Monday, 12 March 2012

For the love of a weekend.

It's a blessed thing the working week passes quickly, or has been lately at any rate. If only it had the converse effect on the weekends.

After the perks of two working weeks ago - posh dinners et al - the weeks since have been a bit of a beige blur, punctuated by lovely, albeit frustratingly brief, weekends.

The weekend before last was a long one for me. I took the Friday off and spent the day lunching with Tor and her fabulous pal May and getting a brilliant paint job on la toes on d'Arblay St. Before heading off for a massage. And then reconvening with the girls for a big glass of prosecco. It was a lovely, lovely day.

Zarina Bhimji, Shadows and Disturbances, 2007
On the Saturday I dragged LB to the Whitechapel to see the Zarina Bhimji show. I suspected, rightly, that it wouldn't be up his artistic strasse but I completely adored it. Her images as just the most visually elegaic understandings of absence - of things been and things missing - and her lightness of touch in dealing with the histories of violence written into now empty, often decaying, architectures across India and East Africa is quite profoundly beautiful.

Zarina Bhimji, Memories Were Trapped Inside the Asphalt, 1998-2003
Her photographs operate almost as still life paintings and perhaps not ironically it is the stillness that resonates so loudly as a kind of ghostly witness to what has gone before. You couldn't get a stronger anathema to the 24 hr new channels live streaming violent, noisy images from Egypt or Syria or some other latest place of upmost despair. So yes, I loved it. LB didn't so much but that was ok. As I said to him later, sometimes it's good to see things you don't like - it makes spotting the things you do like all the easier.

Zarina Bhimji, No Border Crossing, 2001-2006
From Whitechapel to Barbican, we headed off in search of a drink at the member's bar - another great wedding gift - christening our Barbican membership not with tickets to anything cultural, but with wine and a magnificent bowl of hummus. Happy times.

Zarina Bhimji, Illegal Sleep, 2007
And then on Sunday we took to the countryside in a search of a lovely lunch and some non-London wilderness. We eventually settled on Henley as a destination, Henley-on-Thames to be exact and yes, that Henley of boat racing lore, but before our idyllic wander along the river in stubborn winter sunshine, we took ourselves off in search of a pub lunch. Lovely Boy's most excellent researching skills sent us down wintry narrow country lanes, so reminiscent of Cornwall, before we came to The Crooked Billet.

The Observer Good Food Guide rates it as one of the best Sunday lunches and apparently Kate Winslet held her (first) wedding reception here. It's not hard to understand why, with it's quirky, crooked charm. We didn't have a booking - the fact that we had to park in the "Overflow Carpark" (and very nearly in the "Muddy Field Carpark") suggested it might be a stretch to get a table.

A table indoors would have meant a three hour wait it transpired - but a table in the garden, in the sunshine, under the gas heater under a beautiful blue sky - that was no problem. We certainly didn't suffer for the cold or for a lack of attention. And the meal was beyond delightful. Mozzarella and mushroom risotto balls, the pinkest, most exquisite meat and warm chocolate and banana cake. All washed down with a big glass of wine. It was so civilised.

For the first hour we had the garden to ourselves but then people began to drift in and sit down: National Trust types with their maps and sensible walking shoes, all decked out for a day of ambling, and then a few wanker types, pulling up in their Jaguars and accessorising their self-congratulatory smugness with boat shoes and blackberries and jauntily draped cashmere scarfs - all hedge fund and holiday talk. The two to our left were almost certainly still at university which made the conversation - and the eavesdropping - all the more hilarious.

Getting back into our little car we retreated to Henley and strolled along the river, willing winter to just be finished already so we can get started on Spring.

Last weekend had shades of deja vu with a return trip to Night Jar on Friday, this time with Tor, the Hungry One and Lovely Boy in tow; and an introduction to Kingsland Rd Vietnamese for our erstwhile food-obsessed friends (we're not dwelling on the oversight of their not having been before....)
while Saturday was a trip to the cinema in Leicester Square. Sunday I had a bit of a meltdown. Not enough alone time, no down time, no headspace, long weeks, longer commutes and a huge case of the guilts about how my slightly psychotic behaviour was impacting on my not-quite-long-but-still-suffering husband. Understanding my state of distress with breath-taking, almost frustrating, simplicity, Lovely Boy took himself off for the afternoon for some Alone Man Time while I went for a long emo-esque walk in the rain along the Thames before sitting in the house and enjoying, nay, loving, the quiet and the space to do..... absolutely nothing.

It's funny how headspace can manifest itself in the need for physical space and I've realised that until we're back in Sydney, where space is in abundance, I'm going to have to find my own space in some form or another regularly to keep me sane. I'm planning to get back in the pool in the first instance and be grateful for my patient understanding husband in the second. Though he does get the house to himself for a couple of hours every evening before I get home so he does ok......

Andy Goldsworthy-esque trash
line on the receding Thames tide...
After another blurred work week it's now Sunday evening again and my heels are being dragged petulantly towards Monday. Every atom in my body is whimpering "please don't make me go", which is strange because I'm not hating work, but I'm just tired out. This weekend has been so lovely. Lovely Boy and I had a date to the cinema at the Barbican on Wednesday, seeing Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy (I'm still confused) but we agreed then that this weekend would be decidedly low key.

We finally finished our thank you cards, we did loads of washing and yesterday we moseyed up to the River Cafe to meet Tor and her hungry husband for a cheeky limoncello and some ice cream AND some totally illicit, totally thrilling Gwyneth Paltrow spotting. She was lovely and it was so surreal to walk right past her as she chatted easily to the friends of her children in the sunshine. It was like seeing life from another planet up close. Another planet that technically you understand is out there but had never seen tangible, physical, living proof of before, never mind living proof dressed in killer suede ankle boots. It's a testament to the River Cafe's almond ice cream that it too warranted gasps of surprise and delight.

From here we moved on to our pub across the road for more wine and a serious post-Gywneth debrief and from here, back to Lovely Boy's and my abode for not-posh tacos. It was messy but delicious and by 10pm we were washed up, pajamed and in bed.

And today, it's been a late brunch (more pancakes) before lunch before a wander in the sunshine (Spring my friend, please don't be shy....) and an early evening on the sofa watching a film. So very inconsequential but so very, very lovely.

I'm already looking forward to next weekend.

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