Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Tate a Tate

overcast, showers, sun, showers, sun temps 12

London, England

Blechy weather - but there's a rain/snow mix in Montreal and Sutton - so we'll take this! Besides, it really hasn't slowed us down. Have been having a blast with our friend Susan, who's over from Montreal and staying in our flat.

Went to the Tate Modern on Monday...a ticketed exhibition, the hot ticket in London - Damien Hirst. Just opened April 4th and everyone's discussing it. His art sells for tens of millions of pounds. And there's a debate raging about whether he's simply a self-promoting poseur, or a great artist. Whether collectors were brilliant to buy his works, or hoodwinked.

to be honest, I'm not the one to judge. I suspect just asking the questions almost certainly makes him an artist. And yet, Michael and I visited the Saachi Gallery on Duke of York Square and walked out, feeling the surely someone was trying to 'have a laugh' at a gullible public's expense. But I guess even that's art. It's all art. The question is - is it great art? Or even good art.

We'd heard so much about the Damien Hirst, his pickled animals, his diamond encrusted skull, his polka dots - it was hard to imagine we'd like it. But we did! Not all. We turned away from the animals - but there was a great deal else to provoke our imaginations and thoughts. Including a butterfly room, where the cocoons are attached to canvasses. The butterflies emerge, and the art literally comes alive. And then we become part of the art by being in the room with the butterflies. It's strangely moving.

We were surprised to have actually liked it. Or at least, to appreciate that a striving mind was at work.

Lots of striving to get there though. The underground had an accident, so the train stopped - and we all got off. Then we got on the wrong bus. Then we had to follow a very nice older couple, who guided us around St Paul's Cathedral. We were hoping to get to the Tate Britain(the original gallery, which houses the classics) and from there take the boat to the Tate Modern (which houses the modern art, and where the Hirst exhibition was). But we ended up across the river from the Tate Modern, and got to walk across the Millenium Bridge. Very beautiful. We saw the Hirst, then grabbed the boat back to the Tate Britain. You can see the photo of Susan and Michael in the front seats....and the Parliament buildings off to the right. And the rain everywhere.

At Tate Britain we saw some of the permanent collection, then had the most wonderful lunch in the formal restaurant. Yum!

Lots of fun running around London. Breakfast today at the Wolseley - again! Then shopping with Susan on Oxford street - then lunch with Teresa my agent at a tiny Thai restaurant in South Kensington. Have you ever had Thai ice coffee? Dear God - I could have drunk ten. And then exploded. Why did no one tell me about these before? Probably for fear of what I'd do with such dangerous knowledge. Forget the apple, I bet it was a Thai Ice Coffee the serpent used for temptation. I'd be a goner.

Tomorrow we're off to Portobello Road....would have liked to go on a Saturday, but Susan leaves Friday, and we wanted to take it in. The most magnificent Deborah Crombie send us her personal guided tour of the area....including insight into where Duncan and Gemma's home can be found (they're her fictional detectives in her fabulous crime series set in Notting Hill etc) Here's what she suggested:

The arcades and the street stalls (including Steve's) are only open on Saturday. But the fruit and veg and flower stalls down towards the bottom of the road are open every day, as are some shops and many restaurants and cafes. And I love looking down the winding street when it's crowd-free--you could almost be in a Mediterranean village, with all the multi-colored stucco.

For pub food and atmosphere, I love The Sun in Splendour right at the top of Portobello Road.

Kitchen and Pantry at the corner of Elgin Crescent and Kensington Park Road is fun for a coffee and a pastry and watching the celebs and yummy mummies of Notting Hill come and go (Duncan and Charlotte spend a lot of time there in the WIP.) Mr. Christian's Deli on Elgin Crescent is wonderful. As is Books for Cooks, on Blenheim Crescent--maybe the best cookbook shop in the world. Sadly, Otto's Cafe is entirely fictional...

As for the shops that stay open during the week, I love the antique sporting goods shop just north of Chepstow Villas (this is where the market part of Portobello Road really begins.) And just past that, Alice's Antiques is one of the most famous and most

Lots of other stuff, if you have a chance to look up Portobello restaurants, etc, and see what appeals.

Also, if you go west on Notting Hill Gate until it turns into Holland Park Road, there's Giraffe, and a lovely Daunt's bookshop, and if you want a really proper meal, The Mitre is lovely.

Duncan and Gemma's fictional house is at the intersection of Lansdowne Road and St. John's Gardens. The fictional house is not exactly like the real one, but if you go there, you'll be able to guess which one it is.

So, for any of you hoping/planning a trip to London and Notting Hill - there's the perfect Deborah Crombie/Duncan/Gemma tour!

Writing is going well - finally. Struggled a lot with a certain chapter...then I realized I'd started it in the wrong place. They need to talk about something else first - then segue into what I already had. That thought came to me in the middle of a sleepless night. I got up in the morning and wrote the whole chapter. When it's right, it just declares itself in every way.

Took a couple of days away from writing to play in London with Michael and Susan - but happily back to the story tomorrow. In fact, it was Susan's friend Martin who coined the 'Tate a Tate' phrase. Wish I'd thought of it!

Hope you're doing well! Hope you brought an umbrella - we need it!


lil Gluckstern said...

Charming, just like what you're seeing. It is so wonderful to walk as if we were there with you.

Anonymous said...

Louise, Damien Hirst is not for everyone. Glad that you saw some of his more redeeming work. Is it art? Hmm, not so sure!
Deb. certainly came through for you. She is a superb writer, and her chronicles of London read as excitingly as her books.
London s as wonderful seen through your eyes, as recall of having lived there for a few years. Miss it still....

danielle-momo said...

Love Duncan and Gemma and the Deborah Crombie tour looks fabulous. It could be my next tour after the one I did in Quebec city during marsh: the Louise Penny-Gamache tour.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update on your wanderings through London.

I'm going to see what Damien Hirst is all about too. Also, I'll check out the Crombie books.

Looking forward to reading your next story.

FB.. s. w.

Anonymous said...

I love Deborah Crombie and it would only be better if you both wrote faster. :)

Linda B

melinda said...

Your trip sounds amazing! I agree with you about the modern art (being an artist myself) it is clear how little time goes into some of the pieces, and yet there are others that have a quality that is almost indescribable. Is it a joke, or is it art? Somebody is obviously making copious amounts of money. Call me cynical - I prefer the Masters up through the impressionists. Maybe even further... Anyway, I just won your new book on Goodreads and am really quite excited to read it. It sounds so amazing with those monks and their chocolate. I must shyly admit I've never read your books before, but looking at all your awards and the fact that you love Thai iced coffee and aren't completely taken in by modern art has made me a fan already. I promise to review the book honestly - wherever you want me to. Just send me a message at pinkymolinda@gmail.com and let me know where you would like your reviews to go. I have to do one on Goodreads. I usually do Amazon too. Anywhere else you'd like? BN? Other sites? Just say the word.

Warmest Regards,

Melinda Le Baron

P.S. please ignore the bottom of this message as it is hoses up and this darn program won't let me fix it. Thanks!

me a fan already.