Friday, October 22, 2010

Filling you in: Food, Art, Life (or rather, suicide), Shopping & Pandora

Enough of philosophy – back to real life. But wait a minute. Would that be the world of sense experience which Plato considered far inferior to The Forms? Or Kant’s ‘thing in itself’ which is distinct from the world of appearance? Or Schopenhauer’s ‘Will’ ...or representation? Do we think, with Bishop Berkeley and the idealists, that the material objects which we experience depend for their existence on the knowing subject? But enough of philosophy – back to real life.

In mundane news, I have changed my breakfast allegiance to the chain Le Pain Quotidien. At my local version, I like to sit at the long wooden tables with lots of eccentric British people, and have a choice of rather good breads, and order soft boiled eggs (no poached available). The enormous soup-bowls of coffee are not too caffeine-heavy to order, because they are really just steamed milk with the vaguest suggestion of coffee flavour.

Evan remarked the other night that he had so far only eaten unimpressive food in London (which is not to denigrate Carluccio’s lasagne, an excellent example of that simple dish), but to remedy this (and give Evan something to report to James S. back home) we took ourselves out to dinner at a one-Michelin starred restaurant in Mayfair named Texture. The chef, Agnar Sverrisson (Aggi to his friends), is the first Icelandic chef to be awarded a Michelin star. His menu says that he aims to provide satisfying food which doesn’t make you feel over-full, and to assist this he avoids cream and butter in all his savoury dishes. Evan felt that this admirable aim was achieved. I am a poor food reviewer, but will mention that we had pigeon (Evan), scallops (me) and beef (both of us). I found the food very good, but rather too many ingredients in each dish (cucumber with my white chocolate; bacon popcorn with the pigeon), and due to the extremely thick accent of our waiter I had no idea what I was eating most of the time. I did like the ‘coconut ice’ which accompanied the scallops. The ambience (an old interior with a coat of white paint and modern furnishings) and the service were both excellent.

'Texture' in action

I spent a busy day yesterday, dashing off to Mayfair to check out Grosvenor Chapel as a possible site for a concert that Kyle and I are organising for next February – yes, soon you’ll be asked to mark your diaries for a very special event. Watch this space. Then back to Bloomsbury for lunch and a few contemplative minutes in Gordon Square reading Schopenhauer before the afternoon lecture. Gordon Square is the location of several of my lectures. In an odd quirk of fate, the little preschool I attended when I was just a small girl was in a place in my home town called....Gordon Square. Full circle?

Gordon Square - London version

Those of you who recall the last report of Schopenhauer lectures may also recall my description of a young man with dreadlocks and a formidable grasp on Kant and the German philosophers. His name, I have learnt, is Christopher. This week he gave us a short presentation. His subject was ‘Death and suicide’. The cheery discussion which followed was absorbing. The things I spend my afternoons doing.

On offer at Battersea Affordable Art Fair
My evening, however, was a more light-hearted affair. After successfully meeting Carrollanne at South Kensington Station (don’t laugh – I still consider it an achievement when I manage to find my way around a new locale) we tootled off to the Battersea Affordable Art Fair, held in the Pavilion in Battersea Park. A very fun evening inspecting the art on sale, and chatting to the more interesting gallery people, was followed by an excellent dinner at The Chelsea Brasserie on Sloane Square (more new territory). Muchas gracias, Carrollanne. And what is more, we were both very strong, and did not buy any art, though it was a close-run thing with several items.

Lunch today was a nice little meal in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, at Cooper’s, with new acquaintance Gail. Since Gail is an accomplished academic in the field of commercial law & intellectual property, the conversation made a contrast to Christopher, Schopenhauer and suicide, and provided a flashback to times past. Gail kindly introduced me to the librarian at a small specialist library of her institution, where the nice librarian Malcolm showed me the Australian section of his bookshelves. Like many an anxious author, I enquired enthusiastically for his copy of the Fourth Edition of 'Shanahan' on Trademarks, that seminal text which ruled my life for so long, being as I am one of its blushing co-authors. To his credit, Malcolm found editions 1, 2, and 3, on his shelves, and he assured me that the fourth edition must be out on loan. Hmmm...

Conran coat rack
After lunch I imposed upon Evan to come decorator-shopping with me in Marylebone High Street. There is an excellent design shop there, The Conran Shop, where almost everything is too expensive; but we managed to thrust one or two more modest items into a black cab and haul them up to our eerie in the rafters; pausing only briefly for scones with jam and cream at a very haughty deli in Marylebone (which is a very high-end sort of place).

I think that brings you right up to date, except to report a lovely conversation I had this morning on Skype with Pandora. In her usual inimitable way, she had many interesting remarks to make, including throwing me a ‘magic ball’ (which I duly caught), asking me to repeat a word which clearly piqued her imagination (‘SNOT’!), and showing me one of the postcards I had sent her, which featured a workman without his shirt (‘he is nake-y’).

Oh, and I was going to mention that I have had a flurry of mail here at St Pancras ,consisting of a variety of fierce demands from the Council for rates (students are exempt, but since I had the lease here for two weeks before classes commenced I am liable for £77 in rates); and the television license people who can’t seem to believe that I don’t have a set, and have threatened various dire consequences unless I pay up. I think they are going to have to come and look, just to believe their eyes. ‘Look, Ma – no TV!’  After all, if I had a TV, when would I find time to keep my blog up to date? Which it now is.

An interesting-looking bookshop in Chelsea
A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking - Jerry Seinfeld

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