|Friday, August 26th, 2016|
I successfully completed my probationary period at work this week and was confirmed in post. I dont mind having that little bit more security (it would have been much worse to not be confirmed in post!) but in itself it doesnt mean an awful lot. Some colleagues are asking when am I going to step up to the next level but I suspect I will take at least another year yet, sharpening and developing the shills I need before I even begin to put myself forward for that. Still, a little bit of good news isn't a bad thing.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: American Gods by Neil Gaiman Current Mood: awake
|Monday, August 22nd, 2016|
|Portrait Awards 2016 & Wiliam Eggleston
My glut of exhibition catch ups for the Summer continues (and nearly concludes) with a double header at the National Portrait Gallery today. I was straight in after work today to the 2016 Portrait Award exhibition. There are plenty of good entries here and a small handful that I thought were excellent but for some reason I always end up pefering the annual photo portrait prize held at the same gallery each year. Maybe I just relate more to that exhibition because in my own deeply amatuerish way I can do photography but my painting skills have barely developed since I was 7 years old so I am never going to do anything like these beauties. The second exhibition was of William Eggleston photographic Portraits. My ignorance of his work had been so close to total that it makes no difference but I am slightly better educated now and I did quite like what I saw though the exhibition lacked many deeply memorable images.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: How Proust Can Change Your Life by Allain De Botton Current Mood: awake
|Friday, August 19th, 2016|
|Painting With Light & Conceptual Art
I saw two exhibitions at Tate Britain today, one I enjoyed much more than the other. 'Painting With Light' looked at the interrelationship between painters and early photography and how the one affected the other. Plenty of good stuff here. The 'Conceptual Art' exhibition was a bit more of a mixed bag. Conceptual art is all about raising ideas which challenge art from the materials used to how images are received - even the nature of what actually constitutes art. I am all in favour of that discussion and enjoy it when I find a piece of work provokes questions within me. What I found at this exhibition is the work tended to produce one of only two general reactions: "Hmmm, clever" or "Tut, wanker" and not a great deal in between. Sadly there was more of the latter than the former. The exhibition was focused on a particular period & place (Britain in the 60's/70's so maybe some of the ideas seemed fresher and more exciting at the time. Maybe.
This week I have been mostly reading: Of Love & Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Current Mood: awake
|Sunday, August 14th, 2016|
|Tate Modern Triple & More
My exhibition catch-up spree continued today with a triple bill of shows at Tate Modern. Taking full advantage of the fact that they stay open late on Saturdays I popped in after work to get my fill. I also wanted to see how the new building (opened this Summer) was working out. Rather than write my usual separate reviews of each I thought I would roll the whole experience up into a single post.
My first stop was the retrospective of Mona Hatoum as this exhibition has been running for a while and is due to close soon. Hatoum is a Palestinian artist whose work is new to me. Part minimalism, part surrealism and totally engaging - Hatoum uses sculpture, photography, video installations and more to create work that genuinely resonates all kind of emotional responses from the humourous to the horrific. Some of her work I found disturbing (in a good way!) and some I found beautiful in their strangeness. I regret not finding my way to this exhibition sooner.
My next stop was Georgia O'Keeffe, the only artist I was a little aware of before my visist to the gallery, though what I knew about her work before today I could have comfortably written on the back of a stamp. I knew she was American and a modernist (for what little that is worth) but what I was not aware of was the sheer breadth and beauty of her work. She was an amazing coulourist and I am a sucker for that. She also has a very distinctive (I would say deeply feminine) style that now I have seen a range of her work I would probably recognise again in the future - her style is that distinctive. That is no small compliment.
Bhupen Khakhar was the last (and not least) of the three exhibitions I took in today. He was another artist I had never heard of before the exhibition, or so I thought. It turns out that there is one of his paintings I was already familiar with and it turns out to be the one that gave the exhibition its name - 'You can't please all' - which is a theme I guess he returns to in several of his works. Something about his work reminds me of Diego Rivera in that it often depicts 'ordinary' people, but also there is something slightly simplified about his style and again there is a brilliant use of colour which seems to be pretty key to my tastes these days. I also learned that to some extent he was something of a controversial figure in India, partly because of his sepictions of very ordinary (i.e. lower class) people but also because of his sometimes frank depictions of sexuality, particularly his own.
I would have walked away from any of these exhibitions feeling pleased with both what I had seen but also what I had learned - to find three such exhibitions in a single visit was something of the perfect storm - but the day did not end there. The new building looks brilliant. After seeing three back to back exhibitions I didnt take the time to look at much of the work displayed there but the building itself is a great place, striking and interesting in all the right ways. There is also now a viewing platform on the new 10th floor which promises 36- degree views of the London skyline. I went and had a look and it certainly does but this is not without its problems. Firstly there is a small fleet of lifts which on a normal day may be adequate but on a busy Summer Saturday struggled to cope with the volume of passengers - getting to the top took ages! When you get there it is pretty bloody packed with tourists. There are tourists milling about and blocking the view (I dont mind this, its what tourists are for) but there are also tourists ambling about aimlessly, not looking where they are going and paying no attention to other people trying to move about. This is deeply annoying anywhere but when its in a space you have struggled to get into in the first place (due to crap lifts chock full of tourists) it does little to improve your mood. Again, a busy Summer Saturday is maybe not the best time to enjoy this space. Finally, the view istself is something of an anti-climax. The front of the building already has a viewing area on the 7th floor which overlooks the river and the additional three floors of height add little to this already brilliant spectacle. The views in the other directions are much less interesting as in those directions there is comparatively little of interest to see and what notable landmarks there are is often obscured by the mushrooming high rise buildings that are springing up all over London. This includes immedeately next to the gallery - so that on the side of the platform where there is a high rise immedeately next to the gallery there is a sign which says "Please respect our neighbours privacy" which is hand because even 10+ floors above the city they a right opposite a viewing platform where thousands of tourists a day can see right into their homes!
Overal this was a really great trip. I can hardly believe that I did all of this after work. By the time I made it home (still the right side of 8pm) my working day seemed like a dim and distant memory. Bonus!
This week I have been mostly reading: The John Lennon Letters, edited by Hunter Davies Current Mood: awake
|Saturday, August 13th, 2016|
|Hockney Portraits & A Still Life
The second part of my Royal Acedemy double bill today was the much rated Hockney Portraits exhibition. The last Hockney show I saw (also at the Academy) was breathtaking. It was the large canvas (huge scale) landscapes exhibition and I thought it was brilliant. The portrait exhibition was a little more restrained in comparison. The galleries major exhibition space was taken up with the Summer show, so this show was going to have to be smaller in scope. The canvases were not on the same scale as the landscapes either. I would say they were 'just' regular portraits, but there are a few things I like about Hockney and one of them is his brazen use of colour. This is something the two exhibitions had in common - they provided a wonderfully welcome splash of colour.
I have to say that I did not recohnise the vast majority of the sitters for these portraits (Barry Humphries was I think, the only exception). I don't know if this was intentional or not. Ultimately I dont think it mattered - I enjoyed seeing them and especially their overly vivid colours. For some reason there was a single still life included with all the portraits. I don't know if this was just for the contrast (or for the hell of it) but I enjoyed that aspect too.
This week I have been mostly reading: Talking Heads by Alan Bennett Current Mood: awake
|Friday, August 12th, 2016|
|Academy Summer Show 2016
After a bonkers Summer dealing with evil landlords, less than brilliant health and increasing demands at work I am finally starting to get back to something like a normal schedule and finally getting around to the museums, galleries and shows I have been wanting to see. After a training day at work today I headed for two exhibitions at the Royal Academy, the first of which was the annual Summer show which has been running for a couple of months and is due to close within the next couple of weeks.
Weirdly (or not) the show itself was something of an anti-climax compared to the previous years I have atteneded. Maybe my expectations were too high but this years collection seemed to lack the outright spectacle of previous years and while there was plenty to see, very little of it jumped out at me. There was a massive painting by Gilbert & George. I haven'y actually seen much of their work in the flesh so to speak, but I wouldnt describe myself as a fan so the thrill was fairly limited.
Towards the end of the exhibition in the last few rooms of the gallery I did find some peices that I really did like - and these for me stopped the show being a bit of a washout. Maybe I am just becomming jaded in my old age. Current Mood: awake
|Tuesday, August 9th, 2016|
|Curtain Up At The V&A
After work today I managed to pop into the V&A museum to catch their exhibition 'Curtain Up'. I had been intending to do this all Summer but had only just found the time. The exhibition looks at 40 years of theatrical productions in two of the worlds most prestigeous theatrical districts, Broadway in New York and London's West End.
I wanted to both see the show myself and assess it as a possible option to entertain my god-daughters with when they visit later this month. (They have both enjoyed the West End shows that we have seen). There are some spectacular costumes and props on display but by and large the exhibition wasn't really inspiring me until I came to one of the later sections that featured some of the shows the girls and I have seen together - in partiular The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time and Matilda. These were particularly brilliant shows and highly visual in terms of innovative set design. This part of the exhibition was brilliant and it might have convinced me to give it a go. We will see how the weather and other plans hold up!http://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/curtain-up-celebrating-40-years-of-theatre-in-london-and-new-york
This week I have been mostly re-reading: Flat Earth News by Nick Davies Current Mood: awake
|Monday, August 8th, 2016|
On my way to an entirely differnt exhibition today I passed the Royal Geographical Society building and had to pop in to see their current exhibition. Each Summer they usually host the Travel Photographer Of The Year competition - always a brilliant display. I haven't checked yet to see if that is still on this year but their current exhibition is the Environmental Photographer Of They Year. This is not quite the same scale as the travel photography exhibition but many of the striking images would be very much at home there. This was a great find today.http://www.rgs.org/WhatsOn/Exhibitions/Exhibitions.htm Current Mood: awake
|Saturday, August 6th, 2016|
|Sound And Music
I had the deep honour today to see a piece of music composed by my eldest goddaughter played by professional musicians. She has been taking part in (among other things) a Summer school at the prestigeous Purcell school in Bushey. She attended a weeks worth of workshops and collaborations which resulted in her and other students having work they had each themselves composed being played by professional musicians. The quality varied in both ambition and execution but the overall effect (how these young people had been brought together and inspired) was deeply impressive. I do not need to see my goddaughters perform in this way to feel proud of them, I feel that every day and I hope they know it, but days like this really do not hurt at all.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: An Anti-Capitalist Manifesto by Alex Callinicos. Current Mood: awake
|Friday, July 29th, 2016|
|The End (Again)
This week I have been mostly re-reading: The End by Charlie Higson.
This is the last in a series of books aimed at 'young adult' readers. Its a post apocalyptic story featuring zombies (kind of) and is set in London. The gap between my buying the first book in the series at it's launch and the final (7th) book ran to several years. I fully enjoyed reading the very well written set but wanted to re-read them in a back-to back fashion without the seven year wait. I still found them very entertaining and the details are certainly easier to follow but there is a certain added tension in waiting for months at a time to resolve a cliff hanger and I did kind of miss that.
I will pass the set on now to an actual young-adult as part of the down-sizing of my own library. That feels appropriate. I also need to say that I enjoy the weird confluence of citing Charlie Higson (one of the fast show team) as an author in my regular 'This week I have been mostly reading' part of my journal - a homage to the 'Jessie's diets' section of The Fast Show. I don't expect anyone apart from me would notice or care but I find it pleasing! Current Mood: awake
|Sunday, July 17th, 2016|
I wasn't planning on marking it, much less celebrating it but on Friday I remembered that it was exactly a year since I was admitted to hospital with a more or less life threatening blood clot on my lungs. To my surprise during the day I kept remembering what it was I was doing at the same point exactly one year ago - assisted by the fact that I was on a sleep in shift at work again this year - the same shift I would have been doing if I had made it into work.
The first flash was when I passed through the tube station I use for work - the same point in the journey last year when I gave up the ghost and arranged an ambulance for myself. Then during the afternoon and evening I kept remembering (in quite evocative detail) my journey through A&E, strapped to an oxygen tank and awaiting a confirmed diagnosis - stil expecting (until around 10pm that night) to be sent home rather than admitted to a ward.
It is only realy with hindsight that I have come to appreciate how ill I actually was at this point. Tiredness (caused by the oxygen blocking clot) was my over-riding sansation, much more so than 'illness' as such. Also at that point I had still been forcing myself to work - it was only with the hospital stay that I realised how debilitaded I had become (walking six feet became a massive endevour) and it took several months for me to get anywhere near back up to speed. The drama of the illness - especially of the near fatal consequences - was still yet to materialize in my consciousness. I was aware of being in hospital, feeling crap and struggling to breathe while all the while playing down the seriousness of what was happening partially to calm my loved ones but also out of a skewed sense of proportion - apart from the 'breathing thing' I felt fine!
I had not really thought much about my illness since I returned to work but I suprised myself with how vivid my memories were once i had cause to think about it again.
This week I Have been mostly re-reading: The Hunted by Charlie Higson Current Mood: awake
|Thursday, July 14th, 2016|
|The Great British Graphic Novel
Another exhibition I caught up with in the past week or so was 'The Great British Graphic Novel' at the Cartoon Museum in Little Russel Street. Given that the Cartoon Museum is fairly small this exhibition was never going to be grand - but it did a great jon in highlighting the history and continuity of British graphic storytelling which goes back way longer than graphic novels as we currently know them. It was great to see that particular form in it's greater historical context - but also deepened my appreciation (as if that were needed!) of the amazing role played by (in particular) 2000AD back in the day. I have seen a few good exhibitions here over the years but this was one of the best. Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, July 13th, 2016|
|Deutsche Börse 2016
Catching up with gallery and museum visits, last week i caught up with the Deutsche Börse Prize exhibition at the photographers gallery. This is I guess the contemporary photography equivilent of The Turner Prize with a £30,000 award to the winner. I've been to a few of these in recent years and it is becomming increasingly rare that I like the final selection. Often there is work that you can see is of interest either because of its highly unusual subject matter or that there is some way technically that it stands out from the norm - but rarely is there anything easy on the eye. The emphasis I guess is on challenge and inovation within the field rather than conventional beauty. Nevertheless it remains fun to visit.
This week I have been re-reading: The Fallen by Charlie Higson Current Mood: awake
|Tuesday, July 12th, 2016|
A while ago I set myself to trying out different recipes - nothing fancy just learning to cook things that I do not normally try. I didn't get as far into this challenge as I would like but today at work I cooked my first ever fish pie from a recipe I kind of made up as I went along. It turned out to br pretty bloody nice too so I am adding that to my repertoir pretty sharpish.
My service users loved it and came back for seconds. Sadly my colleagues were less than enthusiastic. All three of my co-workers tonight were of African origin and found the concept of 'Fish Pie' to alien to contemplate (which is partially why I cooked, rather than them). None of the three were prepared to try it and one of them made herself an alternative dinner before we had even started dishing up. I found myself to be a little offended by this. More upsetting than people not liking it was fully grown adults not even being prepared to try it - it took me about 90 minutes to make it from scratch. The important people enjoyed it though and so did I - so sod them! Current Mood: awake
|Monday, July 11th, 2016|
|Six Months In The Job
I realised today towards the end of my shift at work that I had been working in this new position for exactly six months. It simultaneously feels like a long time and no time at all. I havent died yet and neither has anybody else so that is some benchmark maybe. To be honest, if it wasnt for this thing about that stupid rent increase I would be enjoying the whole experience a lot more - the benefits of the new higher salary now go directly to my landlord. On the plus side, if I wasn't earning this new salary I would be completely fucked and probably homeless around now.
So far so good then. Current Mood: awake
|Sunday, July 10th, 2016|
|End Of Euro 2016
I have enjoyed watching much of the Euro 2016 tournament (especially the England Vs Iceland game!) and have enjoyed some modest (but mixed) successes betting on some of the matches. I did not bet on every match (not even a quarter of them) but enough of the bets came off. Sadly some tiny margins at the end spoiled some of my longer range predictions.
Before the first kick of the tournament I predicted that France would face Germany in the semi finals and Germany would then face and beat Portugal in the final. Portugal fluked their way into the final as predicted but Germany failed to beat France to the final, which France ultimately lost to Portugal. Having lost £20 on Germany not being champions (which would have won me nearly £200!) I wasn't that bothered about who actually won the final.
Prior to the start of the tournament I predicted that France would not win it - despite them being favourites. On the night of the final, having already despatched the Germans I had expected them to at least narrowly beat Portugal. The consolation prize I was looking for was to see Portugal's Ronaldo cry (I am no fan of his massive ego). This was granted quite early on in the match as he retired unexpectedly early due to injury. Even this schadenfreude was snatched away by his gleeful grin when Portugal eventually won.
I could blame the French for upsetting my predictions. I was right about them not winning the tournament but if they had the grace to bow out in the semi-finals then I reckon Germany would have done Prtugal in the final. (If I blame anyone it is the Italian referee who awarded France a ridiculous penalty against Germany - that bloke cost me a potential £200!). Not that I'm bitter!
Overall it has been a lot of fun. A number of smaller countries exceeded expectations, Wales chief among them. Iceland beating England to a humiliating exit was the result of the tournament for me. While some superstars failed to perform there were some significant new names to watch out for in the future. With the various stresses and minor illnesses of the past month it has at least been a welcome and entertaining distraction.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: The Sacrifice by Charlie Higson Current Mood: awake
|Saturday, July 9th, 2016|
|Old People's Fete
The old people's home I visit as part of my second job had a 'Summer Fete' today and I dropped in while I was visiting my job. The staff there had clearly worked hard in pulling it all together and many of the residents were clearly having a really good time - which is surely the point. The other reason for having the Fete was as part of a PR exercise to integrate the home with the local community. How successful this was will be difficult to measure but it certainly would have done no harm. Well done to everyone involved. It looked very successful to me. Current Mood: hopeful
|Thursday, July 7th, 2016|
|Old People Library Fail
In an attempt to find new homes for my books (in my bid to both spread the love and downsize) I hit upon the idea of taking a selection of books into the old peoples home where I visit one of my service users every week. I know they readily welcome donations so I knew I was on fairly safe ground. I selected a suitcase full of books that I thought suitable and went with the intention of not only donating but also to raise the possibility of setting up an in-house library in the home. I was willing to offer my time to set the library up, to talk to the residents about books and what they might like to read, to donate a huge chunk of my own books to get the library started and even to help raise donations (in books or cash) to help expand.
Sadly the meeting of minds I sought was very short lived. My donation was welcome but the idea of a library was very quickly squashed. Apparently there is already an 'activities committee' who will decide what books would be useful and was asked if I would mind if they sold whatever books were leftover to help raise cash? I could hardly object!
This is the second time in the past couple of week I have tried to use some (pretty bloody good) books from my own collection to either help out a public library or to establish one for a group of lonely old people who rarely get out and both times been fairly roundly rejected - except to suggest my books might raise a few pennies in a sale. I could give my books to a charity shop for the same effect. It seems that my idea of what a library is about is not one that is universally shared or appreciated. Bummer. Current Mood: awake
|Wednesday, July 6th, 2016|
|Chilcot & The Lack Of Joy
Political events have been moving pretty damn quickly this past couple of weeks and the overall impression of doom is overshadowing the moments would would normally give me joy - or at least some sense of satisfaction:
* Tory shit-bag David Cameron resigns and my joy lasts a total of 4 seconds as I already realize the door is now open for somebody even worse than him.
* Tory shit-bag Michael Gove effectively ends the political ambitions of fellow shit-bag Boris Johnson and does so in such a transparently Machiavellian way that he also effectively ends his own and I can barely raise a smirk.
* UKIP shit-bag Farage also resigns but this feels more like a victory for him that a defeat. The small consolation is maybe I wont have to look at his overly punchable face as much anymore. This mildest of silver linings is tempered not only by the hateful victory he has already achieved but also by the knowledge that he has already resigned once not that long ago and came back again pretty soon afterwards.
* Today saw the long awaited publication of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War. The brief was never about the actual legality of the war but it's findings are none the less damning. The report stops short of calling War-monger Tony Blair an actual liar - but it comes pretty damn close. Again in the face of the shit-storm this man's actions have caused (and continue to cause) this feels like a pretty mild rebuke. Where is the war-crimes trial he really deserves?
* The TV news carries part of shit-bag Blair's speech from his press conference. I haven't seen him on tv for years but straight away I am overcome with loathing! His faux-sincerity! His deliberate mangling of the language he uses to blur his actual intentions! Everything the fucking weasel does to dodge (even in his own mind) the blood that is on his hands! Shouting the worst swear words I know at his image on the tv was both a little cathartic and a little nostalgic, but again small comfort.
The situation currently seems so grim that victories and vindications (however significant) appear as tiny lights flickering briefly in the darkness, then fading before they can provide any comfort. What would I give to see a real political victory right now? We really need one. Current Mood: crappy
|Tuesday, July 5th, 2016|
|New Health Woes.
I have some new heath problems which have been bugging me for the past few days. First of all there is the bug that started with a sore throat, progressed through 'the sniffles' and is currently graduating to full-on man flu. This is making me feel like crap.
In addition to this I have been having some pain in my right hand side for a while. A couple of weeks ago this was just the odd twinge but starting on Saturday it has been with me pretty much constantly and is especially bad if I twist or bend my body or generally move at all. On Sunday morning while I was showering before work I found a lump beneath my skin on my body (kind of just above my ribs). I was working a sleep in shift on Sunday and couldn't really get out of it but I left work early today and having failed to secure a doctors appointment I took myself off to A&E.
The nurse who checked me in at A&E did not inspire confidence. She confided that her first guess would be that my problem is a hernia brought on by my coughing. A hernia in my ribs?! That's a new one on me! Also the pain started before I had a cold and since I have had a cold I have deliberately suppressed any coughs and sneezes as much as possible because the bloody well hurt! When I did see a proper nurse (who actually examined me rather than asked me a couple of questions then guessed without evening listening properly) and then a doctor, they did not seem that bothered either. They think the lump is either a small cyst of 'noddle' and could possibly be ignored. They advised "if it was bothering me" to get my GP to refer me for a scan and "if necessary" get it removed.
They make it sound like this is a purely cosmetic decision. As if I am going to be worried by a small lump that isn't even visible on my already ridiculously lumpy body! My actual issue with the pump is primarily actual pain followed by the restricted movement caused by the pain! In this scenario removing it isn't just an aesthetic decision. I would have hoped that given that I was at an actual hospital they might have arranged a scan for me but maybe this shifts the bill onto the GP's budget (I'm guessing).
Of all my experience with healthcare professionals in the past year, this has been one of the least inspiring.
This week I have been mostly re-reading: The Fear by Charlie Higson. Current Mood: sick