Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Guess Who's Back

... perhaps not entirely surprisingly, it's me! 2013 thus far hasn't been entirely successful. My 'dry January' lasted for about six days. My attempts to not spend too much money have been disastrous. And my diet... well, I had a Macdonalds for lunch today. Because, incidentally, I had a hangover. BUT there is hope. I have been doing some lovely, cultural things, too. Hence the picture of the culture vulture above (which comes from The Cherwell). The highlight so far has been seeing the wonderful Don Paterson in conversation with Adam Philips at Lutyens and Rubinstein bookshop. I used to work there, and still feel at my absolute happiest when I go back. Some of my favourite books - The Enchanted April, The Constant Nymph, all of Barbara Pym, Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil - came from recommendations from the girls who work there. When I started, I was halfway through Anna Karenina. When I left, six months later, I hadn't read a page further. They taught me things about reading that I couldn't live without. Ok, panegyric over. L&R run events with illustrious poets and the shrink Adam Philips. They sit at the front like any old talk, but it seems as though the poet is on the psychoanalyst's couch, so searching and personal are Adam's questions. I can't recommend them highly enough - I always come away feeling edified and enlightened. Then I went to a talk at the British Museum, intriguingly entitled 'Alexander the Great: Cross-Dressing Conquerer of the World?' (Turns out, not so much). I am entirely ignorant about Alexandrian history - or was - so it was great to learn about it. Even if all the girls at the fashion magazine where I work couldn't quite believe that I was spending my Friday night in such a square way. A Fred Sandback show at the David Zwirner gallery was, franky, awful. Pointless, soulless, showy and just stupid. The Manet show at the Royal Academy didn't hit the spot, either. I'm just going to come out and say it: Manet's no good. He's a sub-par painter with poor execution, mawkish tendencies and a sentimental outlook. He's also wildy derivative. Is he trying to be Singer Sargent? Corot? Rubens? In the end, he's a poor man's Renoir. And I don't even like Renoir. Tonight I'm going to something at the LRB about the fine line between madness and genius, and tomorrow is the press view for the Man Ray show. That's all folks. Stay posted. I pinky promise it won't be so long next time.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A nice poem

I'm not big into Valentine's Day. But I do wish that e e cummings (or anyone, in fact) had written this poem about me. And that I had smaller hands.

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

'somewhere I have never travelled' by e e cummings
Photograph taken with Instagram

Friday, 10 February 2012

Anyone for a tobacco flavoured drink?

To Barts last night to sample their new tobacco flavoured range of cocktails with my friends B, G and V. Barts is a cool, speakeasy-style bar in Chelsea Avenue which is hard to find but lovely once you're there, with cartoons and old clocks on the walls and fishing buckets hanging from the bar and lovely wooden tables and comfortable, squashy chairs. They are known for having some of the most delicious (and brilliantly named) cocktails in London - including a wonderful rhubarb one called The Charleston Crumble - which you can get served in sharing portions in teapots or tophats. All in all, retro heaven.

I must admit, I was somewhat apprehensive about tobacco flavoured drinks. I mean, there are few smells more delicious than a packet of fresh rolling tobacco - but few more revolting than an old ashtray. Where on the scale would these fall?

We were brought a selection of four drinks: a Signiature (tobacco liquer, honey liquer, champange and orange peel); an In Vogue (tobacco liquer, rasberry liquer, fresh rasberries, tequila); a Holy Smoke (tobacco liquer, cognac, rum - above); and a shot of straight tobacco liquer. And they were all absolutely delicious. The In Vogue particularly was fab - crisp and sweet and fruity with an aniseedy aftertaste from the tequila. The straight tobacco liquer wasn't bad either, slightly smoky and sweet (it's flavoured with vanilla, too), a bit like Amaretto or Cointreau. Yum yum yum. Plus, we were given a cigar which we smoked in the car on the way home, feeling very gangsta.

I never really experiment with cocktails; like most people, I know what I like (mojhito or daiquiri) and tend to always order that, rather like a Wagamama's. But wow they can be delicious when you branch out. We also sampled a margherita (heaven) and some more of those rhubarb ones (which taste like a Platonic ideal of rhubarb). If only one could have a cocktail tasting, like a wine tasting. But it'd only be a matter of minutes before one'd be too drunk to be able to taste anything.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Two reviews: David Shrigley and Lucian Freud

Image from the retrospective at the Hayward Gallery.

David Shrigley is funny. Very, very funny. He has an odd way of taking things that are very ordinary and making them seem absolutely ridiculous - eggs, for example - or vice versa: taking the absurd or ununsual, e.g. sculpture, and rendering it quotidien.

It's not exactly that he has a weird mind, it's more that his mind is exactly in tune with everyone else's, except that he notices things that others don't - or, rather, he thinks that small, unnoticeable things are worth commenting on.

So I was very much looking forward to seeing his show at the Hayward Gallery, which is on at the moment. And guess what? It's funny. He's a conceptual artist, or a childish cartoonist (or both) - but the things that work best, I think, are the least conceptual, the times when he has just had a thought, or perhaps caught a fraction of a sentence, and illustrated that thought or scrap of conversation. As in the picture above: A child cannot be expected to perform the rescue. There are plenty more along these lines, and I thought they were the best thing in the show: funny, irreverent, profound and silly. There's one that says something along the lines of: It's ok to run away from your problems; it's a good idea. Hilarious. And kind of true.

Unfortunately, the very tall man in the green fleece standing next to me didn't feel the same way. He was gazing at each picture - and, yeah, they're art but they're also basically funny drawings (is there a conflict there? I don't see why, particularly) - as though each one has the intricacy of a Hieronymus Bosch. And he didn't look kindly on my giggling.
'Don't you think they're funny?' I said, eventually.
'They're art,' he said, censoriously. 'But I suppose everyone has their own sense of humour.'


No laughing, then, at this morning's press preview for the enormous and wonderful Lucian Freud show at the National Portrait Gallery.

All images from postcards available to buy at the National Portrait gallery or from www.npg.org.uk

Now this is one helluva show. Boy oh boy is there a lot to see - and wow it's good. What one notices, seeing the pictures up close like this, is how brilliant, beautiful and delicate the hands are - particularly in the earlier work, in the 60s, where you can see the curve of each nail and the close-ups of every cuticle; the roughness of skin on knuckles and the veins, either greenish or bluey, on the backs. And the faces are so expressive, too. Not so much in the pictures of Kitty Garman (his first wife), but by the time he gets to Caroline Blackwood (his second) it seems as though he has unlocked something in himself and they are extremely powerful - first laden with innocent loveliness and then, later, with scorn.

Throughout, the paint itself looks sticky and peaked - like tacky half-dried bodily fluids. The nude portraits are peculiarly, disquieteningly sexy - almost coldly objective, yet one could nearly reach out and touch the warm skin. Somehow, the paintings of two people together are the most powerful and moving in the show. Perhaps this is because they bring the subject out of pure objectivity (as a subject, seen and viewed) and back into their human life with its interactions, quibbles and love and the need for companionship. They move from the stasis and momentary glimpse of life that the single portraits (or at least the less good of the single portraits) are and into movement and dialogue. Which all goes a long way to heighten their pathos.

My brother will kill me when he reads this post. He thinks that any postulating about art is unforgiveably pretentious. Actually, come to think of it, so do I. So ignore all of the above.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Cultural stuff

So, I don't want to show off or anything, but look what just landed on my desk...

Ok, I TOTALLY want to show off. It's an invite to the launch drinks for the Turner show at the National Gallery, and is just about the swankiest invite I've ever had in my entire life. I mean, the thing itself is no great shakes - no Smythson swag bag measured in togs like a duvet here - but still: wow. I love Turner. And I love getting to see stuff before other people.

Which is one of the loveliest things about my job (without which I'd have to wait for, y'know, general openings - urgh); that I do sometimes get to see stuff early and feel important and special and dress up a bit and talk to people like David Starkey and Julia Peyton-Jones and David Hockney (name-drop-drop-drop, like rain falling down a windowpane).

So here are the things in no particular order that I'm most excited about, culturally, for 2012. And fingers crossed a press-view invite comes for some of these, too.

Anne Somerset's biography of Queen Anne. I went to the launch party (hem hem) for this last week and it was utterly heavenly and Anne is lovely and a great writer and I just think this will be fantastic.

David Shrigley at the Hayward Gallery. Going to this this weekend, I hope. David Shrigley is so brilliant. In fact, with my first ever pay cheque I bought a print of his which is still on my wall. It says, in his trademark handwriting: NEWS: NOBODY LIKES YOU. And it makes me grin from ear to ear every time I see it (although it may also be the reason I sometimes have low self-esteem; sleeping under that for five years has got to do something).

Lucien Freud at the National Portrait Gallery. Just because.

Hannah Rothschild's 'The Jazz Baroness'. A novel about an aunt of the author's who was a posh English lady in the 1950s who went to New York and heard some jazz and just never came back.

Rupert Goold's productions of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at Kensington Palace, and of Richard II for the BBC. The man is a god, and everything I've ever seen of his has just been electrifying - from the harrowing, incredibly moving Tempest he did to the Vegas-style Merchant of Venice.

Mark Rylance as Richard III at the Globe. Because it's a wonderful play.

The film of The Great Gatsby. Sort of a grim fascination with this one because a) the book is my best, ever, ultimate favourite and b) the original film - Robert Redford! Mia Farrow! Champagne and parties and dresses, oh my! - is so good.

Thursday, 26 January 2012


Wow it's been a while since I wrote anything here. I wonder if I can even remember how to write... oh, ok... it's coming back to me... there we go.

Now, then. Shoes. I am really, truly not the sort of girl who is that bothered about shoes. I know everyone says that: but you can tell I'm not lying because I'm not saying it in a high-pitched voice while tossing my hair around and giggling like a weirdo. In fact, the shoes I am wearing today (see above, right) are basically the same pair of shoes that I had when I was about eight: flat, black patent leather with a grosgrain ribbon bow. They may not actually be Start-rites, but they may as well be. Contrast these with the killer heels worn by someone who works in the fashion department of the magazine that I work for (above, left) and you will see that I tell the truth.

But there is something about accessories in general that has got me recently. I have bought three - THREE! - pairs of shoes in the last month (and am now 'hoisting the black flag of impecuniosity' as Trollope puts it). And a handbag. And several packets of kirby grips. And one pair of ridiculous earings. Maybe it's my way of coming to terms with the January economy drive ('but these shoes are only £85! Why, if I bought a dress it would be at least twice that. Therefore I have definitely saved myself money by buying these shoes'). Maybe it's because the last time I bought any shoes it was a pair of Converse All Stars in 2009 and I just needed some. Or maybe it's that there are, in fact, whole hosts of new, somehow better shoes than there have ever been before, and I have subconsciously tapped into this zeitgeist despite knowing absolutely nothing about fashion.

Actually, though, I think it's because accessories are lovely and that they make one feel cheerful and they are easy and - wait for it - accessible. A good pair of shoes is to a girl what a floozy on the arm is to a man: unecessary and silly, yes, but pretty and confidence boosting and a good conversation starter when you're feeling shy.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Things I'm glad my mother taught me

Before I left home, my mother gave me a sort of short-course in self-care. Having grown up in the sort of house where books teeter in piles in every corner and picnics in the garden end up with a rotting rug and some soggy crumbs three days later, I was a bit surprised when, before I went to university, mum came into my room weilding a bottle of Cif and a sponge and saying 'right, darling! Time for you to learn how to clean a bath.' Turns out, though, that learning how to do stuff is really useful. These are the things that have served me best in my adult life. They make me feel capable and self-sufficient, calm and in control. Thanks mum.

1. How to clean a bath. Weirdly important, this, for feeling grown-up and pristinely clean. I'm now so attuned to it that I actively notice if there is so much as one stray hair against the otherwise gleaming enamel.

2. Cooking. Being able to cook is seriously useful for impressing people and feeling cosy. A good cook need never be lonely. And if you've done the cooking, you don't have to do the washing up.

3. Wearing a coat. I'd always thought that coats were the symbol of the bourgeois system, only for nerds and conformists and not for free spirits like me. What a mistake. Wearing a coat keeps you warm, and being warm enough is key to happiness.

4. Small luxuries. I don't need mink coats or holidays to Jamaica... not much, anyway. But a new bottle of Floris bath oil or a delicious supper can make the world of difference to mood.

5. Attitude. My natural take on the world is mildly cynical. But if you look at life in a spirit of cheeriness, and not one of sardony, it does seem nice. And that's nice.