The merest hint of a cold for both of us on Friday, so close to our Japanese trip in a few days, led us to take a far more leisurely approach to our weekend this week. On Friday, for example, we had planned on meeting up after work for another wander around the British Museum's Crafting Beauty in Modern Japan exhibition, followed by dinner at nearby Biwon or Abeno. Instead, we went home and made oven-cooked fish fingers, chips, peas and loads of tartare sauce for a TV dinner with Steve Coogan's very funny Saxondale - followed by store-bought apple crumble. Oh, we eat well!
The bright and sunny Saturday morning saw us still in bed at 10am. M finished re-reading Haruki Murakami's South Of The Border, West Of The Sun and flicked through a couple of Daido Moriyama photobooks, while I watched music videos on my iPod - an eclectic mix of David Bowie, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Leonard Cohen and The Pussycat Dolls.
While M read the weekend FT over a breakfast of toast and sheep cheese, I watched Rachel Allen cook a slow-cooked, spiced shoulder of lamb on BBC1 and surfed the blogosphere. Then it was my turn to browse the Saturday papers, while M watched Football Focus.
By lunch, though, we were both itching to get out and about. We hopped on a bus then walked a little along the Regent's Canal to the Parasol Unit on Wharf Road, where we viewed Yutaka Sone's Secret For Snow Leopard exhibition. Sone's latest work reveals an intense fascination with natural phenomena - intricately carved marble sculptures of icy landscapes, crystal snowflakes and models of dense green and mossy jungle; and yet the man-made world is also etched out in exquisite detail in the undulating terrain - houses, skyscrapers, roads and ski slopes.
We lunched at Life on Old Street where M ordered the cake set consisting of adzuki bean cream and green tea ice cream, and I ate a beautifully presented French toast with Japanese sauce and green tea and adzuki bean ice creams. The service was attentive and we shared the large bare brick, wood panelled space with three very cute toddlers with wild black hair, and their more refined mum.
To the Barbican to pick up a birthday card for M's sister and then a cab to the Chisenhale Gallery for Hiraki Sawa's mysterious and meditative multi-screen video footage combined with subtle digital manipulations capturing the shifting light of a cultivated forest surrounding a Shinto monastery, birds flocking over churning waste water being pumped into the sea, a moon rising over and fireworks exploding above a nuclear power station set at the ocean's edge, land and sea and skyscapes morphing into one another... This rates as one of my favourite pieces of video art I've viewed in recent years, along with Runa Islam's Timelines, Yang Fudong's No Snow On The Broken Bridge and Pierre Huyghe's A Journey That Wasn't.
We walked back along the Regent's Canal towards London Fields, admiring the multi-coloured Autumnal leaves, but it was not as leisurely a stroll as we'd hoped because we spent most of our time dodging manic, earnest cyclists. Onto Broadway Market and lemon and ginger tea for M (or lemonade and ginger tea as our waitress kept saying) and Rooibos tea for me at the Gossip cafe, where I got out my diary and we firmed up a daily itinerary for Tokyo and Kyoto. Then we met up with the birthday girl herself for melt-in-the-mouth 10oz Argentine fillet steaks, thick-cut chips, Serrano ham with palm hearts and a variety of empanadas at the busy Santa Maria Del Buen Ayre.
Back to ours for Arsenal's match against West Ham on Match Of The Day and hot honey and lemon drinks as M's sister is also nursing a cold.
On Sunday, we left the house just to stock up on provisions - chicken from our local butchers, miso paste and daikon from our local Japanese store, vegetables and fruit from our local Turkish grocery. Then we spent the rest of the day at home. For lunch, M grilled a couple of salt-coated mackerel and served it with grated daikon and miso soup with wakame. He had a long bath with lots of essential oil of ginger for his cold and I settled in with some books, some magazines and the internet. I also reviewed my packing list for Japan and started putting a few things into my suitcase.
For dinner, M has cooked a lemon-stuffed roast chicken with rosemary and will serve it with roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli. Then we will settle in to re-watch Café Lumière on DVD - the tender and contemplative portrait of a Japanese reporter named Yoko who researches an article on a Taiwanese musician and copes with an unexpected pregnancy and impending single.
What a chilled weekend.