Janie, tiring of hearing all about my new yet ancient hobbies of baroq-ulele and real tennis playing, has decided to take up a new hobby of her own; pole dancing.
Today was her fourth lesson. As we had arranged a day off, I thought I would have a relatively light day of exercise, taking advantage of the studio where Janie was having her lesson to do half an hour of stretches and abs before hunkering down for an hour with my Economist.
I kept up with Janie and her teacher, Lana, for the first couple of minutes of stretching, before they went off into the stratosphere of stretching and I reverted to the gentle, safe stuff I do regularly in the gym.
I was still doing my clams when Janie and Lana started working through some pole routines.
I was about five minutes into my Economist reading when my phone rang. Chris from Lord’s. Could I possibly help out and cover for a last minute drop out at 17:00 today.
I realised that I could, instead of reading the Economist and watching Janie up a pole, trundle over to the flat and pick up some kit, enabling me to help Chris out.
So I did, missing out on Janie’s further improvement in lesson four:
Lana assured me that Janie is a natural at this sport and I must say that her progress in such a short time looks quite remarkable to my untrained eyes…
…which is more than can be said for my slow but relentless progress at real tennis.
I did have time to drop Janie at home after her lesson but she said she’d like to watch me play, as she hasn’t seen it for a good few months.
I asked Janie to put some energy into putting my opponent off while she watched, but she signally failed to do that.
Janie did take a few pictures, though, plus a couple of short vids, one of which, remarkably, shows me landing a chase of half-a-yard on the return…
…which is a pretty good shot. I’d like to assert that I land half yard chases with some regularity, but that wouldn’t be true. Still, please invest 8 seconds in the vid below and you’ll see how it’s done:
We’d both had fun and we’d both enjoyed following each other’s hobbies. That’s a good day off.
Janie and I spent a very enjoyable evening with Simon Jacobs at his place.
We chatted before dinner about a multitude of subjects; mutual friends, old times, cultural matters and a few intractable world problems which we three would be able to tract in a jiffy if only “they” (whoever they are) would let us take charge of the world.
Simon then suggested we eat, starting with a yummy, bright green vegetable soup.
Simon prefaced the serving of the soup dish with an anecdote about a nurse, who had told Simon emphatically that lightly-cooked broccoli is a super-food that cures and/or staves off almost all known ills.
“Ah, so this is broccoli soup, I suppose?” said I.
“No”, said Simon, “as it happens, this is watercress and spinach soup”.
Clearly Simon is utterly cavalier about his health and that of his guests. Tish.
Next up, an extremely tasty Lancashire Hot Pot, with thyme as the prevailing aromatic herb complementing the well-balanced mix of lamb and vegetables. Rounded off with a leafy salad.
But back to the preview pieces for the second album. I would tell you all about the amazing tracks and snippets we heard…
…but if I did tell you, I’d have to kill you, which seems a little excessive in these circumstances and also might reduce Simon’s potential buying audience once the second album is actually released…
…just rest assured, patiently, that Simon’s second album will be well worth the wait, but wait we all must.
Here, just to keep you patient, is an unplugged song from Simon’s YouTube channel. This song isn’t destined for Simon’s second album, nor is it on his first album, it’s just meandering aimlessly around Simon’s living room, like an untamed pet:
In turn, I tried out one or two songs I have been dabbling with on my baroq-ulele, including my forthcoming performance piece for the Gresham Society soiree.
Simon and I swapped tips and cutting remarks like two old mohels on a mission, while Janie gently reminded us that it was getting late and that all three of us probably wanted to hunker down to follow the test match before turning into pumpkins at midnight.
As we left, Simon expressed his sense of foreboding about the test match while Janie and I expressed how much we had enjoyed our evening.
In the end, it occurred to both of us that four exhibitions in one day is overdoing it at our age…actually WAS overdoing it even when we were younger and less discerning.
So, we resolved to visit the Tate galleries on our Wednesday off (I was so tempted to use the headline “Tate-à-Tate”), then to take in the two smaller exhibitions at the Royal Academy a couple of days later, by taking advantage of late Friday opening.
We enjoyed all four exhibitions, but the highlight for us was undoubtedly the first one we saw; Modigliani.
Just in case any Ogblog readers remain confused, I have embedded the trailer for the wonderful Modigliani exhibition below:
We both really loved this exhibition. Not only does it show a superb selection of Modigliani’s work, but you get some real insight into his working world, from his early days in Paris to the end of Modigliani’s relatively short and tragic life.
A tip for anyone planning to go to this exhibition; do make sure you bagsy a (free) ticket for the Modigliani virtual reality studio: The Ochre Atelier. Both Janie and I thoroughly enjoyed that experience. You feel that you are sitting in Modigliani’s studio from three different angles. You can’t quite smell the smouldering Gitanes in the ashtray, but you do sense the breeze coming in through the window.
Impressionists In London – French Artists In Exile 1870 to 1904
We had the car with us, making it a surprisingly short hop from the Tate Modern to the Tate Britain, via Lambeth Bridge.
This exhibition has been somewhat maligned by the critics, but we enjoyed enough of it to justify the visit.
Many of my old school friends, for example, will appreciate the scenes from suburban London where the French artist refugees seemed to congregate for a while; doing some interesting impressions of 1870s Upper Norwood, Sydenham, Lordship Lane and the like – Sarf London Ooh La La?
Cricket loving friends, d’autre part, should love the impressions of 1870s cricket, from Tissot (surely not an Impressionist) hanging out with the I Zingari lot in St John’s Wood to Pisarro’s wonderfully impressionistic crickety park scenes.
In fact, there were quite a lot of Pisarro works on various subjects, probably worth the visit alone. Monet’s foggy London scenes are also well worth seeing if you have never seen them before – as it happens we had seen them before but were very happy to see them again.
Jasper Johns – “Something Resembling Truth”
This was a far more interesting exhibition than I expected. I had a few key images in my head for Johns (flags, numbers…) and didn’t realise the diversity of his work when you see a full tilt retrospective, which this undoubtedly is.
It’s patchy; Janie and I both enjoyed some but not all of the works, but there was plenty to enjoy and I (for one) was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the work and variety of styles. A lesser-known middle period in the 1980s, for example, yielded interesting work to my eyes.
Dalí / Duchamp
Janie and I both love Dalí’s better works and many of those were on show in this exhibition. Duchamp’s art, we felt, was less interesting. Marcel Duchamp was clearly a very interesting thinker, but perhaps not such an interesting artist.
Well worth a look at this exhibition, though, with a good selection of artefacts and photographs as well as art works.
Further, with the Jasper Johns and the Dalí / Duchamp exhibitions located next to each other, it really does make sense to see both in one go, unless you are very short of time and/or have an aversion to seeing two shows in one go.
We had a mixed juice (or non-alcy cocktail) in the RA members bar after the shows, served by a comedy combination of competent barman and clueless waiter.
Here are some link terms to reviews of the four exhibitions:
But don’t take the experts’ words for it – we’ve all had enough of experts after all. Janie and I thought all of the exhibitions were worth seeing, but if you can only see one of these exhibitions, for us it would have be the Modigliani.
How Tom kept the event secret goodness only knows, but Toni was genuinely surprised to see us sitting there in the restaurant waiting for them when she and Tom arrived; she genuinely thought she was going out for an evening just with Tom.
On our previous visit we’d enjoyed some sort of special set meal based on some award-winning dishes. On this occasion we tried a more regular style of Oklava set menu (if you can describe any of this food as regular):
A couple of unusual looking wines caught my eye; so unusual that the waitress suggested that I taste them before choosing them. The white was a dry muscat; perhaps she thought I was expecting something sweeter but it was in fact more or less what I expected and a very interesting wine.
The waitress warned me that the red, a blend of noble grapes, was quite a lot sweeter than one might expect. On that description, I anticipated the taste of communion/kiddish wine – heaven forbid – but of course it was a very interesting blend, a little sweeter (perhaps through the riper Turkish growing conditions) but well-suited to the Turkish style food.
The food was excellent again at Oklava. The chilli roast cauliflower was a highlight for me (Janie didn’t like that one much), but the pomegranate glazed lamb breast and yoghurt was a hit for both of us.
It was a superbly convivial evening. Lisa, Janie and I hadn’t met Mike, Claire or Sophie before, yet it felt like a gathering of eight long-standing friends from the word go.
Well done and thanks, Tom, for gathering all of us together; it was a very enjoyable evening.
Brian had mentioned the forthcoming event to me some weeks ago, when we ran into each other on the street, so I had saved the date. Brian had told me to expect Ha-Joon Chang and Yanis Varoufakis. I had read the former’s book, 23 Things…, back in the day, but had not got around to reading any Varoufakis. So I one-clicked a copy of And the Weak… , reading it a week (ironically) before the event.
I highly recommend the latter book, btw, especially the “modest proposal” appended at the end of Yanis’s book. Those nine pages should be getting far more thought and attention; they should be required reading for anyone who cares about the future of Europe and European people.
Brian hadn’t mentioned Ayesha Hazarika ahead of time so I had to look her up; a former advisor to the Labour Party and the Remain campaign, now seeking solace in comedy. Sounds like a natural progression to me.
Comedy and economics sounded like my kind of thing.
Before the main event, over pre-panel drinks, I met some very interesting postgrad/researcher types, plus several of the Economy charity’s staff and trustees. A very bright, young and friendly bunch.
Economy’s big thing is to try and make economics understandable to the general public; a very laudable aim. I tried not to bore people too much with tales of The Price of Fish derring do…
…but I do find it hard to express how I feel about making economics meaningful and comprehensible without reference to the book.
I didn’t notice anyone sidling away from me and one or two of the Economy people tried to encourage me to ask a question for the panel session, which I didn’t really want to do and in the end I was rather glad I didn’t get around to it.
As is so often the case with this type of event, the best bits were before and after the formal session. Not that the formal session was all that formal.
Ayesha set the tone for the formal session by being really quite funny when introducing herself and in her early responses. Good self-effacing stuff. Ha-Joon and Yanis picked up on the irreverent tone, but I don’t think either of them should give up the day job for comedy.
Victoria Waldersee of Economy did a superb job of trying to cram a heap of questions about important economic & political issues into a 45 minute panel comprising three people who all talk for a living.
Predictably, the answers didn’t get all that far during the panel session; it reminded me a little of Question Time on the TV – except that on this panel all of the opinion was pitched as anti-economics, anti-capitalist and anti-establishment…
…which is fine as far as it goes, but I wanted to hear what was suggested in the place of everything that is wrong and heard little in terms of alternative proposals and solutions.
More confusingly, I found the panel sometimes at variance with the charity Economy’s raison d’être, with Ha-Joon and Yanis both suggesting that it is impossible to teach economics to youngsters without indoctrinating them with neo-classical economics clap-trap. I don’t agree. We might need a significant shift of emphasis or lens for teaching young people the right building blocks, which means that we might need to teach a lot of teachers to teach differently, but ignorance of vital topics is surely not bliss. Surely it is possible (even if difficult) to change curricula?
Yanis’s big takeaway on education is that young people should be taught economic and political history and not taught that pure economics is sort-of about maths. I buy into that part.
I don’t buy Ha-Joon’s rather emphatic view that economists are to blame for the 2008 crash and each of the preceding market bubbles and failures in the past 100+ years…
…that sounded a bit like a bigot’s rant against his least favourite ethnic group, immigrants generally or some despised far-away nation. Ha-Joon is clearly not a bigot, but to attribute blame so simplistically does an injustice to the undoubted quality of his own mind.
Such simplistic, finger-pointing style was in part a symptom of the shortness of the formal discussion and attempts to match Ayesha for comedy. The audience (there must have been a hundred or so of us crowded into the studio) lapped up the irreverence generally; I suppose that reaction egged on the Professors to attempt greater heights of mirth.
Ayesha, in fact, cleverly switched away from unsubtle comedy when she described her experience of politicians grasp of inflation (almost non-existent) and when she explained inflation in simple, human terms – hard working care workers no longer able to feed their families without resorting to food banks because the prices have all gone up while their wages haven’t.
So by the end of the formal session I was convinced that Economy is a good cause but I was not convinced that the formal panel discussion had relentlessly advanced the charity’s cause; economists and economics had been all-but universally damned.
Indeed, so nervous was I of being thought of as having anything to do with that maligned category of people, economists, I didn’t dare mention my Keele connections – click here if you dare – which I always thought of as being “very much of the left” but with a balanced, open-minded aspect; clearly not sufficiently left in some circles.
OK, I’m now exaggerating for effect…must be catching.
I had some really interesting conversations after the main event; a real mixture of people. One very interesting fund manager who reads books but was now trying to spend the rest of the evening incognito, some more of the Economy people and a very pleasant chat with David Graeber, for the first time in a couple of years.
As always, I thoroughly enjoyed an evening at Brian’s place, meeting interesting people and having my thoughts severely provoked.
I’d like to help the charity Economy if I can; I have one or two ideas…
Yet for some reason this piece simply did not press our buttons. Perhaps Janie and I had seen this subject matter covered with more power elsewhere. Perhaps the characters came across as rather stiff and cold to us, rather than the bottled-up emotion that (I suspect) was supposed to be portrayed.
It is a short piece and is (as more or less always at the Orange Tree) thoughtfully designed and produced in the round. So don’t necessarily take our word for it.
So I thought it was to be comedy doubles. Ideally with me writing the script and Chris doing all the work.
John Random, who directed that 1992 show, on learning that Chris and I had been reunited through this strange game, had expressed a desire to see real tennis. So I had the idea to invite John to watch Chris and me play in this match.
Initially John said yes to that idea, but the weekend before the match, he was selected for a Compare The Meerkat advert and had to pull out of the Lord’s tennis spectating role. It transpires that John has previous in the matter of phoney slavic accents and extremely dodgy fur:
In the end John’s inability to show up at Lord’s was probably just as well. For a start, that Trotsky beard would not have gone down well at The Grace Gate. Further, in any case, Chris Stanton was also a no show on the day – surely not another one summoned to perform with an anthropomorphic gang from the mongoose family?
So, captain my captain Josh Farrall partnered me in the first match. Sadly there are no photos from this match, but there is a stock photo of me playing in a previous match – that isn’t Josh watching me hit the ball all wrong.
Exhausted by our endeavours, I nevertheless volunteered to relieve our captain from multiple duties by taking his slot in the later match he was scheduled to play.
This gave me the chance to partner Nick Evans, who is even more of a novice than me and against whom I was scheduled to play singles the next day, against a delightful Middlesex couple (including the MURTC team captain) who are also more novice than me, although not by much.
This time it was my turn to chose the venue. I did a bit of research and decided that Galvin La Chapelle was conveniently located for John to get home to Saffron Walden and for me to get home after an afternoon in the City.
I’m normally a bit disappointed when choosing City places – usually high prices and not special food – but this turned out to be a very pleasant exception – an extremely good meal. Not cheap, but good value for the quality of food,
My turn to chose the venue meant it was John’s turn to pick up the tab. Many thanks John.
John came round to see 41 Lothbury on the way – he’d not been to our new (not so new any more) offices yet.
Then we wandered in the direction of La Chapelle. I thought we might go to Balls Brothers on Bishopsgate, not knowing that it is now a building site.
So we had a quick drink in the ever-reliable George Pub, on the junction of Liverpool Street.
It was there I told him about Janie’s new hobby, pole dancing. I also showed him the photo Janie had sent me on the Monday.
The above news and views seemed to lighten John’s mood considerably.
We then had a lengthy debate about whether we were less than five minutes from La Chapelle (as John thought) or more than that (as I thought). Mr Googlemap said six minutes but John decided that means less than five at our walking pace.
But by gosh it was worth the five-and-a-half minute walk, it really was.
John started with the velouté, while I had a crab lasagne starter. John went on to the mushroom risotto while I went for the duck. John tried the cheeses after, while I tried the cheesecake.
Truly excellent food and (after a slightly slow start) very charming and superb service.
John was a big hit with the waitress who brought the bread, charming her with bread facts, such as:
in the old days the bakers’ sweat was part of the enzyme process that brought the yeast to life and thus gave the bread its texture and flavour;
the phrase “sent to Coventry” comes from bakers being expelled from their guild and prohibited from practicing within 100 miles of London. This second “bread fact” does not stand up to Wikipedia scrutiny, which prefers the Civil War rationale.
When the same waitress turned out to be the cheese waitress, John considered mugging up on some cheese facts as well, but I suggested that it would be a better, more self-effacing ploy to admit to knowing little about cheese. This tactic did seem to work pretty well and the waitress confessed that she too was new to the cheese duties, but then went on to explain the cheeses in great detail.
You get the picture; it was a fabulous meal and I always enjoy such evenings with John even when the food is less fabulous. So this one was well-memorable.
When I got word that Rich “The Rock” Davis was to be over from Canada for a short while in mid November, I thought I’d probably miss out on the resultant gathering. I explained to John Eltham that I only had the one available evening throughout the period on offer.
But this was one of those occasions when the timings went fortuitously. Not only could I make the appointed day, but it transpired that Nigel Godfrey would be visiting from New Zealand and that Paul Hamer would be visiting from an even more remote and obscure corner of the Great Dominions; Southampton.
Indeed, also by happy chance, Paul Hamer’s earlier engagement in London was in Paddington, within spitting…well, in truth, walking, distance of my flat.
So Paul and I spent an enjoyable couple of hours late afternoon catching up at the flat; it’s only been 37+ years. Chat was interspersed with the odd business call and a short baroq-ulele recital by yours truly, before we journeyed across London to join the others at the Walrus and Carpenter.
It ended up quite a large gathering this time, with a few people I hadn’t seen for decades; in particular Justin Sutton (peering from behind Perry Harley in the above picture), with whom I chatted at some length at The Walrus, plus David Leach, who arrived towards the end of the Walrus session.
I was also graced by a brief audience with Sir Nigel Godfrey at the Walrus and Carpenter. I had always thought that his gong was for services to the beauty pageant industry. I hadn’t realised that he is actually “The Right Reverend Sir Nigel Godfrey”, presumably honoured for clerical services to the New Zealand laity.
Nigel explained how irritating it is for people, like himself, who wish to use multiple titles, that on-line drop down boxes tend to offer only “The Right Reverend” or “Sir” but not “The Right Reverend Sir”. A tad first world, that problem, but I hope I looked suitably doleful and I audibly sympathised.
Once the Rajasthan eating session was in full sway, Nigel also chimed in with a story about a near-disaster with window-leaning and errant train doors on the journey to school, back in the day, before the health and safety brigade quite ludicrously took such character-forming matters out of the hands of school-children. The resulting conversation about such disasters (real, near and imagined) was in the worst possible taste and those of us who were laughing should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves. Really.
I shall also delve into my diaries as soon as I get the chance to recover some other memories of train journeys to school (with Justin Sutton, Andrew Levinson and Rupert Jefferies) and also at least one teenage adventure with the Levinson siblings, coincidentally very near the scene of this evening’s “crime” – the old Billingsgate Fish Market (just across the road). For the latter, I have photographs.
Everyone seemed to be in good form and good spirits; as usual the evening flew by. I should also mention Phil (one of John Eltham’s colleagues, top left in the final photo above) who joined us again this time and is excellent company. Also a thank you to John Eltham for organising, as always.
Plus a massive thank you to Perry Harley – it was great fun sitting next to you again this time, Perry – even more fun watching you deploy your accounting skills so diligently and indeed so very many times over, to avoid successfully the dreaded bodmin, ensuring fair play and fair pay.
This one, in the Bush Studio, was a two-hander with just a table, two chairs and two mikes as props. It was extraordinary how much “magic” the excellent performers manage to get out of that low-key set.
The play is about a reclusive but massively successful author of children’s fiction.