Thursday, 30 December 2010

some people are too talented for their own good

I can understand why some people don't get modern art, but to label artists as talentless because they have decided to produce something different is incredibly short-sighted. Yesterday I visited the Bridget Riley exhibition at the National Gallery, which opens with a painting in the style of Jan Eyck that she completed as a hideously prodigious sixteen-year-old.

Riley was obviously talented enough to compete with the classical masters, and the exhibition shows how she was inspired by her predecessors' use of diagonals and colour manipulation. However, as a modern artist she took art in a more innovative direction that was nonetheless no less informed or skilled than the work of her counterparts.

I have no doubt that this will be sabotage to the painstakingly thought-out work of Riley, but I really couldn't help thinking of Paul Smith's multicoloured, psychadelic designs when I encountered her paintings...

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

just one canaletto

So the snow has now melted, and I must admit my enthusiasm for winter has also thawed out somewhat. Today I went to the 'Venice: Canaletto and his Rivals' exhibition at the National Gallery, and it prompted me to rediscover my own fond memories of my brief visit there last spring. The pangs of nostalgia are depressing me. I want the sun to come back out and to eat 'just one cornetto' whilst being serenaded by a gondolier.

St Mark's Square then and now. Note the substantial increase in the pigeon population over the years.

St. Mark's Basin and Doge's Palace (I think).

Ciao i miei amici, a presto!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

it's a wonderful life

Despite eating and drinking being the main thrust of my Christmas, I still need things to do to fill in the idle time between meals. And whilst I probably ought to get cracking (ho ho ho!) with my reading list, watching cheesy Christmas films is so much more appealing. Yesterday my sister introduced me to 'It's A Wonderful Life', which is absolutely fantastic. Needless to say, we were crying within minutes. One of my favourite scenes is at the high school dance:

Don't you just wish there were still dances nowadays? All we got was a Leaver's Ball with an awkward DJ playing embarrassing tunes. Bring back the good old hops and bops, that's what I say!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

happy christmas!

A true British Christmas ought to be all about FOOD. It should be a day of joyous excess and carefree over-indulgence in the form of turkey, mince pies, stuffing, parsnips, pigs in blankets...oh, and Brussels sprouts, I suppose.

In the spirit of things, the beautiful London restaurant Sketch is offering gorgeous Alice in Wonderland-themed hampers to fulfil our every gluttinous desire. Nom nom nom.

Merry Christmas everyone! DO eat far too many mince pies and spoil your dinner, DO load up your plate to mountainous levels, DO swamp your food in gravy and bread sauce, and DO collapse on the sofa afterwards eating cheese and drinking port whilst battling through a food coma. Eat, drink, and be merry my friends!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

window shopping

When I was in London a couple of weeks ago I got a few snaps of some really pretty Christmas window displays which I intended to post when I got back…only Vogue beat me to it. Bah humbug.

I suppose every girl's gotta love a bitta Barbie and Ken at Christmas. Classy, Selfridges.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of my own. I am in love with the Russian-style dolls in the Chanel windows (I wonder what they do with them once Christmas is over and they’ve got no use for them? Hint hint).

There’s a shop near Sloane Street tube called Basia Zarzycka that always has gorgeous window displays. Unfortunately you have to stand in the middle of a zebra crossing to take photos, and thereby annoy numerous cab drivers expecting you to cross, so please excuse the poor quality photographs.

Top and middle: Christmas 2010
Bottom: Summer 2010

I was also particularly taken by Harrods’ impressive efforts at pumping out festive music to lure shoppers inside from the streets, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to return to take any pictures as I had just come back from the Varsity match and wasn’t sure if my blue-hued face would be particularly popular with the staff. I suppose I should count my blessings that Vogue saved me from potential embarrassment after all.

Monday, 20 December 2010

short of fred-dough

There are times in one’s life when one needs chocolate. Certain crises can only be abated with its liberal application, and the absence of its placating qualities can, in some cases, prove fatal.

Such an occasion arose on a recent visit to London, but with only a few coppers in my wallet, the circumstances were looking rather desperate. Until, that is, I remembered that great childhood friend: the Freddo bar. At ten pence a pop, the measly contents of my purse could just about stretch that far. So off I took myself to Sainsbury’s, content in the knowledge that the unassuming brown frog would soon come to my rescue.

But when I got to the confectionery aisle, I discovered – to my utmost horror – that Freddos now cost an extortionate 17 pence! This wasn’t just a threat to the surmounting of my sugar cravings – oh no, it goes far deeper than that. Freddos have always been marketed as a pocket-money treat for children, who can exchange a single silver coin for a piece of chocolatey yumminess. And now Cadbury’s have changed all that. 17 pence is a ridiculously awkward amount – you’ve either got to scratch about for an extra five pence piece and a two pence coin, or hand over a twenty pence and end up with unwanted coppers. If they’re going to be that mean, they might as well just charge twenty pence and be done with it.

You may look disarmingly friendly, mister, but your looks won’t fool me from recognising your mercenary motives.

I know that inflation makes price increases inevitable. And I know that, alas, times have changed since my long-gone childhood. But the notion of pocket money makes no sense if children must now go around with coppers clanging about their person. And it’s not even as if they could dispense with this change by buying a few penny sweets, because even they now cost two pence.

In fact, this epidemic seems to be spreading to even more favourite childhood foods. The good old Happy Meal, once a straightforward £1.99, now costs £2.29. In fairness, that’s probably not such a bad thing, given the supposedly dangerously obese generation of children we’re currently raising, but it’s nonetheless an increase that looks to be infiltrating other products. Even Chomps have fallen to the same fate as their batrachian companions, also sharing the 17p price tag. Scandalous.

It’s not just me getting pent up about this issue either. Look at the wealth of Facebook groups contesting the increases. Even my dependable Sainsbury’s Basics chocolate bars have risen from 25p to 30p – that works out as a whole row of chocolate at the original price. At this rate, I’m going to have to consider trying to curb my irrational chocolate addiction before the habit gets me into serious debt.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

sailing to byzantium

One wrote artistic poems for the divided Irish nation. The other designs beautiful clothing for a luxurious market. Despite their differences, for both Yeats and Lagerfeld, the allure of Byzantium has a strong influence in their work:

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
William Butler Yeats, 'Sailing to Byzantium', 1926

I really admire how Karl Lagerfeld has maintained Chanel's heritage in his Pre-Fall 2011 M├ętiers d'Art collection - the black and white palette, tweed, lace - whilst giving it a Byzantine-inspired twist.

"Inspiration is not a copy but a starting point...taking us somewhere new." Not usually a fan of the fashion pack's fustian descriptions, but I suppose that in relation to how he applies this Turkish decadence to Chanel's traditional style, Lagerfeld might actually have a point here.

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Oh, how I love England. A bit of snow and the entire country comes to a standstill. Brilliant. Last night I was working at a wedding in a remote castle and got stranded there along with Michelin-starred chefs, plenteous alcohol and 5-star facilities. I was suitably distressed, of course...

Got a few shots of my doggy in the snow too:

I think the snow got a bit too much for him in the end!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

too. much. sugar.

Today I spent a lovely day shopping with my beautiful friend Anna, and afterwards we made the rather adventurous (and, in hindsight, probably mistaken) decision to attempt to build a gingerbread house. I was buzzing with inspiration from an absolutely incredible party spread, courtesy of Bakerella, whose cake pops are quite possibly the cutest edible thing on the planet:

Bakerella’s post on a Christmas Party she attended reminded me of some sort of fairytale Willy Wonka-style confectionery dreamworld. Heaven.
However, our venture wasn’t quite so successful. First of all, we ate too much of the dough, so had to make an extra batch. WHAT a shame. Secondly, we baked the gingerbread in massive slabs without thinking of the house’s dimensions, so we ended up having to cut the pieces to size.

Yes, Anna is holding a knife and a ruler here. We were getting rather desperate by this point.

Unfortunately, neither of us are particularly mathematically-minded, so our geometrical endeavours weren’t quite as precise as we’d have hoped. Despite plentiful remedial work in the form of copious amounts of icing in an effort to cement the walls together, the house came tumbling down before our very eyes.

So near…

…and yet so far.

By this point, Anna’s kitchen looked like a bomb had hit it, we were surrounded by scraps of gingerbread, covered in gluey icing, and left at a loss regarding where to go next. Having bought bags upon bags of sweets to decorate the house, we resolved to cover the gingerbread remnants in icing and cover them in the sweets. Perhaps not the prettiest of houses, and definitely not the sturdiest place to live, but certainly awfully scrummy.

Unfortunately I’m now buzzing on a sugar high and my hands are shaking as I type. Nevertheless, it was jolly well worth it…although some savoury cheese wouldn’t go amiss right now.