A little more Paris, just to fill you in on the remaining events. As I mentioned, after I left Alain in Paris I had a spare morning – really, most of the day – which I intended to use. So I started by going out to lunch, naturellement, and drank wine with the intention of going to the Pompidou Centre to look at some photography by Walker Evans. Most art is much more enjoyable after a couple of glasses of wine, and I say that as someone who is almost teetotal. I ambled off to the Pompidou Centre and was outraged to discover that it is closed on Tuesdays. Gah! Now what? I am in the middle of Paris in the middle of the day, I am slightly tipsy and the art I wanted to see is Not There. I walked down the street, in somewhat of a huff, and I found myself passing a shop selling art, albeit of a different kind. It was, in fact, a tattoo parlour.
I looked at the designs on display outside the shop (very run of the mill, actually, just what you’d expect). Because I was a bit intoxicated, I briefly contemplated getting a tattoo. Then I remembered I already had one! It is 32 years old! It was once a tiny butterfly with brightly-coloured wings but over time it faded a lot and almost became indistinguishable. I went inside and asked to talk to a tattooist.
He was an extremely nice man but he spoke no English whatsoever. My French may accommodate romance but does not extend to tattoo-purchasing situations. It was like the worst possible conversation you could have with a tattooist. I was a bit drunk and neither of us could understand a word the other person was saying. Eventually we secured a contract by means of my pointing at my tattoo and making expansive gestures with my hands to signify “make it brighter”. So he did.
And that’s how I finally returned to London with both sunburn (Spain) and a leaky new tattoo to look after, and thus resembled every British holidaymaker ever.
The Walker Evans exhibition is on at the Pompidou Centre in Paris until 14 August. Closed on Tuesdays.
This exhibition is on until 26 February, so you still have time to go. It was highly relevant for me because I was just in South Africa a few months ago, learning as much as possible about the country and culture.
Items in the exhibition include some very ancient artefacts but the aspects I found the most interesting were the political items from the 1980s and 90s and then the contemporary art.
I want to point out several things without writing a blog post that’s the length of a book. See how many of these things you can spot.
- A black cherub with an AK-47 and a red nose. The red nose was made famous by British charity Comic Relief, which has been criticised for investing the money it raises in oppressive companies and industries in the countries it claims to help. Artist Johannes Phokela says: “Once I bought a red nose and it fell off when I tried to fit it on to my nose. That’s when I found out that the noses were not designed to be worn by someone with a flat nose like mine.”
- A maid in a Victorian dress. When I was in South Africa, I saw cleaners in shops and also domestic maids wearing dresses that were not much better than this, just with knee-length instead of floor-length skirts. Sculpture by Mary Sibande.
- A conspicuously white person absurdly inserted into a black African soap opera (Candice Breitz).
- A sangoma (a shaman, a healer) holding a consultation (Siyazama Project).
- Human figures with horns (Jane Alexander).
- Steve Biko, who died in police custody (Sam Nhlengethwa).
- A 1994 ballot paper, showing both Nelson Mandela (ANC) and F W de Klerk (National Party).
- Black workers sleeping on a bus (David Goldblatt). Public transport is important in South Africa. When apartheid was introduced, black people were evicted from their homes and forced to relocate to designated areas which of course were in undesirable and inconvenient locations on the outskirts of cities. Therefore the cleaners and domestic workers who I mentioned above, who aren’t being paid a whole lot, are travelling very long distances for the privilege of getting to these demeaning jobs. A significant amount of their time and their money is sunk into bus travel. The workers in this picture are sleeping because they do not get adequate time for sleeping at home.
So as you can see, it was all happening. After the Children’s Gala, we went to the mythically-named Golden Fleece pub for lunch. It was not called The Slaughtered Lamb, even though that would have been hilarious. Also, it is in fact a nice pub.
Steak and ale pie with chips. OMG. So delicious. I recommend this dish, if you are in the neighbourhood. The steak was tender and the pastry was light as a cloud. I could eat one now.
Watch out for the heavy traffic on the roads when you are going home.
Thanks for a fabulous weekend, C. See you soon.
You remember Calendar Girls, yes? That was filmed around here in Yorkshire. If you remember, it concerned the racy yet charitable adventures of some very respectable English ladies who are Women’s Institute members and make a lot of jam and Victoria sponge cakes, and then suddenly do a nude calendar.
As I was in Yorkshire, you can imagine how thrilled I was to meet some actual Women’s Institute members, out in force on a Saturday afternoon, selling jam and cakes. It is a real thing, not just on the telly.
I was able to meet these pillars of British society because I was attending the annual Children’s Gala in the delightfully-named village of Harden. The Gala begins with a procession.
The local theatre group, including a man in women’s clothes, as is tradition.
The procession ends in a field where there is a children’s party, with rides, fancy dress and competitions, as well as jam and cakes.
The tallest of these adorable little girls is the Gala Queen, she’s on stage to hand out prizes. The two little sisters are her attendants. Aren’t they the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.
This gentleman patiently spends the whole afternoon driving children up and down a section of railway track, using a very small train.