Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ashes to ashes

Saturday began with signing yet more papers at our estate agents. We were due to get the survey from The Woolwich last week; when we didn't, our estate agent called them and were told that they were battling a huge backlog of work and we were in a queue of three weeks. We instructed our agent to switch to Cheltenham & Gloucester who assured us they would take just one week. Everyone on the upward chain is keen to move as they now have their surveys sorted. Once the survey comes through, and providing it is fine, then exchanging contracts should be straight forward and we could move in before Christmas. The waiting game is nerve-wracking, especially for an impatient girl as myself.

Afterwards, we took the Tube to Sloane Square to visit the Eyes Of An Island - Japanese Photography 1945 - 2007 exhibition at the Michael Hoppen Gallery. The show wasn't as comprehensive, nor as dazzling as the blockbuster survey of Japanese photography we saw at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum Of Photography last month (which I promise one day I will write about), but it was a good show for London as exposure to Japanese photography is still nascent here. Photographers on show were Shomei Tomatsu, Daido Moriyama, Hiroshi Hamaya, Shigeichi Nagano, Hiromi Tsuchida, Eikoh Hosoe, the sublime Hiroshi Sugimoto (above), Ryuji Miyamoto, Naoya Hatakeyama and Nobuyoshi Araki.

Fancying some Lebanese food for lunch, we tried to get into the terrific Al-Dar on the Kings Road, but as usual it was packed out so as we were heading back into town we got off at Green Park and went into the Beiteddine Express on Clarges Street in Mayfair. There we lunched on lamb shawarma and selection of vegetarian mezze - battara harra (cubes of potatoes fried with garlic and coriander), vine leaves (stuffed with rice, parsley, chick peas, mint, lemon juice and olive oil), tabbouleh (parsley, tomatoes, lemon juice, mint, crushed wheat and olive oil), baba ghanouj (grilled aubergines with sesame oil, lemon juice), houmous, and bamia bizeit (okra cooked with tomatoes, onion, garlic and oil). The lamb was very good, but the vegetable dishes, though tasty, were too salty and oily for me.

We tried to get into the Lonely Prophets - German Art From 1910 To The 1930s exhibition at Agnew's on Old Bond Street but as is usual at these tiny dealer galleries, it was shut despite supposedly being open. I vented my frustration with a wander around DKNY instead!

All was forgotten by the time we entered into the Haunch of Venison and the gentle aroma of ashy temple incense suffused and calmed our bodies. Zhang Huan's Ash exhibition, above and below, featured canvasses and sculptures made from the ash remains of incense sticks burnt at temples in Shanghai. From fine dust to coarse flakes, the encrusted and thick impasto pieces were haunting and transcendent. The smells, the intimations of life and death, the organic matter - all put this work in the lofty realms of Anselm Kiefer and Joseph Beuys. Most striking was the slumbering, hulking, 5 metre high Smoking Buddha statue on the top floor - made entirely of ash, encrusted with incense sticks and prayers and other temple artifacts. I truly felt like dropping to my knees in holy and unholy adoration.

"To some, ash seems useless and insubstantial; it is a short-lived witness to human spirituality and spiritual practice. To me, ashes carry unseen sedimentary residue, and tremendous human data about the collective and individual subconscious" - Zhang Huan.
I wish I could urge you to see it; I wish I could see it again. Alas, the show ended yesterday.

We quickly popped into Liberty to stock up on more of my favourite Kiehl's cucumber body cleanser, and into Pages on Shaftesbury Avenue to admire Bodum's cast iron tea pot (left) which I may buy for M for Christmas. I love buying presents that I too can benefit from!. Then we settled in to watch David Cronenberg's riveting, well-paced, chilling and kinetically-violent Eastern Promises, at the Odeon Covent Garden, set in the dark Russian underworld in London. Predictably, the movie has had mixed reviews from the professional critics but I didn't look at my watch once during its 100 minutes and I was swept along by the story. London looked pretty good too in all that rain and darkness.

We picked up some chocolate eclairs from Patisserie Valerie on Old Compton Street then headed home, where M made us beef steaks, fries and a tomato salad for dinner. Snuggling into the sofa with steaming mugs of 2nd flush Darjeeling and the chocolate eclairs, we ended the day watching the companion piece to Eastern Promises, The History Of Violence on DVD, also by Cronenberg, also featuring Viggo Mortensen.

Sunday is, as usual, shaping up to be a quieter affair. A lie in (8.30 for me, 10.30 for M), a leisurely breakfast of eggs on toast, grocery shopping, cleaning the house and doing laundry, then generally taking it easy. I'll finish reading Roopa Farooki's slightly cliched and poorly written but still enjoyable chick lit Bitter Sweets and will indulge in my guilty pleasure of reading Oprah magazine. I say guilty, because it's not a magazine I'd read on the Tube - I always feel a little too young to read a magazine pitched at a middle-aged audience, but article titles such as Love At Last - Just When You Think You've Missed Your Moment, or When The Going Gets Tough... 3 Rules To Pull You Through, or The Two-week Plan That Will Reset Your Body Clock, combined with that relentlessly positive Oprah attitude, get me every time!

Later this afternoon, I may snuggle in for a few episodes of The Waltons on DVD on my own while M is at the gym and then, with him, watch a few episodes of Hill Street Blues on DVD. I may start reading another novel. Which to choose? I love browsing through our book shelves working out which book takes my fancy - the anticipation is sometimes better than the reading. My sister-in-law is coming for dinner tonight and we'll eat roast chicken with pearl barley, walnut and raisin stuffing, chat loads and perhaps watch another movie.

Tomorrow, a friend is staying with us and we'll be gathering with other friends for dinner. What a lovely Monday it should be. I rarely get the Monday morning blues as I'm blessed enough to have work that is still really interesting and sometimes even exciting. But I am sad when the weekend is over because that's my time to do exactly what I want, with no deadlines and no obligations. It's all about me, me, me. Well, and him, him, him ♥.


chakli said...

It's always nice to read about your weekends. You guys eat such interesting food! :)

I loved Eastern Promises, but was quite disappointed with A History of Violence. I found the latter a bit amateurish, and the acting very mediocre. What did you think?

Olivia said...

I'm sorry you have to wait around for this paperwork, all relatively close to Christmas.

But never mind. It is obvious that you and M know how to unwind and take things easy, despite your claim of being impatient!

Perhaps a bit of a pedestrian question, but could you smell the ashen Buddha?

Your mideastern luncheon sounds delicious. Yesterday, we went to Sakonis, the indian vegetarian cafe. Who knew meatless food could be SUCH fun to eat? I swear, every time I go there I come out with a little pot belly! All that food that your mouth wants to keep tasting but for which there's not enough room? :P

My Sunday is also quiet. I'm catching up on the blogs and emails I missed this week, and am going to set up a new printer in a few minutes.

Have a wonderful Monday.

Anonymous said...


We had used C & G when we bought our first house, they are good.
Your weekend, like always sounds like fun.

Planethalder said...

Hi Chakli - I really enjoyed the pace and setting and characterisation of History Of Violence, though I admit I liked it more after seeing Eastern Promises.

Hi Olivia - yes, you could smell all the ashen paintings and sculptures including the Buddha. It was like being inside a temple.

Hi Silent One - I'm glad we switched to C&G - already they have carried out the survey and provisionally approve our mortgage subject to survey. We should hear more about the survey on Monday.

Bombay Beauty said...

PH - I've always meant to ask you, how do you choose your galleries? Time Out? Or have you just found the ones you like and gotten on their mailing list?

I thought it was a good film to, but really had to look away in parts.

It made me think (somewhat obviously) about good and evil, but also how I would have preferred the good to stay good and especially the evil to stay evil. I didn't quite feel the ambiguity of evil tinged with good that, for example, Clint Eastwood achieves in Unforgiven...

Off to the flugelbindery...