Friday, 27 February 2009

Always watching...

I watched Hugh Jackman’s song and dance routine on you tube on Monday with Daisy. I think she is officially in love. I had to beak the rather sad news to her that he was already married. I do love the fact that she likes such old fashioned entertainment though. I must confess that I too was rather smitten and may have to kick the ever increasing girth of Russell Crowe into touch! Strange my love of Antipodeans!
I finally caught up with Mad Men via the wonderful bbciplayer. What a triumph of style of over substance. Stunning to look at but where is the plot? I love the fact it is set at the time I was born. Did people really drink and smoke that much at work? I remember it was OK to drink at lunch but not throughout the day.
High on my list of ‘must see movies’ is Three Monkeys however finding a cinema to see it is proving very difficult and I am determined to inject a bit of culture into Emin’s life. We normally only see films that we can take Leyla to but I have decided that maybe some ‘us’ time is in order. Emin did try to sidetrack me with the suggestion that we see The International. But once I had ascertained that the lead role was Clive the vampire of the movies Owen (Sucks the life out of every film he’s in) I decided against the suggestion.

I enjoyed Linda grants piece in the Guardian today, especially this

To shop with no intention of buying anything is to immerse yourself, for a few hours, in fashion. We civilians don't go to the shows; we have no access to the ateliers. We will never own a Hermès Birkin, but we can look, feel, experience. This is an actual Balenciaga dress. You come close to the source, the origin of what fashion is, the mutable mysteries of time and pleasure, the whole crazy changing world of style with all its moods and excesses and sudden surprises. For shopping is not necessarily the point of going to the shops. It's a meditation, a frame of mind, a therapy, a balm for the troubled soul

I went to Selfridges last week and lovingly caressed most of Marni ,as well as various others, I go for ideas of shapes and textures. You cannot possible glean as much from the pages of a magazine that you can by just looking and feeling. I had gone specifically to buy a pair of harem pants from Toast. I thought it was time to try a new silhouette, dress out of the box so to speak. However they made me look like a comedy clown so I meant to take them back yesterday but forgot to put them in my school bag, so having carved a couple of hours of free time I was left with amusing myself by going to see the incredible Hussein Chalayan currently on at the Design Museum
What is it about that walk along the river? Seriously that whole area must have its own micro climate because whenever I walk along that path I feel like I am being sliced in half. It was freeeezing.
The exhibition was worth the torture. It was awesome I have been to many fashion exhibitions but this one was the best. This is not just fashion; this is fine art with a capital F and should be in a gallery. Everything from conception to cloth to cut was displayed to perfection

I then walked back along the river to the Tate Modern to catch up with the new Roni Horn exhibition. It was a very gentle show and gave me hope as she is such a mercurial artist she is not easy to categorise. The show mixes up paintings, drawings, sculpture with photography. I often wonder when artists vary so broadly the media they work with whether it dilutes what they are trying to say, so it is always good to see someone who mixes it up and works in a range of media.
I get as much pleasure from painting as I do from taking photographs what frustrates me is that I get so little time to paint. Photography is able to satisfy my creative itch because my fractured day is able to accommodate it. Painting needs a continuous slice of time which I do not currently have. It reflects more pertinently my mood, which changes like the wind so colours I mix one day I cannot use the next.
The exhibition left me a little cold. I found her paintings a little repetitive and her photography sterile, apart from her amazing Still Water (The River Thames, for Example). 1999. 15 offset lithographs of the river Thames.
Based on annotated photographs of the river Thames, they are a tour de force and more so for being exhibited in a space directly opposite the river. It is worth seeing the exhibition for these alone.

This is not Roni Horn but Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. not my cup of tea, but impressive all the same.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The view from last week

So there I was with hope and expectation looking forward to a week of rest and relaxation, plus a soupçon of pampering. Ha I don't think so, but first the good, and by good and mean bloody amazing.
Here I am standing at the top of the National Theatre waiting to see Every Good Boy Deserves a Favour. How wonderful is this view? Outside also stood a group of students snapping away "wow I'm going to Facebook that one" one of them says.
I thought "wow I'm going to blog this one!"
and this one. This wheel has become amazingly iconic. One of the very many things I love about London is the speed at which it embraces the new.
The production was fabulous, so very clever the way the orchestra mixed with the actors. Toby Young was particularly outstanding. I left feeling totally uplifted.
However the next day threw a curve ball that I failed to spot or avoid. Leyla woke up and mentioned her knee hurt*, to cut a long story short He Who MUST at ALL times be obeyed decided that she should spend the day resting it as she had a Tai Kwondo tournament the following Sunday.
I am not ashamed to say I 'Lost It' Every bloody time I try to get away to Oxford on a Saturday He manages to pull a stunt to prevent me leaving on time. I know he does not do it consciously, but by leaving on the Sunday I have a) wasted a day and b) ended up travelling on a day when public transport does not exist. I cried, Leyla cried, my mother even cried. She had told her friend she was busy because I was coming and so ended up home alone for another night. From his point of view it was a job well done. For me it was all down hill from here.
* there was absolutely NOTHING wrong with it

As my mother claims that living in Oxford can feel quite claustrophobic without a car I discovered you could get a train to a small very pretty village called Kingham in about 30min's. which is what we did on a stunningly beautiful morning. The train cuts through the edge of the Cotswold's and the views of the rolling countryside are lovely.

Twee, but some how just so right.

There is something so magical about a gate that leads to a cottage like this.
We walked through the village and stumbled across a wonderful pub The Kingham Plough that sold homemade locally sourced everything
The bar menu of which we sampled most
Scotched Quails Eggs
Cotswold Rarebit and Sourdough Soldiers
Triple Cooked Chips
Hand Raised Pork Pie with Ploughman's Pickle
Poached Pheasant Egg,
Local Asparagus and Home Baked English Muffins
Snails and Mushrooms on Toast
Potted Rabbit
Globe Artichoke and Melted Butter
OK not the snails, but all but the rarebit was delicious. Mother then wanted to walk to the next village to see the Daylesford Organic Farm. half way there on a busy country road Leyla threw her first tantrum. It started as always innocuously enough, she kept wandering into the road and then after the third time of being asked to stay on the verge she stopped and like a belligerent donkey refused to move an inch. After a protracted stand off I finally managed to push her and drag the rest of the way. Once there she sulked and skulked and generally whinged about how bad her lot in life was before being rewarded with a chocolate tart whilst we shared a pot of coffee.
The journey back was slightly better, but we then realised that we had to walk another mile and a quarter in under 30 min's if we were to get the next train. ouch.
The following day Daisy and Kitty arrived, once again Daisy was unwell and so rested whilst we walked to the Botanic Gardens via Christ Church Meadow. The view of Oxford through the mist was beautiful and the water was receding fast from the flood planes.

Kitty took this photograph, she is really starting to enjoy taking photographs, she is so efficient she uses her phone and then has a little gadget to load the files onto her laptop.

And so to the Botanic gardens. Sadly the lily pond was closed but the Orangery smelt divine and there is a newly refurbished cactus house to see as well.
I had taken my Pentax with the Macro lens to try some experiments, this would have left the Lumix for Leyla to play with and keep her occupied but no, Leyla wanted the Pentax and so had yet another prolonged tantrum this time walking off and hiding or point blank refusing to move. I had hoped that mother would suggest taking both her and Kitty for some tea and cake some where, but no, instead she followed me around pointing to everything and saying "Oh why don't you take a photo of that?" "Oh, that looks lovely why haven't you taken one of that?" FOR THE LOVE OF GOD I thought its bad enough with Leyla and Kitty brawling and bickering around the place but to have her wittering in my ear was enough to reduce me to a dribbling wreck.
Back home I regrouped and went into London where I spent too much money on clothes. coming home the train was super long and as I walked to the end I saw the sun setting over the London Eye and all seemed calm once more.

I love the bridges over the Thames. I also love the randomness when taking photographs from the train.
When I first began to take photographs I was obsessed with table top tableaux and pastiches of Dutch still life's I progressed to macro photography of flowers an area where it is difficult to find anything new to say. Recently however the greatest joy I have had is the random images you get through glass, whether it is shop windows or the view from a train, they have become my voice.
With any luck I will have Flickr up and running by the end of the week. Putting my images into 'sets' has been very good for clearing my head and renewing my determination to put a story together. Watch this space.

Monday, 23 February 2009


Having cleared my 'inbox' and having realised that the battery on my camera is flat, hence no photographs, I sit down to write.
I will post the images tomorrow, with a full and frank update on the behaviour of all those who tried to reduce me to someone fit for an institution with locked cells and padded walls.
I finally succumbed to the mother of all migraines last night and it still rumbles on today.
I am back at my desk and would you believe it I had to teach, or rather allow my irritation to run away with me when it became apparent that my useless year 11's had failed to produce any research for their imminent exam. Apparently that is my job, theirs is to sit like big, fat, ugly cuckoo's with beaks agape waiting to be spoon fed. If I do not, and they fail, it is my fault, according to government statistics. Gone are the days when bone idleness was the students loss. You see I am still really pissed off.

BUT on a positive note and try not to get too excited I have finally opened up a functioning Flickr account. The down side is that I appear to only be able to load 24 photographs a month which seems a bit draconian, but maybe I have missed something.
I also need to publicly apologise to;
  • auntiegwensdiary for not saying thank you for her photo tag, it is on it's way.
  • The lovely lady who left such a nice comment about my photographs from Istanbul. I know I should have emailed you back, but I lost track of time.
  • To the countless people who email me about past posts, I am utterly crap at replying to my own mother, so trust me, you keep good company, and finally,
    La Belette Rouge for not realising I had won her Valentines Day prize. I so rarely if ever win anything so a huge THANK YOU for posting something to blighty.

I should probably add Zara to this list. I have often loved the clothes they sell, but their sizing policy is utterly crap. for example Kitty, clearly a petite English size 4/6 = XS, Daisy is a very petite size 12 = M so if I am a chunky monkey 16 what the hell does that make me? Yes you guessed it too fat for Zara. But I am not fat, In fact I am pretty well average for an English girl so whilst being dragged around Zara yet again by Leyla keen to fleece me for yet another T shirt I spied a lovely dress. I mean seriously, sooo utterly lovely I ached just for the humiliation of the view in the mirror. By a stroke of luck by eschewing lunch with Emin, I had enough time to do a supermarket style dash round the shop sans Leyla yeah. In less than 20min's I circumnavigated the store twice, found 8 things to try on, whilst the tops other than a cardie with all the buttons open are a no no, I fitted into not one but two pairs of trousers! Hallebloodylujah. One pair verges on pegged but with a drapey top it looks lovely, similar to some Rifat Ozbek ones I have coveted. The reason for success is that they are finally getting their sizes up to, in some cases an elusive 46/18!! if they could just do the same for the tops I would be a very happy Easter Bunny indeed.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Running on empty

The following is not a rant. It should be interpreted as a rather long sigh, like you would hear from a very slowly deflating balloon.

Daisy stood in the hall and let out a deep sigh “Can’t we decorate before the Swiss student arrives?” Which really sums up the state of the house and of course seen through the eyes of someone who has just returned from a designer house nestling in the side of a mountain, I think it is safe to say our house is looking pretty shabby.
I of course would like to think of it as shabby chic, but we all know that is just a euphemism for complete and utter chaos in desperate need of a lick of paint and a good scrub.
On top of this came the ultimate barbed insult “The Swiss Family's mother doesn't even have a microwave” which of course disparages my ability to feed the girls nourishing home cooked food. Which ironically I try to do, but as we rarely sit and eat at the same time most of what I cook has to be reheated to suit times of hunger and home time.. At no time do we sit together as a family which of course the The Swiss Bloody Family Robinson did…They also had a ‘wonderful power shower’ rather than the hot spit we have. I have long since given up the pretence of living a 'lifestyle' I find just existing* hard work, but I do feel Daisy’s pain.
Of course most families work together as a team, ours is made up of warring factions, neither of which are prepared to give ground to the other. He who must be obeyed does nothing and so I am left to patch the house together as best I can.

* Cooking, (quite often 3 separate meals) cleaning, going to work, pairing socks, folding and putting away 25 pairs of skinny jeans, making beds, cleaning not one but two bathrooms, picking up dirty tissues, clearing the dinning room table and wiping it, apologising daily to the Au-pair about the shocking behaviour of my youngest, running a taxi cab firm, helping out with homework, making sure that no one child is given more affection than the other....

It is now half term, my treat tonight is to go and see Every Good Boy Deserves A Favour which is on at the Olivier Theatre
I will then spend some time in Oxford so I will be off line for a week, hopefully taking some photographs if my cunning plan* come to fruition

* I am going with Leyla on her own. Daisy is taking Kitty on Wednesday, which means we are all together for lunch on Wednesday only...result, oops did I say that out loud?

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Uta Barth

One book I can afford is this one.

I was really looking forward to taking some photographs over the half term week. However the weather forecast is really poor so I may just curl up with this beautiful book instead.

John Gossage

In line with my love of all things Berlin at the moment these two books are very high on my wish list by John Gossage. Sadly they are way too expensive in England so I will have to keep on wishing.
Berlin in the Time of the Wall

Instead enjoy these beautiful images came from here

Expiration Notice

I found this interesting new blog via Muse-ings
All the featured photographers are for me story tellers rather than fine artists, they follow the genre of Stephen Shore or William Eggleston photography. It is a genre of photography I have grown to love especially the work of William Eggleston and although much of both David Wolfs work and Alan Georges work is not dissimilar to the photography of Richard Wentworth I like it nevertheless

The First Edition of Expiration Notice, the online gallery for emerging photographers 35 and over. We're very happy with the selection of photographers we're presenting today, some names you may already be familiar with, others maybe less so. Styles and content range from hardcore reportage, to the everyday snapshot aesthetic of our surrounding everyday world.

John Darwell

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Here we are again

Once more I sit and watch the world go by..Don't you just love the view from the members cafe at the Tate Modern?
I love the splash of colour that the barge gives.

Where I saw this amazing exhibition. As you can see it is not open until tomorrow but I manages to blag my way in with my members card. I would not normally make a special trip to see this but I promise you it will blow your socks of. This is a really brilliant exhibition vast but each room tells a different story.
I read in the paper an article by his grandson that Rodchenko became so cold during the freezing cold Russian winters that he put all his sculptures in the wood burner to keep warm! Luckily they have been recreated from photographs so we can enjoy them again. I am mow a huge fan and will add the catalogue to my list of wants.
I would have bought it then and there but I had just spent £40 on over 12 old Christies catalogues which to an art teacher are manna from heaven.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

I Spy

Cy Twombly
and Takashi Murakami, both coming to Gagosian Galleries in London this week. What a treat.
Tomorrow I am taking nearly 40 students to the Tate Modern, simple no? No, one is severely asthmatic AND has a nut allergy, another is epileptic, oh joy.

Jorma Puranen

A large slice of ethereal Finnish beauty can be found here This just makes me ache to go back to Scandinavia

Monday, 9 February 2009

The view from here

The rain wash lashing down on the car windscreen so heavily it created an amazing view
The prodigal daughter is back. Already she is missing the clear air, the snowy peaks and waking up in the bosom of a relatively sane nuclear family. So it was back to earth with a bump. Daisy loved Switzerland and she was thoroughly spoilt by her host family.

I packed her off with Yorkshire tea. A fruit loaf, shortbread and Marmite they loved all the sweet stuff but I think the jury was still out on the Marmite! Daisy returned with lots of Swiss cheese, more chocolate than even the staunchest chocoholic could deal with but which I will dutifully consume before lent kicks in and a beautiful Swiss penknife.

Daisy stayed in what sounds like a stunning house that had been built into the side of a mountain. It was only accessible via a steep road which you then descended from, via some even steeper steps. God knows what this poor girl will make of our house of chaos and carnage. I have got 6 weeks to whip it into some kind of order.

This week, I have to look forward to, my annual visit to The Tate Modern with 40 students, oh lucky me. but do not forget we do get the holidays and oh, I seem to have a week off next week, so off to Oxford I shall go.
The highlight of this weekend was a visit to Battersea Dogs Home. He has finally decided that life is just not the same without a dog. my criteria if I have to endure another animal slowly trashing my house and sanity is that I must be able to pick up it's crap with one hand. So no bloody Labrador's
A visit to Battersea is always sad, I could have bundles up at least 5 dogs but very few were suitable for a household such as ours. Most were for those families with out children, we offered to trade, but they did not seem interested.
However despite the excitement of the girls, we have lots of forms to fill and interviews to pass. Watch this space.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Something for the weekend

I watched this last weekend, it was just sublime, such a wonderful film both visually stunning with lovely music.
Daisy returns home tomorrow, yeah.

When she was younger I remember that every time she returned from a school trip she was utterly vile. Once when she came home she hit me hard with her bag and roundly cursed me for not writing to her EVERY DAY like ALL the other parents. More fool them I said laughing (making her even angrier)

The problem is, you see, we as parents tend to refer to our own experience as children. Trust me I neither expected or ever received a letter myself as a child, and so did not think writing about the flotsam of my life would possibly interest my daughter, whilst she was living it up.
I would be very, very privileged indeed to get so much as a text from her.
Short and oh so selective are the memories of a teenager.

Teenager Two has not missed her sister one bit, she confessed that at times she had quite forgotten about her, her scratching, (eczema) her mess, her incessant laughing at Monty Python replays.

Kitty's current favourite 'make me smile' moment is the new Cadbury's Dairy Milk advert. She loves them all, but this one seems to particularly tickle her funny bone and so she has saved it on to her mobile phone.

That something so simple can make her happy gives me hope. In stark contrast many of the girls I teach have, by Kitty's age been drunk, stayed out all night, and sadly in some cases already lost their virginity. I once had a student say rather too loudly "I wish I was still a virgin" My colleague laughed when I told her this and said "I bet he wishes her mother still was!"

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Saatch Gallery pt 2

I went to this exhibition about 3 weeks ago, I was unaware at the time that it was possible to take photographs in the gallery, but I always have a camera with me, sadly I also had both Leyla and Kitty with me as well. All was going well until Leyla realised you could take photographs, at which point a glint appeared in her eye and away she went, snap, snap, snap. Well kitty could not allow that to happen, so the pair of them brawled their way around the entire gallery trying to snatch the camera away from each other,taking it in turns to sulk or hide, either way my day was ruined.
Their reward was of course a shopping trip to Zara. This was my fault as I was convinced that there was no children's department in the one on Hans Place. How wrong could I be, they both sniffed it out downstairs and spent nearly an hour trying on clothes and arguing over who could have what etc. On the way back kitty announced that she had left her MP3 player on the chair in Jigsaw (I was only looking) So I phoned up, they had found it but they were about to close. Kitty sulked all the way home.
I went to pick it up the following week, they had lost it! Trust me a teenager parted from her beloved MP3 player is no fun. They said they would look for it and post it, which they duly did, at the cost of £6! special delivery. Joy thy name is adolescence. This picture is HUGE and was the most outstanding image of the day by Qui Jie

A fragment from a different picture by the same artist

I do not know who made this stunning sculpture, I had intended to go back at a later date to write down the names of artists I liked, because on the day I had lost the will to live at this particular moment in time.
Where did my week go? It is Friday tomorrow already. I have dutifully written my reports and now the assessment begins..

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

The view from here

Oh where to begin, how did my weekend go from 2 days to 4 days, I should have been elated, but being incarcerated in the house with everyone lost its gloss after just one day.
It is such a cliche but despite living in the northern hemisphere I reside in a city that grinds to a halt after just the merest sprinkling of snow, so when it was hit with 10 inches of the stuff it shut down for not one, but two whole days. as you can see the two girls I had left, had some fun but even they became jaded and very fractious by Tuesday. The previous day I had met mother and taken her to the Saatchi Gallery. Yes, I know I failed to post about my first visit, but I am still too traumatised by the events to write them down but give me time.
Incredibly even though it was just 3 weeks later, the exhibition had changed. I originally saw a contemporary Chinese Art exhibition, now this had been replaced by a Contemporary Iranian exhibition. Leyla much preferred the former, I the latter.
Three Generations. This is not a trick but the view through one of the exhibits, I did not realise that you could see our reflection until I loaded the photographs back at school.

Butter wouldn't melt. Not.

The way Saatchi has melded the old with the new is brilliantly seamless, I loved the glass extension, which gives you some wonderful vistas. The lighting in the gallery is the best I have ever seen too. What makes it so very good is that all this come for free.

My favourite pieces by a country mile were by Hayv Kahraman. I could not for a while think of what they reminded me of, but having seen her website here and more images here The penny dropped. Aubrey Beardsley
The paintings were very, very beautiful and well worth seeking out
I have actually seen this done in Cyprus, we were staying in the village and his uncle killed a sheep for a big barbecue that night. It looks horrible but it is by far the quickest and least stressful way for an animal to die. I liked the contrast of the butchery with the delicacy of the clothes

and what clothes they were, above are four close ups, the detail was amazing

Flag by Sara Rahbar more from here

Like Everyday by Shadi Ghadirian has a wonderful website here
I preferred this exhibition to the last one, I felt it was technically better and a more interesting and diverse range of images .
Another factor that makes me a big fan of Saatchi is that you can take photographs, which I love to do, that's when I can wrestle the camera from Leyla's very tight grip!
After the gallery we mooched around the Kings Road for a while, but it was very cold and mother was peckish, so we went to what is becoming my favourite restaurant, Oriel. Again a lovely meal, great service and we warmed up nicely. Which is just as well considering what came after.