Culture Vulture

Just like New York, Paris and Rome, London is both soaringly beautiful and nose-crucifyingly smelly, and I had forgotten both of those things. I’ve been such a tourist it’s almost embarrassing, although I should really save that word up for later on.

I used to work in London a good bit at one time and we honeymooned there for a few days before disappearing into the depths of Jordan (a destination which proved to be a choice speech topic gift to John’s best man), so I’ve trooped around the more obvious landmarks before. As this was a solo trip I felt I could indulge myself; John, while not a history lover, likes art as much as the next man (the Hairy exchequer has unbelted reasonably freely on the stuff in the time of the seven fat cows – before the breeding-related plummet into the era of seven anorexic and anaemic cows) but would squeak a bit at the thought of two days exclusively devoted to it.

I lap the stuff up. My father and his side of the family can paint, exceedingly well, dammit, and most of them – except him – have a daftly, and I use the word advisedly, artistic temperament to boot. I have the soul of an artist, the mind of a shopkeeper and actual talent of an artistically pedestrian 3 year old. It’s a proper bugger.

So: National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery it was. I took a good look at some well-known and fabulous works I had only ever previously seen reproduced and was repeatedly clobbered upside the head with unknown, stunning, luminous pieces. I was alone, and could sit and stare for 20 minutes if I pleased, and I often did.  I’d be more arse-numbingly boring than usual if I attempted even a short precis, but I did fancy this self-portraiting chap – died 1743 – like mad.

NPG 3822, Michael Dahl

Busily sketching primary school children were fairly thickly strewn underfoot, which was fine, and had remonstrating and blatantly clueless teachers in tow, which was more of a trial. One particularly irritating woman loudly bossed her group into stillness before reading – extremely haltingly – from the information panel; she announced self-importantly that Lady Jane Grey had been ‘disposed’ after only 9 days. Awesome.

Compensatingly, there was the little kid who, obviously consulting his gallery guide as opposed to his common sense, walked straight past Delacroix: Christ on the Cross


to Gericault: A Shipwreck, complete with bollocks

a shipwreck

and pronounced solemnly, in awed tones, ‘That’s JESUS, man!’

Incidentally, I can’t find a bigger photo online (updated: here’s one) as the National Gallery won’t actually acknowledge that they have it currently hanging on their wall, plus I keep getting into trouble for explicit links, so that’s your lot.

I spent a lovely number of hours in the British Museum, too, and kept the ancient historian in me stoked and happy. That’s one honours degree I’ll never see a profit from, ever.

I got back late last night, beginning to miss my chaps. When Harry clapped eyes on me this morning he point-blank refused to come close and climbed possessively into John’s arms with a worried expression. I was desperately attempting to conceal my mortal anguish. It took him a good 10 minutes to change his mind and decide that he wanted a cuddle after all; he had no sooner thrown himself into my eager arms when he spotted the contents of the Hamley’s bag and promptly fought his way out again.

He then decided that he wanted, nay, needed ice cream for breakfast and commenced a 15 minute protest in front of the the dog room freezer.

In fact, he has made my life a mild form of living hell today. I have cried 3 times in sheer despair and frustration and I am not even hormonal: this is bad. He has alternated unusually intense touchy-feely affection with screaming like an outraged and rabid gibbon whenever he was thwarted or disappointed in the Least Little Thing (eg, his satsuma had not grown enough segments for his liking, or the jigsaw puzzle box failed to obediently spring open to his questing fingers within the first pico-second of trying). I have retreated in abject maternal shame from baby group and even Tesco, grappling madly with my frothing, thrashing, shrieking, headbutting, face-clawing toddler.

I’m not sure how cognitive Just-Turned-Twos actually are about parental absence, but I might have supposed this to be punishment, were it not for the fact that he behaved in identical fashion the day before I left. Tell me this gets better soon, or I may have to run away to sea.

Talking of sea, he has pissed on the lounge carpet again today, twice. There must be more pee in that carpet than the average public urinal; I’m struggling to keep up with the soapy water. It’s my own fault: whilst not intending to potty-train him yet – anticipating that not having spoken or signed language might be a tad hindering – nevertheless, I have bought him a potty, and have spoken to him about What Happens. The latest result is that he now enthusiastically removes his nappy whenever my back is turned. He promptly piddles or shits on the carpet next to the potty, before sitting on it with a pleased expression. Sigh. Close, with a brown cigar.

When pre-emptively placed on the potty by me, he immediately and dutifully strains industriously, ignoring my frantic admonishments about The Risk Of Piles. Once this resulted in business, which made a big impression on him and me both, but he generally only emits a series of thunderous farts. He then leaps to his feet, whirls around and examines the potty closely to see if he has produced anything apart from noxious turd-gas, whilst I try not to laugh.

He plays up gleefully when I try to replace his nappy, and I end up – laughing and nonchalant at first, and then increasingly vociferous and grumpy – pursuing his twinkling little bottom all around the house; when I do eventually distract him into sitting still for a replacement, I turn my back for two minutes and off the nappy comes again.

If I could play the yakedy sax Benny Hill theme to this, I totally would.

10 Responses

  1. You should probably stop laughing when you chase him around…it probably gives the wrong idea. 🙂

    Congrats on being a “published author”

  2. Dude, you, like, TOTALLY have an English accent!!!

    Yeah, I know, but it’s been a long day.

  3. … Come on, look what Mummy’s got, a Nice Clean Nappy…

  4. Very funny, its the same in this house- to think I used to be sqeamish about poo- how did you persuade him to put the nappy on?. Love your writing.

  5. Oh dear, but he’s terribly cute, even when he’s acting the maggot.

    ps. I reckon you inherited the art in the form of writing. Oh yeah!

  6. That solo trip to London sounds like heaven. I know my John would grumble if I insisted on shuffling around galleries and museums for days on end, which is my idea of a city break. His would be more shuffling around gadget/electronics shops which just drives me nuts.

    The launch party sounded brilliant, I read Liz’s account of it too. As I told her, I will just have to get myself on a plane to London whenever another one of these events happen.

    I can’t blame you for laughing at Harry. A good few of my nieces and nephews went through a streaking phase during their toddlerhood. Pity I didn’t have a camera at the ready at the time. Ohhh the blackmail possibilities!


    Anxious-avoidant sound familiar at all?

    These terms are now considered rather emotionally laden, thought I haven’t come across better ones, and it’s really common for children who sometimes leap up and slobber all over Mum, to hit her another time when she comes back, to punish her for leaving them.

  8. Sitting here in the brilliant sunshine with my feet dangling in the pool sobbing piteously at not only missing a clearly fantastic literary event starring one of my favourite writers (because OCEANS!!! FINANCE!!!!), but said author is totally unsympathetic. WOE! WOE, I tell you.

    And tantrum throwers…for those of us who have the misfortune to birth otherwise lovely human baby with this button activated…nothing but total understanding and sympathy from me. My first one scored the juvenile version and it seems my second has activated the adult onset 3.0 type. And third child has provided me with the control group that helps me to understand the tut-tutting and lack of understanding from the totally clueless parents of similar paragons. They do exist people. Not myth as I believed after Baby 1.

    The bad news is that this behaviour persisted from first hideous display at 18 months to start of school. Yes. 4 looooonnnng years. But good news…totally gorgeous, well adjusted, co-operative and temperamentally calm adult. With real job. And friends. So…hope, yes? And endurance, definitely!

    My doctor did tell me at the time, bless him, that tantrums are more common in very bright children who have low tolerance for frustration. “And really, you wouldn’t want a little blob that just sat there, would you?” Ashamed to say that there were days that yes, a little blob would have been a lovely release.

    So, here I am sending what is left of my stay strong good parent vibes. And I’m happy to keep sending them across oceans because I have been where you are. And I have not forgotten a minute of it. *Smooches*

  9. I am heartbroken I missed you in London. Heart. Broken. Millions of bits and splinters all over the carpet. *sob*.

    You are an exceedingly witty person (“close, with a brown cigar” – bwahahahahahahahaha!) and I’d’ve put you at the front of the book too, out of sheer awe-struckness. One day I’ll let you see some of my teenage diary entries – including the one just after I met H for the first time and amused myself by chortling at his silly surname for paragraphs. (Karma is a bitch – here I am trying to perpetuate said silly surname as hard as possible).

    Harry is, alas, behaving very normally for a two-year-old. They spend years driving the entire family to the brink of lunacy and well, WELL, beyond said brink. And then they are lovely until they hit 13 and it all starts again.


    Can I go to a museum with you some time? Can I? Can I?

  10. You have an absolutely *lovely* speaking voice!

    (And a very cute child, despite the tantrums.)

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