Monday, September 10, 2007

A weekend affair

M returned from work on Saturday morning at 4 and then had to leave again after four hours sleep. Alone, I spent the morning contentedly pottering at home, but by lunchtime I was itching to get out and about.

Luckily by lunch, M had finished his work and we met up at the ICA where we lunched on handcut chips slathered in tomato sauce and mayonnaise (me) and linguine with black olives, basil leaves and cherry tomatoes (M).

Then we went to the ICA cinema and watched first-time American director Gary Hustwit's Helvetica - an engaging and witty look at the world's most ubiquitous and, it turns out, controversial font. The documentary charts the font's origins back to a small foundry in Switzerland in the 1950s and its rise to wordwide prominence as a clean, modern and functional typeface - the staple of global corporate and national and local governmental logos and signage, from the US Postal Service to American Apparel.

Here's a great interview with Gary Hustwit in the Daily Telegraph.
"One day in 2005, Gary Hustwit was wandering through the streets of New York, listening to music on his iPod, when he suddenly noticed something very odd. The signs on bin lorries, the opening-hours notices hanging from café doors, a newly opened American Apparel store: all of them were emblazoned with exactly the same kind of lettering. He looked around a little more: to his left was a billboard advertisement for American Airlines, to his right the name of a subway stop; these two also shared the same typeface. 'It was like a secret language,' Hustwit recalls. 'It seemed like I was the only one who realised it was everywhere.'"
Walking outside, after the film, I admit I couldn't help counting all the times I spotted the Helvetica font - much to M's annoyance.

In need of more knitwear now the temperature has dropped, I popped into John Smedley. John Smedley has been making fine knitwear from its mill in Matlock, Derbyshire for over 200 years now and its Merino yarn is specially bred by nominated wool growers in New Zealand. The production process is meticulous, as its website describes:
"After knitting, the garments are scoured or washed using water from John Smedley's three springs - this is a crucial stage in the manufacturing process giving the garments their characteristic 'soft handle'. Additional processes render the garments shrink resistant and machine washable, a unique feature considering such delicate techniques are applied. Each John Smedley garment goes through three stages of hand supervised pressing to ensure correct fit and shape before highly trained seamstresses hand finish the garments, applying neck trims, buttons and John Smedley labels."
I bought an extra-fine (30 gauge) Merino wool cardigan in charcoal grey. The yarn is so soft and sumptuous and smooth that it feels like a second skin and I can't stop touching myself! I will return for a few more colours.

We then popped into the White Cube in Mason's Yard for Gary Hume's American Tan exhibition featuring abstracts of the athletic forms of American cheerleaders in mid-performance but heavily objectified so the eye hones in on split crotches, legs akimbo, a pom pom atop a taut arm. High gloss paint on large aluminium canvasses and painted bronze sculptures. The effect was both pornographically disturbing and thrilling. And as an aside, I couldn't help being reminded of American Apparel ads.

In the evening, we saw A Disappearing Number by Complicite at the Barbican - a play about mathematics, identity, love and loss.

Srinivasa Ramanujan, a poor, young Brahmin, was working as a clerk for the Madras Port Authority at the turn of the last century when he wrote an unsolicited letter to British mathematician GH Hardy. The letter contained highly original and unorthodox mathematical theorems that Hardy thought "must be true because, if they were not, no one would have the imagination to invent them". He persuaded Ramanujan to overcome his Brahmin taboo on foreign travel and come to England, and later Hardy described their meeting as the "one romantic incident of my life".

The play interweaves the relationship between Hardy and Ramanujan with that of a modern day relationship between a mathematics lecturer and her husband who works in hedge funds. I thought the intertwining of narratives worked really well. The layering of sound and film was also brilliantly executed, and one of my favourite moments in the play was the interplay of kathak dancing, kathak chanting and the recitation of a mathematical numbering sequence.

A few things didn't quite work for me: the recurring conversation between one of the protagonists and a call centre worker from Bangalore was cliched and stereotypical; the play could have delved more deeply into the "romantic" relationship between the English and the Indian mathematicians; it could have explored India's ancient history of mathematics better; and it could have made more of the links between mathematics and kathak dance.

It also took me a while to gain empathy with the two modern characters and early scenes with them detracted from the main story. However, by the end of the play I was so empathetic with all the characters that I was in tears. The first time I've ever cried at the theatre.

Sunday was a quieter affair. M put in a few hours working from home during the day. We grocery shopped and cleaned the house; we breakfasted on poached eggs on toast; we read last weekend's papers because we hadn't finished them last week; we blended strawberries and oranges into juice; we surfed online and flicked through magazines. We have so many magazines still to read - Marie Claire and Red, the Tate Etc magazine, Wallpaper*, Monocle, the Royal Academy of Arts magazine, BBC Good Food, The Economist, New Yorker (devoted to food) and my personal guilty pleasure Oprah. M is in France on business from tomorrow, for three days, so he packed.

We also strolled through the park and ate a late lunch at Ottolenghi in Islington. I've passed by this place many times before but Tommy's blog reminded me that I really should try it, so we did. What a place - such devine salads and cakes! Between us we had wonderfully dressed salads of flavourful beetroots, potatoes, mangetout, French beans, courgettes and sweet potatoes, and scrumptuous desserts of a vanilla and rose cup cake and a mixed berry pavlova. Why can't they open a branch in Soho?

Later in the evening, while M was on a conference call, I made a Moroccan meatball stew for our dinner. But by the time it was cooked, M announced he had to go into work again. So I ate alone and have enough for tonight (Monday) too for M is away.

M is a "magic circle" lawyer and this week he's worked 80 or so hours spread across 7 days. I am proud of him because he rarely complains, he enjoys his job, and he still wants to enjoy what little free time he has (with me!). I will never again moan when I myself have to work long hours. Those City lawyers earn alot but they certainly earn their keep, and then some.


Hypatia said...

Wow! What a great weekend, despite the mountain of work keeping the two of you away from one another - it seems the moments you had together were even sweeter for the time you had to be apart.

Another moment of almost-crossing paths IRL: I was sitting outside Carluccio's on Upper Street, trying to order a coffee at about 2.30pm but after absolutely no service for 40 minutes, we got up and left... and strolled past Ottolenghi. That place is great, glad you've discovered it!

Bombay Beauty said...

My weekend involve some cookery, which I will blog on soon. Glad you got out to the Hume exhibition. I agree with your assessment, indeed something disturbing. But something about the medium, at least for me, cooled it down a bit. There was an interesting article in the New York Times Magazine on someone who is developing a new font for American highways (no longer freely accessible, but in case you're looking search for The Road to Clarity, by JOSHUA YAFFA). Cheers, BB

Little Nutbrown Hare said...

I agree, we need a branch of every good thing in Soho!

Olivia said...

Yikes, 80 hours in 7 days. It's a good thing it's a rotation, otherwise he might start dreading the start of each day. What are his normal hours like?

Oooh, I could do with a bit of cashmere this winter, as it promises to be a cold one, and I've already spent the past two days shivering in the art dealer's office!

I look forward to seeing the new font one day. You'd think they'd have all been invented by now. Sans serif is sans serif! Not?

Planethalder said...

Thanks all for the comments.

BB - I found the article in the NYT - it's here.

Olivia - he usually does a 60 hour week - still alot but standard. My own hours hover around 45 on standard weeks.

Planethalder said...

Hpy, I thanks the heavens I met a guy like my husband. He has an insatiable appetite for life and is endlessly curious and it means he doesn't couch surf in his free time (something he is wholly entitled to do working the hours he does).

But don't get me wrong - he knows how to relax too - but in short bursts!