Anyhoo, the exhibitions. First stop was Nude at the Art Gallery of NSW (and stop sniggering up the back). That was okay. Actually, I kinda loved it, the first few rooms anyway because it had a few nice pieces from the Tate (it was all from the Tate) , including a few I confused myself as having seen recently before remembering, oh yeah, back in ’15, in situ. Love the lush high Victoriana. I know it’s uncool, but I can’t help myself. I love a fine bit of vaguely homoerotic classicism on a summer’s day. I love a Fred Leighton (Have you seen his house? If that’s the house, imagine what the parties must have been like?).
Then we moved onto Modernism, and that was pretty cool, too (though you have to ignore the cultural misappropriation of all that African and Islander imagery). Abstraction, not so much. Here, women are just reduced to the Republican ideal of a woman: all fanny and no head (see also that Chris Pine photo, tsk).
Finally got to see The Kiss, and that was a bit meh, mainly because they had it positioned wrong and the proportions were all off. And I did snigger, at the David Hockney, which was such a bad look, because I do really love them, but the line drawings of the blond and the brunette in bed with their 1966 aesthetic was so much like a certain tumblr feed o’mine I couldn’t help myself, dammit. So much like that series of Academy drawings I can’t even.
Also got to see some OMFG surviving examples of Turner’s hardcore hand drawn porn. Oh, to have seen Ruskin, the world’s greatest prude, discovering his worshipped hero’s secret smut stash of shame, oh, to have seen his little face, heh heh heh.
The modern stuff was meh meh meh, though I did finally see a Freud I didn’t loathe, and they had Bacon.
Also popped in to Manifesto again (with all the angry Cates), and then a small room of Japanese art, containing a wall of blinking numbers by Tatsuo Miyajima, which had me entranced.
So it was over to the MCA for the Tatsuo Miyajima exhibition, which was quite wonderful. Who knew you could make numbers so pretty, or mean so much, or nothing. Loved the goldfish pond one, and the rooms of blue and red. The train set with the coal was upsetting though.
The Canberra expedition, which I somehow managed despite starting the week absolutely bedridden and booking just the day before (I got bookings for everything and did end up having Canberra to myself, a combination of Friday 13th and 40C, I guess) went off with as little a hitch as I could ever have hoped for.
So I got up in the dark, caught a bus and then a train then the big bus down to Canberra, had managed to even book a balcony room at the closest hotel, and it was ready when I straggled in (see, told ya, total ghost town) so it was shower, tea and a taxi to the museum. I usually bus it, but not when unwell and 40C and oh, my dismay when I saw the line, but at least the line was inside and in air conditioning, and, it turns out, and National Museum of Australia folk know their stuff because they were properly counting punters in and out and knew the exact right amount that could comfortably fit inside so it wasn’t overcrowded at all and I could actually get in and squint at tiny treasures – no six deep scrums.
Oh, it was so worth it. Here were the 100 objects from the British Museum, more or less (not the same exhibit as they had, as some treasures don’t leave the building, but even their basement dross is better than most, the perks of having had an empire). Because it was basement dross, I’d not seen most of it before, so that was fantastic, and the joy of seeing old friends, made me so happy.
There was Augustus, a statue those Yanks should take note of (they still think they’re having elections in four years, it’s so cute, Octavian is already in place), there was Mithras, whom no one else knew (sorry Big M), there were a few of my most beloved Lewis chessmen (never noticed it before how much they resemble the chess pieces in Looking Glass, must have caught them at the right angle for once, in the right lighting), there was my very favourite Durer rhino print, somewhat fanciful and way cooler for it. That real rhinos don’t look like that is a decided failure on their part, imo.
There was the chronometer of the Beagle, a thing of beauty in shiny brass and polished wood. Never mind its staggering importance. There was the Spanish astrolabe with Hebrew text (well multicultural, in the good old days when folks got along before the zealots got in the way). There were some pieces of eight (everyone of a certain age put on a pirate voice when they saw them, which was hilarious), next to Drake’s medallion - are they saying something here? Yes, colonialism and imperialism, if not specifically addressed, was certainly a large shiny elephant in the room, and not just British, oh yeah, they had everyone from Alexander onwards also well represented.
They also had some war shields from PNG and I was pleased to see they’re still incorporating advertising logos into their tribal art – I wrote a paper on it back in the day, did proper research and everything but my whole medium is the message in tribal cultures thing didn’t take off (it’d probably get an A now though, as the world has caught with my proto-globalism paper) but anyway, I was bemused to see my paper had an appendix, as it were, and I imagined be-suited copyright lawyers staggering through the jungle to press a cease and desist letter of the highlanders, some of the fiercest tribesmen on the planet.
So that was most excellent. Caught a cab back (they’ll call one for you if you play little old lady and that’s not so much of a stretch for me these days). Crashed in the hotel room, and woke up with a crash. That was the balcony furniture slamming into the window as a massive storm with 100km winds tore in, and tore back out again. That was quite impressive to watch (I thought the hotel shaking in the storm was just me, having a bad time of it, but no, properly apocalyptic).
It was all quiet by the time I toddled off for my fillum (La La Land). Back for snacks, then passing out until dawn and tea on the balcony, watching the sun come up over the carpark, then the worst taxi driver ever (had no idea where he was going, which in Canberra is very bad indeed) out to the NGA.
Wandered through the storm-tossed sculpture garden, and then I discovered why I’d still been able to get an early-bird ticket – they’d not set a limit on the numbers, so it was as much of a zoo as the regular ticket, queuing up in the hot sun, all for vulgar gold-plated everything, an old rug and a few bits of broken garden pipe. Yes, yes, Versailles, and I was only really there because I’m still stewing that my one and only visit too much resembled a wretched childhood excursion (driver getting so bloody lost despite large signs everywhere because they can’t drive and only getting finally there at closing time) so I wanted to see whatever they had going. Which wasn’t much.
And it was nasty. Everything was designed to put down the people, with statues and inscriptions strictly stating the divine rights of kings, the evils of social ambition, that all men are not created equal and comparing ordinary folks to toads and turtles and monkeys and goats. I had my red hat on before I’d left the second room. By the time Marie Antoinette’s gold covered tea set arrived, I was smiling. Isn’t it lovely, said an old bird. That wasn’t why I was smiling.
The only thing that really intrigued me was a drawing of the ball where Madame de Pompadour made her debut into the social columns, and it was fancy dress, with groups of people done up as flowerpots and the like – the costume designers on Doctor Who really missed a trick there.
So I did a run around the rest of the holdings, so much smaller now (much like the NGV, oh dear), Warhol, Bacon, Lichtenstein, Fox, Bunny, Streeton, Long, Roberts, the usual suspects, then another cab back. Had my favourite café to myself for a couple of hours, then all the way home again.
So that’s it, pretty much. Just lots of tea and curled up in the corner with the Outlander companion guide (a collection of lists and essays, but amusing). It was nice as I’m rarely able to curl up in that corner (the hoarder from hell often makes it so I can’t get in the front door), watching the hibiscus wave at me anxiously.
It makes me happy. As does the cover of the latest issue of Empire with Ewan McGregor as Renton on the cover. I don’t know why it gives me great joy. I should be, in fact, wailing and gnashing and lamenting my wasted youth and all the things I never did and will never do, but I did that last week. Now, just seeing Renton grinning back at me from glossy paper makes me smile. Yep, Trainspotting as comfortable nostalgia, that day has come.
I do still like Ewan. Not all his films, but I saw more last year (including stumbling across some older rarities I’d not seen in the 90s). Did I tell you my Ewan story? It’s not very funny. It was when he was out here doing Star Wars/Moulin Rouge and it was when he was drinking heavily (in fact, realising the next morning he’d spent his evening talking to a fat ugly chick is probably what sobered him up). Anyways, he was lovely and funny and reminded me so very fucking much of a beloved Scottish cousin my usual terror of meeting one’s heroes dropped away, so I was standing close enough for him to start leaning on me, quite heavily, because he was really drunk. I didn’t mind, it was Ewan McGregor. Then he started stroking and petting my black velvet jacket, because it must have been pleasingly tactile. Again, I didn’t mind, because it was Ewan McGregor, and, frankly, it could have been my coat slung over a chair for all he noticed. And that was it.
I did end up with blond hairs all over my jacket though, from which I was going to clone my very own Ewan (but never did, sigh). Oh, I loved that black velvet jacket. Twas much admired and it was one of my very few cool jackets, worthy of being petted by Ewan McGregor, even when in his cups.
So that’s my Ewan story. I have a Benedict Cumberbatch story that is even sillier (those who’ve heard it before can skip this bit). Well, much like with Ewan, I have done the fangirl at the stage door bit, and even a con, but this is the story of the time Benedict Cumberbatch saw my underwear.
Well, possibly. It was my last day in London, and I’d been off to see the David Bowie IS exhibition at the V&A, because it was the only day I could get a ticket, and that was an absolute joy, the funnest thing ever. I could have stayed there all day. Sadly, weary traveller I, it was time to return to the hotel and get ready to go home. But first, I thought, a cup of tea in the café on the way.
Now, for well over a decade now, I’ve been staying at this one hotel in London. Not because my Uncle recommended it. No, he recommended one down the road near the British Library, but I couldn’t afford Uncle’s hotel of choice, so I stay at the cheaper, sleazier option around the corner. And it has a café nearby. That I used to go to, a lot. It was rough and ready but they gave you a proper workman’s breakfast, just perfect for a day of museum death marches, with a large mug of tea slammed down with that level of aggro you only ever get in British cafes (these days it’s too full of Japanese fangirls, alas).
What I’m saying is, basically, that I spent the entire first season of Sherlock thinking all British cafes looked the same until I realised no, you fucking idiot, it’s the same bloody café.
So, there I am, absolutely gasping for a cuppa. I round the corner and there’s a crowd. And vans. And a camera on a crane. And Mark bloody Gatiss blocking the doorway of the café. So, no tea, then. Well, I thought, I’ve got some small amount of time to spare (my flight was 9pm that night) so I’ll hang around and goggle.
So I did, long enough to see Benedict and Martin exit the door of 221B Baker Street to a small throng of fake press, and an enormous throng of interested bystanders, with and without the hat (yes, it was Empty Hearse that they were filming).
So, ten minutes hard work done, the lads get back into their limos and decamp. Or so I’d thought.
Show over, I lurch into the hotel, heading for their bar, still desperate for that cup of tea. But no. The way is blocked. You shall not pass. Turns out they’re using my hotel bar as a green room, and through the smoky glass I can see BC, in full Sherlock rig, perched up on a barstool, having the whole place to himself.
Okay, so, no tea happening here then. I decide to give up, get my bag out of storage on head onto the airport, hoping to find a café along the way. Meanwhile, I was still toting catalogue and bits and bobs from the V&A gift shop, so I decide, as I always do, to sling my bag on the foyer lounge and do a quick repack before travelling on.
Now I’d been travelling for three weeks, so my bag is a total swamp by now. Also, as is my habit from bitter experience, I tend to rearrange the truly festering underwear on top to dissuade all but the most hardened criminal (it’s not for nothing Heathrow is called Thiefrow).
So that’s what I was up to when Benders decides he’s bored with sole occupancy of a hotel bar and decides to wander off, wafting fragrantly past me and my open luggage, his luminous being a lot taller and thinner than I thought (my gosh, those Sherlock suits do him many favours).
By sheer instinct, I slam the lid of my suitcase down on my hand, still blithely rummaging amongst the nana knickers, so hard and fast I carry a deep red welt for the next two weeks. I’m sure Benedict never noticed, or is too much of a well brought up English gentleman to even notice he noticed, as he slipped past, but the truth of the matter is, there were my knickers and there was Benedict.
I dunno, maybe he’s still in counselling, recalling, in horror, once more, in that lovely voice of his, how there were large, large nana knickers, stretching from here to eternity, as far as the eye could see. Maybe it haunts him to this day. Maybe.
And I never did get that cup of tea. Had to wait until I got home. To Sydney. Which was a long fucking wait, quite frankly.
So that’s my story. I do have one about the time I nearly threw hot chocolate all over James Purefoy, but that’s pretty much it. I was see A Flea In Her Ear with Tom Hollander in the cast, he was there for same, and ever so dashing, with a purple scarf and everything that looked like it might have been very expensive to dry clean. I was in the bar, he was behind me, and I just turned around too fast, or stepped to the left when I should have stepped right. Whatever, whoops (and sadly not the time to start gushing fangirl). I seem to recall it was a cold and nasty night, which is why I’d gone hot chocolate instead of red wine, but either would have been disaster. Thank goodness the bar staff helpfully broiled a two-centimetre deep skin on the top of the hot chocolate (more of a scab, really), which sealed in the contents like a lid. Saved by the skin of my scalded hot chocolate.
So that’s me, the ultimate walking fangirl disaster. I could tell you the time Mark Gatiss sneered at this babbling, jetlagged fangirl so viciously he actually tweeted the insult the next morning, so pleased was he by his put down. It took me nearly ten years to forgive him (or, at least, get over it, a bit). Never meet your heroes.
Especially if that fangirl is me. Basically, I’m one to be avoided at all costs, and most people do, bless ‘em.
Still I had fun wandering around Canberra in my 1984 t-shirt, which people got, and having intellectual discourses with baristas with more uni degrees than I have. Ah, as Himself says, to be in a sophisticated city like Melbourne or Canberra where people get things.
Sydney is hard work. Did you know, in 500 years of family history around the globe, there are only three recorded suicides. Guess where. Sydney is really, really hard work.
Articles of interest from the Interwebs: https://plus.google.com/u/0/113197665355692280218/posts