London, Summer 2012

I went to London for the weekend. I felt very nearly like a person I remembered being, before. I stayed with my brother, and we watched Absolutely Fabulous, and laughed a stupid amount. We also did a lot of singing along to the Eurythmics, loudly, in the car, because that’s what we’re like. And we went to see the new Spiderman flick, which I rather liked – it was FUN. And loud.

But mostly the weekend was about Picasso. On Saturday afternoon I went to the British Museum to see the Vollard Suite. This was one of my favourites,

a strong yet ambiguous image; what is the Minotaur doing? Will he wake her or kill her?

Sunday was the last day of the Picasso And Modern British Art exhibition at Tate Britain. It was interesting, but did not quite grip me as much as the Vollard Suite had, although the Hockneys did amuse me.  It was also very crowded, which afforded a wonderful opportunity for people watching. In fact when it’s so crowded that you can’t get to the paintings, people watching is all there is. One woman I overheard was unsure whether or not she’d already seen a particular painting; she was explaining to her male companion that she was almost certain that she hadn’t, because she didn’t recognise the frame. She gave me rather a strange look as I tried to smother my giggles in my sleeve…

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Barefoot days

One of the things I love about good summer weather is being able to go barefoot – all day, if I don’t need to leave the house. The feeling of hot wooden decking beneath my feet as I hang out the laundry, and the garden scents swirling around me; roses, clematis, wisteria, aqualegia… but no honeysuckle, yet. It’s late this year, and I miss it dreadfully. Nothing quite fills the senses like woodbine does, coiling in clasping tendrils around the pergola, scrambling over the fence, clambering up the walls, its golden trumpets delicate, but never shy. Its time will come, and soon, I hope. In the meantime the wisteria does its best to make up for it, and makes my head swim like wine when I open the windows, laced with cut grass from the larger gardens, and the park… intoxicating!

Despite the golden days, and warmer nights, the black bitch Depression still slyly bites, every now and then. And there doesn’t seem to be much that I can do about it, at the moment, except to endure it. Or sleep through it. Not that I mean to sound defeatist – I certainly don’t want  to beaten by this thing! – but somehow it seems harder to be in the dark, when there’s all this gorgeous light around me. And yet, summer is the time of deeper shadows, lasting longer… seeing the Hockney exhibition in March made me appreciate that; his paintings of the same place viewed through the changing seasons, the changing light, and shadows.

But there are plenty of things to look forward to. I’ll be running away for a long weekend with friends in Scotland next month, for a start. And this Sunday I’m taking part in the Stroud Short Stories Site festival event. Which I’m quite excited about. And nervous. Very nervous. Oh yes, and last week I had another flash fiction (200 words, the shortest thing I’ve written so far) accepted by Ether Books. Which made me squeak with happiness. It’s called ‘Bread and Olives’, if you fancy downloading it to your smart phone or iPad. And that’s enough shameless self-promotion for now. I need to go and breathe in the garden.

Dr Johnson

Dr Johnson’s dictum that if one is tired of London, one is tired of life, always springs to mind whenever I visit the city of my birth. It is an exhausting place, but I never tire of it; there is simply too much to see, and to do. And it always gives me something new to think about, especially when I get to visit without my daughter in tow. But of course, it is wonderful to be able to show the city to her, and see it afresh through her eyes, and remember how I too was taken around town as a child. And she will do the same with her children, one day. And so it goes.

But this weekend is about being the me who is not the mother. And today I have had the pleasure of going to see the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy, the hottest ticket in town this spring. I must confess to feeling indescribably smug as I walked past the hideously long queue, my ticket nonchalant in my fingertips… And the crowds inside were a fearful crush. But it was worth it. I was occasionally treated to a prolonged view of the side of a random stranger’s head, and there were of course, the usual personal space invaders (not to mention the chap who apparently came only for as prolonged a view of my cleavage as he could get away with. A charming smile and a flicked V-sign told him he’d been rumbled), and the ones who came, not to admire, or even appreciate the paintings, the sketches, the films, but rather to make loud display of their indifference. A good exhibition is worth the crush not only for the art, but for the opportunity of people-watching en masse. Call me cynical? That’s fine by me.

The landscapes were quite beautiful; the same lane, the same trees, visited and revisited through each seasonal change. The fall of light, the depth of shadows as they alter according to the time of day as well as the year’s progression; the changing tones of green, and the changing colours of the wildflowers of each season, all recorded and presented in the artist’s fearless way. The films made using 9 cameras mounted together on a grill and attached to a Land Rover were quite strangely powerful, particularly the winter films. The bare trees, the brilliant cold clear cleanness of the snow, and the pale blue blazing sky above, had a magic quite separate from the verdant glamour of the other seasons. And more than any other image, it made me long to be able to walk into it, and keep on walking. And that feeling was worth the crush alone.

Tomorrow I may possibly venture north of the city, to Highgate Cemetary. We’ll see…