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.

Shrimpy’s has taken up temporary residence (and by temporary I think, 2 years) in a former petrol station on Good’s Way and the shell (no pun intended) of the original building remains – the cement forecourt where the pumps used to be and the small shop space with it’s big windows and bar-cum-counter, the boxes of discount chocolate replaced with afabulous pineapple lamp.

The Filling Station, as the building is now known, has been wrapped in bobbing waves of fibreglass that hug the concrete playground to the canal, where long tables and benches are parked alongside anoutside bar and pizza oven. It’s a space at once intimate and open and on a gorgeous summer evening would be divine, so long as you’re happy to imbibe from a plastic cup…

Inside, the sills are crowded with small cacti and succulents in a mash up of small containers and the white walls decorated with a sort of cartoon whimsy – its decidedly not cute but somewhere interesting to lay your eyes when you’re not eyeing up the slightly be-seen sceney vibe. Lots of fabulous shoes and expensive manicures and ironic bedhead. That sort of thing.

The menu is fresh and quite fishy – crab, monkfish, octopus, cerviche all feature and there are nods in the mix to influences south of the North American border. The chocolate brownie sundae though would be all Middle America if it wasn’t burnished with salted pistachios and vanilla bean ice cream. That makes it delicious.

The roadside diner nod is neatly subverted by the white tablecloths, silver napkin rings and cocktails that come in weighty glass goblets. It was a pretty lovely evening – albeit expensive – but great conversation in a novel, actually quite beautiful, environment and a chocolate brownie sundae with salted pistachios and ice cream means you can probably get away with it.

It was a delightful start to the weekend.

On Saturday I got my haircut. Cut off, really, would be a more apt description. Lovely Boy had quaint fears I’d come home with a buzz cut after saying I was ready for the chop after years of willing my anorexic hair to grow long and lustrous. I’m now delightfully, liberating-ly (yes I know it’s not a word) short. It’s more bob than buzz cutbut I am LOVING it.

I all but skipped home and at 4 o’clock Lovely Boy and I set off for Duke’s Brew and Cue in east London, up Haggerston/Dalston way. LB has been drooling over the mere thought of this place for months and even more so since Tors and the Hungry One visited and so I booked us an early table for a pre-theatre dinner. We had tickets to a play in Stratford that werea hugely thoughtful birthday present from the parents-in-law.

Despite Tori’s genuine enthusiasm for Duke’s I was a little sceptical truth be told. American-style pork ribs really don’t light my barbeque but then this is American-style pork ribs in east London so I shouldn’t have worried. I’m told by LB that the ribs were superlative and I’ll take his word for it but even without the ribs the décor, the airiness, the relaxed, cool but not self-conscious vibe and the friendly staff really won me over. I ordered a mouth-watering beef burger – after being banned by LB from ordering the tempting vegetarian option (come on – halloumi and mushroom burger!!) – and a margarita that was perfection dressed in salt. It was so delightful and civilised – and buzzing by the time we left at 7pm.

I’d never been to Stratford before but aspart of the Barbican’s summer season they’re fanning events out across east London in an attempt to get people (I presume…) enthusiastic about the Olympics. Do Not Get Me Started On The Olympics.

Get me started though, on Back to Back Theatre, the Geelong-based theatre company whose ensemble 
of actors all have some kind of disability and whose internationally acclaimed original works come from a process of improvisation, collaboration, scripting and research. All of their work is informed by the experiences and imaginations of the ensemble and my first encounter with their work was back in 2006 when I saw small metal objects on the concourse of Adelaide’s main train station. To this day it remains one of the most authentic, original, brilliant pieces of theatre I’ve ever experienced.

Ganesh versus the Third Reich was a different sort of beast – much more allegorical, poetic and challenging in terms of the issues it was exploring. The play was about the actors themselves struggling with the enormity of putting on the play they had conceived about the Hindu God Ganesh travelling to Nazi Germany to steal back the swastika, which has its origins in Hinduism and in Sanskrit means ‘all is well’.

Photo courtesy: Back to Back Theatre
The ending still puzzles me – and I’m not sure that was the point but I was engaged, provoked, entertained and moved for 100 minutes so as an encounter it could have been a hell of a lot worse.
And then on Sunday, well, Sunday I spent on the couch, with Lovely Boy, powering through season 4 of Friday Night Lights. It was perfection.

This last week has been beyond busy – I’ve been calling it chirpiness but really, it’s adrenaline dressed up with a massive deadline and an upgrade from plate to platter in the full stakes. I’m not complaining – I don’t have enough time for that – but case in point, this blog post has taken me a week to write in chunks of paragraphs…

From Ganesh Versus The Third Reich. Image: Jeff Busby
And the reason for my busyness – well, remember that year I spent at the National Portrait Gallery writing that book…well I had a phone call a month ago and it’s now back on the publishing schedule and I’m the one writing it and it needs a huge over-arching update and it has to be done by 30 July. As in 2012. As in 23 days from now. It’s not impossible per se but it’s a big ask that’s meant four hours of work each night after getting home from my proper full-time job.

If I get it done it will be a miracle – so prepare for a miracle.

After I get back from LA.

Did I mention that?...

#firstworldproblem - will be in LA...

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