2 December 2013

Go West

Being up bright and early on a Saturday isn't often the top of my to-do list. As a terrible sleeper I try and recoup as much as I can on weekends (sometimes aided by wine) but when it feels as if there's only three hours of daylight at the moment, it's important not to waste it.

After a very early visit from the locksmith (someone tried to break in to our house last weekend), enough time to tidy the house, pack an overnight bag and get ready, I hopped over to Waterloo to meet my mum for one of our semi-frequent forays. We decided to head West to mix things up a little.

West London is definitely not my stomping ground. I moved straight to East London when I was 18 and apart from work meetings and occasional trips to Harrods, I've never really ventured properly West. The beautiful mews and magnolia white squares are picture perfect, awash with the occasional pastel-painted strip of cottages and replete with some of the best cars on the market. With the autumn leaves strewn across parks and pavements, it was a beautiful day to discover a little more of the city I've lived in for over six years now.

But perhaps the best bit of the day was seeing all the spots that my mum used to frequent. A Westerner at my age, she flitted through Belgravia and was able to point out the old spots. Chanel on Sloane Street used to be the local corner shop, otherwise Harrods was the next nearest place to pick up groceries. She used to nip to the Carlton Hotel for late night cigarettes, got her wedding make up done at Cosmetics a la Carte and lived on West Halkin Street in the building below.

From there, we meandered up the Kings Road, back down the Fulham Road and stopped in for lunch at Bibendum (more about that tomorrow), before popping into the Conran shop and coveting absolutely everything. The windows are a riot of fluorescent perspex, gigantic fruit and woven animals - everything bright pink and yellow, the shopfront is a showstopper, for sure.

Inside, the understated pieces really shone: from all the incredible homeware to the gin and whisky advent calendars and the breakable chocolate bark. I was readily picturing which bits and pieces I'd put where - in my gorgeous high-ceilinged townhouse (a girl can dream, right?!) - and mentally developing the wishlist of all wishlists. Maybe when I've won the lottery we can go back for another visit?

From there, we headed over to the Saatchi Gallery. I first went when it was back in County Hall and hosting some of the most infamous pieces of art - from Tracey Emin's bed and tent, all of Damien Hirst's formaldehyde creations, his pharmaceutical pieces and his spots, Ron Mueck's oversized and lifelike sculptures, Marc Quinn's self portrait made of his blood, Marcus Harvey's painting of Myra Hindley, the Chapman brothers grotesques, to Grayson Perry's Turner prize-winning pottery. This time, it was hosting an exhibition called Body Language, and I was a little disappointed. Obviously united by a common theme, I just felt the majority of the work was too similar and really underwhelming. Andra Ursuta's pieces Crush and Vandal Lust were the most disturbing and poignant piece on show - screaming of sexual violence against women and representations of it in modern art.

But, happily, one of my favourite pieces of modern art was still on show - Richard Wilson's 20:50. The only permanent installation at the gallery, it's simply an entire room filled with sump oil. Indulgently viscous and black, the oil both consumes and reflects everything around it. You can enter a viewing platform that extends into the oil, giving you the impression of wading through the floor. Its ability to cast a new dimension on whatever room it's put in is its charm - when I first saw it within the wooden clad halls of County Hall, I was more struck by the experience itself. Seeing it here, in its new home, I found myself more intrigued by how changeable this permanent fixture becomes through its residency.

We didn't come home bedecked in boutique bags, or in the back of a Rolls Royce, but it doesn't matter - there's wealth enough in West.


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