Two Exhibitions And More

For those who followed my last post, no, I didn’t write this on the train home from London.  No, I didn’t stay awake either but I didn’t snore (surely not!).

I was tired after my trip to London.  I didn’t get back until late on Monday from seeing Malcolm Middleton (an indie-rock Scottish depressive who somehow always manages to cheer me up with what he calls his ‘downbeat shite’) in a converted old men’s club in Hackney.  Then, on Tuesday, I went to see the Japanese film and Palme D’Or winner called Shoplifters with Eldest and Middle Sons and that didn’t finish until quite late.  Those relatively late nights were each followed by a couple of nights on a sofa bed which is never as restful as my own bed, a lot of walking through Christmassy streets and a nice lunch with an old ex-work colleague.

Malcolm Middleton And Band At The Moth Club

Malcolm Middleton And Band At The Moth Club

Quite a lot of the walking was around a couple of exhibitions.

The first was Fashioned From Nature at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) which is on for another month or so and which I would recommend.  The V&A has an amazing permanent collection of fashion but this exhibition was more interesting for me (I am hardly a fashionista!) because it dealt more with the social and environmental impact of fashion than the development of fashion through the ages.

There were certainly some remarkable individual pieces of clothing but the focus was on how humans initially used nature to cloth ourselves – using flax for linen, fur, cotton, silk, bone, feathers and even beetle shells – and then how fashion and clothing manufacture has damaged nature through mass production/consumption.

Fashioned From Nature Exhibition At The V&A

Fashioned From Nature Exhibition At The V&A

That environmental damage began even before the industrial revolution.  I learnt, for example, that the phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ came from the mercury poisoning common among those who made felt hats.  They breathed in the mercury nitrate they used and that disoriented them before they flushed it into the water supply.  As synthetic materials were developed and mass produced, so the risk of chemical damage increased, the demand for agricultural monocultures grew, slavery became rife, and the problems of pollution and waste (such as management of micro-plastics resulting from clothing) became more complex.

There were a wide range of interesting exhibits showing sustainable fashion.  Others illustrated how fashion has been used to highlight the importance of clothing reuse and repair, and the impact of fashion on nature.  Overall it was an impressive, relevant exhibition and an absorbing hour or two.

I also visited the Modern Couples exhibition at the Barbican which was subtitled Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde.  This exhibition pulls together work of 40 couples active in art in the last century.  It attempts to show how these couples, through their passion, ideas, contacts and often experimental and strange relationships, influenced the work they produced.

As with the Fashioned from Nature exhibition, there were some very strong individual pieces on show.  Many of the relationships that were described were very interesting with several of the featured artists (Max Ernst and Man Ray, for example) cropping up two or three times in apparently intense but short-lived liaisons.  Some of couples’ relationships ended in suicide or murders of passion.  As I navigated the exhibition, I became increasingly thankful for my rather more straightforward and stable married relationship.

I Am Beautiful by Rodin

I Am Beautiful by Rodin (An Amalgam Of Two Previously Separate Works In Celebration Of His Love)

Over 40 interwoven themes were explored across the 40 couples presented – including how the men in the relationship tended to become the more famous even where the participants were libertarian and feminist.  These themes and the sheer number of couples covered made the exhibition large and rather complex.  It was impressive but I confess that I had to absorb it over two sessions; fortunately I now have the time to do that sort of pacing.

In other news: the Volkswagen is back.  Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) has been grudgingly reliant on my ailing and rust-ridden Saab to get to work.  But now the local garage has replaced the Volkswagen’s engine (and more) following the cam-belt assembly failure a couple of weekends ago.  They did this all at their cost since it was the cam-belt replacement they had done that prompted the problem.  The garage even gave us a bottle of wine for our trouble so we will continue to use them and recommend them – provided the car gets us to the airport tomorrow on our way to the Christmas markets of Cologne.  We’re looking forward to them.

London's Regent Street Christmas Lights

London’s Regent Street Christmas Lights

Wedding and Rye

Before this last week, I hadn’t been to a wedding for years.  LSW and I are just not in the right age group to be invited, although I suppose our sons may deliver on that score at some point and Middle Son (MS) seems to go to a wedding every other weekend.  Anyway, this week I got to go to one!

It was the wedding of the daughter of one of Long-Suffering Wife’s (LSW’s) friends.  I didn’t know anyone there apart from the mother of the bride but it was as lovely as weddings are supposed to be and we met some interesting new acquaintances.  As very peripheral members of the wedding party it was good fun working out who knew and was related to whom, especially as it wasn’t straightforward.

Pictures From A Wedding

Pictures From A Cotswold Wedding (At The Matara Centre)

The weather and the wedding location, just a few miles from us, were excellent.  The itinerary started with the ceremony and, after the inevitable photo shoot during which LSW and I had a walk around the grounds (with LSW contending with high heels on the grass), there was a well lubricated lunch.  There was then an interlude during which several attendees hoovered up the remaining lunchtime wine and LSW and I were able to slip back home for tea and a snooze.  We then returned for the evening event amongst the now swaying throng for a buffet dinner of tasty, slow roasted goat.

The day was relaxed and it looked like everyone enjoyed themselves – some more noisily that others – and certainly LSW and I did.  The event also gave me a reason to resurrect my suit, tie and cuff links which I hadn’t worn since I retired well over a year ago.  It’s a good job I did keep one suit following retirement and, after a bit of dusting down, was pleased to find that it still fits.

One couple we met at the evening wedding event were able to give us some advice on holiday locations in the Balkans.  We have settled on Split in Croatia for our next, short trip – squeezed in between vital football fixtures, LSW’s book group commitments and the village fete.  If we like that, then we may try a longer break in the Balkans next summer or in 2020 (LSW’s big birthday year) in a villa to which we might be able to attract our sons for a family holiday.

It’s fun to be doing all this holiday planning.  However, there is some nervousness for me associated with our Split trip in that we have left it late to book and so had to stray from the normal ‘boutique hotel’ type.  The small apartment we have taken was effectively my choice. LSW normally gets her way on hotels so I’m going to be in trouble (“dead” was her word) if this one isn’t smart, comfortable and clean enough.

There was another interesting event this week…..  We went to dinner with two friends in the village.  They are innovative and creative and it is always inspiring to meet up with them and, especially, to visit their house, goats, chickens and garden.  They run a small business called Hortus Heart and we always find what they have to say about nature and biodynamic farming fascinating even though it is outside our normal way of thinking.    They announced shortly after arrival that there would be ‘an activity’ and my heart momentarily s tripped since I was dreading having to create something.  It turned out to be an enjoyably therapeutic job of cutting the heads off a couple of sheafs of rye together.  How I love tasks like that!

Cutting Rye

Cutting Rye Together

While on the subject of tasks, having finished the painting of the TV room woodwork as reported last week, I am now onto other long-standing items on my to do list.  I finally did my tax return, applied a rather ‘Heath Robinson’ solution to fix some overflowing guttering and created a pile of chopped wood!  These achievements represent a small dent in a long task list.

Chopping Wood: Before and After (Remarkably, Without Being Stiff Next Day)