Both M and I have taken a week off this week to do nothing but chill out together as a family at or close to home. Our week began on Saturday with a trip to the Jeff Koons exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery. From his paintings of Popeye and Olive Oyl, to his inflatable toy sculptures cast in aluminium (photo above) - I found the work banal, kitsch, fun and interesting.
Afterwards, we let Little Planet loose in the ethereal, mirrored Pavilion, where she enjoyed watching the other children and looking at her own reflection. She chats to and laughs at her reflection in the mirror at home and the other night when she was crying out in anger over something or the other, she crawled around M to look at herself in the mirror as she was howling! Nowadays, she loves flicking through our album of her photos and also laughs when she recognises her two Grans in the photos.
The three of us relaxed in Hyde Park for a while and then we wandered over to the Whole Foods Market in Kensington to stock up on cheeses, wine, steak and cold meats. We spent the afternoon in our garden at home, then after Little Planet had gone to bed, we sat down to a meal of aged fillet steaks and a salad with sesame seed dressing.
Sunday morning was spent outside in our garden, where Little Planet played, I read and played, and M planted beds and pruned shrubs. Little Planet enjoyed helping her daddy weed, particularly putting the weeds into the bucket. She will be her daddy's good little helper as she gets older, just as I always loved helping my dad in the garden when I was a child.
Sunday afternoon was spent playing with Little Planet in the sandpit of our local park. Dinner for M and I was boiled chicken with leeks and homemade aioli plus lightly stir-fried endives with blue cheese shavings.
Monday was my birthday and so, for me, began with a long lie in! Later, my mum arrived and took us all out for a big Turkish lunch. Little Planet ate pitta dipped with hummus and was completely preoccupied watching all the waiters whizz by, while the adults tucked into pizza-like pide, hearty minced lamb kebabs and three varieties of salad.
We spent the rest of the day at home, playing with Little Planet and laughing at her antics: she can't stop walking, or more correctly marching, around the house just on her two little knees - it's hilarious! And she chatters non-stop to us and to herself. In the evening, after her bedtime, we ate risotto with peas and mint fresh from our own garden. Dessert was the birthday cake my mum had bought for me.
Today we went into central London again. We visited the Korean Cultural Centre near Charing Cross, which we have always been meaning to visit. Our daughter looks like a little Manga doll and predictably she caused a little stir there among the staff. Lots of Asians from the Far East find her cartoonishly cute with her short dark fringe, her big eyes, her long lashes, her rosebud lips and her pale skin.
Then we crossed the river to the Hayward Gallery where we wandered through the Walking in My Mind exhibition that explores the inner workings of artists' imaginations through dramatic, large-scale installation art. We peered into Yoshimoto Nara's art hut and gazed, voyeuristically, at his Dylan music collection, his reference books, his Polaroids and his sketches (Little Planet went "Quack quack" when she spied a toy duck on one of his shelves); we wandered through Thomas Hirschhorn's womb-like cave and tunnels made of parcel tape; we let Little Planet loose into the hallucinogenic pink and white polka dot room of Yayoi Kusama (photo above); and we meandered dreamily through the spectral tunnels of stretched black threads by Chiharu Shiota (photo below). The whole exhibition was hypnotic and we will return very soon no doubt.
We relaxed with coffees and cakes at the BFI's Benugo bar and cafe. I've always loved this place because it has so many comfy, soft sofas and armchairs and never seems too busy. To begin with, Little Planet got very excited clambering across the sofa we were sat on and staring and babbling at the other people there, but then she sank back into it like us and settled in to happily munch away at her blueberry and raspberry rice cake.
Little Planet fell asleep in her buggy as we headed back towards Leicester Square and M took her home for her lunch. I stayed on in town and lunched alone at Mitsukoshi on Regent's Street. I had the Mitsukoshi bento box, which consisted of tuna and salmon sashimi, a simmered vegetable dish, mixed tempura, rice, miso soup, pickles and mixed fruit. The place was packed entirely with Japanese people. This is fast becoming my favourite Japanese place to lunch at. As I was eating I was also working my way through work emails on my iPhone. Then I bought two Japanese movies from the basement JP Books - Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers and Memories Of Matsuko.
Afterwards, I watched the funny and cringe-worthy Bruno movie at the Apollo, then headed to Covent Garden to pick up some wine from Oddbins and some coffee beans from the Monmouth Coffee Company. Then back to home, where M and Little Planet had spent a nice afternoon together pottering (M sorting out the study and cooking berry clafoutis; Little Planet doing what she does best - playing and clambering all over her dad).
And now she is in bed and M is making pies with chicken, porcini mushrooms, bacon and sage and thyme leaves from our garden.
Tomorrow M will spend the day generally pottering around the house and then, perhaps, seeing some exhibitions and doing some shopping in central London. I will spend the day with my daughter and my mum. But I'll leave the next portion of our week off for another post (and my Twitter feed).