We walk most of the way home, in stages, mostly owing to our incompetence in deciphering the actual effects of a bus strike. Halfway up Elgin Avenue, we’re surprised by a nervous, birdlike woman in glasses, crossing the road and leaving a black bin bag full of rubbish on the kerb. ‘It’s this rubbish,’ she says. ‘Someone keeps leaving bags of rubbish outside the front door. Do you live locally?’ At first I think she’s trying to get up some kind of local campaign against the rubbish. (‘er, yeah, further up the road, actually’) and then realise that she realises that she’s been caught in the act of transferring the rubbish from her own front doorstep to someone else’s.
‘There are these black [for one terrible moment we both think she’s going to say ‘people’] bins up the road you’re supposed to put them in,’ she says, but I’m not going up there at night.’ L looks at her and asks, ‘so you’re just going to leave that there, are you?’ ‘Well, what am I supposed to do?’ she asks, looking simultaneously embarrassed, arrogant and slightly resentful in the way that posh people in London often do, and we walk on, laughing.
Just over twenty fours hours later we’re in the Tandoori Centre, where a woman with similarly expensively-educated vowels is on a drunken loop, repeating questions to the very patient takeaway staff, asking them where they’re from. She says it’s nice that countries like India have their own beer. ‘Ten years I’ve been living here, just around the corner. Nearly ten years,’ she says again and again until she gets her takeway and leaves.
A tiny Dan Leno, no bigger than your hand (and yet every detail of his face is distinct, from mugging eyebrows to dimpled chin) is dancing like a marionette and making incomprehensible jokes about a pile of planks of wood behind his house.
Not Medusa, but another woman photographed by Madame Yevonde holds her forearm up like Madonna, or Rosie the Riveter. Suddenly colourful, she is both a refugee from 1980s freak-fashion and the cousin of a woman painted by Tamara de Lempicka: something is machine-like about her curves, something is supreme.
There is no compassion: Martin Parr just makes everyone looks like a cunt.
What are you taking pictures for? An issue of Camerawork about the Battle of Lewisham. Behind a solid wall of police stand the limp union flags on poles of a small phalanx of National Front marchers. A full-on fight involving children and police horses is photographed from behind: fragile young bodies and the flanks of stumbling horses are dangerously close.
Model food in unappetising colours: a cold palette of cold meats.
A bi-racial couple from the cover of a compact disc, his arm on her shoulder, each beautiful but neither looking at the other, both looking out, at you.
A full-length LCD portrait of Cerith Wyn Evans skinny and seductive in a black waistcoat, hair dark and shaved on one side. His face is three-quarters on and the slightest hint of flash reflection, red-eye in his right eye, contains a whole quarter-century of sadness.
Queen Victoria was very ugly indeed.
Homes that people were removed from, homes to be demolished, substandard and surplus homes. A boy in a alley so narrow that he can stand, feet wedged against both house and wall, five feet above the ground.
On behalf of British Telecom I resolve to fully open the Post Office Tower to the public, allowing entry to the viewing platform for a reasonable fee.
On behalf of the writers of gallery interpretation labels everywhere, I resolve to stop using words like ‘interrogates’ ‘explores’ and ‘questions’ to describe works that mostly don’t.
On behalf of Amanda Nevill, I resolve to resign as director of the British Film Institute.
On behalf of intelligent women, I resolve to fall in love with intelligent men instead of dicks.
On behalf of parents, I resolve to stop taking my kids to packed blockbuster art shows, which only bores them shitless and puts an extra body in everyone else’s way.
On behalf of Greenwich and Lewisham Councils I resolve to set off 2007’s Blackheath fireworks to the sound of Kraftwerk instead of John Barry.
On behalf of Southeastern Trains I resolve to run a service home that leaves Charing Cross later than midnight, and on behalf of my fellow commuters I resolve to move down the carriage a bit more in the morning.
On behalf of the weather I resolve to be a bit less fucked up generally.
Benefits of working in an art gallery: invitation to a National Gallery press and marketing breakfast for their blockbuster Rebels and Martyrs exhibition before work. Load up on coffee and dry danish before taking a quick whiz round the pictures. It’s all about artists in the romantic mode, from bohemians to dandies, lots of self-portraits: Courbet, Delacroix, Schiele, Van Gogh.
- What a self-important bunch they are with their big bushy beards and their dicks out, their tortured expressions and stubby fingers dipped in their own stigmata
- A quick poll reveals that between 1990 and 2000, reproductions of paintings by Egon Schiele were very popular indeed on student bedroom walls.
- After a fairly revolting room devoted to ‘the muse’, the best picture in the exhibition is of course by a woman, Paula Modersohn-Becker. Nude, pregnant, reflective, it’s inscribed “I painted this at the age of thirty on my sixth wedding day. PB”. She wasn’t pregnant, and had just left her husband to pursuse painting. More poignant than theory can express.
I get on a big bendy 38 at Dalston Junction for the first time in a long time, and a woman is announcing to another woman, who may be someone or no-one in particular, that if she wants to get to King's Cross she should get off at the next stop and catch a 30. "If you want to know how to get somewhere, ask a woman," she continues. "If you ask a man, you'll end up in New York. Probably in a suitcase. Under the floorboards."