A cool house, photographs and friends in London

March 30, 2009

On Saturday Paul and I fulfilled one of our longstanding London plans and went to John Soane’s Museum on Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It was really great. And free! Soane was an architect and a collector and his house is chock-full of interesting things. Go here to have a 360 degree look at some of it. Soane (1753-1837) was the son of a bricklayer, the personal architect of two prime ministers, and the designer of the Bank of England, the Dulwich Picture Gallery and Westminster’s Law Courts, as well as Britain’s red telephone box. The house has the sarcophagus of Seti I, other really old stuff and lots of paintings, including three Canalettos (‘Riva degli Schiavoni, The Rialto Bridge from the North and Piazza S. Marco) and two series of Hogarth paintings, A Rake’s Progress and An Election – I was so excited to see the Hogarths. Soane had a country house in Ealing, Pitzhanger Manor which is now a museum, so I might have to go pay it a visit.
Sir John Soane's Museum, London
Above and below, the entrance to the John Soane’s Museum.
Sir John Soane's Museum, London
On Saturday night we went to a housewarming party for someone from Brisbane who we met over here (through a friend from Brisbane).

On Sunday we went to the Photographers’ Gallery (which has moved to just off Oxford Street) and we saw the finalists for the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize 2009. There was some good photography there. They also have a good bookshop and a nice cafe (I must remember that for if I’m ever near Oxford Circus and want a coffee and don’t want to go to Starbucks).

Then we met up with Cheryl and Alex and wandered around Spitalfields Market, Brick Lane, and surrounding streets, including the Gherkin and the Leadenhall Market.

I recently read that the Whitechapel Gallery is about to reopen after being closed for a couple of years. I’m excited about that. I’ve seen some pretty cool art there.

Some recent art

March 26, 2009

Last week I was working around Shoreditch and I went to the Hoxton Square White Cube gallery in my lunch hour and saw some cool art by Rachel Kneebone and Marcus Harvey. Rachel Kneebone’s piece was a large and beautiful ceramic hole with lots of small figures that seemed to be falling down into Dante’s hell. Marcus Harvey had a few pieces but the grandest was the large picture of Margaret Thatcher made of lots of different bits of plastic, many of which were dildos. Harvey became well-known for doing a large picture of child murderer Myra Hindley made up of children’s hand prints. I’d recommend this exhibition but it finishes this Saturday (28 March).

On Sunday Paul and I met with my new friend Stephen and we saw AlterModern at Tate Britain and Transition at the Barge House Oxo Tower. Altermodern had some interesting art but wasn’t brilliant. It is part of the fourth Tate Triennial and is on until April 26. Transition was a collaboration between Submit2gravity and Exeter Artspace, bringing together artists from London and the Southwest. The exhibition spent a week at Exeter Castle before coming to London for four days. It had some really kickarse interactive art and there was lots of new media stuff too. I really liked it.

Yesterday I saw some wonderful art by Lalla Ward (former side-kick to the doctor on Dr Who, former wife of Tom Baker, knitter, embroiderer, illustrator and current wife of Richard Dawkins – she sounds like a really interesting person!). Called Galapagos, the exhibition consists of fabric and ceramics with pictures of wildlife from the Galapagos Islands, and the sale of the art will aid the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. I really love needlework, embroidery and fabric art and these were really beautiful. I did have a rather strange experience when I went to see the exhibition at the Chris Beetles Gallery (there is nothing about the exhibition on their website but there is on the Durrell website). The gallery has two sections (one at 8 Ryder Street and one at 10 Ryder Street) and 10 Ryder Street was locked and I couldn’t go in until I got someone from number 8 to let me in. Unbeknownst to me, I was locked in after being let in, so when I was finished looking at the art and was ready to leave I couldn’t get out. It felt like I waited for ages (but maybe it wasn’t that long) before I went down the stairs inside the gallery and discovered that the two galleries might be connected underneath, and after calling out ‘hello’ a number of times, the woman came and let me out! Very strange. I really want to go back to buy the catalogue (it’s 40 large postcards for £20). I believe the work is being auctioned on Saturday (28 March).

Spring has sprung!

March 25, 2009

It has really been warming up over the last week or so – some days have been 15 degrees! And the sun has been out a lot too. It’s so nice now the days are getting longer.

The weekend before last we went to see Watchmen. It was quite epic. I only got halfway through the book and then gave up because it wasn’t doing it for me (I blame the fact I’ve never read much in the way of superhero comics). I did really enjoy Alan Moore’s From Hell and V for Vendetta.

I worked all last week but all I did was photocopy documents but I guess it’s better than nothing. I had an interview yesterday so here’s hoping that leads somewhere.

Last Friday night I saw the film the Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Barbican as part of the London Australia film festival (last year I went to three films at it). I think Priscilla was showing because the musical of it has just opened here. My friend Lucy R’s flatmate Dickie Beau performed before it and it was very funny. He does really amazing drag performances (I’m usually not into drag). It was the funniest rendition of Waltzing Matilda I have ever seen and he sang Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport in French in the style of Edith Piaf.

On Saturday I met up with Thomas for lunch. He was on his way to Australia for a conference and a wedding.

Poor Paul worked all Saturday and all Sunday morning at home so he had Monday off work. On Monday we went into Hyde Park and had a run around. It was good. I should go for a run today too.

Some recent books

March 25, 2009

I recently read and really enjoyed the graphic memoir Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (of comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For fame). Subtitled A Family Tragicomic, Fun Home covers Bechdels childhood growing up in a funeral home, her coming out to her family as a lesbian at the age of 19, leading to the revelation of her father’s closeted life as a married gay man and his death shortly after. Bechdel looks back over her childhood and adolescence, coloured by her new knowledge of her father’s sexuality and his death at 44 which she believes was suicide. One of the things I loved about this book was the many literary references. Both her parents were interested in the arts and reading, especially her father, and the book is littered with classics and what their stories may have meant to her father, her mother and their lives.
The cover of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
I want to read more London-based and London-themed books while living here: Lights Out for the Territory by Iain Sinclair, Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd and Mother London by Michael Moorcock. I wonder if I should read a Charles Dickens novel or two while I’m at it. Has anyone got any recommendations? Yesterday I took a bus to Greenford library to borrow Lights Out for the Territory. The book is full of tales of wandering around London. I’m excited about reading it. When I left the library and went to Greenford tube station I was quite excited to find they have wooden escalators!
Wooden escalator, Greenford Underground Station, London
Wooden escalator, Greenford Underground Station, London
Greenford Underground Station, London
I had never heard of them until reading about the tragic fire at King’s Cross Underground Station in 1987 that killed a number of people and one of the changes made afterward was to replace all the wooden escalators with metal ones! I had never seen any until yesterday. Greenford tube is not underground so I guess they get to keep their wooden escalators!

I wanted to read A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe, set in 1665 when the plague swept through London (and written in the 1720s). But after starting it, I think this may end up like Robinson Crusoe – I got less than halfway through and stopped because it was really long-winded and boring. Oh well.

Save Australia from Internet censorship

March 25, 2009

Your luggage, your laptop, your lunchbox, your loved ones and your litter!

March 14, 2009

Catching the District Line yesterday from Ealing to central London I had a lovely commentary from the train driver which made a lot of the passengers smile. In addition to the ‘please take all your belongings with you when you leave the train’ announcements, he told us that we wouldn’t believe the kinds of things that get left behind on the tube. And he said ‘Don’t forget to take your luggage, your laptop, your lunchbox, your loved ones and your litter. That’s lovely.’ In addition to the ‘the next station is..’ announcements, we had ‘The next station is Chiswick Park. How many parks are there on the District Line?’ After the station he announced ‘There are six parks on the district line.’ Then there was ‘The next station is Turnham Green. How many greens are there on the District Line?’ After the station: ‘There are three greens on the District Line. With six parks, three greens and a common, it is small wonder the District Line is colour-coded green.’ He also told us that the District Line is 140 years old but he wasn’t a train driver back then, the Bakerloo Line turned 103 last week, the Northern Line is 101 years old and the Victoria Line is only 40 years old and he remembers when it opened.

I was actually heading to the Strand to vote in the Queensland election. I tried the other day but after waiting for half an hour while they restarted their computer twice, I gave up. And today it turned out I wasn’t on the electoral role! I had emailed the Australian Electoral Commission to keep my enrollment updated while I’m overseas and they had replied saying they would pass it on to the Electoral Commission of Queensland. Doesn’t look like they did. Anyway, I still got to vote but as I’m enrolled in quite a safe seat I don’t feel like my vote will make much difference. I don’t think I’ve ever voted in a marginal electorate! I was supposed to have dinner last weekend with a friend from back home and I was really looking forward to discussing the Queensland election with him. Alas, he was too hungover. I don’t really have anyone else here that is as interested in the nitty gritty of elections as I am (and is also from Queensland). We did get an email from Paul’s mum with her commentary on it and I really liked that (thanks, Paul’s mum!). I remember last year when I found out the Liberals had won in Western Australia so the states (in Australia) were no longer all Labor governments – as they’d been for a little while. I turned to the Australians I worked with and I really wanted to comment on it but I knew none of them really cared about that stuff! Where are my fellow politics nerds?

Last night I went to Helen’s house and I met a really friendly guy called Stephen and we talked about politics and art: two things I love. It was great!

I am working all of next week – sounds like a boring admin job (a lot of filing) and the pay is not much but it’s better than not earning any money! Hopefully it will lead to something else.

Today Paul has an exam for his Microsoft Certification.

Still unemployed in Meanwhile City

March 11, 2009

To allay my unemployment blues, last Thursday I went into town and saw the film The Baader-Meinhof Complex. Baader and Meinhof were communist terrorists in Germany in the 1970s. I didn’t have any sympathy for them or their fellow terrorists by the end of the film – not sure if I was expecting to sympathise with them or not. As is always the case with watching a dramatised version of true events, I was left wondering how close to reality the story was. Another dramatisation of true events I would like to see is Milk, based on the life of Harvey Milk, America’s first openly-gay person elected to official office. I have seen the (very good) documentary The Times of Harvey Milk which I would recommend highly (and so feel I don’t really need to see the dramatised version now).

On Friday night, Paul and I saw the film Franklyn. It was ok. Not brilliant but entertaining enough. It was set in London and Meanwhile City.

On Sunday we had yum cha with some people I used to work with and it was nice to catch up with them.

I have a job interview today (fingers crossed!). Afterwards I’m going to Queensland House to vote in the Queensland election and I might go to Tate Modern.

I have actually been spending a lot of time on an art project about positive and negative thoughts. See some positive affirmations below:
I deserve love and success and happiness, cross stitch, 2009
I am totally adequate for all situations, cross stitch, 2009
I am totally adequate for all situations (detail), cross stitch, 2009
I am good enough just as I am, cross stitch, 2009
Loving others is easy when I love and respect myself, cross stitch, 2009

I love lolcats

March 6, 2009

So to cheer up my unemployment blues, I spent some time on I can has cheezburger today.
funny pictures
moar funny pictures
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I really need a job and/or lots of money

March 5, 2009

I am getting really sick of being unemployed because I’m not going anywhere/seeing anyone (to try to save money) so I’m bored and lonely, and instead of enjoying my time off I’m just stressing about being unemployed. So Paul has given me some money and today I’m going to go into town and watch a film (£4 at the Prince Charles cinema!) and wander around and enjoy London damnit!

Also, it’s still quite cold. This winter has been so cold and I’m really over being cold all the time. Why won’t it end??!!! At least it’s Spring now so it should hopefully start to warm up (however slowly). And I’ve started reading again (the epic fantasy Magician by Raymond E Feist, book one in the Riftwar saga).

Weekend with Stu

March 2, 2009

Stu came to visit on the weekend. On Friday night we went to Brixton to catch up with Scotty who is briefly visiting London and will be moving back to Berlin shortly.

On Saturday we showed Stu around lots of shops so he could buy shoes and look at London stuff. We went to a street of shoe shops (Neal Street in Covent Garden) and a street of musical instrument shops (Denmark Street off Charing Cross Road). We went to Tate Modern to the Rodchenko and Popova exhibition and to the Kinetica Art Fair 2009, an exhibition of moving art near Baker Street. Then we caught up with a couple of friends of Stu and Paul’s from Brisbane (Rory and Anthony).

I have now been unemployed for four weeks and I need to step up my job-hunting efforts! While I have been going to the gym and working on my art quite a bit, not earning any money is not helping our plans to save money for travelling this year.