a smattering of culture, a modicum of nature

Finally got around to seeing (just about) Anish Kapoor‘s outdoor sculptures, Turning the World Upside Down, in Kensington Gardens late afternoon on Wednesday, only a few days before the show ends. It was overcast and already heading towards dusk, and then thanks to my excellent map reading skills we wandered quite a way along the Serpentine, thinking it was The Long Water, and wondering why we couldn’t find the Sky Mirror sculpture indicated on the (admittedly skeletal) map I’d printed off the Serpentine Gallery website. It was, though, very peaceful, and refreshing to be out of the rush and noise we’d pressed through on the way up from South Ken tube. We crossed back to Kensington Gardens proper (I only realised my map-mistake the following day when I studied my A-Z closely), and managed to locate three of the four sculptures in the gathering gloom. By then, it was spitting with rain, with a bitterish wind whipping up. C-Curve was a large curve (unsurprisingly) of stainless steel, reflecting the park and viewers upside down when viewed from the inside, and right side round when seen from the outside. In its outdoor setting it seemed somewhat dwarfed, lacking the impact I’d expected, though the time of day probably affected my impression as well. By contrast, the piece Non Object (Spire) drew us towards it, gleaming mysteriously in the grey light, thrusting out of the grass and tapering up to a needle-sharp point. In the distance, we could make out other spires on the London skyline, all lining up with this temporary, earth-bound apparition. And lastly, one of the two Sky Mirror sculptures, across a stretch of water (The Long Water, as it happened, as I realised afterwards), but again its effect dampened by the encroaching dark. Art – bloody hard work sometimes!

Then, we hurried across London to the Betsey Trotwood in Farringdon for an event hosted by Ambit magazine. Four readers, congenial and quirky venue, friendly punters – all the ingredients for a good night. Joel Lane read a chillingly eerie story, Face Down. Donald Gardner followed, delivering his mischievous poems in a most distinctive style. After a short break, the ever-affable Nicholas Royle read, hot from his laptop, a just-completed first draft of a story he’ll be presenting at Manchester Piccadilly station later this year – an engaging story with a powerful punch at the end. He also read us a story-in-progress, The Other Man, which moves seamlessly from wry domestic observation to something rather more unsettling – and left us hanging, tantalised, wanting more. Finally, Douglas Thompson read from his newly published novel Sylvow. Although it’s not my usual cup of tea, I enjoyed the dark atmosphere, and Thompson’s soft Glaswegian voice.

And the modicum of nature? As well as stomping around Kensington Gardens at nightfall, we’ve traversed Battersea Park a few times this week (on our way to and from King’s Road, hunting down much-needed bookcases), and signs of spring are poking up all over the place. Daffodils, crocuses, cherry blossom, magnolia blooms, tiny green leaves on the horse chestnut trees; and, during the day at least, a milder feel to the air. All of which gladdens my urban heart.

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