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…

So yes. A bit flat, a bit “Wait, that’s it?”, a bit homesick and bit fucking freezing. Phuket was hot – lovely, perfect – London, currently, has a toddler for a temperature. Three is a good day, two about average…. Tops of one forecast for the weekend. The last time I felt this bone-achingly cold I was in New York in 2001. But I was in NEW YORK so who the fuck cares. Trudging to and from Peckham each day isn’t quite so glamorous. But then glamour never was bulky green cashmere socks over tights under jeans with two singlets, a jumper, a cardigan and, lately, a cape, all snuggled in under a coat, hat and scarf.

It makes leaving the house completely unappealing.

Thankfully though, work has been great and the month away has done much for my enthusiasm and my facility for concentration. And there’s so much happening to be excited about. I got to meet Elmgreen & Dragset last week – the artist duo responsible for the next fourth plinth commission and the guys behind the hilariously dark Nordic pavilion at Venice in 2009.

Elmgreen & Dragset, The Collectors, Venice Biennale, 2009
Then on Monday I got to see the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy. I say this was exciting because It’s David Hockney At The Royal Academy… but frankly the show is a bit shit. For want of a more sophisticated analysis. But there’s something in me that enjoys disliking it somehow…

In a couple of weeks I get to sit in on a Q&A with Jeremy Deller at the Hayward and next weekend I’m going to schlep out into the cold to see Zarina Bhimji’s new show at Whitechapel Gallery and hopefully Lygia Pape’s show at the Serpentine. I saw her work in Venice in 2009 and adored it. So, lots of things to look forward to and more pinch me moments than my aching frozen skin can probably cope with.

Lygia Pape, Venice Biennale, 2009
It wasn’t this cold when we left in December. It was crowd heavy and grey but it wasn’t this cold. Apparently they have four levels of cold weather warning here in the UK. We’re at level three currently – where the infirm and elderly are at risk of death. Level four is when healthy humans start to die. A temperature drop and an experience I could do without for the moment thanks very much.

A pedestrianised Oxford St just before
Christmas.  Took crowds to a whole new level...
Being back in London this time around feels so different to last time. Last January I was unemployed, completely without prospects and pretty depressed. Returning this year has brought it’s own set of complications. It’s taken three years but I finally feel like I live in London. I have not quite a gang but a disparate group of fabulous friends, a job that excites me, a lovely husband and an energy to just squeeze as much out of this city – and this part of the world – that I can. As Tor would say, I’m choosing my choice. I don’t want to be away from Sydney – but for the first time really, since I got here, I don’t not want to be in London.

All grist for the over-thinking mill I suppose.

Collecting stamps in my art world passport aside (Mark Wallinger, Grayson Perry, Elmgreen & Dragset…) my first Saturday back in London, two weeks ago now, really set the agenda for the kind of experiences I want this year…

East London graffiti
Heading east, my true spiritual London home, I dropped into Iniva on my way to Vilma Gold Gallery in Bethnal Green, just off Hackney Rd. My old stomping ground and boy did I ache to be able to stay. The afternoon was spent overseeing a writing workshop that we organised through the website for budding young art critics with the Assistant Editor of Art Review magazine, Oliver Basciano. I’d be lying if I said I too wasn’t taking notes…. And then I wandered back down Columbia Rd, licking all the windows before meeting Jen at Allpress on Redchurch St for a coffee, some pistachio biscuits and a huge summer/wedding/life debrief. It was the kind of day that ticked all my London boxes – friends, art, inspiring surrounds. It was A Good Day.

The new ATM on the end of my old street
And then last weekend Lovely Boy and I lobbed our way back to Bray – again – for lunch at the Hinds Head pub (another Heston outfit) for Katie’s birthday. £27 for a three course set menu that included pea and ham soup and mushroom macaroni. I was pretty happy – and pretty full by the end of it. Bray is such a quintessentially cute English village but with low ceilings and thick wooden beams in every building, it’s a tall persons nightmare.

Last night I had drinks in Clerkenwell at this quirky bar called the Zettner Townhouse. The aesthetic was old man’s smoking parlour meets Miss Haversham in a whack anthropology museum. Its lack of Capital C cool was what made it even cooler. That and the cat in the prom dress…

This afternoon I’m taking Lovely Boy on a date – Grayson Perry at the British Museum, dinner in Borough and then drinks in the member’s bar at Tate Modern. Culture and food and exploring London - hopefully it will be fun. Not least of all because it then means I don’t have to leave the house tomorrow. 

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