Tuesday, 21 July 2009


So it is back to reality with an ungracious landing, a strange combination of worry and excitement about my dissertation and a fabulous haircut to ease the pain of life sans parents and continental adventures.

Mum left on Friday morning and I was remarkably composed and only cried a little bit seeing her off at Paddington. Previous experience would have suggested epic streams of tears and a right public spectacle but I managed to keep it together with but a few snotty sobs. Yay for maturity.

The last three weeks have just been a tonic, and while not so much gin, there has been plenty of wine, some solid encounters with cheese and generally lots of great eating, exploring and pontificating. Berlin was true to form - good weather, cool bars, interesting art and a plethora of old school locals in socks and Jesus sandals. I love it when cliches come to life, just not so much when they then step on your toes.

Parentals had left me in charge of organising Berlin and to their credit overcame their horror at my having booked us all into a youth hostel. To their immense relief - and with only a minor withering look from me - they checked into the top floor apartment of the hostel, cosseted from the rank smell of mixed sex group dorms by two security doors, and took in what even I knew to be a pretty awesome Berlin view, as far as Berlin skylines go:

I think one of the highlights for me this time around, Berlin tragic that I am, was visiting the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining intact part of the Berlin wall, which was given over to muralists in 1989 to create images of peace and reconciliation. Over the last 20 years the wall has fallen victim both to pollution and morons from all over the world, scrawling all over it with poetic treatises that read, "Jennaya waz here". This year though, to mark the 20th anniversary since the wall came down, all the artists have been invited back to re-paint their work and this mammoth undertaking is there for all to witness and some of the most iconic images have already been brought back to life. It was pretty special to see.

Returning to London for a night and sending Maxy home after a tres posh, tres delicious, (tres) boozy dinner at Terence Conran's new venture, Boundary, in Shoreditch, Mum and I took to Paris, with a vocabulary consisting solely of tres, bon, merci and si vous plait. Thank god for maps and pointing fingers.

The last time I was in Paris was 10 years ago (what's French for "God I feel old?") and I was travelling with my cousin. All I remember from that trip was queuing to get into the Louvre, queuing to get into the Musee D'Orsay, queuing to get into Versaille and John telling me that I had no appreciation for anything pre-Monet.

This time it was totally different. I did all sorts of appreciating - of the sales, the sidewalk cafes, the boulevards, the quality mother-daughter time and the solid hour we spent in Sephora trying on lipsticks in lieu of a visit to any of the major art institutions we might have otherwise patronised in this beautiful, beautiful city. But I figure a colour palette is a colour palette and there is nothing wrong with appreciating the textures, tones and shades of the Chanel cosmetics counter and not the Fauvist wing of the Musee D'Orsay.

Quite by accident we did stumble across a little bit of culture and history - unbeknownst to us we happened to be in Paris on Bastille Day. Thankfully we realised this the day before because had we not the sound of low-flying fighter jets might have troubled us somewhat. We managed to glimpse but the end of the parade - beautiful horses carrying smartly dressed French soldiers (soldiers?), closely followed by the city pooper scoopers. If only they swept up the dog shit too Paris would be even prettier.

Not quite shopped out but with other places to visit, Mum and I then travelled north to Normandy to spend a couple of nights with friends of hers from home. Such a pretty part of the world and the most ridiculously charming house:

We had two nights and a day in Normandy and in the morning we drove to the coast, to Omaha Beach and the American War Memorial. It was a blustery day but the sun was out and the whole experience was incredibly moving and sad and thought-provoking. It's really so hard to imagine that such a beautiful stretch of coastline bears the unseen scars of some of the most horrific violence in modern history.

Nevermind the thousands of graves bearing young boys and men. It was a pretty sobering experience.

Back to the house, we then took off for this quaint little village called Honfleur. Very charming, very floral - and a sale on cashmere sweaters. You couldn't have had two starker experiences.

Eurostarring it back to London (tres civilised) LB and I took Mum to Notting Hill for a final dinner before her flight the next morning. Welcoming us back to London was torrential rain, some old fashioned lightning and thunder and a severe delay on the Central line. Ahh to be back in London.

Next major adventure: Dissertation. But before then, two days next week in Barcelona for a meal at El Bulli with dear friends from home. Sometimes my life is gloriously ridiculous.

Thursday, 2 July 2009


I am totally unprepared for this sort of weather. Physically, mentally, sartorially.

I feel like wilted cabbage in this heat and not even hilarious headlines such as "How To Survive Sunburn" or the irony-free Red, Amber and Sun-kissed Brown (ok I made the last one up) alert levels for the recent extreme temperatures can off-set the heat-induced torpor that is London Without a Sea Breeze. Seriously. Kill me now.

The parentals, having left 7 degree Sydney are in the throes of delight. I am whiney and hot and bothered. Thank goodness for air conditioning, cold showers and beautiful big green leafy trees. And air conditioning.

It really has been unbelievable weather over the last week and it's added to the novelty of having lovely parents in town to do fun things with while my head is resolutely buried in sand about the shambolic state of my dissertation. (Fingers are resolutely in ears. lalalalalalalalalalalalalala.)

Mum and Max haven't yet been here a week but it feels like they've been here forever - in all the best senses of the word. LB, with only some gentle coaxing and an analogy from me that meeting the parents is like ripping off a bandaid (just do it quickly and get it over with) came with me to Paddington to meet them off the Heathrow Express and, despite turning up minus a suitcase (thank you Qantas), they were nevertheless in good spirits and we spent the day meandering through London. Breakfast in Covent Garden, a walk along Southbank for brunch at Borough Market before heading east to my little house and lunch from Broadway Market on the grass under the trees in London Fields. It was a very genial day.

On Sunday we took them out to Richmond for Pimms and gentle strolling along the Thames before a film (and air conditioning) at Leicester Square. It sounds hideously touristy but in fact was all rather civilised and the days have been punctuated by stops for coffees, late afternoon wines, cake breaks, late lunches in Soho, shopping and aimless wandering. Am just loving having them here.

We had lunch at Harvey Nicks on Tuesday (excellent opportunities for people watching) and an afternoon at the Tate Britain yesterday to see Eva Rothschild's installation in the Duveen Galleries, called Cold Corners. This is a press photo because I lent my camera to the parents who had forgotten theirs only to find they had left it behind yesterday... Clearly not tourists in the real sense of the word.

Anyway, it was a pretty fabulous work and the Richard Long exhibition, "Heaven and Earth" was also brilliant. I saw it last week and it was just as meditative and beautiful the second time around. A land artist who came to prominence in the late 1960s, Long goes on (long) walks - he describes it as "art made my walking" - recording thoughts and sounds or arranging stones, wood, ash - ephemeral natural items he comes across on his strolls - into silent contemplations on time, geography, space and the elements. His work is unpretentious, transient, human, holistic and vulnerable. I loved it. This is A Circle in Alaska, Bering Strait Driftwood on the Arctic Circle from 1977:

We're off to Berlin on Saturday and I can't wait. Mum has never been and the last time Max was there it was 1969 and you know, there was a wall. And communists. It should be fun. I just hope the heat doesn't follow us.