Thursday, 21 February 2013

Concrete Rules

I must have watched Mary Mungo and Midge at a very impressionable age: high-rise living has always appealed to me.  Maybe it was the pretty, pastel colours of Mary’s tower block; the sweet, 60s daisies in her window box; the view from her window of the idyllic, little town; the playground; her cute pets… I don’t know but I guess it was the root of my Barbican obsession.  Yes, I know that millions of tons of concrete can’t be described as pretty and window boxes are forbidden in the towers but if you read this article, written by Jonathan Glancey in 2001, just as the buildings were listed, you will get a sense of just how idyllic urban living can be.

From my south-facing balcony, I look across mature gardens to the dome of St Paul's Cathedral.
For any Londoner, and particularly one with a love of architecture, it would be hard to beat a view of this, the greatest of all domes. This view and the light captivated me. The huge skies above the Barbican are things denied to Londoners living in two-, three- and even four-storey homes. The moon seems bigger and more splendid here than it ever can from the pavement, glimpsed through the interstices of city streets. Early-morning jets bound for Heathrow etch silent vapour trails across the sky. Turboprops nosing into City Airport thrum as they turn over St Paul's, animating a skyscape unexpectedy rich in bird life. 
And so it was that yesterday I managed to persuade an estate agent to take us to the 30th floor of Lauderdale Tower. Standing in the groovy, triangular lobby, I could just see Mungo stood by the lift doors with Midge perched on his nose, pressing the button.
This is the view…

On a crisp, sunny day, the towers of the Barbican rise like the best 50s sculpture up through Piranesian car-park basements and flower-bedecked podiums into the bird- and plane-graced City sky. To date, only Tower 42, the former NatWest Tower, designed by Colonel Seifert, has the temerity to look down on London's tallest housing. On misty days, the Barbican towers vanish, as the Empire State Building does so magically in Manhattan, their sculptural bulk suggesting some ruined castle, Tintagel or Richmond, perhaps. They are never less than a haunting sight.
Sigh... couldn’t have put it better myself.
Hang on! What’s this?
The sheer mass of all those millions of tons of concrete means that homes here are as soundproof as they come this side of the padded cells of an asylum. Maybe there are people here who play the Chemical Brothers or Deep Purple in Rock at full volume. Maybe there are dogs howling illicitly through the night (no dogs, by order: one of the shortcomings of Barbican living). Perhaps there are babies bawling for attention. Yet the Barbican sleeps on, its urban dream pinpricked by the occasional police siren.

Right. I’ve never liked all that dark, brutal concrete. I wouldn’t live there if you paid me.
Fairytale Chateau in the French countryside.. That’s the way to go. They like dogs in France.
Bet the BBC bought that Mary, Mungo and Midge off Frog TV…

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Man With A Van Ruisdael

This is Brian's latest creepy painting. He tells me he's continuing the Northern European, Caspar David Friedrich/Jacob Van Ruisdael of Haarlem tradition of Romantic, gothic landscapes, typically featuring contemplative figures silhouetted against dark skies and barren trees. 
Have a nice day!
Van by Brian Ayling (oil on canvas 77cm x 102cm)

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Holy See - ing Things

At 85 years of age and in frail health Pope Benedict XVI hasn't been out and about very much lately and sightings of him are increasingly rare. Flicking through photos of our trip to Rome in 2010 makes me think how fortunate we were to be able to observe him so closely from our roof terrace. He appeared to be in fine fettle, up with the lark, in his white robes ready for morning prayer; then, when we returned at the end of the day he would be admiring the sunset over the Vatican while we sipped our Camparis. I even gave him a little wave now and then. It was like having our own private audience...

Friday, 1 February 2013

Brian's a Raving Lunatic

ME. What do you mean you’re having a rave? Not here you’re not.
JOE. Chill, we’re hiring a room above a pub in Hackney.
ME. No you’re not.
JOE. We are, it’s all sorted. We’ve been to see the bloke and it’s all arranged.
ED. What, you some sort of nightclub don now?
JOE. Shut up Ed. We’re selling tickets and 140 people on Facebook have already said they’re coming.
ME. Oh my God Joe, what if someone gets stabbed? What if a fire starts? Didn’t you hear about that dreadful thing in Brazil. What if a load of horrible kids show up and cause trouble? What if…
ED. What if a massive fight starts and all the chandeliers get smashed?
JOE. There’s no chandeliers in there, idiot. There’s nothing in there. It’s just and empty room.
ME. There’s windows though. Someone might fall through a window.
JOE. They won’t.
ME. How do you know they wont?
BRIAN. Exactly. You’ll be responsible if anything bad happens.
JOE. It won’t.
ME. You’ll have to get insurance, security, some kind of license…
JOE. No we won’t.
ED. How much you selling tickets for?
JOE. Four quid.
ED. Who’s gunna pay four quid to go and stand in an empty room?
JOE. Shut up Ed. Me and Joe Parks are gunna be DJ ing.
ED. Hahahhahaha
BRIAN. No Joe. It’s a mad idea. We’re happy for you to go to these raves..
ME. Well, not exactly “happy”…
BRIAN. Well, I think it’s okay to go along to something that’s been properly organized by sensible adults but I’m not agreeing to you, a seventeen year-old, being responsible for the whole thing. It’s ridiculous. Forget it. No Joe, I mean it.

BRIAN. Is this blue the right colour then?
JOE. Yeah, that’s cool. Then just put the writing down the side… yeah like that. That looks good.
ED. Let me see. ‘Wavey Nights presents, GET WAVEY’. Hahaha. ‘GET WAVEY!’ What’s that supposed to mean.
JOE. Shut up Ed, it doesn’t mean anything. It just sounds good.
ED. It sounds stupid. I hope you’re gunna give mummy some money for all the ink and paper.
JOE. Shut up Ed.
BRIAN. Right. Shall I put the address at the bottom then? And the price in the corner?
JOE. Yeah. Then can you print them and cut them out. I’m going bed. Mummy, find a box or something for me to put all the tickets in please. I’m gunna take them to college tomorrow. Night.

BRIAN. How was school?
JOE. COLLEGE. I’m gunna punch you if you say school one more time. It was good: sold thirty tickets.
BRIAN. Well done. Let me know if you want me to print any more.
JOE. Cool. Mummy, make me a snack please: I need to answer all these emails from people wanting tickets.