[Originally posted on the Fletcher INTERNet]
Thought I might post a few summery photos.
12th May: Back at Fletcher
First, some photos taken during the Blakeley BBQ, for those faraway Fletcherites missing home.
10th July: RA Summer Exhibition
Went to see the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) Summer Exhibition 2004. According to the RA website, “the Summer Exhibition is the largest open contemporary art exhibition in the world, held since 1768.” I love that word “contemporary” here. 1768 hardly sounds contemporary, but of course it was contemporary, back in the… 1760s.
The distinguishing feature of the Summer Exhibition is that any professional or amateur artist can submit works for consideration, and most works are for sale. Because of that it feels like a free-for-all of varying quality, but is lots of fun to walk around with friends “window shopping” for art (“Ooh, that would look good in the bathroom, only £33,500!”). Little red dots affixed to a work mean that it, or one or more of its numbered editions, has been sold. Have to admit that knowing that someone else wants it does affect your perception of a piece.
This year’s focus was drawing. We thought the most interesting pieces were the drawings by non-artists – among others, film director Alan Parker, fashion designer Hussein Chalayan, and theoretical physicist Roger Penrose. The RA Magazine Summer 2004 issue discusses how five non-artists use drawing as a conceptual tool.
17th July: Oxford
Visited an old school friend, Nicola, and her parents in Oxford.
In the morning we picked broad beans, new potatoes, lettuce, mint, and raspberries for the evening’s meal, all organically grown in their “allotment” garden. In Britain, allotments of land for individual food production have been around in some form since the Middle Ages. Originally, plots of land were set aside by local governments to ensure that the working poor, unable to prove rights to public lands, had some means of growing food. Though nowhere near the 20th century high of 1.5 million active allotments during WWI (“Dig for Victory!”), there are still almost 300,000 plots in towns and cities across the UK, encouraged by Parliament who in 1998 “recognise[d] the importance of allotment gardening for food provision, recreation and the sustainable regeneration of towns and cities.” Freshly dug new potatoes, steamed just-podded broad beans, velvety home-grown raspberries… mmm.
We walked along the peaceful Oxford Canal to reach the city center, passing several houseboats. The University of Oxford is a collection of 39 colleges with their own buildings, students, and faculty, and the last three photographs are of the chapel, dining hall, and courtyard at particularly posh and rich Magdalen College (pronounced “maudlin” since the British seem to be proud of not pronouncing anything the way it is written). Magdalen was the only college we passed that was open to visitors. No Name may not look like the Magdalen dining hall, but at least no one is trying to photograph us sipping smoothies.
“How many kinds of sweet flowers grow / In an English country garden? / Daffodils, heart’s ease and flox / Meadowsweet and lady-smocks / Gentain, lupine and tall hollihocks / Roses, foxgloves, snowdrops, blue forget-me-nots / In an English country garden.”
This was an English city garden, but the spirit remained the same.
18th July: Stalking monetary policy celebs…
Central banker paparazzi shot !!! This is Sir Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, taking a break from playing cricket at the annual staff summer party (a friend works there and took some of us along). I was girlishly excited to see him because just last week had read an interesting article in BusinessWeek that praised him and the BOE’s nimble management of UK interest rates as follows: “King, a self-assured academic with a wry sense of humor and a soft spot for soccer, [has earned] a top reputation in the rarefied world of central banking. The BOE itself is considered by many a model of best practice — more so even than Alan Greenspan’s Fed, which many economists consider a one-man band.”
…but I’m still Bridget Jones
A few days after I arrived, my friend James asked: “So, have you noticed anything different about London since you were last here? Political rumblings? Subtle shifts in the zeitgeist? Give me some sociological commentary.” “Well!” I said eagerly. “It’s rather striking… At least one out of every five women I see on the street is wearing ballet-style or pointy-toed flats, or Birkenstock buckled slides or thong sandals in pink or white.” He hasn’t asked again.
Meanwhile, in Bangkok
While I was following Sir Mervyn around, my cousin was ordained as a Buddhist monk at a temple in Bangkok. He will spend some time there living as a monk and studying Buddhism. Most Thai males will go through this rite of passage at some point in their lives, usually in their 20s, usually in honor of one or more of their elder relatives. My brother will do it soon. Meanwhile, he has burned a CD of a recording of his ‘host’ abbot chanting in Sanskrit, with the different chants as individual tracks for easy listening and learning on his iPod (Album: The Ordination, Artist: Tahn Phra Kruu [= “His Venerable Abbot Teacher” or something along those lines]). This made us all laugh.