Saturday, June 17, 2006

GF5 600 - London Eye - 25It's a week since the preview of the RA's Summer Exhibition, and I still haven't written about it. That's probably partly because I didn't go round all of it, and I didn't do it in as much depth as I would have liked to. But it's also possibly because I'm not sure of the words one should use to describe it. Those I want to use sound so preposterous that I may as well just stick a glace cherry on top. Compared to the art they are leaden and clumsy. And yet despite these failings, they are right. But instead of binding them into an unwieldy whole, here's a few scavengings from various emails:
...astoundingly good...
...I could have quite easy spent a lot there...
...astoundingly good, but was far too much to take in, so I'll have to go back repeatedly. I now need a proper job so I can go to next year's and buy something there (my brother very nearly did till he saw the bit about 30% commission)...
...Oh, and you definitely should go to the RA Summer Exhibition. It's superb (and one could spend a fortune there), but it was too much for all of our group, so my brother and I will be heading back, probably frequently...
...astoundingly good...
...too much - both [brother] and I want to go back, probably many times. [Brother] didn't buy anything (I think it was the nearest he's ever come to buying art), but a lot is very buyable (assuming money, although not everything is £53,000)...

Apparently I have a rather small vocanulary. And a tendency to repeat myself. And draw from a slightly minimal lexicon.

So, in conclusion: too much astoundingly good and much too astoundingly good.

After that came the barbeques, with the first [brother's work plus neighbours in Hendon, which is so far up the Northern Line it runs out of tunnel and has to make for the surface] better than the second [brother's girlfriend's university friend and housemates' in Islington. Small courtyard, many people, cigar smokers in chairs for most of it, leaking overflow causes permanent rain over a third of it. Budget ten times the previous one, but about half the fun. Told to bring nothing, got one warm lager and half a spare rib. Even the sheen went off the chocolate fountain when we discovered the sheen comes from the added vegetable oil needed to make the chocolate liquid. I think the four in our group would have had more fun going home and playing Trivial Pursuit - a game I hate, especially when cajoled into playing it with my brother's ex-flatmate and American girlfriend, neither of whom trouble Mensa. I got accused of cheating for knowing what Yoshida Kōgyō Kabushiki-gaisha made (it's in the initials)].

Since then not much has happened. I've sat through talks as part of London Sustainability Weeks, and managed to mention I only recognised someone from Grand Designs (the sand bags one), and then have the same person come and kiss the woman I was talking to. Oh, so you know her then?

The talks were a bit diverse, ranging from interesting, slightly misjudged and mind-numbingly dull (if parts of the audience are going to the back to top up drinks and get food, do not start skipping things as unimportant and then change your mind and talk about something you find interesting on that particular Powerpoint slide, but which the nodding heads, despite initial appearances, do not seem to find interesting. And do try not to just read what it says on the slides. Basically, he never really had the audience, which only seemed to worry him into more detail [and he did include a comprehensive tour of his website; a highly specialist website where normally you'd only look at about 3 pages in one visit]).

Ok, so I'm not being completely fair, as I had been awake since 3 am, and had been running round rush hour London with a foolish amount of baggage.

But I did get to be in the same room as the superbly named Dusty Gedge, who, although he should possibly change it to Smoky Gedge, or possibly Coughy Gedge, is the second Dusty I've ever met; the first being the wonderfully named Dusty Miller. Yes, he is a mechanic (and I think he was born before Trumpton existed {ok, so that's apparently Windy, but still, as names go...)).

Later in the week I managed to find myself going to some event on Friday evening (yep, Friday night in the summer, I head to the GLA). Get there. Go through detection barrier, walk to main desk, follow other people to the table at the end where they are collecting name badges. Loiter slightly. And then say:
"Hi, we're from X, and we got sent an email about the event in the Living Room tonight, but I didn't know we needed to book". Cue a discussion on the RSVP which neither of us saw, and then we get given passes and told to write our names, and where we're from, and then sent up via the public lift, aping instructions in slightly "one cross each" way.

And then we emerge into an empty room, and I disappear to the loo, and then realise I've just dumped my rucksack (the one that got me reported to and stopped by the police) half hidden behind a wall on the top floor of City Hall. Structurally it's a bit of poor spot, although there would be a fair few lacerated tourists milling below. And I wonder if anyone ever has gone to the loo and found their briefcase at the centre of a rapidly emptying building?

Anyway, so we stand, head out to admire the view (yes, neither of us brought a camera, I thought of it, but have a cracked lens and no film). Watch Tower Bridge open. Watch Tower Bridge Close. Hang round for a hour, being talked to occasionally. Get to the speeches, which are short, propagandary and uninformative, and in the process discover we've come to a networking event on behalf of the environmental wing of the Labour party. And that's all it's going to be: networking.

So after downing my own body weight in cranberry juice, eventually getting through to the platter offerers that we are poor young people who haven't eaten yet and so after being ignored as the most poorly dressed people in the room, suddenly when they hover near us when they want to offload the remaining food. Which was very, very meat heavy, and thus ideal fair while being buttonholed by a vegan leaflet wielder, who was taking a break from being a lab technician [MS Word does not know the word "vegan". Huzzah!].

And when you say "taking a break" from a very dull and antisocial job, is that supposed to trigger alarm bells? Because if it is, please tell me next time so I don't have to spend half an hour wondering how soon I'll die if I dived through the plate glass and managed to get over the balcony, while desperately trying to divert the conversation from his failings in Learndirect's computer skills course [which bizarrely has a name like "European Driving License"] with such novel questions as "which of those masts is Crystal Palace?"; a technique which went rather awry when he asked if the other was Alexandra Palace, and why it's still up there, as it was built in the thirties for radio broadcast. I foolishly made the mistake of trying to explain electro-magnetic transmission, which I hastily abandoned once I realised he'd caught the word radiation; he was delving for what I feared might be his Bacofoil so'wester.

I have a hunch my early gambit on the viability of Google's server based spreadsheet system, in the light of Oracle and alike, might have been somewhat misjudged, as were the accidental references to Googling and forwarding, the former of which apparently did not compute in this man's head, and the latter elicited a confusing questions about if the Post Office charges for that.

And then an unfortunate slip by SG on mitigation methods for stormwater runoff (she was using the Greek model of conversation: two unrelated concurrent monologues) then led onto precipitation and water usage, which brought more rummaging in the bag. SG not being honed in social niceties foolishly extended her hand to take a copy of the paperwork he was pulling out (I'm not sure if he still thought we were members of the Green Party, as their free magazine topped our respective piles of free blurb, which was a little heavy on corporate sponsorship [apparently Morrisson's Petrol Stations are green, for some "I haven't read the press release yet because I was taking notes on the reverse with my free Defra biro, which is a normal plastic biro wrapped in ostentatiously brown recycled card" reason]. Maybe we should have said yes we were granola eating socked soya sandallers (I don't know what granola is, other than perhaps some Victorian musical invention, but I think ethical Americans eat it). Maybe we should have been going all out to convince him that we were mad.

Anyway, the leaflets, with strong back up by our new best friend, propounding the water intensity of meat compared to other crops, which was wonderfully illustrated by pictures showing much blood pouring out of a cow, and thus the water content of the animal. Choosing to take the Hari Krishna Free Food approach (smile beatifically, say "thank you", rather than tear into a savage critique of the psuedo-scientific nonsense their leaflet indulges in), I let SG be bewildered while I realised this man must have already tried to convert the waiters, as they're all now giving me a wide birth. So while not doubt animals require water, and probably more water than some crops, I couldn't really bring myself to be concerned about his cause. Besides which, I thought it indelicate to mention the word "rain".

The best bit was waiting for SG, who doesn't have the greatest level of English fluency, to figure out that the reason that what she thinks he said is so odd is not because of mistranslation of his unusual idioms, but because he is one of those men who can get into any building, simply because every member of staff realises the best course of action is to refer him to someone else, preferably in Accounting, or their Norwich office, and thus he passes with the greatest of ease through the space.

I wish I had a camera for her facial expressions once the fen finally dropped.

Fortunately, SG was literally recoiling from her earlier eagerness, and the funny little man was so earnestly entranced with his task of converting her, that the conversation literally drifted away, leaving me marooned with only a few of Bermondsey to console me. So I deftly drained the glass, wishing they had some vodka at the bar, and went to get another drink, taking the precaution of hiding in the loo first. And then I came back out, and made good use of the passing trays of succulent and bloody beef, skewered chicken, salmon lollipops, and oh, these pancakes are duck? Good-o. All while standing in dangerous proximity to the odd man's back, wondering how I mime to SG that she ought to decide she needs to go to the loo, and thus, alack and indeed alas, must abandon him. Hardly gallant, but it's like getting mud off shoes; you don't do it while standing in the mud.

If I'd met Nicky Gavron beforehand, I think I would have been keen ensure that the GLA's favourite former lab tech made her acquaintance, if only to get a display in how the masters deal with such people (possibly by giving him a security pass and directions to a side street off Whitehall).

So fortunately we extricated ourselves, with SG blaming me for abandoning her (hardly fair; she walked away, I merely chose not to follow). And then a short amount of promenading; one thing about glassy buildings is that reflections abound, and so forewarned one can walk swiftly with studiously averted eyes as he steers an intercepting course. And we only had to hide behind the grossly oversized plasma screen televisions once.

And then we might the hosts, who seem nice, if mad, in a fortunately self-declared "I'm mad, I am" way, which usually only indicates lack of humour rather than lack of a hemisphere. And SG, in an effort to appear keen, nearly got us inducted then and there by SERA (Turning the Reds Green, without making them go a funny brown colour along the way, and I'm not sure how they cope with the range of Labourites which reaches nearly to indigo), which could have been interesting had they discovered I've never voted Labour and have no intention to (it's almost like crashing the Masons), and that SG isn't a member of the only political party she has at home (and it's a little bit to the left of Labour).

Somehow we ended up not knowing if we should leave the conversation, now joined by a rather good looking Assembly Member, who talked freely about the decisions behind choosing London over Westminster (more impact), the relative memorability of Gordon Brown versus a magician (the latter by far), the fact GB had granted a long personal audience, and had stayed for an hour, the comparative value of magicians (at which point I started to wonder if a friend's cousin who did her birthday party [not officially, he just started and then there was no stopping him], and had just won some important award was the same guy as one of those being discussed, who had the same name and had also won some similar sounding award), a few other amongst-friends things, strategies for re-election, including finding news gathering causes, and who spoke with an ease which suggested it never occurred to him that someone might not vote for him (either that or he was ignoring his Lib-Demdar and not-yet-Torydar).

But after that disarming, frank and lucid conversation (well, really speech), of the finer points of politics (yes, it's regrettable that skin colour and surname can earn radio time and the option of a safe parliamentary seat [cue joke about the good little Muslim, who before 9/11 never thought he was a Muslim, drinking wine]. Yes it's even more regrettable that the only subject which gives access to Radio 4 is Home Office based), it's quite odd that someone who I really don't know could seem so likeable (if not vote-worthy. If I wasn't so anal in actually reading manifestos, then maybe).

We also a nice girl from Scope, who had absolutely nothing to do with the event, except was angling after a job that might have been related to someone who might have come, but hadn't. But she told us about another networking event, which I might have to go to, because even though I hate networking and can't do it, I probably need to.

So we went expecting a lecture or three, plus questions, plus informal discussion, and instead found ourselves wondering if it's even worth approaching the guy from the Fabian Society with the permanent sneer (I would have done, if only to see if he was as rude as his face made out, had I been able to remember what the Fabian Society do, other than all agree on what an underrated name Fabian is).

And then down, and out of the door, still wearing the badge which proclaims me "Mayor of London", and passed the gathered crowd, which we'd spied on above, deciding that we didn't feel like standing for the duration of Walk the Line to see the top third of Joaquin Phoenix and presumably nothing at all of Reese Witherspoon, even if it was free.

So then along the Thames, with a brief detour on to the pier by London Bridge (because it's there, and there's no gate), to spot the fish weathervanes on that French looking thing with blue lights (the one my A-Z marks as "Old Billingsgate Market", which would be, hmm, the fish market?). Then back by tube. And that was as exciting as my Friday night got (and my Saturday night, after the very merry fire alarm [the fire engine used its siren and everything] was spent typing this, being thankful it's now cool enough to sit).

So how was yours?


" alarm [the fire engine used its siren and everything]...thankful it's now cool enough to sit)"

My God, how bad was it?! You're not charred are you?
[I tried posting this yesterday, but the entirety of Blogger went down as I typed, so this is a repost, albeit a delayed one, and one which consequently is lacking the panache of the former]

My dear boy, has no one told you that I am incendiary?
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