Thursday, 17 December 2009

Ice cubes as toes and other such treats

If I close my eyes I could well imagine that the scorching heat on my back is the sun and not from the cranked up radiator I'm leaning against with all my body weight and will (caveat obviously of when would I ever lie in the sun to the point of scorching but you know, whatever...) It is FUCKING freezing here and well, snowing. Yes, that's right. Snowing. I didn't order snow, certainly not with two sleeps to go before flying back to Sydney. If it comes to it I will shovel snow from the runway personally to ensure we depart this godforsaken icebox on Friday.

It's been a lovely couple of weeks, mitigated by hellish trips to central London for Christmas shopping.....

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Mumma knows best

It's been a funny few days - misery has been digging my company big time but I've been trying not to let doomed job prospects and a rising tide of panic about what on earth I'm going to do next year overwhelm me every day. I've also been trying not to passively aggressively punish LB for having a job and a life and friends and oh well, everything that I don't have in London. I don't know what I did to deserve such a patient, supportive, understanding man. Survive all those stupid other boys maybe?...

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

All I want for Christmas is a job

Holy shit it is December already. Again. Head fuck of huge proportions. 17 more sleeps and then it is home, home, home baby. Hello Bondi.

Feeling a bit despondent at the moment. Tired, beyond bored with the fact that it is pitch dark by 4.30pm and so over the novelty of single digit temperatures - two is only a fun number when it comes dressed as a pair of shoes.

So, the countdown is on and the days are ticking over and I am distracting myself with exercise (if I have to be a freckly bi-atch I'm going to be a skinny freckly bi-atch...), making Christmas cards and cake and when I'm not doing any of that I'm looking for jobs. I applied for a freelance job last week, which I was summarily not invited to interview for today and have been disconsolate and miserable since. Methinks this job nonsense is not going to be easy.

Stinging from the impersonal rejection that is a group email, I went to work at the bar tonight only to have this loathsome piggy man get into the most irritating conversation with me about how contemporary art is bullshit and the art world is fucked. Damien Hirst this and Tracy Emin that and my god - piles of bricks in the Tate Modern (thank you Carl Andre) and blah blah blah tax payers money and crap sculptures made out of towel rails and referee whistles. I wanted to kill myself. Or him maybe. But defending the right of the insane and the arrogant and the obtusely brilliant to create crazy works of art was the last thing I felt like doing after being rejected by the very same art world I'd just applied to for a job. Arrogant tosser.

Art and I have made up though. My double date last week was just lovely. Instead of Turner the prize we ended up seeing Turner the painter at the Tate Britain. Nothing contemporary about it but it was a fascinating history lesson and an insight into the workings of The Establishment and it was rather fantastic to go from a show that focused heavily on the influence of the Royal Academy as the measure of artistic success to another show at the same Royal Academy. A show that featured, no less, a life-size working cannon that systematically shot 20kg 'pellets' of waxy red paint every 20 minutes against the walls of this very 'establishment'. Fucking genius.

I loved the Anish Kapoor exhibition. It was playful and provocative and all about texture and surface and the negotiation and perception of space. As for the cannon, it was terrifying and loud and violent and brutal in it's beauty. I still jump a little when I think about it. I also adored this sculpture in the courtyard:

Called Tall Tree and the Eye (2009) it was, despite its obvious density, the most beautiful, ephemeral sculpture - like bubbles floating towards an invisible surface. And god bless a fleeting blue sky against which to appreciate it....

The weather was pure misery over the weekend - when it wasn't bucketing down with rain it was bitingly cold and grey, grey, grey. Blurgh. Blurgh. Blurgh.

On Saturday, invigorated by my art reunion three days earlier, LB and I set off for another artistic encounter, this time in the dire backwoods of Elephant and Castle. Lured by the promise of a late lunch at Borough Market, we first went to see Roger Hiorns' installation Seizure, the work that got him nominated for this year's Turner Prize. Located in an abandoned, listed-for-demolition council estate flat, Hiorns sealed the flat before pumping 75,000L of hot copper sulfate solution into the apartment and leaving it to cool over several weeks. He then drained it and what remained was this strange and rather beautiful blue crystal 'cave':

As LB reflected afterwards, it doesn't make me think, but I like it. I think he's right. If I wanted to get all art pretentious I have no doubt I could comfortably come up with some sort of theory behind it's meaning but mostly, I just love that organisations like Artangel are facilitating encounters like this in alternative environments and reinvigorating ideas of art, space, reception and value. Hiorns' work sadly will be demolished when the building is, but I suspect that's part of it's 'meaning'.

Analysis thus complete, we then meandered in the direction of Borough, with hot chocolates to warm our frozen paws. Chorizo sandwiches and haloumi burgers on board, I then spent the afternoon wrapped up in the duvet having an epic nanna nap before dinner and cocktails and cheesy 80s music with a school friend and her boy. Was a solid Saturday really and I would have stayed in bed all day Sunday if I hadn't had to work in the evening. Am a proper bar wench this week (two undergraduate degrees, a pending Masters degrees and four considerable years of employment and all I foresee for the coming months is beers and temp work. Fabulous...) but at least it will help the time pass between now and my reunion with Bondi.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Kissing and making up

I'm off to see the Turner Prize tomorrow at the Tate Britain before a date with Anish Kapoor at the Royal Academy. I'm looking forward to it, especially Anish, but I'm also, strangely, a little bit nervous.

I dunno, but I suspect it will feel like one of those awkward first encounters post-squabble with a good friend, the ones you just have to get through and then everything will be alright again. I mean let's be honest, art and I haven't had much to do with each other for nearly a month now and when I haven't been avoiding it I've said some rather rude and disparaging things about it in the weeks since school ended. I'm hoping it will be fine.

The last couple of days I've been interning and whiling away the hours endlessly googling everything from beef stroganoff recipes to long range weather forecasts for Sydney (23 days and about... oh.... 15 hours until 24 hours of economy hell and then... HOME. Yeehah!) I've also been looking for all and anything by way of remunerated activity for next year. A rental agreement and a lovely LB should not be my only reasons for returning to Ye Olde Land of Crappe Weather.

It rained most of the weekend. Funnily enough it always seems to rain whenever LB and I decide to visit Portobello Rd - dinner with Mamma: thunder, lightning, huge puddles. Dinner with lovely friends from home: pouring rain, enormous puddles, ruined shoes and hair. Aimless market wandering with vague hope of Christmas present inspiration: rain, rain, rain, some cold wind, some decent puddles and a solid hour in the pub.

LB did purchase me a gorgeous framed photograph though - a 'just because' present - and it now has pride of place on the wall. Makes me yearn for the day when I can afford to fill my house with beautiful art. Assuming we make up tomorrow of course.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Narcolepsy and a bowl of zucchini soup

It's been a while between posts - vast stretches of unpenetrated flatness on the emotional landscape that is my life post-dissertation and pre-whatever happens next. Mostly I have just been sleeping a lot.

Yesterday I started back at the art consultancy, where I'm interning two days a week until Christmas. I would be lying if I said I was excited about it (see: exhaustion) and getting home yesterday I sat on the couch and had myself a little cry. Not because I'm tired but because I feel a little bit lost and a whole lot muddled. Everytime I contemplate reading anything more taxing than Grazia, or attempt to find the will to see any one of the brilliant exhibitions on in London at the moment - oh Sophie Calle, oh Anish Kapoor - well, my narcoleptic tendencies prevail and instead I nap.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Welcome back coat.

It's 4.50pm here, it's 7 degrees, day three of The Coat and it's been dark for the last half hour.

Explain to me again why I live here voluntarily?

Friday, 6 November 2009

The Buda and The Pest

So Budapest was lots of fun. We got back yesterday afternoon after a couple of days wandering the city and trying not to freeze to death. Winter comes early to Eastern Europe people...

I was talking to my sister today, who has been to Budapest before - and she asked, had we been to the Museum of Terror? Umm. Nope. Did we get to the Communist Sculpture Park? Umm. No. What the hell did we do? A not unreasonable question I suppose and the answer is, well, not a huge amount, but enough, and it was good.

We were meant to arrive on Sunday lunchtime, thus the arse o'clock arrival at Heathrow for an 8.30am flight, but engine troubles before we'd even taxied to the runway left us stranded on the tarmac for a couple of hours until we were bussed unceremoniously to another plane. A few fellow passengers were muttering about compensation and impending stroppy letters but given the choice I think I'd rather send a thank you note for pre-emptively saving my life... but that's just me.

Arriving in Budapest, to be flummoxed by the new currency - I still have no idea how much those two days cost me - we caught a taxi into the city, Oliver speaking the international language of football with the taxi driver, whose English was limited to "Cesc Fabregas, oh yes", "Van Persie, oh yes" "Arshavin, yes, yes". Thank god he wasn't a Chelsea fan or we might never have got there.

Arriving at the apartment Ol's friend Anna-Lou had booked us all, and who was joining us on our mini-adventure, we were all completely buggered and there was a unanimous vote for snooze over sights before we ventured out in search of goulash for dinner.

Goulash ticked we had a reasonably early night and a very late morning before rugging up against the cold and taking to a bus tour. A) because we couldn't find the walking tour B) because it seemed an easy way to cover all the major landmarks with a minimum effort output and C) because it was frigging cold.

I'm not sure if it was the weather (depressing, despite the sunshine) or the exhaustion or just a generally dazed sense of "huh" that has been following me like an errant piece of toilet paper stuck unwittingly to my shoe since school ended, but I'm still not sure what I think of Budapest. It certainly has moments of great beauty and the Danube, which runs the gauntlet between such stunning buildings as the neo-gothic houses of parliament and the castle on the hill in Buda, is certainly amazing. But I don't know. For a city, and a country, that has such a fascinating history, it just seemed to lack the energy of other cities, like Berlin. But then maybe that was me missing the energy... Afternoon naps anyone? I would go back, but I'd want to go in Summer.

The bus trip though was great - informative, interesting and when it stopped at the Citadel for 20 minutes we had the opportunity to partake in some serious hot chocolate action. Think liquid chocolate doused in whipped cream. Low-cal it was not. Necessary it was.

That night we took advantage of the inclusive boat trip and more hot chocolate on board, we cruised the Danube trying not to freeze while gazing at the seriously beautiful architecture. You do have to love the English language translation on the commentaries though. "This beautiful bridge is very popular with people who try to kill themselves by jumping off." Cheery, no?

The next day, after the purchasing of some serious leg warmers to wear under my jeans and some obligatory jazz hands, we headed up to the castle to take in the view.

Broken record muchly but FUCK it was cold up there. Beautiful, but windy and biting and c-o-l-d. Every time we stopped for lunch I had to kick off my shoes, cross my legs and tuck my toes into the nooks of my knees to offset the stinging.

That afternoon the boys and Anna-Lou took off for the thermal spas. In a moment of absolute stupidity I forgot to pack my swimmers and what with being unemployed and already the owner of six pairs of swimming costumes, I refused to fork out 70 bucks for the privilege of cooking in a thermal spring with lots of chubby old Eastern European men wearing less lyrca than me. So I had a nap and the rest of Team Budapest, as big little bro had dubbed us, went off for a couple of hours.

That night we splashed out on a delicious last dinner - cocktails included - and a last dish of goulash before heading back to London yesterday. It's been such fun having the bro's here and their company and the absolute bullshit they talk has made me deeply homesick. Not quite six weeks until LB and I are Sydney-bound and I can't wait.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Schooooooool's out. Forever.

I think I've lost my writing mojo. I know where I left it - somewhere in the 94 pages of earnest intellectual ramblings that I handed in five days ago. I'm struggling to write a basic grocery list at the moment... which would explain the lack of food in my house but not the piles of washing or layers of dust that I've accumulated in the past weeks.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Can someone please tell me.....

WHY I thought it was a good idea to give up caffeine two weeks before my dissertation was due? I am so unbelievably tired - I even missed my tube stop today. With 2000 last words to write before the end of next week I may be forced to take it up again. But maybe just a little nap first?

Sunday, 11 October 2009

All roads lead to Palma

Am barely unpacked from a glorious week in Mallorca and if it wasn't for the strange sense of calm that has descended over me and my little friend, who I'll call Dissertation, well, it would be as if I'd never left. Stunning sunsets one day:

And the next, drunk girls pissing in doorways and German shepherds wearing sunglasses. Oh east London I really didn't miss you at all.

While it's oddly good to be back and re-attending to the sagas of post-graduate study, getting away for a week was just the tonic to my gin. Despite nearly missing our flight. A sartorial mission to find sunglasses for LB that ran too long and an unfortunate quick glimpse at the departures board and we were off, running for a gate that couldn't have been any further from where we were. Thank god though for a complete lack of fitness, otherwise I would never have stopped to wheeze/cry/gasp for air and seen we were running for the wrong flight at the wrong gate. Yes our flight was making a final call - and yes, it was at the absolute other end of the airport. If I hadn't been so bereft of breath I would have cried.

We did make the flight but the nervous adrenaline didn't really subside until we were ensconced in our little red rental car and on the road with warm, sunny Mallorca welcoming us with blue, blue skies and a gentle breeze. Heaven.

We were staying in a resort town 20 minutes out of Palma and though we'd been warned of crass tourism and Irish bars en masse I don't think we were fully prepared for the flocks of English football jerseys and lurid coloured board shorts, never mind the bus loads of OAPs that greeted us. We'd booked this hotel because it was near the beach and being so close to Palma meant we'd be able to get about the island easily. Still, it was a bit depressing:

Thank god for the maps and the guidebooks and a sense of adventure. A sense of adventure that kicked in around lunchtime after epic sleep ins and a sneaky diet coke to grease the wheels... I know, I know, but the thought of going cold turkey was more than I could bear and it's not PC to get into the sangria before 2pm.

After a Sunday spent slothing and swimming, Monday saw us taking to the open road, heading up the north west coastline in search of feted swimming holes and stunning landscape. And we weren't disappointed - by our discoveries or by the epic six CD compilation 'mix tape' we'd made for the journey.

This was our first stop:

It took 12km of nausea-inducing winding roads to get to this little spot but we swam and frolicked and ate gelato before congratulating ourselves for being in the Mediterranean under 30 degree skies and getting to wander along little beaches like this one:

It was really, really tough.

Navigating our way through little villages and olive tree plantations, LB at the steering wheel, me with the map and DJ hat on, we were rather pleased to discover that despite the at-times perilously narrow roads in Mallorca, the island is extremely well-signed and that you can be driving in any direction, on any road and come to an intersection and there will always be a sign to Palma. It made my job getting us home obscenely easy...

Tuesday was a visit to the capital, Palma, where we gawked at the enormity of the port and the deeply beautiful cathedral and wandered through the little alleyways in search of tapas and sangria and a pair of earrings I didn't know I couldn't live without until I spotted them. Palma is really charming and I can see why people refer to it as a mini-Barcelona. It's not quite as hip or eccentric as the mainland city but it is thoroughly charming and the gelato isn't bad either.

Following another epic sleep in, on Wednesdy we took off for the north east coast in search of a stretch of undeveloped beaches we'd read about, the shockingly pot-holed roads holding back the hoardes of coaches. Not a little Hurrah! Stopping along the way in a lovely little village called Arta for some obligatory tourist photos...

...We made our way to Cala Torta, a stunning beach with nothing but a small cafe/shack selling fish and an unfettered horizon of nothing but turquoise ocean. Our excitement though soon turned to prudish horror when we realised the southern end of the beach was something of a naturists playground. Having now seen what naked water ping pong involves (and no, I'm not struggling for an analogy - they really were playing ping pong. Naked. In the water.) well, I think I'll stick to reading as a hobby. It was like watching a car crash - a strange mix of horror and fascination, that people could be so comfortable in their own bodies and wondering what on earth they're going to do with all those photos they were posing for, appendages flapping in the breeze as they lounged on the rocks for all to see.

Eventually getting sick of people freeing their willies we made off for the next cove, Cala Mitjana, where LB's expert rally driving skills in avoiding the crater-sized pot holes led us to this:

And we had it all to ourselves. Hello heaven.

That night, on the recommendation of the lovely girl at reception, we had dinner in a little village called Genova. Totally tiny place but the restaurant was fabulous, with authentic, delicious Spanish cuisine, including, because we had resisted so long, a serving of Iberian ham. We understand the hype now. Oh yes. Oh yum.

Thursday was designated by me to be a sloth day. READ: sleep, read perhaps, sleep some more, drink, snooze, swim if so desire, nap, drink, swim, sleep. In the end I even canned the swimming. LB sat by the pool and read his book (the male equivalent of holiday trash chick lit) while I attempted to catch up on some of the many hours of sacrificed sleep. Short of winning the lottery or waking up to find my sun-seared freckles had evanesced, well, I couldn't have been happier.

It was at about this point though in the week that I started to get a little antsy about returning to London and my as-yet-not-once-thought-of dissertation. Not quite guilt, more mild anxiety and not wanting to wish away our last day, it was terrifying to realise just how quickly the week had flown - and by extension, what that would mean for the next two weeks (read: last two weeks) of school. Concrete boots could not slow down my impending deadline at this rate.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Friday was perhaps the mildest day we'd encountered - a warm 24 and a little overcast (me and my factor 50+ were perversely delighted) and for our last adventure we headed north, to Cap de Formentor, the northernmost point of the island, with dramatic sheer cliff drops and a lighthouse. Passing not quite through, but past, an amazing rain storm...

... we wound our way to the headland to take in the breath-taking views.

Stopping for our final swim at the so-beautiful-the water-was-still-turquoise-when-you-were-standing-in-it Platja de Formentor we then began our journey back to Palma, with a detour through the lovely Pollenca.

A small town with medieval history, the narrow lanes and charming plazas led us to an epic flight of stone steps. LB, ever enthusiastic, assured me the view would be worth it. Me and my shaking legs still aren't sure about that but 412 steps later (824 if you count the descent) it was certainly a moment.

For our last night we determined to find a decent tapas bar, the task having somewhat eluded us until this point. Getting lost and frustrated, and by this time beyond starving, we ended up in Peguera, another depressing little resort town, only this one over-run by Germans. Thankfully though we found a charming little place, on Eucalyptus Street no less, away from the main drag and had ourselves a proper tapas feast. Calamari, spinach and fetta, ham, chicken wings, salads, something else and something else. It was divine. And the red-wine heavy sangria just hit the whole thing out of the ball park. Happy. Campers.

Making our way back to London on Saturday, actively avoiding the stress of our last airport encounter by being there hours early, it was with a strange mix of panic at no longer having LB's company 24-7 and clear-headedness about what needs to be done with my dissertation that I struggled back to Shoreditch with my suitcase and my earrings and my duty free liquor.

Pending a thorough edit, a re-written introduction and a conclusion (phew!) the guts of my dissertation is now done. I have 12,987 words behind me and a visit from my brothers to distract from what will still no doubt be a rush of panic about "What next?!" come 4.45pm on October 30. But one thing at a time...

Monday, 28 September 2009

Major(ca)ly excited

T-minus six sleeps until LB and I flee London for a week of self-imposed dissertation exile. In the Mediterranean no less.

I was about to say that Saturday cannot come fast enough but having just glanced casually to my left and spying the fat pile of notes and scribbled essay plans I strategically placed yesterday for maximum guilt impact, well, Saturday can come when it's ready - I need this week to write another 5,200 words. Give or take.

It was always the plan to put the whole bloody thing in a drawer for a week once I had the bulk of it written - a bit of breathing space, some time out, some distance... Yes, I know how it sounds and yes, my dissertation and I are involved and yes, we're going through a rough patch... More than anything it's just a chance really to recharge physically and intellectually without the aid of stimulants and a daily contribution to the profit margins of the local corner store and their Diet Coke supplier.

Last week was designated for all things writing and general genius. It turned out to be a week of soggy, foot-dragging exhaustion and academic ennui. Thank god for dramatic death scenes and overwrought acting on Australian afternoon soap operas. To be fair, I did spend an awful lot of time thinking last week, and the week before, trying to find those elusive signposts for my elusive argument. Fortunately the concentrated brain frying wasn't entirely in vain as I did have a couple of significant eureka moments - elusive flashes of intellectual clarity - that struck, somewhat oxymoronically, while battling noisy, shoving, hectic public transport experiences. Honestly, if the Circle Line had wi-fi I'd sit there all day.

Anyway, I have a lot to do this week, including buying a beach towel, but I can't wait for Saturday because I know that irrespective of how much Redbull I need to drink over the next five days (read: A LOT) and how utterly crap I feel by the end of it (read: VERY), I know it will be done. Because my dissertation does not have a passport and is not allowed to travel.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

(B)right on! A weekend away

It is still officially Monday and already the weekend feels like it was decades ago. I'm not sure if that's the sign of a terrible week to come or a fabulous weekend just gone. A little bit of both perhaps?

Brighton was just delightful and the perfect remedy for a long last week. LB and I had a great time, staying in this cute-as little B&B with sea views and not a hint of chintz (though some serious wafts of incense...) Arriving late on Friday we had dinner in the Lanes before waking up on Saturday to a beautiful, sunny, near-cloudless day - ideal conditions for a coastal walk and some sooking about a lack of hat.

Hopping the bus to Rottingdean, something of a Brighton ritual these days, we began our walk with some perilous hobbling over the pebbles for a token dip of the toes in the freezing water of the English Channel. After some considerable thawing we meandered back to Brighton for a further wander around the Lanes and a stroll through the Sussex Food and Wine Festival (with a well-timed arrival for a cocktail-making demonstration. Gin o'clock anyone?)

Friday, 11 September 2009


First drafts of introduction and chapter one? Tick.

It is an unbelievable relief to have this first big hurdle out of the way. The next big hurdle will be surviving the feedback from my tutor on Monday afternoon. But one thing at a time.

It's late here and I should probably head to bed - I've had a collective 8 or 9 hours sleep over the last few days trying to get this chapter written by today's deadline and I would be feeling elated that I got it done if I wasn't already busy feeling woolly headed and dopey.

Anyway - my capacity for clever has been drastically reduced, 5,112 words later so I am about to crawl into bed. Tomorrow is a new day and me, LB and my new "you finished your chapter, you look like shite, go on you deserve it" haircut are off to Brighton for the weekend and I am so excited a) to be getting out of London and b) to be leaving my computer behind. Am I done yet?

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Prom date

I'm toying with the subtitle "This Dissertation has been brought to you courtesy of the good folks at Redbull and Diet Coke."

I am tired and a bit teary and generally feeling not like some epic mountaineer but like the epic mountaineer's sherpa. Dissertation writing is lonely, heavy business and I am s-l-o-w-l-y going insane. My days run something like this:

8.30am: alarm goes off
8:40am: snooze button
8:50am: snooze button
9:00am/9:10am/9:20am: snooze button
9:30-10:30am: shower, breakfast, faffing, 1st visit of the day to the Costcutter for Redbull and Diet Coke
11:00am: Sit down at computer
11:02am: Get up and find something else to eat, struck by pangs of procrastination masquerading themselves as peckishness
11:05am-2:15pm: write, struggle, smack head against wall, (optional 2nd visit to Costcutter), write some more
2:15-2:45pm: Half Hour of Shame (read: Home and Away)
2:45-3:00pm: miscellaneous faffing
3:00-7:00pm: write, struggle, write some more, smack head, (optional bout of tears), (optional 3rd visit to Costcutter)
7:00-11:00pm: all or any combination of the above, plus occasional guest starring events such as movie dates, dinner dates or, as happened this week, a Prom date.

One of the myriad adventures LB and I added to our list several weeks ago was a date to the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall and so on Tuesday we headed off to Kensington for some high brow culture. And by high I mean Up in The Gods high, back row, count the bald heads below high. It was so fabulous. A bit of Mendelssohn, a bit of Sibelius, a bit of schizophrenic pretentious contemporary and we had ourselves a ticked box. The whole point of the Proms is that for not very much money (our tickets cost 11 pounds) anyone and everyone can come and experience classical music at the Royal Albert. While the whole experience is designed to be unpretentious and relaxed I'm still not sure how I feel about seeing someone in their tracksuit pants sipping a glass of rose at the interval. I think I feel, well, "just no."

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

If you can't say anything nice....

...Don't say anything about the Midlands. In fact, don't go to the Midlands. It is, as the name suggests, the Middle of England. It's also, as fittingly described by most other English folk, a Shithole - quote, unquote.

This bank holiday long weekend has been an adventure wholly lacking in one. LB and I took to the train on Saturday morning to meet his sister and her husband halfway on their trek to Newcastle, their temporary home for the next three weeks before emigrating back to Sydney (via some seriously exotic travels in Europe and Asia of course). Anyway, we were optimistic about a fun weekend away - cute country pubs, walks in the countryside, cute country pubs. Hmm. Not so much.

Uppingham, the little village we were all staying in didn't even have Sky TV - the horror! - I think that nailed it for LB and his brother-in-law when it came to trying to find somewhere to watch the football. For the rest of us, it was a general lack of things to do. There was one great restaurant, that we did manage to dine at, once, a big fuck-off lake, Rutland Waters, that we made a token effort to walk past and then, driving aimlessly from village to nearby village, we got desperate enough to drive as far as Melton Mowbray, home of the famous ye olde porke pie. Only to find Ye Olde Porke Pie Shoppe closed. Ahh the Midlands.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Dissertation Karaoke

I woke this morning with soggy eyes and an elevated sense of already elevated stress about my dissertation. And all because I had a dream. A dream where, instead of writing 15,000 words on some aspect of contemporary art practice, addressing all relevant cultural and political theories, I had to write an album. Not only that, I had to then present each of the 12 self-penned songs on my album, explaining the structure, content and intent of each verse, sing one of them and then design an appropriate cover which had to feature an image of yours truly. And please justify that too. I have felt sick and anxious and nervy and consequently exhausted all day. Ahh Panic. Hello my friend.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Busy is over-rated.

It's a terrible thing to wish a week away but staring down two full days of nannying, an all day group tutorial, a new job and two nights at the bar and realising diddly squat was going to be accomplished on the research front, well I really had no other option. Because I'm still resisting my former ways of chocolate as a coping mechanism.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Some ish and some art

I've started August in earnest... Ish.

Tidied my room? Ish.

Started the arduous process that is researching my dissertation? Ish. With a dash of tick.

Returned fervently to my exercise regime of twice-weekly swims? Cough. Next?

Vowed to be a better writer, better ponderer, better Bondi girl when it comes to being 12,000 miles from home? Too early to say but I'm feeling optimistic.

The last time I wrote the parentals had just left and I was about to depart for Barcelona for The Meal of My Life at The Number One Restaurant In The Whole Wide World. That is a tale that very much needs to be told - a gastronomical, emotional, artistic(al) journey through 35 courses and some bloody fabulous wine. See previous point about being a better writer. To be honest, I don't yet have the words. But they're coming. Ish.

So to August for now and all things school and art and heavy intellectualisms. It's Dissertation Day Two and god bless Diet Coke - the ultimate fix all for hangovers, headaches and a curious affliction called Brain Fry. I popped my British Library cherry today and despite the curious fuzzy-headedness that resulted from six and a half hours churning through books on politics, monuments and the problematics of collective memory in artistic representation, I left feeling rather virtuous and too tired for tears.

As part of my Earnest August month - and because, you know, I'm doing a Masters degree in Contemporary Art - I have resolved to make more of an effort to see more art. It sounds silly I know, but in all my years as an art journalist, the more I wrote the less I actually had time to see. I am turning over a new leaf.

In truth it started last month, dubiously enough, with a visit to the Wapping Project in east London. A fabulous old building, the former Wapping Hydraulic Power Station in fact, it's been converted into a killer art space for exhibitions and performances but that also includes a chi chi restaurant and a cute-as little book store in the garden - inside a greenhouse.

What a total shame the exhibition we saw was utter shite. I hate feeling like art is taking the piss out of me, because I'm normally such a staunch defender of all things weird and ugly and challenging and silly. But this was, well, it was crap. An exhibition about the cultural history of eels, yes, eels, in Japan and the UK. There were some lovely sound installations, recordings of the daily kerfuffle at the Billingsgate Fish Markets, but otherwise, it was a room full of vitrines holding paraphernalia about eels - everything from fishing baskets to those naff patches your brother sewed on his football jumper. Yes. The Parramatta Eels got a mention...

So thank god for a wheatfield in the middle of Dalston.

Part of the Barbican's Radical Nature exhibition, the architectural collective EXYZT turned an abandoned railway line in east London into a functioning mill, with its own power-generating windmill. You could go and bake bread or simply lounge in a deck chair by the wheatfield and revel in the sheer delight of this little pocket of oddness.

As part of the off-site project, American land artist Agnes Denes was invited to re-create her famous 1982 work Wheatfield - A Confrontation. Twenty-seven years ago Denes planted two acres of wheat in Battery Park landfill in New York. Interrogating ideas about food, energy, economics and waste, it remains an iconic work:

Falling a little shy of two acres (by about 1.9 acres...) Denes' Dalston wheatfield is nevertheless a thought-provoking and in this instance, quite charming, interruption in an otherwise pretty drab industrial site. I liked it. No ish about it.

And then TODAY (earnest, earnest) I finally managed to get to Trafalgar Square to see Antony Gormley's take on the Fourth Plinth Project. Now I'm not sure what I think of Antony Gormley (shades of Artist-as-God complex perhaps?....) but his work for the Fourth Plinth was interesting, loath though I am to use that word because it says everything and nothing at the same time. The intellectual equivalent of a Milky Way bar.

But well, it was. The Fourth Plinth is, as the name suggests, the fourth plinth in iconic Trafalgar Square. The other three bear historically significant monuments dedicated to well, I'm not entirely sure who, but I'm sure they're important. Anyway - the fourth plinth, in the north west corner, was built in 1841 and intended for an equestrian statue that never eventuated. It was empty until 1998 when the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce commissioned a series of temporary contemporary art works to sit on the plinth. Rachel Whiteread, Thomas Schutte and Mark Wallinger are just some of the big names to have plonked a big piece of sculpture on it.

And now it's Gormley's turn. For his 100 day work, One and Other, the artist invited members of the British public to sign up for a roster, an hour at a time, to sit on the plinth. Well, to sit, paint, sleep, dance, mime, protest - whatever the hell they wanted really. I'm not even sure it has to be legal. 2400 people - 24 hours a day for 100 days - are living the dream, immortalised as living, moving pieces of sculpture in one of the coolest locations in town. I imagine the view's not bad either.

I wasn't really sure what to expect, British Library Brain Fry and all. Maybe it was the hours of reading about monuments and democracy and the individual versus collective experience, but it turned out to be quite breath-taking seeing this tiny woman atop this huge plinth, just sitting and drawing. It was lovely too to just sit myself for a while and let my brain cells re-coagulate. While it wasn't terribly exciting up there on the plinth, there was still something quite impossibly cool about it, in the great tradition of anti-establishment gestures perhaps. And then the hour was up. And the crane came. And the lady with the sketch pad was replaced by a young girl with a banner that read "Happy 5th anniversary Sarah-Jane and Phil". It wasn't Shakespeare by any stretch of the imagination - but I think that's the point.

Speaking of Shakespeare though and funnily enough El Bulli comes to mind. Laughter, tears, confusion, strange nonsensical words and a period in the middle when we thought it would never end. Never mind being transported to a magical otherworldly place. And no, I don't mean the Costa Brava.

But that is a tale for another day. Soon. Ish.