Monday, 21 October 2013

The Last Weekend and Several Last Suppers

It’s been an epic last weekend in London with all the requisite factors – alcohol, tears, museum visits, high teas, posh meals, public transport fails, contemporary art piñatas and pouring, sobbing rain.

I’m exhausted, a little overwrought, foggily dazed and both dragging my feet and ready to pull the pin. 

I might be flexible but I don’t thrive in limbo.

Friday was my last day at work and it was, as to be expected, tearful. But it was also busy, stressful and perfectly, thoroughly, weird. Frieze Art Fair has been on this week, which meant a brunch for 300 on Thursday morning (with a side of pastries and opportune networking) and then on Friday, a party for artist Oscar Murillo at a Colombian nightclub under the arches in Elephant & Castle. 

One last cursory look back...
The culmination of one aspect of his exhibition was a secret lottery with limited edition tickets and on Friday evening art world luminaries, Oscar’s Colombian relatives, ticket holders and the entire SLG gang gathered for the unveiling of the mystery prizes. How was the lottery drawn? From a clear plastic tarpaulin above the dance floor, full of limes, golf balls, tennis balls, ping pong balls, lemons and footballs that were numbered and jumbled, before being ratcheted open with a razor and spilling everywhere.

Because this is the art world, everyone had to grab something from the floor before Oscar then picked several people at random whose numbered lime or lemon would be the winner. Which was all well and good until he chose a colleague with a dud number so I gave her mine, which, of course, turned out to be the ticket number for his gallerist. Always a bit awkward when the gallery director wins first prize and first prize happens to be a trip to Colombia.

Oscar Murillo's pinata-style lottery draw
By three glasses of cheap wine past 10pm I was starting to get emotional and decided it was probably time to go. Honest to god, I may as well have been dying the goodbyes were so traumatic. And it wasn’t just me in tears.

Thankfully two of my lovely, dear, dear friends-now-former-colleagues left with me and we all walked together to the tube, me completely unable to compose myself. After saying goodbye to them I then sobbed the entire Bakerloo line to Embankment and then the entire District line to Parsons Green. 


I felt ill and completely wrung out by the time I got back to Hannah’s. I still feel a little dehydrated 48-hours later frankly. Torrents of tears and cheap Colombian wine are a terrible combination.

Yesterday had all the signs of being lovely. On paper it was a perfect day. In the morning I was going to go to the V&A to see Elmgreen & Dragset’s new installation Tomorrow before heading in to Mayfair to meet LB and his lovely best mate Chris for a special high tea, Chris’s perfect British farewell gift to us both.

Except that it was raining.

And fucking Chelsea were playing a home game which meant a 15 minute bus trip took three times as long.

Which meant I had five minutes at the V&A.

Which meant five minutes rushing through strange galleries cursing the lack of decent signage and telling myself that even if I could find it, this was frankly ridiculous and I was going to have to come back.

Some of the less popular displays at the always amazing V&A
Which, even cross and flustered, meant I would though then have time to trawl the gift shop so was probably not altogether a bad thing.

And so I left the V&A and went to Mayfair to meet a very tired, very hungover pair of boys.

LB had had his own last day at work the day before with requisite farewell that meant too many beers, too many Peking duck pancakes and a bit of time lying on the bathroom floor feeling like shit.

The famous green wall of the Athaeneum Hotel on Piccadilly
So we were all a little drained, a little emotional, all very tired and all very happy to eat our feelings. Lucky for those of us who prefer chocolate as our crutch, the very lovely Athenaeum on Piccadilly had a chocolate themed high tea on offer, which meant hot chocolate drinks and white chocolate scones and finger sandwiches with chocolate spread and chocolate covered strawberries and all other kinds of chocolate concoctions for every other kind of ailment. Add to that the pink champagne, the delightful non-chocolate delicacies, the big comfortable chairs and the ease of old friends, it proved to be the ultimate in Peter Pan happy places.

So it’s a little disappointing that our next stop was the TK Maxx in Hammersmith to buy another suitcase. Because nothing says Memorable Last Saturday Night In London like some early evening shopping for discounted luggage.  

And then there was today. Our Last Sunday In London. Before I knew we’d be bingeing on high tea, I booked a lunch date for LB and I at the Ledbury in Notting Hill. 

The Ledbury has been on my London bucket list for a while now and I figured there was no greater moment to convince LB of a last bid for gastronomic extravagance than, you know, our Last Sunday In London.

Elmgreen & Dragset, Tomorrow, Victoria & Albert Museum, 2013.
First though, we went back to the V&A and finally saw the subversively brilliant Tomorrow (where were those helpful signs yesterday???) by Elmgreen & Dragset. The Scandinavian duo have imagined the apartment of a broke, lonely, gay, failed architect across several galleries near the tapestry wing of the V&A. Taking items from the museums collections – furniture, rugs, paintings – and subverting the appearance of things with the insertion of their own sly and subtle creations, visitors are encouraged to snoop through Norman Swann’s apartment in an attempt to understand and discover the mysteries and dark miseries of his life.

Elmgreen & Dragset, Tomorrow, Victoria & Albert Museum, 2013.

It’s surprisingly affective and was highly reminiscent of their 2009 Venice Biennale offering, where they turned the Scandinavian pavilion into the home of a coked out art collector whose demise was to end up, Gatsby-esque, face down in his own swimming pool. There wasn’t so much of that dark wit here, rather a carefully observed sadness about the useless materiality of lonely objects in lieu of happiness.

Because we had time on our hands we actually got a chance to poke around some of the lesser visited parts of the museum and I’m truly kicking myself that I never got lost in here before today. The tapestries, the silverware, the jewellery. Oh my god, the jewellery.

The jewellery collection...
The much beloved National Art Library at the V&A
Exiting via the gift shop (with requisite gifts of course) we made our way to Notting Hill and to lunch.

The Ledbury is number 13 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list but it really came to popular attention during the London riots two summer’s ago when shitty little thugs smashed in the windows and terrorised diners only for kitchen staff to come out brandishing rolling pins and other kitchen utensils to chase them away. I mean talk about service, right.

It’s also helmed by Australian chef Brett Graham and in a really lovely part of Notting Hill so what wasn’t there to love. The meal was spectacular, the cheese trolley definitely worth rioting over and the passionfruit soufflé with Sauternes ice cream an insane end to proceedings. The service was friendly, efficient and thankfully lacking in the usual pomp that comes with two Michelin stars and the people watching was just a free gift with purchase.

The only colour to be found on a wet, grey, shitty London Sunday in Notting Hill
The only downer was our departure, and it was literally a downer, as in ridiculous fucking, not forecasted (and so I wore impractical shoes) DOWNPOUR. It was so torrential we couldn’t run the block to the nearest pub without getting completely drenched. I will not miss drying my shoes under the hand-dryer in public bathrooms when we leave on Tuesday. That much I can say with certainty.

Between downpours
Finally catching a break in the weather, we made for home. Tonight we’ve repacked the repacking, had a lovely meal with Hannah and her lovely boy and are now just left to contemplate tomorrow.

More exhibitions, one last afternoon at Central St Martins talking art writing and digital resources with first year students and dinner. At the Shard.

It's going to be a big last day.

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