Dirt Poster by Brooklyn-based artist Roland Reiner Tiangco. While unfolding and handling the poster, your hands start to get dirty, and this dirt uncovers the message on the under-side. Smart and effective.
Probably my favourite of London’s many ‘must-see’ type museums, the V&A is a place I visit when I’m having a ‘why the fuck do I live in this over-priced, over-populated, misery-inducing shit weasel of a city that I don’t even like?’ moment (and, as regular readers will know, there are many of those to be had). The knowledge that I can jump on a bus and within the hour be surrounded by some of the world’s most precious artwork, for free, is a sure-fire way of reminding me of the benefits of big city life.
As a dual art and fashion obsessive, to me, the V&A is Mecca, the Promised Land, my ‘Happy Place’ (alongside Monkey World and Liberty’s fabric remnants corner). Endless rooms filled with more treasure than is possible for the human brain to adequately process should leave a person culturally drained, and yet I always leave excited, full of ideas for things to make and do and learn more about. And that seems to be the key to running a successful museum: plenty to inspire, but not so much as to overwhelm.
And that segues nicely into what I really want to talk about:
The Gift Shop.
A thing of such brilliance, it revives even this jaded pro-shopper.
As a professional buyer (or, at least, I would be if someone were to, you know, actually employ me), I am bored and disinterested in practically every shop I go into. The recession has spawned a stale homogeneity amongst the average UK shop that is equal parts frustrating and depressing; in short, everything looks the fucking same. Do not lie to me, retail giant: I know you made millions of pounds of profit for your shareholders this year; I read Retail Weekly. You can afford to push the boat out and try something different (you can also afford to hire more staff and treat the ones you do have better, but that’s another rant, for another time). You owe it to your brand and its customers to produce items that incite intrigue, joy, lust at a time when everyone is playing it safe lest they spook the already cautious shopper. In the wise words of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “GIVE ME SOMETHING TO SING ABOUT!”
Or something to that effect.
Anyway, as I was saying before I distracted myself: The V&A gift shop. There are but a handful of items in there that I would not happily find house-room for. I mean, look at this:
Who wouldn’t want to eat their dinner while taking a perch on this chair (admittedly, your dinner will consist of 1 packet of Tesco Value 8p noodles, as you’ll be broke as fuck from spending £1500 on a chair, but still…)?
Or pop their little pudding in one of these pinnies?
And what sort of person wouldn’t appreciate an assortment of V&A print ceramic buttons?!
No-one worth knowing is who.
What’s more, they have recently launched their online sale. I feel an ‘it’s my money, and anyway it was half price so it doesn’t count’ moment coming along.
Which means it is definitely a bad idea to go swimming in outdoor pools. Nonetheless, I’m not adverse to the occasional (or, indeed, frequent) bad plan, however what began as an error in judgment, ended as a very pleasant sunday outing with the extended skulk.
The area of London Fields, in central Hackney, has gained a rep in recent years for being a bit of a hipster hangout, having even been immortalised on YouTube:
Producer: Reuben Dangoor
Despite this, it’s actually a pretty decent place to live. It has enough dingy music venues to appeal to the cool kids and plenty of vegan cafes for the bohemian set, yet it still retains enough of its neighbourhood feel and diversity to keep it from being too self-consciously ‘cool east-side’.
Does mean the rent’s taken a hike, though.
Anyway, this has endowed the area with a fair bit of urban regeneration. The Hackney library and museum are just down the road: a shining beacon of knowledge and culture in a glass behemoth; the Fields themselves have been smartened up, playgrounds added, concrete rockeries decorated with mosaic covered sheep.
And, of course, there’s a fuck-off big 24 hour Tesco. Lovely.
Another of its pleasing attractions is the eponymous London Fields Lido, which brings me nicely back to this morning’s aforementioned jolly.
Not many of Britain’s old Lidos survived to see the new millenium: scrapped to make way for shiny new leisure centres with their more hygienic water filtration systems and warmer temperatures.
Yet, London Fields lives on. It’s surprisingly clean and inviting for an outdoor pool – I was expecting a Soviet-style concrete monster, with muddy water and outdoors communal showering. The showers are actually both outdoors and communal, but that’s beside the point. It’s colourful, cheerfully so, with primary coloured lockers, and entertaining photos of people enjoying a swim with snow surrounding the pool. As it’s a sunday, it was mainly filled with families and groups of friends enjoying a nice, wholesome sunday activity. We swam for an hour, felt very righteous for doing voluntary exercise (on a weekend!), and then promptly went on a search for cake.
Nearby Broadway Market did the job nicely. After skirting the crowds of hipsters enjoying their ironic pints of bitter kerbside, we popped to Cafe Gossip – a vegetarian cafe offering homemade cakes and enough varieties of tea to give me a caffeine hit just looking at them. If you’re ever in the vicinity, try the blueberry cake: you won’t be disappointed. A quick meander down the road gave us a plethora of new bookshops to explore and an excellent piece of street art hiding by a drain near the new Strut vintage boutique.
My love of bookshops, particularly art and design focussed ones, is something I’m sure I’ll share in a later post so I won’t go there now, but, needless to say, it really made me wish I were rich. I wouldn’t waste money on silly things like booze and cars, oh no. Books would be the killer. I would be the little old fox who lived in a house made of books.
A very pleasant day, indeed.
It is twenty past eleven and Lady Fox is getting tired and ratty. I shall ramble more another day.