Tuesday, June 30, 2009

All Night London


The summer solstice always leaves me melancholy - it's the longest day of the year, and although we still have glorious months of summer ahead of us, the light starts to fade and immediately I notice. We're on the downward slope! Ironically, even though I am darkness-phobic I get incredibly cheered at the winter solstice for the opposite reason: the days start getting longer. I swear I can tell the difference a week after. My friend Lesley and I are crazily ecstatic in January and February, noticing the days lengthening.

Anyway, I've not done anything to celebrate the summer solstice particularly before. I would like to do the bike ride to Primrose Hill some time, but this year I went on an "All Night London" photo walk with members of the London flickr meetup group. It was hugely fun and really helped me develop my nighttime photography skills.

The full shoot can be seen on my flickr stream.

Star Trek


Back in a parallel time stream, before I was engrossed in recent events, I saw Star Trek!

I thought it was pretty good. In fact, it’s terrific. I’m not a proper Star Trek fan - this is the first movie I’ve seen -but I did enjoy watching reruns of the original series on tv as a child.

This film recreates the original characters extraordinarily well - both Chris Pine as James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock are sensational in their re-embodiments of Shatner’s and Nimoy’s iconic performances while at the same time moving the characters into new territory. And that’s pretty much what the entire movie does, and does so excellently.

But, that is also a problem. The original Star Trek wasn’t a wham bang rollicking adventure blockbuster with state-of-the-art special effects and highly expensive cinematography. And while the philosophizing social conscience is still in evidence - vestigially - this is mostly about the thrills. A part of me mourns that.

Monday, June 29, 2009

kittens - fur realz!


Oh the glorious random fun of the internet. I linked to a live stream of these kittens last month - since then, I’ve been in contact with the owners and they invited me to visit to take my own pics! That was great fun - they are literally little furry bundles of joy (the kitties, that is, not the owners, although are perfectly lovely too). Here is the documentary proof of cuteness in north London.

Sookie and the kittens belong to Mojen and Owen Blacker. Watch kittens live on Ustream and read about their adventures on their blog. One of the kittens has a twitter account: follow @grabbity.

The full set on pics can be seen on my flickr stream.

Google - a modest request :-)

Haven’t posted about stats for ages - Wait! - don’t all leave at once!! I’ll be brief.

This here website thingy is my little hobby blog, my window on the world, my place to spout stuff. I’m on the top deck of the Clapham Omnibus, opining on everything that passes through my little brain.

It’s quite fun to see what brings people to my blog.

In the last few months, I have noticed a massive upsurge in hits. I’m getting literally tens of hits every day. Partially, this was accounted for by my Eurovision coverage, but there was more to it than that . . .

Researching further, I discover that the massively vast majority of people are landing on this page . And strangely enough, I find that the great god Google itself posts Clapham Omnibus as the first source for images of Pink Floyd’s classic album Animals. Huh? Ahead of the band’s own website? Just weird.

And who would have thought that there are so many people googling that every day??!

The problem is, hits for this are completely swamping hits for other things, so much so it’s difficult to see them. So please, Google, de-rank me or something!


Sunday, June 28, 2009

cooking and tweeting is so competitive!


Last month Anton Edelman awarded my summer pudding first prize in Nickie Philbin’s Twitter tweet cookoff. Would Clapham’s own top chef, Adam Byatt of Trinity, award me a prize as well, this time for my own choice of theme - “summer tart” ? (no sniggering at the back there!)

I chose as my entry Nigella Lawson’s Nectarine and Blueberry Galette from her Nigella Express book. I chose this because:

1) I have made it before and it’s bloody brilliant, as well as easy and quick.

2) It’s a tart with amazing colour and texture and photographs well (never underestimate the power of visuals, especially in a photographic based competition).

Well. I sabotaged myself immediately when I foolishly picked up frozen shortcrust pastry from Sainsbury’s instead of Nigella’s specified puff pastry. By the time I started cooking, it was too late to correct the error (shortcrust I can actually make; puff? - forget it, especially in the time constraints of the competition deadline).

I thought I could recover my error by skillfully edited photography and keeping mum. Ha. Not mum enough - I tweeted (privately, I thought) a pic of the sad remains of my ‘galette’ to a friend - this was immediately picked up by Maggie Philbin and my game was up! - even her mother commented:

maggiephilbin@edwardclarke: This is v. poor Edward. My 88 yr old Mum now sitting next to me and saying " Pastry is key" "You are nowhere without pastry"

maggiephilbin@edwardclarke: Ruined! Your reputation is in SHREDS. Did you remove bread from #summerpudding without eating?

Well, what would Chef think? Adam Byatt checks out our entries below:

It was so exciting having a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of a top restaurant as they prepped for Sunday lunch service. Sunday is huge for Trinity - their location just opposite the Common is just perfect for Sunday lunch, and the restaurant has a fantastic set lunch menu of three courses for £25 per person. For large lunch parties they will even cook joints especially for you if you order in advance. Heading up to lunch the weather was gorgeous, and all of Trinity’s large windows were thrown open to the Common.

Adam was amazing giving his time to judge the competition at such a busy and important time, but he seemed cool calm and focussed, as did his staff who were working smoothly and efficiently around him. A well oiled machine indeed.

He immediately clocked I used the wrong pastry, even from pics with the pastry (almost) edited out! I was hugely impressed at his preternatural skill in picking up the most subtle clues from our amateur photos about the cooking process - even down to oven temperatures!

Reviewing Adam’s comments on the finalists, it is clear that he totally agrees with Maggie’s mum regards the fundamental importance of pastry.

@EdwardClarke - Nectarine & blueberry galette

"Great tart to make with puff not shortcrust pastry. Dock pastry. Nice photos"

@Annraulston - (strawberry, raspberry' blueberry, blackberry glazed tart)  (1st Prize)

"Good pastry, good presentation. Looks well executed and most importantly…inviting"

@ruskin147 (lime tart)

"Significantly overcooked - pastry too short & a little over browned, aerated custard mix. Top tip: never whisk filling before baking"

@stu_art_ist  orange and oatmeal tart  (2nd prize)

"Quite nice - oatmeal base a little thick for my liking; apple sauce a nice idea. Filling well put together - good, clean attempt"

@caalie pineapple tart

"Nice idea! Needs a base though - coconut frangipane would have been brilliant. A base & glaze would have made this a great tart"

"Top tip:  dock pastry in middle with fork to prevent rising when baking"

@Nickiephilbin  - glazed lemon & almond tart

"Looks nice; slightly rustic pastry, slightly heavy with lemons. Good effort. Top marks for styling"

@nigs  Glazed strawberry & blueberry on a biscuit base  

"Very pretty; nice idea. Does tart have a filling? - Would need a dairy filling to balance out. Slightly thick case"

@TrinityRhapsody - 5 minute summertart strawberries on hobnob base

"Nice - good presentation. Good effort for a 5 minute tart, not enough effort for a winner"

@m4rydenovo - chocolate strawberries tart

"I'm sure this was great fun to make. Find concept slightly questionable."

@MaggiePhilbin - passion fruit tart

"A great summer tart, but overcooked. Oven should be at 110c. Stir custard, don't whisk. Otherwise, brilliant effort"

@JimAnning - lemon tart with raspberry coulis (3rd Prize)
Special Photo award - winner best photo for hashtag lemons shot (at top)

"Nice - lemon and raspberry a brilliant combination. Pastry slightly overcooked; slightly heavy handed on icing sugar garnish "

"Top tip: place blind tart in oven and then pour in mix whilst the tart is in the oven rather than transferring a filled mould across the kitchen"

@Andyqsmith apricot and almond lattice tart

"Great to see a lattice tart. Egg wash the pastry. Cook apricots before - otherwise they bleed & spoil pastry. Nice effort"

@Handbagpets -  local asparagus, bacon and goats cheese tart, served with watercress salad and smoked cod's roe.
"Adventurous idea, I’m not convinced the roe is needed and the flan looks a little heavy on egg!"

Thanks once again to Adam for his professional, insightful and very helpful comments.

Big claps for our winners @Annraulston, @stu_art_ist and @JimAnning. Jim also won the special best photograph award. Ann hails from the USA, indicating the power and reach of twitter! Thanks also to Nickie Philbin for organizing the competition.

Well done too to all our entrants; everyone is so brave having their efforts put up in public for critique! Can you do better? - enter next month's competition, which will be specified by this month's winner, Ann. Follow @Nickiephilbin for announcements. This month's competition can be followed on twitter on the hashtag #summertart.

The group photo album is at Photobucket

Adam Byatt

4 The Polygon

Follow Trinity on twitter - @TrinityLondon
Follow Adam Byatt on twitter - @AdamByatt

Next twitter cookoff competition: Summer Sandwich

Previous twitter cookoff competition: Summer Pudding

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Banksy in Bristol


"Banksy may also have spraypainted himself into a corner with the art establishment. It's hard not to see the Cans Festival as a spoiler to Tate Modern's exhibition - especially as it was held at a location 10 minutes' walk away from the Tate. The event celebrated Street Art outside the stictures of the gallery system. But although in addition to Cans, Banksy has also created work featuring collectors bidding on a picture at auction called 'Morons' and decorated the steps of Tate Britain with a stencilled 'Mind the Crap' prior to the 2001 Turner Prize, his work is already in many major art collections - he's even donated work to a number of British galleries in a series of stunts similar to those carried out in New York's museums. A major gallery show seems inevitable. Sotheby's James Sevier says: 'If you look at the upcoming Tate Modern show, Banksy's notable by his omission. Maybe he was asked, maybe he wasn't [Tate Modern says he wasn't], but to participate in that show would go against what he believes in.' "
- How prescient of The Observer.

So, do we think Banksy has sold out? Love him or hate him, this is bound to be the artistic event of the summer.

An artist needs to eat. Recognition in one's lifetime and financial success go together; the paradox is great art from a historical perspective needs neither. The successful artist has to negotiate this paradox, and many have failed. Turner is an example of someone who came from virtually the gutter, achieved massive financial success, and then used his financial independence to create ever more challenging art; leaving all his contemporaries flailing in his wake. One hundred years later the late Turner canvases were rotting in the cellars of the National Gallery; it was only with the rise of Abstract Expressionism that they became fully recognized as works of genius. The radical techniques of Constable, Van Gogh and Cezanne were funded by family resources, not sales. Failures would include Millais (who sold out, literally, to Pear's Soap) and Dali.

The Bristol show is particularly hollow given Banksy's response to last year's Street Art show at the Tate. Fascinating that Nick Serota is so generous in his door-stopped comment on Banksy in the above promotional video on YouTube. The irony slays me.

Time as they say moves on, and it's time now to reassess my previous estimation of Banksy.

[Edit] - See also Cultural Snow's post Really spraying something

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Singing at The Scoop


The London Gay Men's Chorus gave two free open air concerts in The Scoop yesterday evening, largely featuring songs about London. A stand out for me was the inclusion of Amy Winehouse’s Rehab in a fantastic medley of London songs; it just about brought the house down (7:20 in the video below).

The Scoop has surprisingly good acoustics - as the space is a kind of modern take on the classic ancient greek theatre format I suppose it should. So the space reverberated to manly voices very pleasantly. I was less enchanted by the section of the audience I was sitting amongst. It’s clearly unrealistic to expect concert hall standards of behaviour in an al fresco setting, but some people chatted quite loudly all the way through, amongst each other and even on mobile phones. To cap it all a girl behind me insisted on singing along to her favourite song, in a voice best suited to the privacy of her bathroom. Oh well I suppose it shows she was enjoying it.

The choir triumphed over all the distractions, and won a standing ovation at the end of their performance.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

after the constructivists


Londonist has published another photograph of mine - this one taken in the members' room at Tate Modern, while Catriona and I were decompressing after our visit to the Rodchenko & Popova exhibition.

Friday, June 05, 2009


I have been thinking about doing this for several days now, ever since I was alerted to this issue by my twitter friend @efan78, but it has been surprisingly difficult to get round to it. However, time is now running out and as something which has affected my life profoundly I have to support this.

Bullying at school really blights lives - every year in the UK, at least 16 teenagers commit suicide as a result of bullying (and this figure is probably massively underreported). And the survivors suffer the effects for years afterwards - a kind of post-traumatic syndrome.

It is amazing that Britain has a charity which combats school bullying and the damage it cause - BullyingUK - and this is such a worthwhile cause to support.

I grew up in a time and place where such institutions did not exist. I was bullied at school every day for about two-and-a-half-years. No escape, knowing each day I had to return to face my tormentors and whatever cruel humiliations they had cooked up for me that day. Name-calling was the least of it: groups devised ways of getting me into trouble with the teachers; I was completely ostracized and isolated.

As a defensive strategy I emotionally walled myself in: ruthlessly guarding any access to any information about myself or my emotions. These habits I have never managed to grow out of.

Physically as well, apart from the absolute requirement of attending school I shut myself up at home in my room; not going out anywhere or socializing in case of meeting anyone from school. Very occasionally I may have accompanied my parents to the shops or the municipal library.

It is so difficult for someone in that position to seek help; you are so immersed in the horror (as well as the normal upheavals of adolescence) you don’t have the objectivity to assess what your best options are. Hence the suicides. Completely at my wit’s end, I did appeal to my father for help, but he was emotionally incapable of dealing with situation at all was was pretty useless - he didn’t even raise it with the school. And as for the school, I knew that some teachers were aware of what was going on and for whatever reason they did nothing too.

My father was quite authoritarian and made me have a very naff haircut that completely marked me out at school. Isolation as well kept me quarantined from teenage fashions - my mum bought most of my clothes anyway - so I was pretty much dressed as a freak, negatively reinforcing the situation.

Looking back now, it amazes me that I survived and went on to a very successful university career, graduating with a first in English Literature and History of Art. I then came to live and work in London, which I love.

The turning point for me was when a new boy arrived at my school who I made friends with - despite the best efforts of my tormentors this brave person chose my friendship over the popularity of the crowd. I really think that when they saw I had a strong relationship they backed off and the bullying seemed to cease as mysteriously as it began.

But one always wonders if it could happen again: trusting people and being self-confident are issues for me still.

I was lucky. Some kids don’t get that break and end up taking their lives. But survival must be possible.

So, with @efan78 - Ethan Kristopher-Hartley of 140 Characters blog - I say:

“This is why I support @BullyingUK - and why you should too.  Take a couple of seconds to vote to win them some advertising on the sides of buses from Up Everyone’s Street.  Visit their website at Bullying.co.uk and donate to them as well.  And if you’re a blogger you have 1 day left to help them in the Blogging for a Cause campaign.”


This blog post is part of Zemanta's "Blogging For a Cause" campaign to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes that bloggers care about.