Tuesday, 25 October 2011


It's been a turbulent, rather distressing, couple of weeks. I suppose it was inevitable.

Wedding folklore dictates that someone, sooner or later, will become a nightmare. I guess I just always thought it would be me. Family dramas have been centre stage the last few weeks and the consequences haven't been pretty. Those that know me (and those with perceptive reading-between-the-lines ability who don't know me but who follow my ramblings), will concur that self-confidence has never been my strong suit. And that while my pale skin belies what is actually a bloody-minded resilience, it doesn't take much to make me wobble, however fleetingly, and question everything I've spent the last five years consciously counter-acting. Basic instincts that whisper insistently that I'm not special, that I'm not beautiful, that people will reject me, that I'm not perfect, that I don't deserve good things and good people in my life.

I don't regret my choices or paths - they have got me to where I am today in however a roundabout fashion - but the muddy path to this point now, where I am overwhelmed and humbled and excited by the love and goodness and possibility in my life, well sometimes it all still feels freshly trodden.

So let's just say there's been an inadvertent detour back down some of those roads the last two weeks. But I feel like I'm nearly back to me. And us. Poor Lovely Boy has been out in his own wilderness while I've struggled with all this emotional shit but thinking about the wedding, talking with friends and family, ticking fun things off our list like "Buy Lovely Boy A Suit" and "Post The Bloody Invitations Already" are helping to bring things back to where they were. That and my new mantra. Be The Dress.

I had my first fitting a couple of weeks ago and it verged on the disastrous. A make up stain that said "someone else has tried on this dress which happens to in fact be mine already so WHAT THE FUCK?!" didn't help, nor did said missing confidence or the overwhelming reality of wearing this dress during an enormously important, highly emotional, very public, almost certain to be photographed moment in my life. It was all a bit much so thank god for the presence of sensible, patient mothers and the supportive, reassuring words of dear girlfriends. Basically the dress out-psyched me. And now I have to be the dress.

Before I even knew what I wanted I knew I wanted a dress that was several things: glamorous, sexy, different, confident and effortless. It was an ambitious brief and to be honest, one I didn't think I'd ever fill. But I have. Effortlessly in fact. And now, I have to Be The Dress. I have to be all those things for myself. Because I'm never going to get this time again and I'm sensible enough (just...) to not let a frock or a family drama get the better of me.

What's funny though, thinking back over the last two weeks, is how much art I've sought out. Let me explain.

Five years ago I was in a pretty dark place. I was also in London visiting my sister. And one afternoon I traipsed all over the city with an old friend who also happened to be in town, seeing all kinds of art at Tate Modern, in the east end and somewhere else I can't remember and the things I saw inspired me - I felt giddy, happy, sad, uncomfortable, inspired, amazed and curious. And the experience set me free. I appreciate it might sound totally ridiculous but realising that art could make me feel these things made me realise that my feelings were just feelings - and not me. I felt sad, I myself wasn't sad. I felt lost, I myself wasn't lost. These were my feelings but these too would pass in time. They didn't define me and they weren't a permanent part of me. It was a ridiculously small revelation but it changed my life. And I sobbed for hours with relief at the realisation. Much to the consternation of my sister I might add.

Inside Frieze Art Fair, 2011
There's been quite a bit of sobbing the last two weeks too but in traipsing around Frieze, visiting the Pipilotti Rist exhibition at the Hayward, sitting in the dark Turbine Hall of Tate watching Tacita Dean's new commission FILM, well it steadied me somehow. It's not art therapy - it's just another way of looking at and coping with life. For me anyway.

Pierre Huyghe, Reflection, 2011. Frieze Projects
Pierre Huyghe's Reflection - a hermit crab taken up residence in a cast of Brancusi's bronze Sleeping Muse from 1910 - was whimsical and strangely poetic, I like the idea of art as a place of refuge, while Pipilotti Rist's chandelier of knickers was cheerful and intimate and celebratory.

Pipilotti Rist's underpants fairy lights on the Southbank

Video art in the loo at the Hayward...
Pipilotti Rist, Massachusetts Chandelier, 2010

And Tacita Dean's FILM was just a lovely visual balm. Gentle, strangely hypnotic, free of intellectual taxation. The perfect place to sit in the dark with a friend and talk of home and homesickness and the restorative powers of accessories and red wine.

Tacita Dean, FILM, 2011, Unilever Series
Commission, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern
It's only Monday but I'm exhausted. A poor nights sleep meant the imbibing of Red Bull at 9.30am this morning and a Milky Way and a diet coke at 4.30pm but hopefully I will sleep soundlessly tonight. No dreams of weddings, no dreams of drama, no dreams of Downton Abbey.

Friday, 14 October 2011

A few of my favourite things

It's been a difficult couple of days but having resolved that narcissism is only tolerable when it's cheerful I'm going to blithely and merrily reflect instead on some of the lovely, shiny, sunny, happy events of the last few weeks and write myself a list of Things I Like In No Particular Order.

1. Sunshine
The last week of September was unseasonally beautiful here in grubby, grey old London. And by unseasonally beautiful I mean seven solid uninterrupted days of 28 degrees and blue skies and skirts and sandals and sunscreen. It was a gift from the God I don't believe in. Though I have to confess that there was something slightly disconcerting about leaving the house in a t-shirt in early October when it should be covered by another layer or two. I just couldn't shake that strange sensation that something about my ensemble wasn't right - you know, that foolish feeling you get AFTER someone tells you that you've spent the last four hours with your skirt tucked into your decidedly sensible underpants. That feeling.

The inner courtyard at the V&A

2. Art
I am Very Excited about a number of exhibitions here in London - opened, opening and still to come - and have a list (yes, another one) of all the shows I'm going to see in the next six months. Grayson Perry at the British Museum, Pipilotti Rist at the Hayward, Yayoi Kasuma at Tate Modern in February, Gillian Wearing at Whitechapel in March. Excited, inspired, ready to get arty. Recent exhibition loves include Taryn Simon's masterpiece, also at Tate Modern and Ron Arad's Curtain Call at the Roundhouse.

Inside Yayoi Kasuma's The Gleaming Lights of the Souls, 2008
Liverpool Biennial.

3. Art and cocktails
I love great art, I love it even more when it comes with alcohol. The last Friday of every month usually means late night openings at most of the big institutions in London and last month I met my lovely ex-flatmate Katie at the V&A for some sitting and drinking in the balmy weather before a stroll through their new show 'Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970 - 1990'. The exhibition was ok. I loved the coathanger gorilla in the 'Power Of Making' show more.

David Mach RA, King Silver, 2011

4. Theatre dates. 
I love a good theatre date and the next day in fact I took in a matinee (and some well-earned air conditioning) at the Trafalgar Studios with the lovely Nina. The play, Top Girls, was a recommendation from my mother-in-law-to-be and it was a brilliant production but I did find it disconcerting that a fucked economy, a post-feminist society and a world class education that has set me up to think I can have it all left me confused about which character I empathised most with. I blame a particularly sympathetic portrayal of the Thatcher-esque anti-hero. I love a complex play. I also love dissecting said complexities at Gordon's wine bar with a cheeky half bottle of pink wine in the warmth. Heaven.

5. Pedicures 
I love pedicures, I love shiny painted toes, I love decadence. I also love, love, love visits from home. Mum and Max had a week in London at the end of a two-week Spanish adventure, and I took the time off work to spend it with them and Just Because I Could, I booked us a day at the ridiculously fabulous spa at Brown's Hotel on Albemarle St. This place manages to be both super posh and super fabulous. Mark Hix has opened a branch of his restaurant here and the hotel is famous not only as the place from where Alexander Graham Bell made his first UK phone call, but also because Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book while staying here.

But it was the 'seasonal pedicure' that really sold it for me. Changing throughout the year (as is generally inferred by the use of the word 'seasonal'), this magical experience sees in-season and other organic ingredients (ginger, rose petals, sea salt etc. etc.) incorporated into each step of the pampering process - the hot milk soak, the leg scrub, the moisturising mask. All this before what can only be described as the best paint job of my life.

6. Pedicures and cocktails
Did I mention it came with a matching complimentary cocktail? Peach bellini to match your polish, anyone?

7. Paris
We had two days in London (which included a traumatic fitting for The Dress that is another post for another time) before heading to Paris. J'adore Paris. Maman et moi adore Paris. Two years ago we had a decidedly girly trip to the city of love. This time we had Max's company and while not as girly it was just as delightful and thanks to Max's graciousness it also involved no less 'window-licking' than last time.

I love travelling with parentals - it means champagne at lunch and creme brulee for brunch. This time around it has also meant lots of cuddles and talk of Nan and home and a summer I am counting down the weeks for (nine as of tomorrow). We wandered about, we ate good food, we took in the Musee D'Orsay before taking shelter from the rain at the delicious Le Cinq Mars. Even though my laptop got left in the taxi from Gard du Nord and there were four hours where my only consoling thought was one of thanks to my brother and fiancee for teaching me about the importance of backing up before it was returned with a 26 Euro fee, it was STILL a lovely three days.

Notre Dame - five minutes walk from our hotel.
The bridge of locks. 

8. Pintxos
I love the kind of travel where you wake up in say, Paris, only to rest your head that night in say, San Sebastian. Lovely Boy joined us for the second leg of Parent Week and we had a flying 36 hours in this totally charming seaside city in Spanish Basque territory where we again ate and wandered and ate some more. We promenaded, we took in the breathtaking view post-furnicular ride and in the evening we partook of a pintxos tasting tour. Two guides, five bars, six Americans, the four of us and some of the most fantastic food and wine I've had in a while. The gin and tonics that came in balloon glasses the size of my head at the end of the night probably were unnecessary but the whole experience was fantastic and just such a great way to get a sense of a city.

San Sebastian old town
Looking down over San Sebastian.

9. Puppies
Ok. I should clarify. I like puppies made of flowers. I like puppies made of flowers made by Jeff Koons. I especially like said puppies when they're tethered to the forecourt of the spectacular Gehry-designed Guggenheim Bilbao. It was like being back amongst friends - Kutlug Ataman's Kuba, Mona Hatoum's Current Disturbance, Louise Bourgeois' big spider and a room full of Richard Serra steel sculptures. This was a favourite. Undulating, perception-altering corten steel structures that swallowed you as you wound your way through and into them but not in an aggressive or threatening way, as you might imagine with such a masculine, heavy material. It felt disconcerting but at the same time familiar and maternal. They were really quite extraordinary - both for their size and the sheer volume of them. It was a puppy perfect ending to a great weekend.

Jeff Koons, Puppy, 1992
Richard Serra

10. Lunch with my ladies
Monday just gone and my last day of holidays before Mum and Max left for Sydney. What better excuse than that for lunch with my dear friend and my dear Maman. Another stellar recommendation from Tor, the three of us went to the Ridinghouse Cafe on Great Titchfield Street and talked relationships, eyelashes, weddings and denim. The company, like the sorbet, was exquisite.

11. Weekends
Tomorrow is Friday and I am counting down the hours until the weekend. I have a hair appointment on Saturday, a date to collect The Dress, dinner plans at Gordon Ramsey's new restaurant and a Sunday work trip to Frieze Art Fair. I've always avoided the fair like the plague, there being something unappetising to me about paying 30 pounds to be trampled by crowds looking at art no-one normal can afford to buy. But curiosity - and free tickets - have got the better of me. And I'm quite looking forward to it. And if the need so arises, I may yet write another list.