Monday, February 04, 2008

Eastward bound

After a long working day, we met up on Friday for a simple, light and aromatic dinner at the Thai Garden Cafe in Bloomsbury. We started with crab cakes and spring rolls before moving on to whole sea bass roasted with lemongrass (M) and beef red curry (me). We bought desserts of creme brule (M) and sticky toffee pudding (me) from Waitrose in the Brunswick and then ate them back at home in front of last week's laugh-out-loud Curb Your Enthusiasm. Really, the 6th season is shaping up to be as hilarious as ever.

On Saturday we ventured eastwards. Under a crisp blue sky and pale yellow sunshine, we strolled along the canal, periodically dodging earnest cyclists eager to claim the path as solely their own. At the Parasol Unit we viewed Darren Almond's black and white photographs of crystalline, snow-covered Siberian forests (above). Though the ravaged, stripped trees on show were testimony to the brutal effects of nickel mining, there was an eerie beauty about the photos and their composition that made for a magical if conflicting viewing.

Also on show was Almond's fourteen-minute, three-screen film shot on the Qinghai-Tibet railway - the world's highest train route. The barren landscape viewed at a hurried pace through the train's window contrasted sharply against the meditative chanting of Tibetan Buddhist monks filmed in the Samyey monastery in Lhasa. For Almond, the train is supposed to symbolise the penetrating force of China upon Tibet, but again I was conflicted - this time by my sense of excitement watching the train speed through the wondrously undulating and stark landscape, and by the inevitable if fraught coexistence of the industrial and the spiritual in the modern world.

We continued towards Old Street. I find the Old Street area of London a curious mixture of derelict dead zones and colourful quirkiness with just the right amount of interest to draw me back again and again. What I dislike about Old Street is the endless waiting at traffic lights as the ceaseless traffic drones by. But luckily the galleries draw me back, as do the places to eat and the small boutiques. In Hoxton's White Cube, we saw more of Darren Almond's photographs - this time of the British landscape where the exquisite subject matter (left) was rendered flat and dull by highly conventional photographic techniques that wouldn't look out of place in a tourist guide.

We returned to my favourite burger joint, The Diner on Curtain Road, for lunch where this time I was only just able to fit inside their leather and formica booth. This is definitely the last time I will be able to gorge myself on their deliciously fat-laden bacon cheeseburgers, fat fries and coleslaw as my pregnant belly had just half an inch of breathing space before it pressed uncomfortably against the edge of the table. I kid you not! I savoured my food while skimming the Saturday newspapers and chatting with M, while eavesdropping on a dull young man who would not stop yapping away as his girlfriend tried to stave off her boredom by eating without stopping to breathe, while stealing glances at a couple eating their burgers while their adorable little baby contented herself with her milk and toys and gurgled gleefully at her parents. I can't wait to bring Little Planethalder to places like this!

After lunch, we popped over the road to browse the furniture and interior knick knacks at SCP before cabbing it over to the Barbican for the superlative tale of murder, revenge and meat pies to die for that is Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street. Murder, mayhem, mouth-watering meat pies and a tortured Johnny Depp who channels David Bowie through his singing voice - what more could a girl like me want. I enjoyed every second of this musical and can't wait to see it again. Though perhaps not at the Barbican's Cinema 2 which, unlike its Cinema 1, is cramped and uncomfortable.

Afterwards, we walked to the Bloomberg Space on Finsbury Square to see Sarah Beddington's Places Of Laughter And Of Crying film installation featuring near-still footage of interior shadows, drifting jellyfish, a Lebanese skyline, fluttering plastic sheeting, raindrops on concrete and more. Plus her 29-minute, four-screen footage of modern Shanghai. We had just a quarter of an hour to immerse ourselves in the installation before the gallery closed, so I'll do another review when we return.

And then to dinner at the Vietnamese Song Que Cafe on the Kingsland Road, where we enjoyed sugar cane prawns, beef wrapped in betel leaves, beef and tofu soup and beef stir-fried with lemongrass and rice vermicelli. We were also entertained by two of the staff's children who were excitedly engrossed in a computer chess game on the new Samsung laptop they had just been bought. M doesn't play chess and I can't wait to teach Little Planethalder the game so she can play with me - after all, like marriage, isn't having children all about having a permanent playmate to have fun with?!

In a Johnny Depp mood, we returned home and watched the first Pirates Of The Caribbean on DVD while eating Green & Blacks cherry chocolate. This time Depp was channeling Keith Richards to hilariously ultra-camp effect.

Today, Sunday, we didn't drift too far from home. We lay in late, drank coffee and read in bed, shopped for groceries and laundered clothes. M went to the gym. I stayed at home and finished off reading the last few pages of a number of books. If I have just a few pages left of a novel I tend to put it aside to start reading a new one. I do this because I know I will finish the book on my commute into work, leaving nothing to read on the commute back home. Rather than carrying two books with me, I bring a fresh new one and leave the unfinished one behind.

M can't understand why I don't carry the two books with me, or finish the other one later at night back at home. I can seldom read two books at once and if a book doesn't grip me in its fictitious vice then I tend to forget about finishing it once I am immersed in another story. As a result the unfinished novels pile up until I get round to finishing them off in one reading session. Curious habit I know, with little reason or logic behind it.

Anyway, this Sunday was my day to finish all those books: Douglas Coupland's Eleanor Rigby, Anne Tyler's Digging To America, Amulya Malladi's The Mango Season and Manju Kapur's Home.

On his way back from the gym, M picked up some samosas and kachori from Ambala. We don't have a famed Gupta near us but these satisfied us perfectly. M came back from the store with tales of little children with their dads choosing what they wanted to eat. He said we should make such trips our own Sunday morning ritual when we have our own little family. But I cherish my own childhood memory of my mother batch-frying homemade samosas on the weekends - filling the air with exciting smells and aromas - and I would love to establish this as one of our weekend rituals with our daughter when she's old enough to enjoy the experience.

There is so much to dream about... this new future of ours... this whole new life...

Now M is cooking our dinner of poule-au-Bouillon - whole chicken boiled with leeks, carrots, turnips, celery, bay leaves, thyme and other aromatic seasonings. He may serve it with fried or mashed potatoes. Perfect comfort food to ease us back into the busy working week.


30in2005 said...

There are so many coincidences in this post that its nearly spooky! Used to go the Diner on Curtain street quite often. Haven't been in a while. This week met a friend there for lunch and then across the road to SCP. Went out with colleagues for dinner during the week to Song Que. And popped into both White Cube (lunch break) and Bloomberg Space (one evening). Also finished Mango Season BY Amulya Malladi. ALL THIS WEEK.

Got your fab new house yet?

Anonymous said...

Did you read the information at Darren Almond's White Cube exhibition? All his photographs are shot by moonlight on a long exposure - hardly conventional technique.

Bombay Beauty said...

Can you post a how-to guide on constructing the ideal weekend? Or perhaps a column in Time Out or a newsletter? I would sign up.

I was over at the Tate seeing Juan Muñoz, followed by a very good Lebanese dinner (and too much late night champagne -- can there be too much? yes there can). Have been ambivalent about Sweeney Todd but after your rec will go for it. I saw The Savages, which I would suggest as a bitter sweet filler with good performances...



Planethalder said...

My goodness 30in2005, coincidence indeed! We are stuck in a small but sticky chain meaning our move is frustratingly delayed. We're not in a super hurry for practical purposes but I'm still getting very impatient and some very slow people!

LOL BB - I'm trying to cram in as much before baby comes!

Hi Anonymous - agreed, the technique was interesting (I used a poor choice of words) but the outcome still felt bland to me.

Olivia said...

Seriously, how are there enough hours in the day, or do you teleport around town?

You might like to visit Lotus Reads, (see link on my blog) - she reviews books regularly and has just finished Amulya Malladi's "The Sound of Language".

Planethalder said...

Thanks for the heads up on Amulya Malladi's book, Olivia. I've looked on Amazon and there are a number of her books I want to try.

BTW, I've always been a busy girl, packing a lot in, since a child. Finally meeting a man who is the same was a big part of why I married him - I wasn't going to let him go (it helps having a partner who loves doing lots of things too)!