Thursday, 27 December 2012

The girl who ate Christmas

I’m still digesting.

Christmas 2012 – Lovely Boy’s and my first together in London and I think we did it in style.
It’s been a strange experience sticking it out in London this December, when in all December’s past 

I’ve been itching to get home for a Sydney summer with the family and all but counting down the minutes until check-in at Terminal 3. That itch is still resolutely itchy but because I couldn’t scratch it this year I’ve been distracting myself with Christmas craft. And god has it felt good. I honestly wasn’t sure how I’d go, playing the long-game this winter, but really, even in confessing to a bout of tears yesterday, I’ve surprised myself at how well I’ve handled the cold and the lack of family distraction (though there’s still January, February and March to get through so plenty of time yet for a toy drop.)

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas party pratfalls

We had our work Christmas party on Tuesday night.

It was, genuinely, a lot of fun. I have the bruises to show for it.

Saturday, 15 December 2012


Oh the joys of an English winter. First the collective germ-sharing that is public transport dishes up a London-wide epidemic of stomach viruses and "vomiting bugs" (oh delightful) and then, when the immune system is down and out, along comes snot & co. to really amp up the already considerable gross factor.

All of which is a very whiny, long-winded way of saying, I'm currently at home with a box of tissues and a nose that's running at Olympic speed. The stomach bug has gone now thankfully but I wasn't much up for eating last weekend, which was totally inconvenient given we went not to a feast but The Feast on Sunday.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Carols at St Martin-in-the-Fields

The weekend festival of festivities continues today. Still wilfully ignoring my stomach bug, not least because this afternoon we're off to Feast, a pop up Christmas banquet in an old disused building in Islington where food will clearly be unavoidable... The terrible teenage girl in me would see this set of circumstances as a fortuitous silver lining but I'm an adult and so I'm pretending otherwise. Actually, the down-to-my-last-10-pounds-before-payday adult that I really am sees it as a shocking waste of money.

But enough with the slightly impolite discussion about stomach bugs and what happens when you feed them...

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Christmas markets and frozen toes

Anyone who knows me knows I love a good market - flea market, antique market, food market, craft market - I love them all. Mostly because they encourage my unadulterated love of treasure hunting, or "looking for tat" as my lovely husband calls it.

The chance then to re-visit my old (and still favourite) neighbourhood on Wednesday night AND to pay a visit to the Columbia Rd Christmas markets while I was there was too good an opportunity to pass up...

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Bits and Bob Bob Ricards

In between the day trips and the mini-breaks and the cocktails and the list-writing I've had a number of small but delightful moments of observation and aesthetic appreciation lately. My Peckham punk granny with her Batman-esque eye shadow delicately devouring her sandwich above being just one of them...

Monday, 12 November 2012

Knit one Purl two

I love a good cocktail. Throw in quirky or beguiling environs, brilliant company and a small gas burner for distilling your drink and you have, by my count, a winning evening.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A visit to Hampton Court Palace

My love of lists is rather well documented. And the only thing I like more than writing lists is ticking things off them. In fact I so love crossing things off my lists that I have been known in my time to write things onto said list that I’ve already done, just so I can get my ticking and crossing off to a promising start. Though to be fair, this premature behaviour usually only happens on lists of Boring Life Admin, or worse, Depressing, Overdue Work and/or School Activities.

What was my point?

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Playing the long game

Normally about this time of year - when you realise after four consecutive days of grey that the sun is now permanently gone until next April, I start to countdown to Christmas. And by Christmas I mean home.

Except this year, well, we're not going to home. A virgin London Christmas is upon us. If I think about what we'll be missing - bellinis by the pool, morning swims at Bilgola Beach, time with family - well I cry a little bit. So I'm playing the long game. And that means A List of Things I'm Excited About...

Christmas Carols at St Martin-in-the-Fields. 
I first did this 13 years ago with my dear friend Kirsten, a bittersweet end to our gap year in Brighton. This year it will be with my husband and Tor and Andy. And mulled wine.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Tino at Tate

A while back I wrote a list of all the shit I wanted to do once I had finished writing and updating the book. Some of those things – washing, a pedicure – I have managed, others – the Ai Wei Wei pavilion at the Serpentine and Queen Art and Image at the National Portrait Gallery – I failed abysmally to accomplish.

And so damn it if I was going to miss Tino at Tate.

I’d had FIFTEEN weeks to get to Tate to experience the Seghal and to check out The Tanks before they closed for ongoing renovations and even the night before it was odds-on we mightn’t get there. But get there we did – with 24 hours to spare.

Monday, 22 October 2012

A mini-break to Greenwich

It's been a lovely weekend - a perfect see-saw of activities and outings and frocks at one end and fuck all at the other.

This weekend Lovely Boy and I had a mini-break to Greenwich.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Oh Frieze

So I went to Frieze on Friday afternoon.

Last year was the first time I’d ever gone and the experience was timely for a number of non-art related reasons

But the truth is, I really grapple with the whole art fair circus. I mean, I understand its place in the wider ecology of the art world and the commercial art world in particular, and am not such a socialist as to say art should only be that which is available and accessible and interesting and rich with transformative potential for the average punter. BUT, well, I kind of don’t really like the commercial art world. And mostly, that’s because I think its values are a bit screwy.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

An Istanbul fling

Istanbul has been near to the top of my ‘list’ for I don’t remember how long. It’s been on Lovely Boy’s list really only since I added it for him. And even then, it fell somewhere on the second page. So a plane ticket to Turkey for my birthday back in June felt especially special.

The 5am start to get out to Heathrow was mollified by the exceedingly happy memories of our last trip to Turkey and the chance to watch the sunrise over the runway over my bowl of Pret porridge in shiny terminal 5. And against the odds of a non-reclining chair (tut, tut BA…) I slept like one of those nodding ducks most of the way there. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Girls gone mild in Cornwall

Such is the life of a jetsetter - we're just back from four days in Istanbul but that blog post will have to wait - because four days before that I went to Cornwall. And first thing's first.

Tor and I had been talking about a girls weekend for months - one that would conveniently coincide with beery weekends away for the other halves. And besides, we figured, all four of us have been to Cornwall before so the guilt about going again was basically negligible. And I mean really, what self-regarding boy wants to spend a weekend in bucolic surrounds by the ocean eating great food with a library of tabloids to read, pink wine to drink, gossip to extol and an idyllic eco spa to exploit?

Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Two Days At Documenta

Two weekends ago I went to Documenta with the ghost of my 27 year old self.

In 2007 I was living in Sydney, terminally, determinedly single, working at the University of New South Wales and in desperate need of inspiration.

And so I went on a pilgrimage to Germany, to Documenta, the five-yearly international contemporary art survey that began in 1952 amid the social, political and historical carnage of WW2 as an attempt to reconnect with the lost ideals of the enlightenment. 

Enlightenment was what I was after. It wasn't what I got. I hated Documenta 12. It was obtuse, smug, difficult, glib and frankly, bloody hard work. My most distilled moment of the three days I spent in Kassel (which is a shit-house city by the way - bombed to bits and rebuilt with zero thought for charm) was sitting at a tram stop, in the sunshine and having a curiously calm, philosophical conversation in my head about WHY it was that I had decided to dedicate my career to contemporary art and WHY was it again that I thought art was important and WHAT the fuck am I doing if this is the measure of contemporary art today. 

That sort of thing. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A little bit of lately

At the time of writing I’m en route to Kassel, Germany to see Documenta 13 – globetrotting art dilettante that I am – but even with a dedicated couple of hours to give here I’m slightly overwhelmed as to where to start on what is effectively a “Life Lately” catch up. Or really, a life lately, and life not so lately catch up.

The last nearly two months have been frantic. I do remember the last time I was this overwhelmed with exhaustion and adrenaline and it was pretty ugly then but that feels like a warm up compared to this recent marathon of sleep-deprived madness. 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

How did that happen?

I cannot believe it's been four years.

I also cannot believe that in that time I've completed a Masters degree, met and married a Lovely Boy, found an incredible job, done some considerable travelling, eaten at El Bulli, seen some brilliant art and written a book. I could hate me with a list like that.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Last night in London

I have so much to catch up on here. I'm slowly ticking things off my list but in the spirit of getting my non-book writing butt back into gear I'm going to start with last night.

Last night was lovely. A quintessential #onlyinlondon occasion. A date. Me and my Lovely Boy. Tickets to the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts. The programme was inspired by the current Impressionism exhibition (as yet unseen... bad, bad...) but was just so beautiful.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Jumping on Jeremy

This is a cheat post. One of those posts where you stick up a bunch of images in lieu of substantive or witty writing to tell yourself you updated the blog. Tick.

I am writing. Just elsewhere. A book. I'm nearly done. I promise.

In the meantime, distract yourself with pictures of our visit to Burgess Park, Peckham two weekends ago to jump on Jeremy Deller, or rather, Jeremy Deller's brilliant, bouncing Stonehenge spectacle, Sacrilege. The title says it all really.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Things I Want To Do When...

Am busy. Stupidly busy. Swigging diet coke at 3am busy. It's awful. I look awful. But soon - soon - it will be finished and normal transmission will resume.

Then I Will...

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Loveliness and busyness

I’ve been wanting to write about the Damien Hirst exhibition at Tate for a couple of weeks now. But every time I go to write about it, well, I get a bit cross and cranky. So I’m going to save that for another day.

Instead I’m going to reflect on last weekend– lovely, lovely last weekend.

On Friday evening I joined two of my favourite Antipodeans, Katie and Nina – my cocktail coterie - for dinner at Shrimpy’s. Nina made the booking six weeks ago, which tells you lots about both Nina’s organisation and the popularity of this hip little pop up restaurant by the canal near Kings Cross. It’s the work of the genius team behind east London’s Bistrotheque.

Monday, 25 June 2012

A birthday by the sea

So I've been 32 for just over a week now and so far it’s been spectacularly unexciting. Which is not to say dull – work has been reee-dic-ulous – but unexciting in the way that, frankly, 32 was always going to be.

The birthday itself though, was lovely.

I hadn’t put much thought into what I wanted to do, probably because I knew I didn’t really want to do anything. Something definitely, just not anything. No party, no drinking, no gang of friends. Thoughts of Nan and last year’s birthday made things not solemn but quiet and so all I really wanted to do was mark the day with my Lovely Boy doing something, well, lovely.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

A long reign and a wet weekend...

London two weeks ago...

New York feels like forever ago. We arrived back dazzled by the rare London sunshine and not even two and a half hours of re-root canal the day we landed could diminish the warm, soul polishing embrace of the sun. I don’t really want to relieve my dental disaster so I won’t, suffice to say that I feel unwittingly dragged into adulthood for having been mature and (mostly) brave throughout the whole ordeal. Jetlag and temazepan may have helped.

We had an – god, do you know, I was about to write “an unseasonably beautiful four days” but then realised that actually, it’s freaking June and four beautiful days should be seasonably, reasonably expected. But then this is London. And this, currently, is London Summer:

This afternoon, crossing Vauxhall Bridge. Normally
you would be able to see the London Eye from here
Anyway, we had a lovely four days back in London before returning to work, which we spent mostly with Lovely Boy’s brother and his kids, who were at the start of a holiday through Europe. Lucky for them. We took them for a gourmet lunch at Borough Market before spending the afternoon drinking Pimms (lemonade for those without the necessary id….) in the wildflower garden atop the Southbank Centre. It was so delightful.

Preparing for the Jubilee. Pre-appalling weather.
Fiona Banner's boat atop the
Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank
And then it was work for a week (busy, mental, stressful, changes ahoy) before another four days off to play in honour of the Queens Jubilee. I have to confess to be totally fascinated by the royals – not fascinated enough to brave 70,000 on Pall Mall for a fleeting glimpse of them and certainly not fascinated enough to spend seven hours on the side of the Thames, wedged in a crowd and getting totally drenched. But you know, fascinated. As I’m sure every man and his corgi already knows, in the greatest of British traditions, it rained. ALL weekend.

The neighbours getting their Jubilee on
Lovely Boy and I spent most of it on the sofa watching the pomp and pageantry on the television. Though on Saturday, when it was only mildly miserable, we went for an amble along the river towards Putney, where boats were beginning to muster for Sunday’s flotilla and snooped in a neighbourly sort of fashion on all the street parties going on around us.

Quite a bit of bedraggled bunting is still about the streets even now and all the flags throughout central London hang limply – like depressed wet washing. It’s a bit tragic really and only makes me wonder what kind of weather we can expect for the “Summer” Olympics next month. It would be churlish to say I hope it rains, yes?

A moment of forlorn homesickness when I spotted
this on a bench along the river near Putney

The long weekend wasn’t a total bust though. On Sunday Lovely Boy recreated Clinton St Bakery pancakes – DELICIOUS – and on Tuesday I moseyed down to Crystal Palace with a work colleague for a swim. I can’t remember the last time I swam laps in a 50m pool, and it was pre-Easter chest infection that I so much as gazed at my swimmers so it was quite the return but I loved it. Loved feeling totally pooped at the end, loved being able to just swim, and loved the company actually – because let’s be honest, sometimes swimming laps is fucking boring.  

A three day working week can only be sweet (and swift) and the weekend just gone was intermittently windy and wet but on Saturday Tori took me for some mani pedi pampering as an early birthday present. Shiny new nails and lunch at Hix in Selfridges to follow before some window licking on the third floor. It was the ideal girly day.

Lovely Boy's Clinton St tribute. #impressive
And today, for a wet, cold Monday, wasn’t actually bad. There’s a lot of things on the work horizon, most of them busy-making, but a constructive, exciting meeting first thing has given me a renewed sense of direction about work and my role and opportunities to really learn. There’s also a huge new professional development that I’m reluctant to talk about lest it disappear again but once I know for certain I’ll be shouting modestly from the rooftops about it. So stay tuned for that news broadcast.

Spotted on the corner of New Oxford and Museum Sts on Saturday
In the meantime, I have 32 to prepare for. I’ve stopped looking for grey hairs in case it becomes some sort of self-fulfilling prophesy and am preparing myself, Zen-like, for a philosophical sort of birthday. I don’t care much for the even numbers so this year is going to be mostly about consolidation. Dead sexy I know but this is what getting old does to you.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Last Days of New York

So on Monday, just to remind us we were heading back to London in two days time, it decided to pour with a kind of rain that can only be described as torrential. Because we hadn’t brought our swimmers and snorkel we ditched our plan to walk The High Line and consoled ourselves with a serve of blueberry pancakes from the Clinton Street Bakery on the Lower East Side. 

Tori had told us about this place and we were under strict instructions not to be swayed by anything else on the menu as it would only lead to order envy. Pancakes and ONLY pancakes. And so we did as told and predictably Tor was right. We probably didn’t need the chocolate and peanut butter milkshakes that we ordered with them but it was in keeping with the chocolate salty sweet theme of calorie badness we’d established earlier in the trip at the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. Faffing about under awnings and trying not to get any wetter than we already were we then headed to MoMA to meet Bethany, whose convenient membership meant it was five and not twenty bucks to get in.

MoMA is the only museum open on a Monday and so it was predictably busy but we had a good couple of hours breezing through the major art milestones of the 20th century – Pollock, Picasso and the pop boys, including a rare chance to see James Rosenquist’s room installation billboard-esque painting F-111 from 1964-65. This extraordinary painting, that I remember studying in high school, is a brilliant damnation of what the artist has described as “the collusion between the Vietnam death machine, consumerism, media and advertising.” 

James Rosenquist, F-111, 1964-65
The F-111 was a fighter-bomber plane developed and paid for by US tax dollars during the Vietnam War and in Rosenquist’s immersive painting parts of the impressive fuselage pierce through a series of disconnected commercial images that bear increasingly sinister overtones the longer you look at them, from a mess of visceral spaghetti to a young blonde innocent under a hairdryer that looks suspiciously like a missile-head - all in bright cheery hues. It’s an iconic work that was first exhibited in 1965 and to see it here was kind of awe-inspiring.

Doris Salcedo, Atrabiliarios, 1992-93
Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Placebo), detail, 1991

We did the Cindy Sherman retrospective in a tidy 15 minutes, Bethany and I spending most of it putting out masters degrees to good use and discussing everything she’s made since about 1980 in a derogatory fashion. It wasn’t great. But we then had a pleasant 15 minutes twirling through the gift shop - of course – and so despite the soggy nature of the day it was good mix of food and culture and set the scene quite nicely for dinner that evening.

Several people had told me about Beauty & Essex and I’d booked us a table at this Lower East Side establishment several weeks ago. Lovely Boy wasn’t too happy about having to put a shirt and his Going Out Shoes on for the occasion but I assured him he’d be in good sartorial company once we got there. And as per, I was right. Beauty & Essex is as regarded for its menu as it is its location, at the back of a very cool pawnshop. 

You enter the storefront, selling antiques, old jewels and assorted musical instruments and head through an unassuming back door and into the bar. A huge chandelier hangs from above and plush dark sofas entreat you to sit back and get smashed on a roster of killer cocktails. Thankfully we had but one drink here before being seated in the restaurant, beneath beautiful old light fittings and a huge glass atrium roof.

The food is a tapas-style sharing menu in a range of culinary styles. We had five plates between us and it’s no exaggeration to say that each of them was exquisite and if the moment was in animation our eyes would have been consistently out of our heads in delight and ohmygodness. Tuna sashimi, beef carpaccio, braised short rib tamales, oven braised chicken meatballs and grilled cheese, smoked bacon and tomato soup dumplings that were so ridiculously good we had to order a second helping. 

And for dessert - warm cinnamon sugared donuts full of hazelnut creme and raspberry jam respectively, delivered in their own beautifully designed box. Holy hell they were good. I’ve had a lot of world-class meals in mind (yes, El Bulli, Fat Duck, I’m looking at you) but this was up there with the best. Great cocktails, incredible food, good service, in a brilliant, quirky, cool but not pretentious environment. We couldn’t have asked for a better penultimate New York night. Oh, and I forgot to mention the free champagne bar in the ladies bathrooms. Yes, seriously.

Side dishes as accessories #love

Tuesday was our last full day and thankfully the rain had all but disappeared, leaving a humid, temperamental, cloudy sort of mess in its wake. In the morning we set off for the financial district once more, this time to visit the WTC Memorial. I remember acutely being here in November 2001, about to start my internship and feeling intensely the grief, vulnerability and horror of New Yorkers everywhere. I also remember wandering around this area and trying to absorb the enormity of what had happened here and standing with great sadness in front of the fences of Trinity Church, overwhelmed as they were with photographs, tributes and missing person posters. Just two years earlier I’d stood at the foot of the twin towers and marvelled at their architectural bravado. Now, well it’s hard to get your bearings amongst all the construction but in the middle of all this rebuilding is the memorial plaza and the two reflection pools – this strange oasis amid the chaos.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the visit but I’d followed the controversy and ongoing debate around the design competition for years and was curious to see it. The two reflection pools that sit in the footprints of the two towers are enormous, nearly an acre each, and incredibly deep. The second drop in the middle is so deep that you can’t see the bottom, no doubt a deliberate part of the design. The flowing water, the space, the depth all brought a beautiful gravitas to the encounter and I was both moved and impressed by the poignancy and simplicity of the space. 

There was no one way to read these gaping holes, that so many people feared initially would be read as unhealed wounds, but the flowing water had a meditative, soothing quality and a life force that gave space to reflect but that also gently insisted on the inevitable moving forward of time. The bronze lip around each of the pools is etched with the names of all those who lost their lives that day, in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. 

Some people had left flowers and messages but largely they were unadorned. Rows of trees offer shade and space to sit and while it’s currently ensconced in fences, when the surrounding buildings are completed it will be open to the surrounding streets and accessible from every side and its significant beauty will be fully realised. I’m really glad we went to see it and gladder still that politics, religion and frightening ideologues were so deftly negotiated (or indeed avoided) to create a space that can be interpreted, respected and remembered by everyone in their own way.

If the WTC Memorial offers one way to reflect on Manhattan’s architecture – past, present and future – The High Line is another. The initiative of a group of conservationists, architects, historians and local residents, The High Line is a public park built along an historic above ground freight rail line that tracks down 10th Avenue. 

It opened in 2009 and was extended in 2011 and now runs from W30th St all the way down to Gansevoort St in the Meatpacking District. The old rails are visible most of the way and it’s been beautifully restored with a wooden walkway whose width oscillates between the buildings and gardens of wildflowers the whole length. There are benches for birdwatching, a dedicated stream for cooling your feet and art installations along the way – from billboards to sound pieces to a very unique zoo and a very naked peeping man, the last two unofficial contributions…

We had a gorgeous stroll down these 20 blocks despite the malevolent weather above and Lovely Boy rewarded himself with beer and bratwurst at the Standard Hotel’s biergarten at the other end for a walk well done. If we hadn’t lost the best part of Monday to the weather I’d have loved to have spent some serious time around Chelsea and the Meatpacking District but all we got was a walk along 14th St towards the subway. Something else for the Next Time List…

Spot the naked waving man...
The High Line Zoo 
Getting back to Brooklyn we ambled along Smith St looking for Brooklyn bargains and working up an appetite for dinner. I was seriously tempted by the blackboard offer out the front of Beauty Bar – 10 bucks for a martini and a manicure but hard liquor before 6pm is never a good idea, even when the bar is exceptionally cute and the seats are old 1950s hairdryers. Next time.

The view up 10th Ave from The High Line
We’d saved Calexico, an award-winning Mexican joint for our last dinner – another food truck turned permanent residence in Red Hook but getting there, we were told there was a half hour wait for food and no-one, including the staff, seemed to have much of a clue what was happening. Which is a shame, as the guacamole was excellent and bode well for a good meal. Giving up after 40 minutes of mild confusion we went back to the Mexican place of our first evening and had a grand time eating too many mouth-watering soft tacos and enchiladas before rolling home yet again.

By the time our last day rolled around all of Lovely Boy’s list had been ticked – hotdogs, baseball, Times Square, Rockefeller Centre and the rest of the Big Buildings, Central Park, the High Line, the WTC Memorial and shitloads of Mexican food. I still had a couple left, chief among them the Guggenheim. They were mid-instal of their next major exhibition so tickets were half price - which made me twice as happy as the exhibition I wanted to see was the Francesca Woodman retrospective anyway. 

Francesca Woodman, from the House series, 1976

Woodman was a young American photographer working in the late 1970s and early 1980s who tragically took her own life at the age of 22. I can’t remember the first time I saw her work but I was drawn then, and again now, to her haunting images – studies of the female form, explorations of constructed and emotional spaces and self portraits that in retrospect perhaps offer a beautiful and desperately sad insight into her imminent fate as she seems to fight to disappear into herself and her surroundings.

Francesca Woodman.
Another obligatory spin through the gift shop, we then headed back to Brooklyn to check out deKalb market. DeKalb Market is a unique mini market metropolis made out of old shipping containers. It’s a mix of food, design, vintage and homewares and I can imagine when the weather is a little brighter the crowds descend on this place – but on a wet Wednesday afternoon we had it basically to ourselves. Lovely Boy stalked the food while I went in search of last minute Things I Didn’t Know I Couldn’t Live Without. Which, it turns out, was a vintage bauble ring.

By now we only had a couple of hours left before we had to leave for JFK which meant time for one last thing: a visit to the Brooklyn branch of David Chang’s Momofuku Milk Bar. We’d planned to swing by here for dessert the night before but having gorged ourselves on Mexican it seemed insulting to partake of world famous pie and not enjoy it. And so we went back for some candy bar pie. Think chocolate, gooey toffee, nougat, chocolate cookie crust and pretzels on top. It was so fucking delicious we couldn’t even stop to photograph the experience for posterity once we'd opened the packaging.

It was an appropriately sweet ending to our brilliant, inspiring, memorable week.

Getting back to London was totally tiresome but serendipitously I managed my third celebrity sighting in the dying minutes of our trip, clocking Clive Owen as he sauntered through customs at JFK. Holiday well done. See you again soon New York. Yes?