Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Family weekend

One of the reasons I enjoy travelling is the opportunity not to read but to listen to music on my MP3 player. I read a lot on the commute to and from work every weekday on the Tube, as well as at night snuggled deep inside my duvet. But because music draws me into its harmonic heart and demands 100 per cent of my attention, I cannot listen to it as background to work or play. With music playing, I get distracted from whatever else I am doing at the time. So the two hour train ride to my parents' house in Suffolk this weekend was a wonderful chance to listen to some of the music stored on my Sony Walkman. As the grey city merged into green countryside, I luxuriated, eyes closed, in the beguiling voices of Tindersticks (Can Our Love), Leonard Cohen (Various Positions), The The (Soul Mining) and Mark Lanegan (Bubblegum). Dark, sexy, deeply masculine music that hit every single tingling spot.

My parents met us at Norwich and we drove to the Francis Bacon exhibit at the Sainsbury Centre - an excellent and comprehensive exhibition offering a rare insight into the artist's evolving sources and early techniques. Thirteen of the Bacons on show were collected by Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury, who first met the artist in 1955 when he was commissioned to paint a portrait of Robert. They became friends and in 1955, at a party, Bacon mentioned a work in progress - Study (Imaginary Portrait of Pope Pius XII) - and described it as a "wonderful picture". The Sainburys offered him a lift home so they could view it but when they arrived at his studio, Bacon began slashing the painting with a knife. Bacon's destructive impulse was legendary and he often destroyed works before they were completed. The Sainburys begged him to stop and they rolled up the painting and took the Pope home. The painting was restored and is now central to the Norwich exhibition. It was also fascinating seeing the numerous drawings Bacon produced in advance of many of his paintings. It's the first time I've seen them.

A trip to my parents' house involves much relaxation, chatting and eating. I grew up in a household where my mum and dad used to argue over whose turn it was to cook. They both loved cooking and I was raised eating an infinite variety of West Bengali food. As an adult I was too afraid of cooking Bengali food because I always thought my cooking would not live up to the high standards they had set. So I always get excited visiting my parents for the delicious home-cooked Indian food I get to gorge on. This weekend was no exception. My mother cooked some mouth-watering dishes: yellow split peas with spinach; sweet potato and cauliflower curry; and minced beef curry with mixed vegetables.

We returned to London on Sunday afternoon and met up with M's family - his sister, father, uncle, aunt and two young cousins - and we gorged some more, this time on Turkish food courtesy of our local Antepliler. We stuffed ourselves on minced lamb kebabs, chicken wings, diced lamb kebabs, red onion salad with sumac, pitta and houmous, syrupy baklava and strong Turkish tea, thick, muddy Turkish coffee and lots of robust red wine.

I'd eaten so much over the weekend, I really suffered for it today. However, I think I've sufficiently recovered to eat the spaghetti and puttanesca sauce M is making for dinner tonight!

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