Monthly Archives: November 2007

I am learning to ride a bicycle.

I am learning to ride a bicycle. Oh yeah.

Don’t ask me how I managed to get to the age of 24 without learning earlier, that’s what everybody asks; I just did, alright. My sister can’t either. My dad did try to teach me when I was about 12 or so; it didn’t work, I guess I was a bad combination of too stubborn and too scared. Now it’s different, my stubbornness is actually helping me in a way, I’m approaching it as a kind of challenge, so I’m thinking ‘huh, riding a bike, anyone can ride a bike, I bet I can too’. Also my very dear friend, P, is helping me. Well, actually he deserves more credit than that. He is not just ‘helping me’, he is: almost solely responsible for bringing bicycles into my consciousness, proselytizing about his whenever I give him a chance; definitely the most constant source of nagging/promising to teach me ever since he found out I couldn’t, at least a year ago; single-handedly undertaking teaching me in a series of early(ish) morning lessons on the Meadows; selflessly allowing his beloved bike to be mishandled, wobblingly ridden and fallen off by me, in what he calls ‘low rider’ mode which is where he’s changed the seat to cater to my smaller proportions; running along behind me holding me up, being encouraging and apologising when he touches my bottom; tirelessly explaining every principle of bike-riding physics and engineering that I think of questions to ask him about, and even the ones I don’t; providing emotional support and tough love and absolutely not allowing me to quit; incredibly patient and tolerant and lovely and cheerful in the face of my cowering, wibbling, sulking, falling, bellowing and cursing; generally going far above and beyond the call of friendship duty; actually quite possibly a saint. Continue reading

All I can say is that my life is pretty plain.

Here’s something I wrote in London:

I went to Tate Modern with Don and Martin. We looked at Shibboleth, the Doris Salcedo crack in the Turbine hall, and raised our eyebrows; made lots of jokes along the lines of ‘kids, don’t do crack’; noted trying-not-to-sound-surprisedly how many people there were, late on a wet Sunday afternoon, I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising. There are a lot of people. I took a couple of photos of people interacting with the fissure, because everyone else was.

We looked through a crowded room of Surrealists, particularly Magritte and Ernst. I was excited to see a couple of Ernst’s landscapes/cityscapes, including a beautiful one I’d never seen that was oddly 3d, made out of cork, Dadaville. There were lots of other things there too, I especially remember lots of curvy organic shapes, some tiny little bronzes by Henry Moore, mini-Moores, not sure if they were studies or plans for larger pieces, maybe he just made them and I’d never seen any of them before, bronze would seem an odd choice of material for preliminary studies. An interesting one was roughly ovoid with three sharp points, curling in on itself like claws, the tips almost touching but not quite – a real sense of frozen movement and of electric urgency. Then on to a room of Bacons, through a really interesting set of tiny, tiny, infinitely delicate etchings by a chap called WOLS (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze, as I scribbled in my notebook), who died young before he’d ever actually printed many of them. They were amazingly varied, angular shapes suggesting dark cities alongside curly, botanical-looking, loopy little figures that reminded me of lost hair, the individual lines as thin. Bacon, of course, very powerful and angry, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion very Silent Hill, which of course actually came later so what I mean is those things in Silent Hill are very Bacon, and so they are.

After that, of course I wanted to see the Rothko room so we trooped on over, through some lovely abstract stuff – Ishi’s Light, a tall Anish Kapoor, stands welcomingly in the first room. It’s a curved sheet, like a topless, bottomless egg open on one side, it’s a cross between an egg and a revolving door: it’s matte white on the outside and shiny dark within so that the room and everyone in it are reflected, refracted, into this stretched column of light that shines right in the centre, moving to one side and another as you do. Kids run inside and push it in a way that makes me, as such a recent warder, draw a sharp breath, so it’s nice to remember that I don’t have to tell anybody off today. There are large red canvases on the wall facing it and they all become part of the inner, mirror-image, light show, it’s a beautiful and a calming thing. ‘Interactive’ in that quiet Kapoor way, not the trendy way that makes me think of ‘proactive’ and gag, but in the way that recognises that everything, all art, two or three-dimensional, is interactive if you choose to make it so, that there’s always a fourth dimension to everything, a fourth wall. I think again of the word ‘reflective’ and its meanings.

The Rothkos are as brilliant as I could’ve hoped, mesmerising, multiplied, suggestive and intricate, the colours vivid and visceral, the scale of them dizzying, you feel like you might fall forward into the dark parts, like you’re standing at the edge of a lake or a void. I am happy to have come and to have a little time to stand and stare, it’s a luxury in London to be able to feel this aware of the space around you. I feel a kind of clarity of the senses, something like focusing through fog, something like bonds or cataracts, distractions, falling away; it’s something I’ve felt at the most sublime moments of those Sunday concerts in St. Giles’ cathedral, where sound and space come together so beautifully, I suppose maybe that’s what people get when they pray.

As we leave, we pass under the spindly-legged, sharp-edged Louise Bourgeois spider and the sky’s darkening over the Thames, blue giving way to black that seems to soak, inky, upwards from the horizon. The city’s full of soft colours, warm uplighting casting gentle glinting shades on the Gherkin and London Bridge and some financial buildings, I don’t know what anything is but it’s just for looking at tonight, it’s for our eyes only. There are these streetlights, orange glowing globes, and then whitish, pinkish, green or blue tinges to all the other lights, it’s as if my aesthetic sense is rejoicing, the dark Rothkos having unlocked, reawakened something dormant, a sense of pleasure in the world, or perhaps in me. The glow of sodium vapour in the rain; more inwardly the glow of seeing beautiful things. The air’s not so cold now.

On the Tube, the beautiful everything continues – there’s this sweet grungy-gothy-punky kid biting his chipped-black-polished nails across from us where we stand, his golden brown hair falling from under his hood about his face in sinuous, relaxed locks that curl at the ends as unreal and graceful as smoke. On his chest there’re little undotted question marks of hair, on his chin too he’s displaying his burgeoning manhood, he wears a necklace on a silvery chain, I can see the clasp, which has slipped down on his right-hand side, but not the pendant.
A round-headed, solemn-faced blonde toddler sits in a buggy and kicks her squat, stubby little legs with an air of importance and of curiosity. She’s got these sparkly, cut-glass or plastic ‘jewels’ on her squarish little shoes, and infinitely smaller, more ephemeral and beautiful, rain drops glittering in her hair and on her fleecy pink hat.

There’s this absolutely gorgeous, tall guy sitting nearby, he’s got close-cropped hair so as not to distract from his lovely, smooth face with its slightly soft lines, kind of angular but kind of voluptuous at the same time; his nose and ear are pierced with simple studs shining, he’s mixed-race and has these stunning dark eyes with fabulous lashes, I wish there was more light in here so I could see them look more lively, see the little ever-changing reflected lights dancing in them and echoing the flashes of light you get from his jewellery, but he’s mostly looking at the ground. There’s a tiny hole in the seam of his blue jeans, noticing it makes me realise I wish I could see more of his body, I wish there were more holes generally. Peep-holes I suppose. He’s got a dark shirt on over a white t-shirt, if he would even just roll up the sleeves…

Then there’s a youngish, curly-haired couple – brown eyes for him, blue eyes for her – laughing together, she’s so pretty when she looks up at him and smiles. She’s not really much to write home about when you first look, but then she brings out this amazing great big grin that just lights up her face and the whole tube compartment and the whole day, like flicking a switch. He obviously says something funny and she just loves him for it, you can tell, it’s brilliant. She’s wearing a snug, cosy-looking, vintagey high-necked check coat and there’s a button hanging loose on its thread at the throat, it swings from side to side with the movement of the train and with her laughter.