Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Kusama, cocktails and a little bit of crazy

It would be a stretch to say I got to meet Yayoi Kusama two weeks ago.

It is true to say that if I *had* stretched I would have got within an inch of her thanks to an invite to the press view for her retrospective at Tate Modern. One of several art world perks that are increasingly coming my way these days. But I'll get to those.

We're doing a huge project with Tate at the moment around Kusama's show and so it was incredible to get the chance to explore the exhibition without the hoards and to really have the space and time to allow total absorption in her obsessively beautiful, dark, quietly poetic works. People think dots when they think Kusama and you do get dots here - lots of them - but the curation is so thoughtful that they go beyond any glib pop-esque moment to become a really powerful meditation on madness, infinity and beauty. Because they are beautiful....

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room - Filled with the Brilliance of Life, 2011 
It was a pretty lovely moment, one of many recently actually, that have punctuated what has otherwise been a stressy couple of weeks that in my head got totally out of control. Exhaustion, homesickness, flatness, semi-brokeness, tiredness and a general case of the Over Its when it's come to public transport and three hour daily commutes, living in Hammersmith and wearing three days worth of outfits all at once. The Lovely Moments are the only things that have kept me from spinning totally out of control. That and a waning full moon?....

In amongst the stress was schlepping out to Croydon in the snow and sub-zero temperatures to get my new visa, or Biometric Residence Permit, as they call it these days in yet another step to dehumanise, humiliate and overly manage you. £850 and four hours later and I'm allowed to stay for another two years. A new lease on London life but one I don't think we'll be renewing when the time comes.

Funnily enough the day after my visa adventure was Lovely Boy's and my three year anniversary. Three years since Lovely Boy first cooked me dinner, three years since we drank three bottles of wine to overcompensate for nerves and an anticipation for not quite sure what and three years since we first kissed at the 94 bus stop at Shepherds Bush at 2am drunk and dizzy and elated and freezing.

After finally getting to have our date with Grayson Perry we decided to honour our little anniversary with a re-enactment of all the key details except the 94 bus stop. We (Lovely Boy....) cooked butter chicken curry, we drank too much wine and we smiled a lot. It was a good night and a perfect moment to reflect on everything the last three years have brought us both.

The last week, despite a shitty few days at work, brought other bright moments in amongst the crazy. I got a very small pay rise - more gesture than largesse - but I'm grateful for it nonetheless, going some way as it does towards improving the balance on my budget.

Which is good - because apart from groceries, I have cocktails to save for. And a holiday.

The joys of Night Jar...
On Friday night I met up with a gang of fabulous girls for some demure bar hopping in east London in pursuit of good drinks in new and interesting locations. Starting with a quick dose of art at the Barbican, first stop was Night Jar at Old St, where the cocktails are curated around themes of pre-war, prohibition, post-war and Night Jar originals. The decor was speakeasy and the music was jazz. I can't quite remember the name of my beverage but it had something to do with paradise and beach-combing so you could say it chose me...

From here we went for Vietnamese and from here we went to the back lounge at Callooh Callay on Rivington St. This detail (back lounge versus front lounge) is important only in that to get to the back lounge you have to walk, Narnia-like, through a wardrobe to get there. 

Novelty factor or no, I completely loved it. The decor back here was Dali meets disco and again I can't remember the particulars of my drink but only because I remain distracted by the drink that was on the table across from us:

Look closer....

Yes, they are gnomes.

It was a great way to shake off the week and on Saturday Lovely Boy and I set to being grown ups by opening a joint account and doing the groceries. And making a collective decision to pull ourselves out of the doldrums by booking a holiday. And not just any holiday - but a holiday to New York. HELLS YES! I'm already thinking about what I'm going to pack. We found this amazing loft in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn to stay in thanks to some savvy internet research and now we're to the planning. I cannot freaking wait. Something to soften the blow of Monday blues.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

B is for...


Lovely Boy and I had a date on Saturday afternoon. More an attempt to re-engage with life in London than re-kindle any lost in the early days of marriage romance, we ventured out on Saturday afternoon with a plan....

BRITISH MUSEUM (see also: Perry, Grayson)

First stop was the British Museum. I've been wanting to take Lovely Boy to see the Grayson Perry exhibition since I saw it last year and this week I managed to wangle some free tickets and so we were off. And we were off, dressed in all our finest fleecy layers, anticipating the forecasted snow. But so, it turned out, was everybloodyone else.

As his teddy bear Alan Measles, Perry writes a very sardonic, very funny blog that takes pointed aim at the fatuousness of much of the art/celebrity world and there's a beautiful vase in his exhibition, titled You Are Here (2011) that lampoons the myriad reasons why people might flock to his show. Whatever their reason of choice on Saturday, it was so busy that despite our free tickets we couldn't get in. And so we've had to raincheck it for next Saturday. Which takes care of next week's date....

Grayson Perry, You Are Here, 2011. (detail below)
Image courtesy: Victoria Miro

But because we were there, and because Lovely Boy had never been beyond the gift shop on a lunch break, and because the last time I was there I was an awkward, chubby, homesick teenager, we decided to have a wander. We spent maybe an hour perusing the sculptures in the Greek halls before heading up to the fourth floor to ogle the Egyptian mummies. And then having had enough of that we headed on to the next part of our little London date.

BOOZE (see also: Tate Modern members bar)

Catching the tube to London Bridge we warmed our mitts with a mug of mulled wine before heading on to Tate. One of our wedding presents was a 12 month membership and I lured Lovely Boy there on the promise of a drink at the sixth floor members bar. If we saw any art it was completely by accident. The two hours we spent there were passed sitting in rock star position against the windows where Lovely Boy sipped an ale and I had a fat glass of pink wine while we watched the snow roll in over St Paul's. If it wasn't already one of my favourite London views it would absolutely be now. It was low key and cool and breath-taking all at once. And by the time we left there was snow already settling.


Heading back to Borough I took LB to Elliot's, an unpretentious, welcoming, busy restaurant on Stoney St a couple of doors down from Monmouth. I've never been for breakfast - Tor has - but she took me here late last year for a pre-wedding, carb-free, supper. We ate four different entrees from a menu dictated by the freshest produce available at the market that day and washed it down with a big glass of wine. It was a great date. And one I wanted to have again - with Lovely Boy. And boy did it not disappoint. Fried squid with mouthwatering black spelt, homemade garlic flatbread, charcuterie and cheesy cauliflower. All before the kind of hot chocolate cake with butterscotch sauce and homemade vanilla ice cream that leaves you both rapturous and lost for words. I'll be going again. I suspect Lovely Boy will be too.

B is for... SNOW?

OK obviously B is not for snow but in the interests of a linear narrative snow needs to come next so suck it up and read on...

Well, really, there isn't much else to say except that it snowed and it was exciting and by the time we got home we looked like a Mr and Mrs pair of snowpeople. Until we started to melt. And then drip. But still, there is something so inherently joyous about snow. I don't know if it's the novelty factor of seeing your street turn into a monochrome canvas of white, if it's the gratitude for distraction from the just-plain-old-grey cold or if it's the satisfying squeaky scrunch of footprints that break that beautiful pervading quiet that comes with snowfall. Perhaps it's just seeing your husband declare his love for you in the middle of the road.


The first time Lovely Boy cooked me pancakes I was so hungover I was probably still drunk. I'd arrived home at 3.30am, unable to articulate and sliding along the walls with a rare lucid gratitude for their capacity to keep me upright. That was Hen's Party Version London. And I think that's where blueberry pancakes as my new breakfast happy places comes from. Even when I'm full to bilious I still have to eat until there's nothing left. But I do draw the line at licking the plate if that's any consolation....


Welcome to Misery Sunday. Try though they might, not even the blueberry pancakes could stave off the depression that came with sitting down to do a grown up version of a budget only to discover that when it comes to my financial situation, income - expenses = balance........ EQUALS NOTHING. The spreadsheet would have cried with me if I'd added in expensive face cream, occasional flowers and my bi-monthly purchase of Chanel's espresso-coloured waterproof eyeliner.

Things are about to change drastically around here if we are to have any hope of travelling anywhere this year that's not simply to and from work. It's kind of depressing. And the kind of grown up that is frankly B for boring and far from fun. So thank goodness for free tickets to Grayson Perry next weekend?..... I wonder if that reason is on the vase somewhere....

Whatever the case it's time to get fiscally creative.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Frigid February

So it’s back to London and life as we knew it. It’s been a busy couple of weeks settling back in and I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were still some readjustments to be made. Not so much to married life, funnily enough it feels remarkably similar to engaged living-in-sin life, but to the absence that is – now was – a building, long-term anticipation for the megalith of home-summer-sydney-wedding-family.

I’m thanking my lucky stars (which may or may not resemble my mother and sister) that I didn’t turn into a crazy bridezilla during the 12 months leading up to the day (small incident with the cream vs. beige vs. off-white vs. white moment aside) but even still, there is a strange emptiness now that it’s all over and a funny wish to go back and experience it all again – but maybe as a guest this time just to see what it was like?... Or is that a bit latent bridezilla? Let it go Jo…. Let it go…