Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Tracey Emin

I've been wanting to see TE's show at the Hayward since it opened and somehow the summer holidays got in the way.  Our Bank Holiday plans had involved visits from family and friends but these gradually evaporated for one reason and another and we found ourselves with an unoccupied Sunday.  Of course, there are thousands of things we could do on a Sunday.  Thousands of things that don't involve a 150 mile round trip in a car but I'd spotted my opportunity and The Worker agreed.  We would go to London.

We left home at 8am and were parked (for free) by Tate Britain just after 9.30am.  We walked up to Westminster Underground, past the Houses of Parliament and Oliver Cromwell and the protest tents.  I continued to the Southbank and the Worker, J & E headed to the Science Museum.

London looked lovely but then, to me, it always does.  A Sunday morning stroll along the Thames was just perfect.  I managed to get into the show early and avoided a lengthy wait beside the beach huts that had been erected as part of the Festival '51 celebrations. 

All her statement pieces were there - the quilts, the drawings, the films, the applique, the neons.  All constructed with a fierce honesty that I truly admire although I assume there must be some personal editing going on.  I can understand why some people declaim her work for the reasons they might not appreciate it - it can look unfinished, grubby, sometimes unpalatable but she's definitely got something to say and whatever we might think of it, we look and our reaction says more about ourselves.  Just as some critics seem slightly bored by her work, I am slightly bored by the stock reaction to it.  I became intrigued by her later works, her paintings, particularly as she'd burned the paintings she'd made during her studies at the Royal Academy in her twenties.

The worst thing about the show?  Some people's decision to bring their toddlers.  There is something very peculiar and unsettling about watching a screaming child parked in its buggy next to TE's gynaecologically expressive animation.  I found the presence of children unsettling, not just because of some of the content of the work but also because much of the exhibition referenced the artist's childlessness.

I was hoping to link to the Hayward's site but the exhibition is now finished and the link tells me 'I do not have access to this site'.  Charming.  There's an interesting article by Marina Warner here that you might find interesting.

Emotionally exhausted, I took myself across Waterloo Bridge and up to Trafalgar Square for a quick snoop around the National Portrait Gallery.

I've seen the BP Portrait Award a few times and this year was beyond expectation.  Every exhibit was breathtaking in its skill and craft.  It was almost intimidating, especially for a middle-aged art student like myself.  The short biographies revealed birthdates as late as the 1990s.  The care and particularity of some of these works were miraculous.

I haven't been able to rationalise the contrast between Tracey Emin, followed by the Portrait Awards yet.  In a bid to get my trip's worth out of my day out, I felt my brain cells creak between the extremes of work I saw that day.

A trip to Cass Art just a stonesthrow from the NPG was next where I bagged some 75% off sketchbooks ready for next term. I now realise I could have had an extra 15% off with my student card but having had 3 months off, I've forgotten that I'm such a thing.  Never mind.  Bargains were had.

It had started to rain so I trundled to Byron in Haymarket to meet the family where I had a salad (not as good as last time) and they had their usual cheeseburgers and enormous milkshakes.  When are they going to open a Byron in Bath I ask?

During our lunch I discovered that the Science Museum was empty and the Natural History Museum was packed with huge queues.  I couldn't tell you what delights were on offer at either beyond buttons and knobs and dinosaurs.  They hadn't seen a Paperchase, much to E's sorrow and they'd eaten their packed lunch by 11.30am.  They looked happy.

Having had a long discussion about the merits of seeing films we could see in Swindon for double the price in Leicester Square, we decided to walk back to the car.  Haymarket to Tate Britain.  I was about to complete a circular walk!  We saw the lions at Leicester Square, the horses at Horseguards parade, the policemen at Downing Street and the protest tents and Oliver Cromwell again.

Off we set, back to our rural idyll.  I fell asleep as we passed the cars in high-rises at the bottom of the M4 and woke up at Junction 15 as we passed Wootton Bassett.

We were home by 5.30pm.  Seven and a half hours, 2 galleries, 2 museums, 3 burgers, 3 milkshakes, 1 salad, 1 glass red wine, 5 sketchbooks, 6 badges, 3 1/2 miles.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

scary thoughts involving mathematics and the X factor

I heard a few weeks ago that a couple of researchers have discovered that if you watch an hour of television after the age of about twenty five, you lose twenty two minutes off your life.  The Guardian ran an article here that explains the whys and wherefores far more accurately and succinctly than I can.

I have, however, taken the opportunity to sit down with a post-it note and a calculator.  If you are of a mathematical disposition, please feel free to check my sums.  I have checked them myself, twice, but am so stunned by the figures that I wonder if I haven't made a mistake.

Here goes.

I am now 44.  That's 19 years of television watching since I was 25.

Before we start, please bear in mind, my variables.

- firstly, I am going to work out days wasted in relation to waking hours (each day as 16 hours of awake time, approximately)
- secondly, I am going to assume that I didn't watch television on holiday (each year is therefore 50 weeks long)
- thirdly, I am going to reduce the adult years I've been watching television by 1.5 as the Worker and I had a lovely trip just before we got married


It's 19 years less 1.5 travelling years of watching television  
TOTAL 17.5 years = 875 weeks (based on a 50 week year)  = 6,125 days (wow)

I would estimate, conservatively, that  I watch 2 hours of television per day (not including DVDs).  This would work out to be 13,250 hours (yikes)

Based on the assumption that every hour loses me 22 minutes, my calculation runs something like this.

13,250 (hours watched) x 22 (minutes lost) =  291,500 minutes (4,858 hours)  lost from my life

4,858 divided by 16 hours = 303 working days lost, gone, almost a year - how scary is that.

In addition to the 303 hours I've potentially lost, I've also wasted 828 entire working awake days watching the flickery box in the corner.  That's 1,133 days, over 3 years.  Gone.  And that's a conservative estimate.

I can't bring myself to write about the highs and lows of my televisual viewing.  However it's definitely time to  'switch off the television set and go and do something less boring instead'

Are you brave enough to do the telly maths?

Friday, 26 August 2011

things I don't understand....

global economics
the 'cloud'
why facebook matters
why green beans eaten in France taste so good
why thinking is much easier than doing
how microwaves work
what that funny green stripe down the left hand side of the TV is
why I can hear a funny electrical sounding noise when I go to bed
why dust collects so densely under every piece of furniture in the house
why biscuits taste nicer than bananas
the point of Lee Nelson (I know I'm middle-aged but is he funny?)
why fingernails grow faster than toenails

Thursday, 25 August 2011


school shoes x 2 pairs
school sweatshirts x 2
school polo shirts x 2
school trousers x 1
school skirt x 1
school tights x 3
dentist (this morning)

The holidays are nearly over.  J goes back a week today, E goes back on 5th and I go back on 19th although I'll be popping into college once the kids are back to school to the library and to catch up on the summer art magazines.  I might need a new pencil sharpener.

I've been feeling deeply guilty every morning as The Worker gets ready for an early start and a drive to sunny Essex or Milton Keynes and I flail about in bed somewhere between dreaming and dozing.  He got home at 10pm last night and left at 7am this morning.  He seems to be perfectly fine with it but I am finding it tricky to justify my existence when all I seem to achieve during the day is a cursory loo clean or a little perfunctory dusting.

Must. Try. Harder.

Monday, 22 August 2011

there's no place like home...

We've been home a week.  The holiday laundry is done (and ironed - mostly).  A courgette cake has been made.  School shoes have been bought.

Our days are shorter as E & J seem to have longer and longer lie-ins.  I always thought this would be a good thing but it's taking a little bit of getting used to.  I do, however, get a few hours each day to work on whatever takes my fancy whether that's writing, crafting or drawing for college.

I've had some disappointing news on the freelance front since we came home which has made me learn not to get too excited when articles are promised and projects are mooted.  But, never mind, I'm sure there will be other opportunities coming my way sometime soon.  It would be nice to make a little extra cash but I've realised that I do need to focus on getting my degree.  Our second year counts towards 25% of the overall marks so I need to prioritise my work there rather than paid work for a while.

Spain always felt a long way away but now it feels a long time ago too.  I dug out my winter boots one day last week.  There's a definite mist-thing going on in the mornings and the trees are laden with apples and plums.  I always love autumn and the shortening of the days but this year it has come a little too soon for my liking.  I need a bit more sunshine.

Monday, 15 August 2011


This is my 500th post and I'd love to be able to write something awe-inspiring and earth shattering but it's the Monday after a holiday and I'm too busy doing the laundry, fighting the weeds on the allotment and wondering whether I should go back to Slimming World on Wednesday when I know, for sure, that a couple of pounds have crept on over the last two weeks. 

I worked out, incidentally, that in 13 days away from home our wee family of four (2 adults, 2 children) consumed in the region of 28 baguettes, invariably stuffed with ham, cheese (and in my case, cornichons).  I haven't dared look up the Slimming World Syn value of 28g of baguette.  It's best I don't know. 

The kids have disappeared for the afternoon.  I think three days in the car has cured J of his holiday agrophobia issue.  I imagine he is on a Playstation and E is down by the river.  Neither are rioting nor looting, I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that.

It was alarming to pop to the campsite shop each morning to be confronted with headlines of horror and pictures of scary looking graphs and fires on assorted English streets.  It was a relief not to feel compelled to watch the hideousness unfold via the delights of BBC News 24.  I only hope that the government can find a way to deal with all the complex issues that seem to have converged in chaos and violence.  I'm not convinced they can with their current talk of gangs and evictions.  They somehow seem to be missing the point. 

There is something terrifying about watching people of your own country damage that country and their communities not necessarily out of political and social protest but out of mindless, pointless greed and some kind of misdirected bravado.  The saddest and most worrying part of the whole thing is the complete disconnection that there seems to be between the rioters/looters/participants and their own humanity.  I saw little concern or understanding from those interviewd about how their violence would affect other members of their communities and no realisation or apology that the burning and stealing would have an impact on the people whose homes and businesses and families were destroyed or damaged.    

As always, after a spot of global drama, I like to contemplate the relevance of blogging.  You won't be surprised to hear that I feel it might be time to ditch my domestic pontifications self-obsessed recording of trials and tribulations of a tea-obsessed, forty plus, village-dwelling mother of two.  Tapping away in my rural bubble seems trivial to say the least.  There are a couple of weeks left of the summer holidays and I'm back at college in a few weeks after that. There are a lot of things going on and this little blog may put itself in the bottom of the warming oven of the Rayburn for a while.  We shall see.

On a lighter note and in the meantime, here's what I could have bought when rambling down La Ramblas last Monday.


I didn't buy anything.