Sunday, February 21, 2010

Benjamin Douglas Hargreaves

Welcome, nephew!

I am sitting in the Cathay lounge, waiting for my flight to Hong Kong, I have just sunk a beer ... and I am marvelling at the last two weeks. No posts in the last fortnight, I know I know - blame - but lots to talk about.

First and foremost, naturally, is my wonderful, mesmerising, delightful (and a little pooey) little nephew, Benjamin Douglas Hargreaves. Benjamin, Ben, Benji, BB (Baby Benjamin), Peanut, B&H ... who knows how he will grow up, but it's with the warmest, most loving mother and father, doting and deliriously happy grandparents, a welcoming home and not a bad uncle too, that he starts his journey. Hi.

He's already demonstrating a canny sense of comic timing - he managed to be born while I was dressed as a woman (ask me some other time), and waited for a full nine days before leaving the hospital, getting home a mere 30 minutes before my arrival in Cambridge. I can only imagine the mischievous giggle of forcing my own mum and dad wait more than a week to finally be allowed to meet him. Indeed, mum was like a greyhound out a gate as the car pulled into Ele's driveway - she was not going to let son #1 delay her first grandson #1 experience. I think I like him already.

I have met plenty of newborns before - bagged-up, wriggly little poo machines that gurgle and coo during regular stinky sessions, scream in the interim, and sleep for short bursts while waiting for fresh milk and chances to decorate the inside of a fresh nappy. With Ben it was a little different; the mild sense of vertigo as Ele leaves the room to have a shower, leaving me with him will be something that stays with me for a long time. The giddy reaction of my whole family watching me change my first ever nappy will be something that I hope leaves a little quicker (aren't his balls big!), but I am sure photographic evidence will prove otherwise. And watching him sleep in my arms, feet twitching in dream, was utterly magical; what is he dreaming about?; it must be blurry ... and based on only a couple of weeks of experiences. Milk or poo, in all probability.

Just try to hold her back! A Grandmother possessed!

Biddle-style greetings.

Unadulterated joy.

Mum & Mum

Sleepy time.


Some more sleepy time.

Just a little more.

No visit back to the UK would be complete without a good trip into the mountains, and we did that, again opting for Wales, and a relative break in the cold and wet / frozen weather of the proceeding weeks. Three days in the mountains getting a little lost, eating up a storm at 'The Best Restaurant in Wales 2008' and delighting in the trials and tribulations of the local farmers in the pub, warmed me up nicely for a trip down to the south to meet up with my aunt and Grandmother (isn't she wicked with a camera!) and set the ball rolling for a few days in the big smoke.

Welsh Rarebit.

Fixer upper.

Tree Cathederal


Mummy, can I have a pony?

Isn't the typography just darling?

My Grandmother is a demon with the camera!

Family business.

A semi-random encounter with Lars (are there any other types?) lit the fuse to a fine weekend in East-Central London, and rattling around with Phil B. Yes we watched Avatar in 3D, no I thought it was tiresome, and yes Phil beat me in frames of pool at Elbow Rooms. But it was great to get some shopping in, peruse the exhibits at the never-less-than awe-inspiring British Museum, and gawp slanty-headed at the modern art exhibits at the Saatchi gallery over in Chelsea with Cressida. All punctuated with a few beers, naturally, and shopping for some treats and eats in the Covent Garden retail zoo.

Brilliant encounter with Lars - all too short!

The sublime Foster & Partners at the British Museum.

Crowds stand, transfixed by the Rosetta Stone.

Elgin Marbles.

In the balls!

Phil appreciates.

Cressida has a irrational phobia of large things standing next to short things... I therefore took great pleasure in finding a room with a large, 10ft-tall child, and a tiny, mini-child in the other corner.

I have been dying to see Richard Wilson's work for years ... on permanent display at the Saatchi Gallery (incidentally, did not enjoy the gallery as a whole as much as I was expecting).

Rich and Phil on the night bus back home ...

After these days of sleeping in cold, lumpy beds, or on floors with little more than sofa cushions on the floor, I was glad to get home and get connected with the house again, and to acquaint myself with Dad's evolving assortment of mechanical delights - this time with rather a handsome BSA Goldstar café racer, complete with gorgeous polished aluminium fuel tank and rocking clip-on handle bars. We cruised the local villages looking for a fight with some local Mods on scooters, but had to head home, disappointed and shivering after the chilly air of the Fens got the better of us. Round-2 in the TVR was a little more successful, but no less noisy than the 1950s racing exhaust pipes of the BSA that caused involuntary snapping of heads, of grandfathers pushing pushchairs and disapproving stares of their wives ("no you cannot get one").

Giving it a bit of welly.



Only in Cambridge ... found on our MTB ride to St. Ives.

Serious downtime this week was just what was needed. Coming up to six years in Taiwan (six!) without an extended break at home can wear a little thin. The timing of the holiday could not have been better timed; not only for obvious family reasons, but also because a change of roles at Dell means absolutely nothing pending on my mind, my head full of bright thoughts, and zero to-do list (I took very great pleasure in systematically deleting every last appointment from Outlook). With no stress and great family news, I am at-present feeling completely relaxed ... I recommend it!

In that vein, I must also mention; I was coming through the x-ray screening area and removed my laptop for inspection. Upon preparing to slide it back into my bag, the man behind me said "Hey, I couldn't help but notice your laptop there - what is it?". When I explained it was a just released model and explaining where to get one, I couldn't resist telling him who designed it. "Kudos!" ... and one very x-ray happy traveller!

Back to vacay: the last couple of days were again devoted to family, and shaking out every last moment of time with Benji (my favourite name for him). Wrapped up in a ridiculous woolly outfit for a hike in the winter sun avec famille Wimpole Hall, he looked like a perfect bundle of joy, and I am sure he has a wonderful, bright future ahead. I do have some explaining to do in about 18 years though, when I explain why I was dressed as a woman when he arrived. My plan to craft an image of being his roguish, dangerous and mildly unhinged uncle are off to a great start!

A meeting of minds. Welcome, Benjamin!

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

A belated new year to you, beloved reader.

I don't know about you, but Phil and I managed to find ourselves at an exceptionally gay, techno-cabaret night at London's Cargo club. It was a riot, but 6' 6" hairy, mulletted men in leotards dancing cabaret for the bells was a little more 'alternative' than I had expected as a start for 2009. Down the pub next year, then.

'Voulez vous couchez avec moi, ce soir?' 'No thank you, kind sir.'

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Taking Granny to London

We had a marvelous day trip down to Londonon the train with Granny yesterday to take her to the National Portrait Gallery and the Annie Leibowitz exhibition. We had a cracking lunch at Carluccio's in the newly renovated St. Pancras station, amid arrivals and derpartures from Paris and probably the finest Victorian-era Industrial Revolution Architecture in the world.

Granny striking a pose next to one of the delightful statues dotted around the platforms.

The exhibition included some pretty striking images from the last 30 years that stand proud in the public consciousness. I didn't know an enormous amount about her, but I certainly know a little more now.

After the museum, we wandered up to Covent Garden, and while there were many people shopping like crazy and stores doing reasonable business, it was also mildly depressing to see so many 50% sales and shops obviously feeling the heat. People are really watching their pennies this year, it seems. Still - Merry Christmas one and all!

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Back to London

On my way back to London ...

Top deck

Reflections of the underground

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Carsten Höller - Tate 2006


Every time I go it just manages to blow me away with its scale and scope, and yet with its openness and refreshing lack of hautiness so common in modern art galleries.

I love seeing the tourists' faces when they come upon the Turbine Hall. No doubt, they have been dragging their families from tour to museum to exhibition and you can imaging the kids whinging that they would really rather be having a Happy Meal thankyou very much. But that is all forgotten, and as the American art students studiously take notes, Grannies strain their necks and bepolonecked German art critics reflect, a dozen kids whizz around the exhibition imagining they are space fighters. This has happened three times in as many years (before with Anish Kapoor and Rachel Whitbread), and it is a credit to the curators that they can draw in such disperate groups.

This time though. This time. Wow. Never have I been challenged with such a physical, kinetic assault that at the same time piqued my engineering, art and whizz bang kiddo sensibilities. Forget all that - I WANT TO GO AGAIN!

For Carsten Höller, the experience of sliding is best summed up in a phrase by the French writer Roger Caillois as a 'voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind'. The slides are impressive sculptures in their own right, and you don't have to hurtle down them to appreciate this artwork. What interests Höller, however, is both the visual spectacle of watching people sliding and the 'inner spectacle' experienced by the sliders themselves, the state of simultaneous delight and anxiety that you enter as you descend.

One thing I love - it's free entry and the dryest route between the South Bank and the St. 'Blade of Light' Pauls Bridge ... take 2 minutes or 2 days, as you please


It is quite popular - the image of kids egging their Mums on to the slide, and then the shrill scream of fear and joy as they hurtle down the tube was very amusing ... almost as amusing was to sit near the bottom and watch people land, their faces lit up, before they allowed themselves to compose themselves once more as they walk away.

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