehouse in the '90s, god rest her unimaginative soul, but now, when you can see any kind of perversion with a few mouse clicks, it seems a little dull. The artist also had a bit of a coprophilia thing going (I do hope those poor girls were actually chewing chocolate), which reminded me of the film You, Me And Everyone We Know, in which a small boy writes scatological stuff about poo going back up your bum. But being obsessed with shit when you're in your 60s seems a little pathetic. I think if a little more humour had been interjected (i.e. one piece had a sock puppet in place of a penis), it might have been more fun, but as it was, I just said Hmmm, and Very challenging, and we escaped next door.

There were four pieces in the Huyghe exhibition: a beautiful close up film of insects trapped in amber. It made me think of the inside of a kaleidoscope.

The second objet was three aquariums (aquaria?) that stood in the middle of the room, housing isotopes transplanted from Monet’s ponds in Giverny, algae, fronds, and the odd fish and salamander. They were lit yellow, green and mud, and reminded me of Rothko, the seeping colour, the square blocks of hue. There was also a very disturbing film of a monkey dressed in a waitress uniform and wearing a (realistic) human mask. I think it was trying to say something about the nature of identity but it made me feel bad for the poor monkey, trapped inside an art project.

I walked straight past the first piece, a headless, reclining statue, but went back to have another look, and read in the blurb that the figure contains an internal heating device that encourages the growth of moss and mimics human circulation; the inanimate thing seemed closer to humanity than the unfortunate simian.
millionreasons: (london)

Two Saturdays in Pimlico. Last weekend, we did the second of the London's Lost Rivers walk, from the Shepherd’s Well in  Hampstead to the River Thames at Pimlico along the route of the Tyburn.

Say Tyburn and you think gallows, but they were on the location of Marble Arch, half a mile away. We cross Oxford (née Tyburn) Street near Bond Street, going south. I've lived in Old London Town for almost 20 years now, but there are still some places I didn't know existed, a lane in Mayfair where Terence Donovan used to live, now commemorated with a plaque and a sculpture, the Phileas Fogg club 'round the back of Bond Street tube, another commemorative statue: Freud, not outside his house/museum, as well as herons in Regent's Park, a frieze of St Christopher (fording the Tyburn?) in St Christopher's Place and of course, the drains from which you can hear the rushing river. As with the last walk, we pass through many mews, I wonder if the original stables were situated near the river(s) in order to water the horses.

Today we went to the Tate to see Richard Deacon. The problem with sculpture is that it's far more tactile than painting, or, um, video installation, and I wanted to stroke, play with, crawl through the various exhibits, particularly After, which reminded me of the giant, hollow insects and amphibians that used to exist in the Victoria Centre, Nottingham, for children to play in and on. Some of the pieces seemed constrained within the confines of the gallery, I could especially see the wooden artworks in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, gently weathering.

We also wandered through the Phyllida Barlow installation, claustrophobic in its massiveness, like an adventure playground in a  borough with no money, or the last apocalyptic day of a refuse strike.

I preferred the Ruin Lust exhibition, which featured art depicting ruins from classical days to nowadays. I suppose just as comedy = tragedy + time, then ruins + time = beauty. People travel from all over the world to see the Acropolis, the Coliseum, Fountains Abbey, but a Victorian music hall falling into disrepair is deplorable, and a dilapidated council block ugly. I thought of two beautiful modern ruins, the bombed out church in Hamburg, a permanent ruin as a monument to peace, and the similar and lovely St Dunstan In the East in the City. Also, the crumbling crofters' cottages in the extreme north of the Scottish highlands, which seem to become part of the landscape, a piece of history to remind us what once was.

I loved the photos of la batterie in Normandy - great sci-fi hulks glaring over the English channel. I've long wanted to see their English cousins, the AT-AT-like sea-forts of Kent:

There was also a short movie by Tacita Dean, filmed inside a Kodak factory, which was called The Russian Ending, so named because early Danish films regularly made two endings, one happy for the American market, one sad for the Russians. Not sure which route Lars Von Trier is taking.

Outside, were quotations from writers, artists, flaneurs about dissolution and disintegration, and books by ruin-fanciers, two of which I added to my to-read list.

2014-04-12 14.24.44

millionreasons: (pankhurst)
All exhibitions in London at the moment seem to be cut-outs, cut-ups, collages or montages, so I went to a couple of alternatives, firstly the United Visual Artists' Momentum at the Curve, Barbican. This is twelve pendulums emitting light and sound as you walk through the darkened gallery. I realised that they were on wires, but when standing still, it feels like the orbs are floating in space, probes searching out new life. The hushed atmosphere made me think of Third Encounters, the awe of the aliens.

We also went to the Photographers' Gallery to see their big show of the year: Warhol, Burroughs, Lynch. Burroughs's pics did involve cut ups and some very bad domestic photos that look like my dad's from the '70s, figures not in shot, with missing bits. David Lynch's was the best: international industrial landscapes, broken factory windows, pylons, pipes. I'm a sucker for a cooling tower.

Dave had borrowed his co-worker's RA card so we mooched along there and had a look at Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined. I wasn't expecting that much, but it was a fun, playful exhibition, a wood panelled structure that took you right up to the top of the gallery to admire the golden angels in the bas-relief, the house made of sticks and gravel, the light house, the straw house:

Hopefully, Hackney Homes won't go on a fact-finding mission here.

We bumped into Dan and Ivana and their son Nathaniel, who was very taken with the straws. We went to the Waterstone's café and talked about visiting Reigate and Catholic kitsch. Protestants really need to up their kitsch levels if they want to compete - the CofE needs to get working on Rowan Williams tea-towels and Justin Welby candles. David suggests that Pope Ratzinger was forced to resign as Pope Jean Paul II sold more calendars than he did.

In the evening, we went along to my work colleague's party at the Eastern Curve Garden, lit up and pretty. There was a bonfire, a heated greenhouse and a ceilidh, which we weren't dragged into, fortunately (I don't like dance instructions being barked at me). There were also parents saying things like: "You must respect a fire, Zack." We got the bus down into town and went to how Does It Feel To Be Loved feat. [ profile] dickon_edwards, like in the olden days. DE played a floor-pleasing set of The Aislers Set, Aztec Camera, the Supremes, Frankie Valli and Spearmint's Sweeping The Nation (which still sends a shiver down my spine, and then makes me feel sad because it's 15 years old and it's like a song from 1984 still affecting me in 1999. We all need to move on.) and even some verboten disco-funk, which I enjoyed since it felt thrillingly rebellious. We got the surprisingly sedate night bus at about 3 and I woke up far too early for a near-41 year old.
millionreasons: (pankhurst)
Tuesday, we went to the theatre to see Strangers on a Train. I've read the book and seen the film and always considered Guy, who is drawn into the murder, as the central character; however this production very much made Bruno, the plotter, the protagonist. He was played that night by the understudy, but was surprisingly brilliant. There are strong resemblances to The Talented Mr Ripley, although in this case it's the nerdy guy, Guy, who is stalked and dragged in to nefariousness by the rich, confident, possibly homosexual man. The staging was also good, with great use of projected film to give the impression of being on a train, of leaves blowing ominously in the wind outside Bruno's house, of a merry-go-round at the fayre.

Thursday, we went to the launch of The Art of Slow Focus, by Alex de Mora, the guy who does the artwork for the Fuck Buttons. Yep, we were in the presence of an Olympian (albeit someone who was on the Opening Ceremony soundtrack). We drank Swedish lager, mingled with hipsters and looked briefly at the art.

Saturday was Out of Ice at Ambika P3, a strange underground venue, part of the University of Westminster, just off Baker St, away from the fake celebrity hunters queuing for Madame Tussauds and the Sherlock-fanciers. Blocks of ice hung from the roof, dripping into black pools, backlit by swirling patterns.

Sunday, to the Picturehouse to see Inside Llewyn Davis, which I loved. I love almost everything the Brothers Coen have done, save Burn After Reading, which was execrable (I wasn't keen on True Grit, but I don't care for Westerns in general). ILD was classic storytelling. It avoided cliché: Llewyn did not find redemption by connecting with the son he didn't know he had, he was not signed to a major record label, we could tell early on that he was going to miss out on $$$ by taking a recording fee rather than royalties on a soon to be hit record, but this was only hinted at rather than made into a major plot point. The early 60s folk scene reminded me of the London indie scene with its rivalries, bitchiness and sexual incestuousness. My favourite art was when Lewyn tries to put his box of unsold LPs under the table in the flat where's he staying, only to find another unsold box of records by a different folkie.

It was great to see a Hollywood film that was not a prequel, sequel, franchise, superhero story, book adaptation, or remake. The Coens seem to be the only people who can write an original story, in this case with an end, a beginning and a middle as Llewyn's story was satisfyingly circular. Stuff happened, he tried to change it, he failed, he took a road trip, he was left at the side of the motorway, he tried to escape, he failed and went right back to where he started from, literally, as the film's end was also its beginning.
millionreasons: (pankhurst)
Saturday, we went to the Urban Food Fest in a car park on Shoreditch High Street. It was crawling with the young and fashionable; you literally cannot keep hipsters away from street-food. If there's a street and some food, they'll be there. I had a vegeburger, which comprised two portobelllo mushrooms, cheese, rocket, grilled veg and smoky ketchup. It was OK. The only street-food I really like is from the Indian stall on Broadway Market and now that they've opened a restaurant, there's no need to eat out of a styrofoam carton whilst precariously balancing one's possessions anymore. I also bought a strawberry tart and stood on the petrol station forecourt to eat it, as we'd given up our hard-fought table. This is Shoreditch life. We wandered into ur-Shoreditch and found a nice pub, which played old music for old people (Smiths, Cure, 70s reggae, The Specials) and sunk real ale (not craft beer). Shoreditch is now going through its third incarnation (since I've lived in London), from dump to cool hang-out to tourist-ruined hell-hole. It's much easier for people from (say) Southend to get the train up to Fenchurch St and walk (totter) or bus it up to E1 rather than go up west. By 11 p.m., the last Saturday night of August was humming with fake tan, vomit and police-cars. We 243-d the hell out of there.

Sunday, we mosied on down to the Angel Canal Festival for boats, Punch and Judy, WI fairy cakes, bric-a-brac, crafts, fairground rides, the angels of Angel, celebs (Jenny Jones from The Green Party, and Russell Tovey, accompanied by handsome (boy)friend and dog), and bubble tea, which, instead of tapioca, had fruit shoot bursts of mango juice in it. It was odd, but not unpleasant. There were also animals. Dave and Claire paid to fondle some birds and I took the photos:

I noticed that the men chose the hawks, kestrels and eagles and women chose the cutey ones (if I'd done it, I would've gone for a cappuccino covered barn owl or a tiny tiny owlet hiding under its sign). Claire chose a bird that looked like a toy owl, one that would wear a mortar board and gown in a cartoon. I made the mistake of stroking its wing and it gave me the filthiest look. Their eyes were so expressive:- the tawny that tried to escape and was put back on its perch by the handler gave such a hurt, impassioned plea to its owner. The eagle Dave held was stoic, staring straight ahead. On another stall, a man got people to stroke his snake. And chameleons, gekkos, lizards and, erk, a tarantula. I don't have a phobia of either snakes or spiders, but that doesn't mean I want them crawling all over me, although I was pleased to see two little girls not shrieking but holding the arachnid and the boa constrictor, although less pleased when one of the girls kept pushing the snake's head toward me, saying: "It won't bite!". The animal man was a bit too trusting: in the crowd, it would've been quite easy to put an animal in a bag or for some horrible teens to start throwing things around, although maybe he packed up before it got too raucous.
millionreasons: (pankhurst)
On Saturday, we went to the Royal Academy to look at the The Summer Show. After viewing 1100 paintings (and photos and sculpture), I didn't want to see any artwork ever again. As it's impossible to pick your favourites, I concentrated on how the curators had hung the paintings: one had chosen to order pieces by colour like an idiosyncratic 6 year old - black and white on this wall, primary colours on that, another had controversially gone minimalist with only a couple of paintings per wall, and one room had bee arranged by theme: one wall showed industrial landscapes from Dungeness to Arizona to Azerbaijan.

We also went to the Richard Rogers exhibition round the back in Burlington Gardens, which featured ideas from members of the public on how to make London better:

Theere was also le Centre Pompidou fait du Lego.

Sunday, we went to the Hackney WICKed festival, boats, art, music, ice-cream. The Wick has been Disneyfied: retro-style art murals and blue plaques telling us about the industrial past ("When it rained, you could smell the soap from the Yardley factory!"), which provides a quirky backdrop for the hipsters' drinking and carousing. I don't want to go all Iain Sinclair on your collective ass, but sometimes I just prefer things as they were. Contrarily, my main objection to hipsters is their cultural appropriation of the past. They take things without the meanings attached to them. To hipsters, The Smiths means the same thing as Johnny Hates Jazz (one bar was actually playing Living In A Box by Living In A Box:- I look forward to the It Bites revival). I don't want/need to see or hear those things all over again.

millionreasons: (billie)
On Friday, I took part in Calls from Blethenal Green, a sound installation and part of the Praxis New Voices festival. it involved a small amount of the Hackney Secular Singers making pigeon, blackbird, robin, ambulance, police and fire engine noises in a call and response way in a church in Bethnal Green. It was fun.

Afterwards, I central lined it over to Hyde Park to watch an old man gasp out his greatest hits (and some from the '70s) in front of a rapturous crowd. My dad, as part of the ents team at Nottingham Poly, put the Kinks on at the student union in 1966 and i feel that it goes against the natural order of things for me to be watching Ray Davies now. I mean, I like The Kinks, but I find this never-ending nostalgia endlessly tedious. Will we, the children of the baby boomers, still be watching the boomer bands in 2023, 2033? It's depressing. It's not that he's bad; Mr Davies seems rather sweet and very happy to be there (headlining after Elton John pulled out) and certainly the crowd love this living legend, and at least he doesn’t go into some hideous '60s medley of Herman's Hermits and The Swinging Blue Jeans and Manfred Mann songs. I do admit to feeling a little thrill during an acoustic version of Waterloo Sunset and it's nice to hear Days on a hot summer night, but...But but. These people were young and rebellious and of that time and they should stay in that time. I find this 1960s cultural icons thing kinda creepy, moribund, very Tony Blair, part of the Cool Britainnia branding, good ol' British rock 'n' roll, export to America, heritage industry. People are filming the giant screens to prove that they were here in this moment. "Yeah I was there, Rolling Stones at Glastonbury, Ray Davies in Hyde Park." There are hundreds of bands playing all over London tonight, why are we here watching an OAP play songs from ten years before we were born? My boss took her 15 year old son to Glastonbury; he wasn't interested in The Stones or even Nick Cave, he wanted to see The Parma Violets. Now, the Parma Violets are shit, but I find it right and proper that this is what he should prefer.

Ray plays a lesser known song and announces that it is from a time when England had forgottten the Kinks. I would challenge that, I think they sold more songs to ads than Moby. I can't listen to Dedicated Follower of Fashion without thinking of Dedicated Follower of Bass Nights, as that's how I first heard the song (beer was advertised to kids in the '80s).

(I think Moz should maybe take his own advice).

I'm a hypocrite though. Afterwards, we go back north to Great Big Kiss, Ian Watson's attempt to recreate a '60s basement club, and boogie on down to soul and Motown and psych and garage and ska. Earlier on, as well as the bird and siren sounds, the HSS sang a Buzzcocks song, an Undertones song and a Depeche Mode song, none of which are from my time (I was 8 when Just Can't Get Enough was a hit). In fact, there's a Kinks song in our repertoire, Village Green Preservation Society, which lightly mocks those who want to preserve olde things.

On Saturday, we foolishly battle through the heat to Covent Garden to try out the Shake Shack ice-cream. We queued twice for the Shake Shack in Union Square, NYC, both times giving up after 20 minutes. Here the queue is a lot shorter, but really, the ice-cream isn't all that. It's not even as good as Ben and Jerry's and it was already half-melted by the time I finally got it. The sea-salted caramel ice I had on Avenue Louise in Brussels on Tuesday was superior and, at €1.60, a third of the price.

In the evening, we went over to the Boat Club for their summer party. It was bug-themed. I didn't dress up, but a moth fell in my drink, so I feel that I fulfilled the spec.

St Pancras sunset's fine:

In other news, I feel very conflicted about Ashton Agar.
millionreasons: (Default)

Saturday to Healthy Stuff for a coffee and a vegan flapjack (nicer than it sounds); in the evening to The Pembury for a mixed-gender not-a-hen-party hen-do. I complained that the pub had filled up with hipsters since they changed the food menu, but I think it’s really since the Guardian et al started reporting on the craft beer ‘movement’. I miss playing board games quietly and also the man with the ferret. I had a headache, so only stayed a couple of hours, but was there long enough to hear John’s ideas for the Olympics opening ceremony – Del Boy falling through the bar 2012 times, Stephen Fry eating 2012 British pork pies etc.

Sunday, we did the first bike ride of the year up to Hatfield Forest. I took the train to Sawbridgeworth and then cycled through a ruralscape of sunshiney oil seed fields, cow parsley, bluebells, rainsoaked green fields, little lambs, wooden cows. Ah, so good to be out in the open, my headache disappeared in the Herts/Essex borders air. We only got lost once, when I wandered through an open gate, up a hill to find a public footpath. When leaving, I was challenged by a woman, and we established that I was in the wrong place and she directed me to the actual footpath. She then said in that annoying English passive/aggressive way: "because this isn’t a footpath, it’s a garden". I felt like saying: "Then why don’t you put a notice on the gate telling passers-by that", but also English, I said thank you. I should have said “sorry” in that fake way we do so well.

Hatfield Forest is owned and managed by the National Trust. We wandered around the lake, had a look in the shell house and ate a sarnie in the open air café. Most National Trust refectories sell salads and cream teas, here they were playing to their public and selling pasties, chips and hot dogs. But the people were a lot nicer than Mrs-Are-You-Trying-To-Burgle-My-House You-Out-Of-Town-Pleb.

Got the train back, which was empty until Northumberland Park when it was then packed with Tottenham fans. Thankfully their team had won and were in an accommodating-of-bikes-on-trains mood, rather than having just lost the league in the 90th minute à la Manchester United.

millionreasons: (Default)
I dreamt we were standing by the banks of the Lea....

Saturday: To Maltby St market, allegedly the new Borough, although I'm not sure a couple of meat stalls, some veggies and the Kernel beer company is that much competition. It'll be great once it's finished. We did get caught in a cake stand who force fed us samples until we gave in and bought some fridge cake (or crack cake, as they had named it) but still had to go onto Borough to buy cheese as the three fromageries at Maltby St only featured hard and soft cheese, no crumbly, indeed they were all foreign cheese. If there's one thing we do well in this 'ere Britain, it's cheese. Blessed be the cheese-makers.

Sunday: Cycled down to the Hackney Pearl to fill up on calories we had just burnt off. The cold morning made the towpath almost empty, just a few swans and some joggers not yet given up their NY resolutions, although Hackney Marshes was full of footballers playing their last months of matches before The Olympics Experience comes along. Paved football pitch, put up a parking lot.

millionreasons: (Default)
Thursday: To Camden for Spacetacular, a - ahem - science-based comedy evening run by the nominatively determined Helen Keen
who runs around enthusiastically throwing out packets of Space Raider crisps and complaining wittily that Nasa sent more animals than women into space (indeed, in the quiz, we are asked to name the first woman in space which I cannot answer, although of course I know the name of the first dog. We got 5/10 in the quiz; my contribution was 0/10).

Helen introduces the next act, Layla, who talks about why the Imperial forces were actually the good guys in Star Wars and why and where the Death Star III should be built. She shows the Empire's inventions, although a nerdy someone in the audience shouts "Actually, the X fighter planes were a Rebel invention." Dave whispers that they were originally invented by the Empire but the idea was stolen by the Rebel forces (the nerdy someone goes on to win the quiz 6.5/10).

Next up is a man who is (aptly) a lecturer at Imperial college who talks about taking photos of the atmosphere. There are robots that
can take pics of the troposphere but the lecturer still has to keep closing down a dialogue box asking him to join BT Open Hub. Ditto in the next
act, a man talking about the space animals, especially Ham the Chimp whose skeleton and soft tissue are buried in two different "graves",
 the laptop battery dies. We can send a man (not a woman) to the moon, but a laptop battery lasts no longer than 2 hours. I imagine the
peasants in the far flung corners of the Soviet Empire felt much the same way when Yuri Gagarin went up into the atmosphere. Except replace
"laptop battery" with "food".

The last act is Space Dog, a trio with theramin, bells, talking robot head, spooky baby, Germanic folk tales and a soundtrack for astronaut training courses.

Saturday, into town to meet Robert and various others for the First Inaugural Record Shopping Day whereby we buy a record from a Soho record store then take it to the pub to talk about it. I wasn't aware that record shops still sold records, but I am wrong, Sister Ray has quite a few of them. I cheat and buy a CD, an Otis Redding collection. The grumpy man on the desk calls me "madam" when I buy it. Not as embarrassing as the time my mother requested a Dire Straits album for Xmas and I had to purchase it from an actual shop, but almost. Still, I am old, it's been an awful long time since my Saturday morning was spent record shopping. The last physical album I bought was in 2007. Friday, I was listening to Girls Aloud on youtube.

Sunday was Tanya's birthday wander over Hampstead Heath in lovely sunshine. Global warming hey? Not just there for the nasty things in life like polar ice caps melting. Later, we went to the Spaniards Inn which seems to be the new pub au choix in Hampstead rather than the Flask or Hollybush. Unfortunately, most other people who took an autumnal constitutional were there as well but the bar staff let us go upstairs where Ian Watkins had had his 30th birthday, but was long gone. Slightly odd to be sitting in the middle of the debris of a do - glitter, wrapping paper and empty pinot grigio bottles. Dan tells us about his entry for a competition to design a new pylon - he was one of the runners up. He wanted pylons made of monkeys holding electric orbs or to create electricity by draining the love out of people. Dan's designs for the widowmaker razor, the chococheese bar and the future watch are now online. Not featured are his Speedophile swimming trunks.


Oct. 16th, 2011 04:18 pm
millionreasons: (Default)
The last week or two seems to have been spent guzzling (which I consider to be storage for the upcoming winter and not just greed) in the cupcake-free zone of High Tea of Highgate, in the hipster-esque Pacific Social Club, at Morgan M (beetroot and goat's cheese savoury cheesecake, delicious), at Apple Day at the Farmers Market (turns out the best way to eat apples is from Niko B, covered in caramel and chocolate, not toffee).

I also went to the Museum of Everything whose shed like gallery has been recreated in Selfridges. The theme of Exhibition 4 was outsider art, mostly from un-trained artists in institutions. Problem is that much of it was similar and in the dark space with no natural light, it started to become slightly claustrophobic and the hundreds of oddly drawn faces staring down at me became somewhat oppressive and even menacing. I preferred the exhibition in the old Selfridge's hotel 'round the corner, featuring Judith Scott's sculpture made from left-overs and household rubbish, hanging creepily from hooks in shadows like dismembered body parts in the gutted hotel, smelling of concrete and atrocity.

There was also a Shop of Everything that sold designs of the artwork on wallets, bags, badges, aprons etc at somewhat Selfridge's style prices. It included the Cafe of Everything where you could have a sponsored coffee for sort-of-free although my companion insisted on putting money in the donation box.

Today, we meandered down to Belfast road, the street of railway cottages and industrial units-turned-art galleries. An annual residents-run yard sale was on and Gwen and DJ had a table. I bought a skirt and a book for £1.50 then went into the Campbell Works where they were making bread and baking it in terracotta masks to make bread heads. To make it ethnically diverse, some of the loaves had been burned. Tres Stoke Newington but not any less fun for that.


Jun. 19th, 2011 02:36 pm
millionreasons: (men)
To Brighton (via Borough Market for quiche and chocolates for the train). Taking advantage of the free Art Fund card I got from a Guardian offer (which I think would be a good deal even if I'd paid for it), we go around the Pavilion, somewhere I've long wanted to go, but was always put off by the £9.80 entrance fee. Unlike most tasteful National Trust type properties, this is opulence with a capital OTT, from the astonishing crystal of the banqueting room and the dragon-pagoda chandelier and chinoiserie of the primary coloured music room to the fascinating kitchens. As is usual in such places, there is plastic meat and vegetables to give the place an air of authenticity, but bizarrely, a real stuffed swan in a roasting tin as if waiting to go in the oven. There's also an interesting exhibition on WW1 when the Pavillion was a hospital for injured Indian servicemen. There's a quote from one man: "The Victoria Cross is all very well, but it's the gas that's done for me", which sums up the conflict reasonably accurately, I feel. The Muslim soldiers were buried at the Mosque in Woking, which seems like an unfortunate ending.

Apparently, George's niece, Victoria, stripped the place and carried its goodies off to Buckingham Palace and the place was a shell by 1850. I had assumed it had been a royal palace since the 18th century, but as with everything royal it doesn't really have a long history stretching back to Guillaume le Conquérant. It's all pretty random and accidental. Here, much of the furnishings are not original but recreations.

A security guard in the gift shop[pe] is asked by a foreign tourist about the current monarchy. "So William will be on the throne soon?" "No, no the Queen is on the throne, Elizabeth II, then it'll be Charles." "So the queen now is Queen Catherine?" "No". But when asked how long QE2 has been the monarch, he has to calculate it. Even I know that. 

We wander around the remains of the street fair selling hydroponic plants, samosas, and council teatowels to Food For Friends, Brighton's oldest but not best vegetarian restaurant, and then make our way to the Theatre Royal for Corrie! the Stage Play which is somewhat like the Reduced Shakespeare Company in that it condenses 50 years of Britain's best soap into a two hour play. It's written by my fave Coronation Street writer, Jonathan Harvey, who's also a Proper Playwright. He'd said on twitter that he was going to be in the audience with "TV's Julie Graham" but alas, I didn't see him.

Narrated (rather badly) by Judy Mallett, 6 actors play multiple parts: Becky, Ena, Elsie, Ken, Deirdre, Gail, Jack and Vera, Richard Hilman, Roy, Hayley, Tracy, Bet; some of them in drag (Audrey played by a man was more realistic than Audrey played by Sue Nicholls) and it was brilliant to see Blanche reincarnated, although she did seem to be played by Alan Bennett. I spent quite a lot of time thinking that Spider, Liz McDonald, Reg 'n' Curly, the Windasses, our Betty, Kev and Sally or of the ethnic minority characters should also have been in it. But I laughed, I cried, I'd walk on hot coals for that Jonathan Harvey.

This - one of my favourite scenes - was included.

Sunday, to Hurwundeki cafe in Cambridge Heath to drink the nice coffee and look at the Dazed and Refused exhibition - artists who didn't make the final cut for the BP portrait exhibition. I've been to every portrait exhibition since 1993; this was the first time I've seen the ones not accepted by the NPG. Some of them you can see why. Some of them look exactly as if they'd fit in.

millionreasons: (Default)
Yesterday we went to King's Place and saw some art:

Today, we wandered around Shoreditch and Spitalfields and saw a sheep living in a phone box. Had it no shame?!

millionreasons: (absinthe)
Saturday: a Treasure Trail around Fitzrovia. The clues are found on things you don't normally notice, much less look at - lamp-posts, burglar alarms, pub windows, war memorials, street-signs etc. After we fail to find Lord Sebastian Snuggles, we meet Dave and Rebecca in the Coal Hole and on to Chinatown to a restaurant I've been to many times before, The Friendly Inn. It's still run by the same Yoko-Ono-gone-to-seed woman, and the food is still cheap, but there's food debris on the bowls, no paper in the toilets, the mineral water is warm, and the bill un-itemised (I'm pretty sure items never ordered were on there). Sad when a trusted place goes WRONG.

Somewhere else I've been to many times before does not let me down, The Gallery Cafe on Old Ford Road, which used to have a Henry Ford style menu of sandwiches or pasta, but now has expanded to breakfasts and Sunday opening. It's very full; I suppose E2 is the height of cool nowadays. When I lived in Bethnal Green (1995), the most fashionable place was Tesco. We walk up to Mare St and visit the Last Tuesday Society - a shop/gallery/museum like a more macabre version of the Museum of Everything. If you're a modern artist nowadays, sliced up kids' toys, skulls and taxidermy are the way to go. Here the stuffed animals go further than squirrels playing cards: winged cats and dogs hanging from the ceiling, a two headed snake, animal testes in a jar, lions at the dinner table and Marmoset monkeys having a chat, as well as drinks coasters made from rat and vole skins (heads intact). A real mouse mat. There's also Amy Winehouse's poo, used condoms from the Rolling Stones, a mummifield penis of a hanged man, dildos for hire (£10 an hour), but no used tampons from Kate Moss or pubic hair from Elton John. They're missing a trick, there. "It's like looking into the mind of a serial killer," says Dave.


Feb. 7th, 2011 10:39 am
millionreasons: (Default)
To Greenwich (via the East London line, stopping off for lunch in the ever fab Mouse & De Lotz where some chattery Portuguese boys are learning a new word. "Chatney," one of them says, "No, chutney" says the other, imitating the server's norther accent) to go to the Planetarium, my fourth attempt to do so (the first time, we ran out of time, the second, I was too tired after cycling 'round the long way (via the Woolwich ferry), the third, it was sold out). But this time we booked in advance (ah, advance planning) and got to sit and look at pretend stars for half an hour. I'd pay £6.50 to sit in the chairs; they're so comfy that I have a little nap whilst learning that the zodiac stars are all at the same level (or whatever the science word is) as the planets, so presumably if astrology could have been invented around Mars, Venus, Jupiter etc (pity the poor folk born under Pluto), rather than random shapes that the Greeks made up - although it's a good job that the Hellenics named the star-shapes, otherwise they'd be the Golden Arches constellation and the Pepsico stars. Afterwards, we wander down the hill in the twilight and get the tube and overground back to Dalston via the Hanoi Cafe, the least hipster-oriented Vietnamese in Shoreditch, for summer rolls and tofu.

Sunday, we roll over to Euston to go to the Euston Tap, a tiny pub situated in a war memorial just outside the station concourse. Over to Martin's to watch some football match or other and to drink wine and eat chipstix. We play Boggle which turns out to be surprisingly educational. Lek, Gley and Kohen are now in my interior dictionary.

January 2017

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