Monday, January 05, 2004

Firstly sorry - I've just noticed that the googlewhack link in the last post is a bit whack, and of course I can't remember what it's meant to be (except that it came via the Mexican version of Google).

Anyhoo, I'm back from the assorted jaunts. Possibly more on that story later.

And what is it about January that induces boilers to decide to become even more eccentric? At the moment we have no heating as, having had various sections of the systems conk out for ages, the flames at the base of the boiler are now spilling out from underneath, in extremely pungent (for pungent read nauseating) sooty yellow wafts. So, not being too keen on eternal sleep, we turned it off. Huzzah or what? Fortunately the shower is electric, and we have an independent gas fire. Unfortunately neither is currently making any great impression in this room (and for those misinterpreting, no we're not trying to heat a building with a shower).

Makes even the combi-boiler in my brother's house seem good. And his has the added advantage of doing freestyle jazz whilst you do the washing up. Well, it makes semi-rhythmic clunking sounds, as it doesn't do gradual increase in burning, and so when the tank temperature is near the set point it does many brief spurts of gas. In a donk---donk---donk---a-donk-a-donk-a---donk---donk---dunkadunka-dunka-donk---donk way. It's not often you get appliances that can do scat.

Still doesn't stop the thing doing cold-cold-cold-mild-boiling-boiling-pressure drop-surge of cold-repeat as desired. Which is great when you're in the shower. And then someone starts doing the washing up as well.

This a good point to say that I went to stay with my brother for a few days? Hence the intimate knowledge of his plumbing[1]. Actually water seems to a recurring theme (but when isn't it?).

[1] Another possible misinterpretation[2]. No, and how the hell did you even think of that? Vile fiend.

[2] I blame watching the sound of music with a roomful of tired, sobering-up people, who were making inappropriate suggestions about the characters in the film[3]. I blame BBCi - because it had cunning interactive stuff including sing-along subtitles[4] (that we then couldn't turn off), which made it all feel more ridiculous. And then we watched Grease, and discovered that making double entendres and other unsuitable comments isn't as fun when the film sticks with fully intended entendres, and verges on the downright lewd in parts.

[3] Such as Liesl (she of 16 going on 17 fame) being pregnant with Rolf's child, whilst Rolf was actually engaging in unusual acts with her father, the captain, in the summerhouse [cue stereotypical comments about seamen, cabin boys etc.].

[4] No I wasn't (much). And how many songs do they reprise? It's got more reprisals than the West Bank (that was bad, wasn't it?).

And how on earth does one recover from somehow managing to quote what I think is the Wizard of Oz, during the Sound of Music? That's just uber-camp (and I don't think I'm "camp"[5], I'm probably not even "flysheet with a couple of pegs"). The quote by the way was "ding dong the witch is dead"[6], said upon Baroness Von Baddie's departure.

[5] And which US Pres's nephew was Camp David named after? And you can bet he really loved his uncle for introducing that name into the public consciousness.

[6] Is that from the Wizard of Oz? It's from something I shouldn't know about. And it's not like I've ever seen all of the film (well it's scary, especially those flying monkey things).

So um yeah...When did I last write? Pre-Christmas? (I know the last post says 27th, but it was many before Christmas). So what have I done?
Been to see one friend at her parent's pub (and I had to drive, damn), which consisted of trying not make the same comments to her younger sister in response to a story she was writing, as I'd made to my friend when she was that age (well they do write really bad, really similar stories). And isn't it great to get invited somewhere, to arrive (after much rescheduling), and then to get ignored because said friend was deep in accountancy based discussion. Actually thinking about it we didn't talk much all night, due to assorted siblings, pub quizzes (I answered one question correctly, and that was only because I'd read The Road to McCarthy[7]), watching the second Lord of the Rings (still not seen the last), a repeat of Jump London, and various satellite television rubbish. And one person drinking a lot whilst the other isn't,
does not help the atmosphere, especially when both are cold. Quite funny when the tradition pillow/tickle fight started, and she kept calling her dog to rescue her, and after the first time the dog glared and growled at her owner (who was the aggressor), instead of the intended target (well if you will cry wolf, or Labrador-can't figure out the other half cross).

[7] Read the first, and that one, both very funny, well written and well observed. Helped me to discover that people give you odd looks if you, whilst dressed in many layers of warm and waterproof clothing, with associated safety gear, are wedged at haphazard in the cabin of a 30ft yacht that is behaving like a twig in a mill race, and laughing at things in the book you are reading.

What else? Think most of Christmas is covered. Post-Christmas, idling for a bit, then this part of the family went to visit the other part on Sunday. I go up with my brother, my parents go in a different car. They leave before us. We do not see them on the road up to the motorway, we get to the M25, discover it's got an optimistic speed limit of 40 operating. Ring them to find out what it's like ahead, and find they haven't hit the motorway yet. So describe the situation (how bad is my father at communication?), and they decide to not try and use an alternative route, and choose to join a traffic jam. Sometimes you have to wonder.

Chug round the M25 for a bit, decide to go for the M3 over the M4, as it's only going to get worse by Heathrow, and do frantic navigation the rest of the way (including get thrown by crossing the Thames twice, and finding that maps of the area around both Chiswick and Putney bridges look quite similar, especially when the road you want is going diagonally across the top corner of the page. And on being asked if "Is this Twickenham" decided to look up a passed street name in the A-Z, rather than notice that beyond the inter-war housing is a sodding great stadium looming).

Get to uncle and co's house, have meal (quite good for them, but having olive oil on everything rather ruins the point of it), usual present swapping (I got something I actually like and which have some use, rather than the usual "er...thank you. What is it?"[8]. Who said HMV vouchers are soulless?).

[8] In the past this has included assorted presents they've been given, such as matching half tube-half scarf things from New Zealand for my brother and I (my aunt and uncle have never been near New Zealand, but she has a widely travelled relative who always gives her gifts she complains about), made of wonderfully 80's pattern fleece. Except we haven't yet palmed them off on someone else, so I think we've broken the chain of disappointment. So if you've given someone odd head and neck wear made of thin black fleece, with day-glow geometric shapes in it, be sure to ask about it next time you see them.
I still don't know quite how you're supposed to wear one.
But what does one do with people like this? Especially when they got a bit miffed when last year I asked for the DVD of Amelie (although they did give it to me, so they obviously aren't quite as insufferable as my parents suggest they are).

Anyway, so house, food, presents, then the traditional walk (ok, loiter in a freezing park, waiting for one cousin to tire of misusing a swing [it's supposed to go the other way]). Then back to warm up a bit, and amaze my American aunt by using a lit candle to light another candle, rather than seek out a new canister for their gas lighter. Bit worried about them being apparently unaware of scorching the wallpaper with candle on the mantelpiece, ignoring candles flaring manicly and molten wax getting everywhere (I'm a pyromaniac, and even I'm not that blasé about fire). And am I an utter anal rententive[9], or do other people out there find it annoying when one of the angels on the candle chimes thing is going round backwards?

[9] Must get round to reading Freud. So then I can discover that that doesn't mean what I think it means.

So then we depart, and I go with my brother to his house. Which has different odd smells in each room. Have some food, discover his cooking is identical to mine, except his tomato puree comes from a jar, whereas mine is usually a tube (obviously independent reactions to my mother's insistence on only buying tins of it), and I'm not quite naive enough to imagine that a single thin slice of salami counts as the protein section (not that you need it most of the time).
And I met house-mate number one, who confuses me by being a figure in the shadows sorting washing, who I assumed to be my brother (I didn't hear anyone come in). Admittedly I did think that the washing he was sorting didn't look like the clothes my brother would buy, but maybe he was making up a full load with someone else's (and the fact he was in black and my brother had had beige on all day...well maybe he was washing that too). So then there was a startled conversation with him when he went past. Unfortunately I'm not great at communicating whilst brushing my teeth, so it wasn't the most enlightening.

Monday - shopping for shoes. Getting up late, rediscovering the joys of lemon curd, going to Camden. Cue trudging through the rain as my brother goes to get stuff from his office. Cue shoes taking on water as they are extremely knackered (hence shopping for more). Cue the snow. In big, big flakes. But this being London, all it made was colder puddles. Then on to a brief tour of shoe shops. Then down to Covent Garden to seek out more shops. Much trying on reaffirmed my feet are oddly shaped. Factor in confusion over exactly which shop assorted pairs of shoes had been in (well pretty
much every shop on this street sells shoes). Eventually find a pair, buy them. Then walk to Leicester Square to seek out the Wagamama's (somehow I knew where it was and he didn't) to use up my brother's vouchers (which aren't valid till next Monday). Enter, wait, sit, get told what to order by my brother, get annoyed with him as he decides to overrule me asking for tap water (grr, I had I headache, and they're legally obliged to supply it, and anyway the couples either side appear to have managed to get large glasses of water). Eat (better with chopsticks[10] than I used to be, but the
little bits left at the end always annoy me).

[10] Well no-one died from low flying shrimp this time. And I finished before my brother.

Go to nearby art shop so my brother can buy cheap frames, then back to his house to dump load, then on to the Tate (Tate proper, not Modern, think it's called Tate Britain). Go round the Turner Prize exhibition. Me like. Me like lot.

Wasn't too sure of the first bit [Gallaccio] - the bronze trees, rotting apples, and trapped Gerberas. Bit worried about the stains on the floor (how suburban can you get?), and it's a bit odd to be looking at art that smells of honey. Though both of us wanted to know how she got the flowers trapped behind the glass (removable frame, adhesive of some sort?), and how she cast an entire tree. Strangely of 4 large sections of glass holding mould and bacteria coated flowers, it was the ones escaping round the edges that caught my attention. Not sure why - maybe it was just the variations upon
uniformity of the panels that prompt the viewer to seek out the oddities. Also wonder how the little bits of detritus beneath escaped, and whether the floor gets swept every day.

Doherty's video installation of the man running across a bridge, supposedly representing Northern Ireland. Initial response: And your point is? It's just two opposing screens set up to show video loops of a man running along an apparently never ending bridge, with the screens showing the man's actions from either side. So NI is just infinitely repetitive, always going through the same actions? But at least the two sides agree on the movement - until you move out of the middle of the room, and view one of the screens from the back (the projected image coming through the nearer screen), at which point the man running past you splits, and becomes either two figures running towards one another or away from one another. So obviously the interpretation of the action depends on where one stands. Cue the obvious NI analogy. Amazing what you notice when one skulks in corners.

But being me I kept being distracted by the fringe of the projected image that missed the screen, and flicked on the floor, wall or people. And I had to resist the strong urge to wait in the dark behind a screen, and then shoot a hand out through the floor height gap under the suspended screen, at some unwitting dawdler (well it was too small to make jumping out and saying boo easy).

Next came the Chapman brother's works. So that's a set of prints of Goya, with amendments, a tree of death, with various comedic bits, and a painted bronze cast of a male and female inflatable dolls, in a mutually beneficial position, upon a lilo.

So going straight for the bit everyone was studiously ignoring (well in one way or another everyone in there has paid to look, so why not look?). Not quite sure what to make of it (recurring theme?), except wondering if it really is metal, but thinking it's probably not the done thing to tap it with a knuckle, so settled for moving the air round it to see if it stirs. It didn't and the paint makes it seem quite solid, so I guess it probably is. Must have been fiddly to make. Appears to be about all there is to say - until you notice that the female (on top) is not quite as centred as one would expect, and the male is pleasuring her hip (which must be intentional, as metal casts that size must be too hefty to be moved by accident).

Now on to the other part of the sex and death theme (apparently the act of sex mimics death and vice versa, although I'm not experienced to enough to know quite how). The prints of the Goya etchings. Not sure why there was such a brouhaha about the brothers adapting the prints for their own needs - they were made in 1937, and the blurb suggests the plates still exist.

So imagine a large number (4 walls of a large room worth) of black and white prints of scenes of Napoleonic massacre in Spain (or anti-French propaganda, depending on what you care to deny). Now imagine that each is subverted by covering some parts the print with pink/purple/green but mainly grey additions - usually distorted half-clown, half-goblin heads and faces where once martyred Catholic priests's heads were, in scenes original filled with death disease and cruelty. You start off thinking it's just schoolboy humour, the equivalent of amending images of people asking for "this hat in red" in French textbooks, and anatomically correcting those in biology text books[11]. But then as you go round you begin to wonder how much was Goya over-egging it, or whether the depictions are all accurate. And then you find one that isn't altered, or at least in a way I could find. And you wonder why - what is it about a veiled woman, and a covered dead body that stopped it being adapted? Something about the meaning and veracity of the image, or was it just because the brothers could not find any easy way of subverting it? Or perhaps they felt leaving one would force the observant to think about their work more (having watched some of those scanning the pictures, occasionally one would obviously stop and try to discern whether the image was unaltered and why it was so, but most people just didn't look).

[11] I feel I should point out that I never did such things. Usually because I haven't the imagination[12], and someone's beaten me to it[13]. And being me, I'd have do it in pencil anyway.

[12] Which got corrected by sharing a flat in which it became a fashionable past-time to do colouring in children's colouring-in books (we were students ok), which proved a fertile ground for creating subverted images (think of the most disgusting and depraved situation you can. Now imagine this situation with big rounded elephants [in hats, natch] with birds flying round them, and the sun smiling on). Strangely most of us weren't on that many drugs.

[13] Which doesn't stop you being quizzed for ages by a furious French French teacher on why your copy of the book has a Hitler moustache and haircut draw on the face of some old guy, whilst the French flag on the opposing page is adorned with a swastika. Turns out the old guy was de Gaulle, and the teacher didn't think that such treatment was suitable for a great statesman (but as I didn't do it...). And then there's the whole discovering later in life that in some ways the depiction wasn't far off.

Returning to the point: Elsewhere in the ring of Goya based work one comes across a scene of Catholic priests being put to death - about 7 or eight of them, lashed to chairs - each with a different mocking Chapman face masking the original - except one. But why, why leave just one? Why leave any?

And why only leave the one in the middle?

I don't know, so the only option is to continue - until you find the image of men and limbs appended to a tree. Which given a little while would match the sculpture right behind you at this point.

The tree of death (or whatever it's really called) is the battered stumpy remains of a tree (moulded in a cartoon-like way) strewn with the remains of the humanoids depicted. Upon much of the surface of the ground and bodies are various organisms associated with death and decay, and general damp fetid nastiness - swarms of mice, flies, maggots, frogs, toads, miscellaneous stuff. And then you notice a mouse and frog apparently mating, yet nearby some mice appear to be eating a frog. Looking back at the image you realise that it's not an exact extrapolation, as besides the abundant fauna,
including the rook[14] surmounting it all, the ears of one form are pointy, yet not in the corresponding image, but the teeth don't match either. So is this vague mock up intentionally vague, hidden quirks for the patient, or the artist merely idle and unaware?

[14] Well rook type thing - crow, raven - I've never been very good at distinguishing them. Basically black birds that scavenge on carrion (and so often join their meals as roadkill).

And so onto Grayson Perry.
Enter into a room filled with vases upon pedestals. Turn left to read the blurb, and working clockwise come across a dress. A very childish girly dress, in bright colours and shiny material, covered with embodied teddy-bears and cars and bunches on flowers. Hang on, those aren't flowers. Oh, neither is that. Hmm. So what's that car supposed to be then? Is it just a car? Very intricate though (how come everyone else is still refusing to be seen examining such images?).

So now the vases. They look gorgeous, as if they were some V&A exhibition comparing the pottery of the varied Chinese dynasties and that of ancient Greece, with Victorian reproductions and modern Poole stuff bunged in for good measured.

And then one looks closer. Again the playground humour, but this time with a harsh wit. There's definitely vitriol mixed in with the vitreous glazes. Attacking the machismo of suburban youth, and the lifestyle based in a modern executive homes. On one vase there's a car with the advertising slogan on the side "cunt power" (shame it wasn't a Fiat - then it could have been "spirito di cunto"). Others attack the viewer: "Fuck off you middle-class tourist" (Am I a tourist?), or life in the industrial North. Perry repeatedly makes a strong association between sex and childhood, from covering various forms of child abuse to depicting hermaphrodite fairy (which gets skewered with a pin, as a butterfly in a collection, on one vase). Quite what the suggested implication is I'm not quite sure. Perhaps it's to shock by connecting two concepts that are fiercely separated by modern culture.
Maybe it's to attack nostalgia, or optimism. Or is just out to annoy the Daily Mail and retired military personnel residing in Tunbridge Wells.

But the level of effort it must have taken to make these pots and urns is incredible - of all the entrants these demonstrate knowledge and achievement most. He must have learnt to do this, he must have great skill (well ok so casting trees would as well, but Perry's work seems to use so much more).
And yet to make seems puzzling, and then one remembers that being judgmental is bad, and "why not" is good.

I suppose if someone can answer "because it's there" when speaking of scaling mountains, then "because I can" is equally valid.

Am I being cruel in wondering if the use of a young female alter-ego is merely that "a use". A method of creating a distinction, notoriety, recognition, an artistic brand. But then it's just getting back to the "because I can".

And the middle-class tourist part of me thinks "but if one is going to have transvestite tendencies, one could at least show good taste doing it".

But one of the best bits is a blue and white pot showing stylised modern youth being stylish. And then one walks round searching for the joke, the subversion, and finds none. So one repeats one's steps - nope still nothing, What haven't I seen? What am I missing?
And then you notice the title: "Boring Cool People". Now that's cruel, especially when you've been going round with someone who used to read Wallpaper (insert * as appropriate).

And then on to the comments.
They must get changed everyday right? As there's quite a lot of empty ones, and I refuse to believe that so few people would write something. And there's rings of lead lines round the holes where many people have missed when reinserting the pencils.

Some of the comments are odd though: like the very neat handwriting worrying about the stains on the floor under the apples, and other such stuff. Except this being an art gallery one wonders (well I did) if it was actually some ageing woman worrying, or if it was someone younger and infinitely hipper (not that they're trying, it's just irony), mocking the twee and the tweedy's comments.

And my brother is cruel - he writes what I've said.

And then writes something else I can't figure out, but then realise is a reference to the NI bridge work.

Cue me: Stop being enigmatic - it doesn't suit you.

Except it was in one of those hissed whispers that carry remarkably well, so various people turn round and try to work out what's going on.

Shame we were ushered out before we had a chance to investigate everything in that end room.

More on the Turner Prize. Or bung it in Google.

My God, writing about an art exhibition that's actually still on.

So then home, and discover my new shoes hurt.

And then getting dragged out to meet my brother's proto-girlfriend.
And friends, which is different.
Especially when the one who doesn't have the same name as my brother's near-girlfriend, his ex-girlfriend and the other girl at the table[15], looks suspicious like the younger version of one of my friends (same face, same voice, same mannerisms).

[15] Apparently my brother's got 10 different numbers on his mobile for people with this name. And it doesn't help that my brother and I refer to them as Good X, Bad X, Canadian X, and Younger-than-me X (some of these names are for the same person). Especially not when in the presence of Bad X's new best friend (and Bad X has demanded that none of my brother's friends are allowed to invite him to anything she may be at. Nice, huh?).

And then they notice that he and I have the same jumper on (me: pale beiges, him: tired black, and mine's older), and having both just bought new shoes, in shoes that are made to the same pattern (but mine are a different colour and material).

Take shoes back to the shop. Which my brother claims I cannot do. The guy in the shop asks me if they've been worn inside or outside. Me: "Mainly inside" (well the Tate is mainly inside - except the walk to the Tube. And then pub was inside, except the walk to and from it). He examines them for a while, frowns, and then decides that he can sell them on (wise decision, as I was preparing a good tirade), but knows they've been worn outside. So I ask if I could have the next size up. He disappears for ages. No can do - so end being told they'll be in Next Tuesday (but I won't be here...).
Agree, get brother to sort it all.

And only once I've left London do I realise that it's a chain, and there's one in a nearby town, except now my brother has got all the paperwork.
Then we go to do more shopping, and so through the top of Soho[16] to Oxford Street.

[16] Strangely on a cold, wet, grey day in late December the area didn't exactly live to it's reputation.

What is it about chaotic shopping that makes me completely forget what I wanted?
Or maybe it was just my brother getting tired and stroppy, and managing to drag me through 4 neighbouring department stores, two of which I think are actually the same shop just using different names. And each was accessed by it's side entrance which was opposite the neighbouring shop's side entrance.
So my grasp of geography once again slipped.

And he expects to spend too much on things.
Whereas I am a miser, even when spending someone else's money.
Eventually up in Gap (look, I was trying to avoid buying them from Burton's as I always do).
Oh dear.
Have you tried finding the commonest size in a sale?
32-32: sorry no can do.

And why are jeans trying so hard not to be just jeans right now?
There's ones with rust marks, inbuilt dirt, immense fading, pre-stressed, even one with buttock groping handprints.

Eventually I found a pair - what I thought were dark blue, plain, and according to the label, slightly flared. But they were £20 (from £44), they didn't castrate me, they couldn't be removed easily whilst done up, they didn't need me to stand on tip-toe and they didn't try to cleave between my buttocks. Which given the day I'd had was good.

Except I'm wearing them now, and they are quite flappy round my ankles, and they might be supposed to be black, I just assumed they were very dark blue. And they're wash at 30 dash. So of course they'll run and shrink. Oh well. At least they don't expose parts of me like my pair I like the most do (one of those "I must get round to...patching that" things).

And then we go have a very late lunch at Tate Modern. So we go up to the members room near the top (stairs are fun). And they have about 3 meals left, so we both have beef noodles. Which it then turns out are intentionally cold. Then I hang round for ages trying to get some water (wow, diddy glasses), and we go and sit by window overlooking the river (on a sofa facing the wrong way). And then I find that most of ingredients in the noodles have never heard of heat, including the slices of chilli (complete with seeds). I decide to stop chewing quite so efficiently. So we stare out of the
window whilst we eat - and watch the daylight fade to be replaced with the miniaturised universe on the opposite bank.

And people are predictable - there is a lingering storm round the top of St Paul's, replacing the real looming rain that was there earlier, as people take pictures of the view. And another over the furthest support of the Millennium bridge, cameras towards the Tate. And either there's a lot of automatic flashes out there, that cannot be easily turned off, or there are a lot of people who don't know how flashes are supposed to work (little light, big building, long way away).

Strangely despite the view of the masses, and of some wonderful buildings, there are people who never bother looking. Next to us is a woman reading a book, huddled up, occasionally reaching for her glass of wine (in which the level scarcely changes all the time we are there). And never looking up.
There's another women further along staring at near blank wall, and ignoring all that is about her (except for a similar perpetual glass of wine). They both even ignore people in the restaurant.

Maybe I'm just much too curious, forever distracted by what else there might be.

Speaking of being distracted, once we finish I decide I have to go out on the balcony, despite my brother's protestations that it will be cold, wet and much too childish for adults such as our selves to do. But being me I'm aware that being childish is ill becoming to me, but it's fun, so I don't care.

What I do care about is suddenly finding myself looking very stupid next to the door. Because it won't open. And I'm standing there trying to get it open and failing. But there are people on the balcony, and people have been using this door. Unless I'm wrong and there's another one I missed weaving past all the people. Which would mean going back past them trying to check. And now my brother is mouthing angrily at me from the other end of this narrow crowded space. He's coming up, I try the door again, this time using all my weight plus the hip bashing technique honed over the years by trying to open the garage door at my parent's house. It opens, slowly. I think it's quite a heavy door, with an over zealous automatic closer on it.

We go out, not quite shutting the door properly. As we do we notice that on the outside is only a solid pull handle, rather than the normal door handle that's on the other side. Which means that if it closes you can't open it from the outside, which is different.

So we're outside, and I instantly go and peer over the edge. Oooh pretty trees, which are quite a long way down.
What else is there? A river that's quite high, though I've no idea of when the high tide is. Many buildings, all with the contrast turned up by the recent rain glistening madly or washing the shadows into a new darkness.

I don't know I've always liked dark stormy nights. It's just something about the mild damp wind. The power and the uncertainty.

And then we go to worship the great sun god, down in the Turbine Hall. Coming out on the lower level, and having my view blocked by the deck over the kiosk bits. Being me, I walk under the stairs as soon as I can to be able to approach straight down the middle, to be able to have the upside down dawn symmetrical. A disc of diffuse sodium glare. Reminiscent of the setting sun. But it's not. Yes you can feel some warmth for it, but that is only when you pass the disc and are in line with the raw bulbs, and even then it's warmth not heat (it's art I'm allowed to drop the scientific exactitude for awhile). And maybe it's the effect off having a street light outside my bedroom, but I don't associate that wavelength with happy warmth, as I do the real sun. Or maybe it was the effect of the "cloud-like forms", otherwise known as mist that makes all around it cold and damp.

But up is a very long way, as we look for our reflections the mirrors, two little bundles in the log jam of bodies. But who are all these people, lying on cold damp concrete? Have they not noticed the mottled darkness of the floor, product of weak sugar solution and mass popularity?
And why do they all lie feet towards the sun? Staring up towards their dumpy distorted bodies? Haven't they noticed that the image comes back thinner if they lie parallel to the face to then sun disc, not perpendicular.

We go down to end to see the workings, and watch the masses in the orange light, with different colour lights spilling out from the main gallery.

And then going up towards the other end, this time noticing the traditional accompanying explanatory blurb. We read what's on the wall, disagreed with part of it - that part that says that the light is monochromatic, and so only yellow shows - but for some reason some reds glow frantically as well, although that may be the effect of fluorescent washing powders, lengthening the wavelength. I take a leaflet, scan it and stick it in my bag.

We carry on towards the other end, and turn round to see the full effect. The curving of the mirrors creates the impression of heat haze, worsening nearer the top of the sun. The mist diffuses the light and prevents people easily discerning the faults of the system. Quite impressive, but then the hall on it's own is impressive. The effect of the orange light seems more pervasive here, except the bluey-greeny glow of the screens of videos, cameras and mobile phones. The world is is saying "guess where I am".

As we walk past the entrance I glance outside and glimpse the metal shutter on the building opposite reflecting the glare. I then wonder if the light is in the western end, blocking out the real sun (if it were visible).

We then go up and go and see the Sigmar Polke exhibition. Mostly plays upon newspaper printing in an unenthusiastic pop-art way. A recurring theme based on the American hunt for Osama bin Laden, men on horseback beneath an omnipresent (possibly omnipotent as well) satellite. A series that just seem random and chaotic, which I later discover were the results of the artist haphazardly mixing the chemicals he has used in making his art. Most of the works in this section make use of honeycombed resin, so each image has assorted layers, that occasionally combine.

Also there is a frequent use of some method that renders the canvas transparent, and so I found myself looking at a picture trying to make sense of it, and then discovering the backing supports suddenly override everything.

One I liked, which was in the section (presumably) attacking the American gun culture, a blown up newspaper image of a man pointing at a series of holes in body shaped target, with the title "I Don’t Really Think About Anything Too Much" (on the Tate's website). And then getting distracted by the patterns within, and the apparently random switches in the printing.

But for the most part I just didn't get the work. Either it seemed incomprehensible or simple. The thing of the newspaper cutting of soldiers playing Risk, yes he's fragmented the figures of the soldiers, but the joke (invading Iraq, playing a game of world domination) was on the part of the editors of the paper, not his. remove the borrowed wit, and the imagery is just imagery. There's too little personal input for most art (the image distortion could have been done with most computer imaging programmes), too much to copy the manufactured sterility of people like Bridget Riley. There just didn't seem to be much to it. There was no complexity, no thread to unravel, just flat ink.

In part of his exhibition I actually started thinking about the design of the Tate benches. Perhaps I was tired, perhaps I hadn't had enough water, but after trying to examine his work I just felt all arted out. They're quite nice benches though.

But you can't tell if I'm right, as apparently the exhibition finished on the 4th.

Then we go home and eat, and hang round (brother went to pub with other friends), discover the blurb from the big sun thing (technical name) is printed on yellow paper, that I had assumed to be white in the orange light. Read the Polke blurb, it makes a bit more sense, but still seems lacking something. And then to bed.

Had enough of trudging round, so brother goes off on his own to buy more shoes for him (which he then doesn't buy).

I sit round and shout at the Playstation, aka try to play games, be crap at most of them, try harder, still be crap, try doing the tutorial things, still be crap - I circled! it says that arrow and circle, I was pressing that arrow and I circled. And still it does nothing except insult me.
And they say videogames cause violence? Does throwing stuff in a toddler-like strop count?

It's worse than the driving bit in Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing - where the screen disappears under a mass of flies, as I'm not very good at typing but I'm quite quick on using backspace - but Little Miss Beacon counts keystrokes, not the correct series of characters (with gaps in the middle), so if you make a mistake and correct it you end up monumentally out of sync. And then it comes up with the message that "You are making lots of mistakes, perhaps you are tired or angry. You should take a rest". No I'm not. I was trying my hardest to do well, and all I get is this?

And then my brother come back, and I discover he has never even played the game I can't do. And he owns it. Bloody London salary.

Oh and I've still got to think of a costume for the New Year's Eve party we were going to that night (odd that, what with it being New Year's Eve and all).

A costume based on London Underground stations. Strangely every girl was planning to go as Angel (heck, why can't guys go as Angels? or put on their best Thick-can't-act-brooding face and go as Angel from the spin-off), unless she happens to be called Victoria.
But for blokes?

My brother was going as Street, Bond Street (cheating is it not?).
My ideas:
- Find much black fabric and go as Blackfriars (and ignore the s).
- Oval. A trifle dull, and how much effort was I supposed to be putting in?
- Waterloo doesn't bear thinking about (and does anyone have a handy toilet costume).
- Elephant & Castle. Is the elephant on top of the castle or vice versa?
- Many "I want to be a tree" ones (various oaks, poplar, Cyprus [wrong spelling?]).
- Go as Masonry - Monument, Temple, Embankment.
- Assorted bridges, gates and arches.
- Bank: Some money thing, or go leaning over all evening.
- Hammersmith - provided you don't mind lugging an anvil round all evening.
- Don't know how to do Lane (possibly lain?), but get one coat-hanger and go as Hangar Lane.
- Pinner, but it might take too long to explain, and you'd be bound to prick something.
- Paddington, the yellow wellies might be hard (or is that hat yellow, and the wellies red?).
- Holland Park, anything Dutch, but you have to stay still.
- Baker Street, again street=?
- There was a dubious one about Brent Cross (but you would have had to have seen The Office).
- Arsenal, or one of the Can[n]on ones.
- Barking - it isn't exactly a costume...
- Or go as a miscellaneous royal (Prince Regent, Royal Albert).
- Maybe Pick a colour and run with it - Limehouse, Blackwall, Whitechapel, Greenwich.
- Not sure how one does "court", but there's at least 2 of them.
- And remembering that there's a real Grange Hill always makes me giggle.
- Any ideas for Mornington Crescent?
- And we won't go into Shepherd's Bush.
- What the heck's a Goodge anyway?
- And if you've got 4 (ish) girls [and it's DLR, is that cheating?] All Saints.

So we spend a while doing this, and then we discover that the friend of friend (of my brother), whose friend's party it is isn't too keen on the friend coming. And then another party disintegrates, so it's back to the small party that's potentially got my brother's ex going to it. Hmm. Whatever happened to people saying something 2 weeks in advance, and everyone just turning up regardless of any later decisions (well it works, it usually involves foggy fields, but it works).

So Chislehurst it is (was) then. Except of course the girl whose house it is, is still in Salzburg.

Grab sleeping bag, stick stuff in bag, get handed my brother's old [air of swimming trunks with towel [?]. Wait a bit, stick stuff in car, discover the joys of my brother's driving on the South Circular. It's all just sharp junctions, big curves and hills. And it feels like it ought to be a rally course.

And how come I've never heard of the empire plunder museum (the Horniman Museum)?

There's some "interesting" bits of planning and architecture round there too - like the huge possibly Edwardian, probably Georgian or early Victorian houses - one of which has petrol station crammed in it's front garden.

And then there's Dulwich College (I think) which is a huge great building of the usual moderate Victorian style (meaning I've never been able to place that style, other than institutional), and nestling in one of the recessed bits by a corner is a solitary portaloo - but there's no sign of building work (and wouldn't they trust the builders to use an indoor loo?).

And so we approach Chislehurst, only to get rung up as we are nearly there to be told "H. can only get to Orpington station, we've arrived at her house and have gone to the pub, so we can't drive. She'll want picking up. Bye" (most of this conversation is going on as my brother circles a roundabout).

Er...that sign says Orpington - follow that, while I find where we are, and where we need to be. Um, it's not in the A-Z. Oh there's a map...of south-east England. It's got a big brown lump for Orpington, and there's 3 stations in the lump. And the roads don't have names or numbers.

Phone rings.

I answer (why do they all get so confused by this? It being my brother's phone and him driving and all). It's the girl from Salzburg (H). Yep we're picking her up. Where is the station in Orpington? Find the High Street, and there's a roundabout and it's near there? Um, ok...Where? Um, I don't know where we's quite a big road, it's quite straight...we're still on it....Can I ring you back when we find anywhere?

[Brother asking directions] I don't know, keep going straight, follow the signs to the town centre (I'm not sure which town we're in, but hey).

Eventually we approach a roundabout near somewhere with Christmas lights. No sign of the station, the signs just say "town centre, right", so go down expecting to turn right, and then my brother sees a sign for the cycle path with a BR symbol saying straight over. So we go straight over...not sure this is the right way, as we go we decide to go a bit further then turn round - and then we see something that looks suspiciously like a railway bridge. Go up turn right into a weird semi-rubble gravel taxi rank. Stop, try to see if we can find H. Um...then we phone her - she's still on
the train. another five minutes.

So my brother being him decides we have to move, so turn right onto the road, then a sharp right back in again this time following the track down to what we hope is the car park (praying there isn't a barrier at either end). Go round, and park in one of the drop of places.

Hmm, new year's eve - so the tired, the drunk and the cold wander past - including a man who had his keys out and for moment nearly tried getting into my brother's car, he didn't get that near though, but watching the confusion on his face as it dawned that his was the next car, was quite fun.

H then appears, gets in the back before I can move, and then we leave. The reason I wanted to swap was I realised that H. is the only one who knew where we were and where we were going. So she is now doing the back-seat driver thing, saying things like "when you go out turn left, and take the next left". So my brother does, and as we turn into what is obviously a cul-de-sac, H. announces "you did know I didn't mean this one". We turn round and many speed bumps in driving lesson roads[17] later get to H's house.

[17] The type of road that's wide and empty, usually in 1930s housing estates, in which it is impossible to remember where you've just been (it all looks the same in a leafy way).

We can see the car of the people who were at the pub, but no sign of them. So we ring them up, and so my brother is despatched to pick them up, but he doesn't know the way, so H. goes with him.

Which leaves me. In a big house. I discover that being abandoned in the aforementioned huge house is worrying, especially as I managed to break the light switch when I tried turning on the lights in the kitchen (I could see a small plastic knob and a sliding track, so pushed down. It didn't move. Try again and bit harder [having not been able to open the door onto the balcony of Tate Modern as I didn't push hard enough, and so determining not to feel foolish again]. Ping. Small plastic bit descends into the darkness. Fortunately I can see where it went, so pick it up, and try to clip it back in again. One set of lights comes on. Oh so you have to push them as well (opps).

I then spent ages searching round the huge kitchen looking for glasses, whilst managing to not look in the glass fronted cupboard filled with glasses. Go and put kettle on, find it is cunning designed to make one's life easier, and thus spills water everywhere. Find kitchen towel, mop up spill, and actually manage to find the bin on my first go (it being one of those hidden in some cupboard or drawer ones).

The phone rings - it's bound to be H (she whose house it is). But it might not be. Begin to wonder if it's one of the neighbours who's seen some strange man searching through the house, and turning all the lights on and off. I'll let the machine get it, as it'll be easier than trying to explain or find stuff to write with. Machine answers, it is H (rung to say the two people, whom she and my brother have gone to collect, have just bought a couple of "big pints", and they might be a while). I them try in vain to answer to the phone, and can't figure out how. She hangs up.

Right so now what?

About this time I get ambushed by the clocks. This house has a great many clocks. Most of which chime. Unfortunately they don't all keep the same time, so for about ten minutes you think it's over and then another one starts. It doesn't help the first one doesn't sound very healthy when it chimes, and actually sounds like something has just gone badly wrong (Me: Oh god what now. I didn't touch it!).

And then the doorbell rings...I suppose I better answer that (this is just not going to get better is it?). So go and hesitatingly open the door. There's a rather worried looking young man on the doorstep.
"Er...does H live here?".
"Hi, I'm D, I wasn't sure, I've been driving round for ages, but I couldn't see T's car".
"They've gone to...".
"The others are at the pub? You're T's brother aren't you? Um, where do you want me to park?".
I look out of the door to see 3 cars to the left, his car in the middle, and just dark space to the right.
"Probably somewhere over there, but pretty much anywhere, I don't think it matters".
I retreat to the kitchen leaving the door ajar. Hmm. This is...different.

Then he comes in, we have brief conversation which is a study in awkwardness, and then he goes to the loo (after I give up trying to give him directions, and suggest he just opens doors at random as it'll be quicker).

And then we stand round, not quite having the nerve to run round exploring (it's rumoured to have a swimming pool), until the others get back.
Cue mass chatty chaos.
Then of we go to find the dining room, and lay the table.
And then food, which consists of poached egg, bacon and asparagus (which stank of fish when it was cooking, except to the girl who hates fish, who claimed it smelt of beef [?]) on toast (now what's it say when the person who supposedly resides there needs help in hunting for the bread board?
Although she was probably thinking of one of her other houses). And then steak in tomato, basil and other stuff sauce, with parmesan polenta, and mushroom, onion and red wine stuffed mushrooms. So the meal had more preparation in part of a dish than most of my meals (but its tasted nice though, except I'm not too keen on parmesan, and polenta is just cous-cous without the bittiness, in a concentrated semolina way).

And it is very hard to eat when one is laughing so hard that breathing has become near impossible.

And then on to making dessert. Which consisted of a drink. And us trying to find suitable methods for breaking up kiwis. And me being scared by a fridge that produces any sort of ice you want.

And somehow the drinks managed to be served at 10 to midnight (though pulpy fruit and crushed ice does not make using straws easy. And we ended 2003 arguing about making vodka martinis, and the effects of "shaken, not stirred" or vice versa.

Post dongy bits: I am proclaimed the god of the mighty flame (it's called being patient pyromaniac, and having been a scout. Oh and cheating by using some of the candle wax that fell off with regular thumps during dinner).

We play Pictionary. Of the 3 pairs playing the couple who were actually a couple (and had been for a long while), were the least good at working together, and my brother and I did too well to make it seem fair. Except of course for thing my brother was drawing that managed to make me cry "oh placenta!". When it is in fact "cowpat". I'm never going to live that down. But in my defence my brother did keep emphasising the udders (to a biologist that's either plugging the fact it's a mammal or suggesting stuff related to reproduction), and then he drew something that looked like it had legs, but was sticking arrows at the mess around it. Except the mess was supposed to be showing movement, and the things with legs was meant to be a hand...patting.

And then we went swimming. It is somewhat odd doing so at 2:30am. It is even more odd having music playing whilst you are doing so (this being the same music that is playing throughout the house, via some cunning gadgetry - makes it very disorientating though). And my brother is a cheat (diving to collect plastic fish [don't ask], and he stole some from my hand).

And then some decided using the sauna was a good idea (and I opt out of the machismo by sitting on the floor).

Then more swimming.

Then standing round chatting.

Two people go outside to smoke cigars (the girl[18] having been trying to teach the guy to light them properly, until they found out it was a non-smoking house).

[18] This girl saying so then one wouldn't offend the people in an old gentleman's club. She declined to explain what she had been doing in said club. But she's of that type that knows and thinks of such things (hence overhearing conversations about the bits of Swan Lake where the prima gets a good rest. Very different lives methinks).

Go swimming again.

Get out, get changed, and then find I can't find anyone.
Anywhere - including having stuck my head through the doors of most of the bedrooms (but I'm still not sure how far the house extends in one direction).

Go downstairs again, and hear voices beyond the front door - maybe everyone's joined the two on the doorstep. Open door, nope, there's only two people there. They do look relieved to see me. Clever people had locked themselves out, though strangely didn't think to ring the doorbell, or try and get anyone's attention, even though one of them is only in wet swimming trunks, in what is now very early January. Mad people.

Discover that the rest of the people were trying to sort out stuff in the pool's pump room - the dehumidifier which is contained in the same casing as the main pump (and so is inaccessible, and says many warnings about electric shocks), is leaking water across the floor.

Cue my brother being the building services engineer - and refusing to believe that anyone could run their swimming pool at 29oC, whilst trying to sort it out. Having failed to make any difference we opt for the traditional leak stopping route, and go and fetch an oven dish to catch the drips.

About this point I go and hang my towel and swimming trunks up to dry in the swimming pool room - and only I would worry about making the air more humid with wet washing, when there's a large uncovered expanse of water beside me (I may not have been completely sober at this point, at it was somewhere beyond the middle of the night).

And then I think we started playing that "sticking names to people's foreheads" game.

Which I hate.

Especially when other people have easy things to guess (well I gave my brother Darwin, because I didn't want to be cruel, and I couldn't think of anything else).

It didn't help that one of my early questions got answered wrongly, so there was quite a while where I was going in circles that didn't work.

I eventually got bored of guessing and went to get a drink of water, just so happening to look at a picture in the hallway, which just happened to be glazed to protect it (what? the girl next to me had already studied her wine intently, and the guessed correctly on the next go).

So having deciphered all I had to do was figure out who Brian was.

And then someone quoted more Monty Python (strangely I hadn't guessed it after someone trying to help me said "think of my[her] degree - I did Classics and Ancient History", so I though Jane Austen, but Classics is older, so that's something by Homer then?).

Then a couple more goes, carefully not guessing straight away (though I did get round to asking if it's a fictional character, which I probably should have done earlier).

And then it was onto mopping up a split drink (Kiwitini apparently, squidgy green gack), which somehow left a much whiter patch on the cream carpet.

And so to bed, at about quarter to seven.

Which was actually a bed (which is a bonus of houses with infinite bedrooms).

Next morning, go and chat to my brother, then get up, then massive on-going breakfast, then somehow it ends up that I'm meant to be staying whilst my brother goes to various stuff with his proto-girlfriend, and getting a lift back with the couple who cooked.

And thus I stay and end up watching the Sound of Music (with sing along subtitles we can't get rid of [isn't technology great?], and additional comments reinterpreting the film). And then on to Grease, which isn't as fun to subvert, as it's pretty lewd anyway.

And then home, in the dark (so I never got chance to see how big the house really is).

So back to brother's flat, dump stuff, change, decide to go home as I don't know where he is, and the only person in is the miserable girlfriend of one of the flatmates.

Get tube to Waterloo (£2? Should have gone to Clapham junction, except that would mean buses or walking and I don't know how to get there, and it's raining, and my shoes have become tidal), arrive to see train on signs saying it leaves soon, check platform - no train there, go and buy ticket, try ringing home, discover phonecards expire (I had £3 on that still!), and BT payphones are good at taking money, but not at doing anything beyond that (yes I was bored enough to ring up and complain), sit and wait for an hour [still plodding through Middlemarch[19]], get on train - it's amazing how London trains you to instantly say a firm "no" everytime anyone speaks to you. So train home, walk home, somehow manage not to collapse asleep instantly (well I had had 3 hours sleep).

[19] Though I did get "a suitable boy"[20] for Christmas.

[20] Strangely some people misinterpret that phrase.

Could I be rambling? Possibly.
Anyway I'm going to leave the rest of my travels till some later date.

Note to self: using planes coming out of airports is not an precise navigation tool (especially when they are not all going in the same direction).

Note to Blogger: your draft option is still not working.


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