Tuesday, May 29, 2007

no news roundup

I had a newspaper-free weekend! So no news snippets this week. I suppose the big news was the absolutely apocalyptically bad weather. A Bank Holiday classic - brilliant sunshine Thursday and Friday; clouds appearing Friday evening; Saturday miserable with intermittent showers all day; Sunday - rainly and cold all day; Monday - ditto; Tuesday - sunny, just in time for the working week! Blah! My theory is that the collective thoughts of the 60 million inhabitants of these islands somehow affects the weather - we fear it so much we actually make it happen.

Headed out this morning at 8.10am and was surprised by the sight of an amorous drake determinedly stalking a duck through long grass. An unsual sight on our side of the common - the duck pond is over on the south side. I don't know whether she was trying to throw him off and just wandered over our way, or else the ducks felt the weather had enlarged their normal habitat considerably. Personally, I missed my normal trek across the Common this morning because I didn't want mud all over my shoes.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

new toy

new toy, originally uploaded by hedgiecc.

A pinhole camera kit, bought at the Tate's "How We Are: Photographing Britain" exhibition. Finished assembling it, now to try it out!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Country Affair

Country Affair, originally uploaded by hedgiecc.

"A Country Affair" Happening this weekend on the Common. Traditional Bank Holiday Weekend weather, I'm afraid - bad and getting worse, right after a gloriously sunny working week. The gods are truly angry at us.

However, I have inside plans for this weekend, so I'm not bothered!

Friday, May 25, 2007

How We Are: Photographing Britain

I haven't forgotten my New Year's resolution. In fact, I went to the private view of the Tate's Hogarth exhibition, but didn't get around to actually blogging about it. Which was a pity, because the show was fascinating - there's so much social observation going on in Hogarth's paintings there wasn't really enough time to look at them all properly. I remember the Tate had to throw us out at closing time.

Well, on Tuesday this week I went with Catriona to the How We Are exhibition - the Tate's first show devoted to photography. It's as fascinating as the Hogarth beacuse of the interesting angles the curators have taken and the inherent sociological interest of how life has changed in the 170 odd years since photography was invented.

Either the curators are fans of Sarah Waters' novels, or Sarah Waters uses archive photography for research. Lots of the exhibition looked like illustrations for her books: Victorian cross-dressing music hall artistes ( I thought:"Ooh, that's a hunky sailor!" - who turned out on closer inspection to be a woman in sailor drag); photographs of women inmates of Victorian asylums on the outskirts of London (Fingersmith, anyone?); - and photographs of women firefighters in World War II.

How We Are: Photographing Britain
Tate Britain
22 May - 2 September

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Weekend News roundup

I'm slowly getting back in the swing - but not much caught my interest this weekend.

Why chocolate is 'good for teeth' - from Metro. The Cabury PR team desperately trying to reposition the brand after the salmonella scare of last year. However, they've chosen an uphill battle with this one. The British Dental Association immediately pointed out that the sugar content in chocolate is extremely bad for teeth. Cadbury were also hoping to tie their product in with good circulation and healthy hearts, but the British Heart Foundation swatted that down too, on the same sugary basis. Oh dear. Back the drawing board, Cadbury.

Actually, I spotted over a fellow commuter's shoulder another pro-Cadbury 'article' in Metro this morning. Unfortunately, I missed picking a copy up for myself so I am none the wiser.

The other big story this weekend was the FA Cup Final. I am not a football fan per se - however I do maintain a theoretical interest in order to be able to communicate with The.Lads.At.Work. Also some footballers are hot. I think Arsenal has the best-looking team at the moment; however I am a Chelsea supporter (glamour club; local; Jose Mourinho is such good value) so was pleased Chelsea won.

I have despised Alex Fergusson ever since he was mean to David Beckham, but even so I was pretty sorry for him losing - Manchester United didn't deserve to lose like that.

I love that Jose is a Yorkshire terrier fan. Does not compute.

Monday, May 21, 2007

lobster invasion

My attraction to inappropriate keyrings continues. After my lovely glass keyring from South Africa met an untimely but completely predictable demise, I had to have this super sparkly number from the V&A Surreal Things exhibition shop. Actually bought two lobsters - one a bright red squeezy plastic toy, which I intend taping to my 'phone's receiver in homage to Dali's 'phone.

Surreal Things

Without a doubt, one of the most remarkable retail spaces in London at the moment is the temporary shop at the V&A's Surreal Things exhibition.

I found the exhibition fantastic, but the shop alone is worth a visit. The design team has plundered ideas from the Surrealists and their followers, including Elsa Schiaparelli. The result is incredibly entertaining and seductive - it certainly worked on me - I couldn't resist buying things, dspite my present abject poverty.

As always, the V&A's exhibition was beautifully designed: big on visual impact and playful in a surreal way but clear and concise in its organisation of the information.

The emphasis is on applied arts - stage and interior design, furnishings, textiles and fashion. This aspect of the Surrealist project is not so familiar (at least to me) and I found it fascinating. One of the exhibits is Schiaparelli's notorious monkey coat: absolutely 'ick' - and meant to be - but absolutely gorgeous as a coat. Wow. Of course, since it was made the whole idea of fur has acquired more and more taboos in society, as Pete Burns discovered to his chagrin on Celebrity Big Brother last year. I'm surprised the V&A hasn't attracted more negative publicity because of it. For example, have the police tested it's endangered species status??!

Victoria and Albert Museum
Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design
29 March 2007 - 22 July 2007

Monday, May 14, 2007

Brothers in Arms

My brother has sibling Issues. This I learned. As eldest, it has escaped my attention 'till now but he definitely has issues.

He is the PhD in the family. This is clearly very important. He informed us that if you have an MA in the UK you are considered a failure (I have an MA). Hmmmm. I feel that there are mlllions and millions of people in the UK without tertiary education at all who live quite happy and successful lives.

At a dinner for Ingrid and Peter he interrupted and spoke over Ingrid whenever she tried to say anything. This surprised me as I have always regarded J's social skills as superior to mine. And at the end of dinner he made a great deal of paying for me as I was 'unemployed'. Urgh.

The day of the funeral was relatively good. After all the guests left my mother asked to go shopping - which turned out to be a really good time, with lots of useful clothes shopping (she hadn't bought anything for herself for two years) and us ending up at a nice cafe afterwards. However, J spoiled everything later by starting a silly argument which rapidly became very heated. I was out of the room at the time, and returned to a catastrophoc change of emotional temperature. Stony silence all round. Then he stormed out. Mum and I stayed, her a bit weepy. Half-an-hour later he returned; mum tried building bridges, rebuffed by J, who statrted ramping up the heat some more. In the middle of all this my aunt telephoned. Mum took the call. J continued his stupid tirade, undeterred by the fact mum was now focussing on her sister. I snarled at him to get some proportion: after all, mum had just buried her husband that day.

He screamed at me! ~ but my words had effect as he climbed down rapidly. Both he and mum spent the rest of the weekend over-compensating, which was stressful in itself.

I am told it is usual for there to be family arguments in periods of bereavement. Whatever. I am however really angry with my sister, who decided not to come to the funeral at all due to 'ill health' (although she's well enough to go to work). I'm shocked at anyone missing their parent's funeral.

funeral flowers

funeral flowers, originally uploaded by hedgiecc.

This is a simple marker of a sad event - my Dad passed away in the early hours of 30th April. He was 81 years old and in extremely poor health; a late stage of a blood cancer with no hope of recovery - peacefully passing on with no pain was a blessing. He was a fighter to the end - cheerful and positive; desiring to lessen the trauma for others. He probably would not have lasted so long without my mother's immense strength and will-power simply willing him on - we worried she wasn't accepting the inevitable but when he time came she took the decision to withdraw medical intervention herself.

The funeral service was simple and beautiful - the priest officiating was an old family friend (87 himself) and I found I really needed his professional support through the ceremony. I wasn't expecting the actual mechanics of the funeral to be so upsetting, but unfortunately I had a row with the extremely obtuse undertakers about delivery of the coffin 15 minutes before the due start of the service. 'Six Feet Under' emphaticially they were not.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Buy! Buy! Buy!

St Mary's Clapham is very shy - it's been locked up the last few times I've looked in. But it is open for mass at 7am, so I was up early to light candles for ailing and departed loved ones. Catholicism is at its best when it's most pagan. Feeling all spiritually refreshed, I then tubed it to King's Cross for the Ted Baker sample sale. Trousers and Jeans £20! Shirts £25! Suits £75! Wowee!

Half of London was there already, rifling through the racks to pumping house. Lots of good stuff, and plenty of assistants restocking, so all the good stuff hasn't necessarily gone early. It's good to know your Ted Baker sizes beforehand so you don't have to try things on - more rifling time! The suits were particularly excellent at £75 a pop. I didn't get one because I was specifically looking for a black one which I didn't find (the man in the queue ahead of me bought FIVE). I did come away with three jeans and three shirts. Yippee!

The sale is on at the Camden Centre, one block down from St Panras station, today and tomorrow until 8pm.


The opera is Philip Glass's meditation on the origins of Gandhi's policy of non-violent resistance (which he termed 'satyagraha'), set in South Africa.

Philip Glass's music is famously minimalist - incantatory and hypnotic - and therefore not dramatic in any kind of 'plot' sense. But it suits this tale very well; political activism was recast as ritual and raised to a mythic level. The burning of passes in Act II was very effective and an example of drama building up slowly, glacially, through a combination of the music and the ritualistic action on stage.

The production was gorgeous - all rusty browny golds and blacks, with spots of blue from time to time and white highlights. The stage was carpeted with varnished newsprint and bounded by a semicircle of rusty corrugated iron. From this umpromising format astonishing feats of spectacle were extracted, surprising the audience and deepening the symbolism right to the end. The lighting design was particularly atmospheric. In fact, despite the slow musical tempo the staging was quite acrobatic - we had stilt walkers, huge mythological puppets manned by arrays of cast members, people whizzed off stage on lines, etc etc etc.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


What I learned today:

1) A glass bottle keyring filled with coloured sands in pretty patterns bought at Johannesburg airport is not a practical idea.

2) Should have booked a cycle service earlier, before the good weather brought all the summer cyclists out of hibernation :-(. The cycle shop can only do me in two weeks time.

3) Focus! In a past time of major life changes, I simply lost everything that wasn't physically bolted to me. It looks like this is happening again. I left my keys on the till at Sainsbury last week, and on the till at M&S today. This time I twigged only when trying to reenter my front door. I had to walk back across the common.

4) Which wasn't bad, as it's a fantastically gorgeous day - London is truly at it's best on a perfect May day. Fresh greenery, tall blue skies, ambient temperatures, fresh breezes, sunbathers, picnickers, kite fliers, dog walkers, young mums with baby buggies, cyclists - the common was awash with neighbourly joy.

5) Global warming alert!! - normally, I start my hayfever medication the second week of May, but this year I started today - and it felt like it was in the nick of time! The botanists are saying all the plants are two weeks early, and my nose agrees!

6) Off to the Opera tonight! ~ Satyagraha at the ENO by Philip Glass.

Tony Blair

I'm not doing a "news roundup" this week but instead am going to quote from The Observer's editorial, an anaysis of Tony Blair's legacy:

"Britain is better off after a decade with Tony Blair in charge of the most successful, progressive government since Attlee. Wealth has been created and been redistributed. That is what Labour governments have always hoped to do. It has happened without a break on global competitiveness. That is what New labour hoped to do: build a vibrant market economy with a generous welfare state; economic freedom and social protection. That is Blairism.

So on Thursday millions of voters will go to the polls intending to bury the Prime Minister. In time they will find many reasons to praise him."

I do tend to agree. That Cameron is aping Tony's style, that Gordon Brown is trying to be more touchy-feely himself, is a tribute to Tony. And this government has succeeded in a way the previous Tory government hopelessly failed.

BUT - Iraq is so huge a miscalculation, so awesome a misjudgement, it simply demolishes all the positives. All Chamberlain is remembered for today is waving a piece of paper and crying "Peace in our time". Iraq with its probably dreadful aftermath is going to be chiefly what Tony is remembered for. It's all the more horrific because the Prime Minister had access to excellent advice that the Americans were heading for a disaster beforehand.