London 2005: V&A, Serpentine Gallery, Notting Hill

Day Six: Tuesday 9 August


V&A Museum architecture (detail)

In the V&A’s lovely John Madjewski courtyard, we start off lolling on a shady expanse of lawn, enjoying a delicious takeaway briyani lunch and the feel of grass between our toes. Russ rolls around on the ground taking photographs of me from various angles. He uses a balletic leg in the air to point in the direction he wants me to look, which does the trick of dissolving my usual self-conscious photo look with laughter.


V&A John Madjewski Courtyard

Kids are running in the fountain. (Click on the photo to see them, they’re rather small as kids tend to be.) As soon as we finish our lunch, we become the only adults in the fountain unaccompanied by children.


These two amuse me because of their reluctance to sit on the many available chairs. They leave little wet bumprints on the ground when they stand up to run back into the fountain.


The hugely endearing 70 Years of Penguin Design exhibition is the main reason for our visit, but while we’re there we also take a quick look at the RIBA Stirling prizewinners of the last decade. Apart from my beloved Gherkin, I also like Foster and Partners’ American Air Museum in Duxford, the winner for 1998.

From here it’s a nice walk to Hyde Park, where we eyeball this year’s huge flatpack armadillo

Summer Pavilion and visit Rirkrit Tiravanika’s Rirkritrospective in the Serpentine Gallery. (Methinks Mr Tiravanika and I share a similar sense of verbal humour.) Two of the installations here are mock-ups of the artist’s New York apartment, and gallery visitors are encouraged to make themselves at home. People are sitting chatting in the kitchen, lounging in front of the TV, scrawling on the clapboard floors and walls. Two selections:

Dear Rirkrit,

You need to stop living in these dumps. Find a nice girl & settle down, bring up some children, get a steady job in management.

Love, Dad.


I read the use-by date on something in the fridge; it expired in July.

Dinner at the Windsor Castle involves paying rather dearly for its considerable charm – £8.50 for my salad, £1.50 for a small glass of shitty mixed cola – but it’s the only pub I’ve ever been to in England which still has all its sections intact. It’s fun watching everyone else having to bend almost double to cross from one section to the next when you hardly have to do so yourself.

We get to Being Boiled at the Notting Hill Arts Club while entry is still free. Dave and Jeremy join us later on. I enjoy happy hour not because of the drink promotions (the £2 Troy beer from Turkey is pretty awful) but because they’re playing good electrohouse. Nothing special in London of course, but truly music to my Singapore-deadened ears.

Dahlia, tonight’s live act, does Peaches-stylie riotgrrrl electrocabaret while wearing lingerie, fishnets and stilettos. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I’d found her sexy but her gyrations mostly remind me of muscly calisthenics and I later reduce Russ to helpless giggles on the dancefloor with my very own Dahlia imitation, featuring a piercing gaze, a lingering, beckoning, finger, and then manic hip-jerking. It works especially well to Tainted Love, but falls apart horribly once I try it with Vitalic.

On the long tube ride back to Wimbledon I suddenly remember it was National Day in Singapore today. I had totally forgotten. I can’t help being struck by the contrast – how easily and tracelessly Singapore slips away once I am here, and how two years after leaving London for Singapore I still ache for it every day.



  1. Although I’m driving past it tomorrow night, I was disappointed to see your Duxford link go to the same Gherkin page as the Gherkin link. Show us Duxford!

  2. i like the way you dissect london, harnessing her better traits, making her seem precious and intense.

    i have never been to london, but i’ve always harboured a desire to work there someday.

    reading your entries enhances her image in my mind. i can somewhat taste london, particularly when you write about your longings.

    thanks michelle :)

  3. Wow Pinkmutton, those are quite some compliments you’ve paid my London writing, for which I’m humbly grateful. I guess with a muse like London evocative writing is easier.

    Glad other people like the pictures, though I must admit I did take some trouble to photoshop them and make them look as good as they could. Kelly – I use a Canon Ixus (4 MP version).

    Matt: will get on correcting the link tonight.

  4. Thanks Michelle – it was dark when I drove past it, so I still don’t know what it looks like. Excellent pictures and commentary as always; I feel I can say that, cause I don’t feature in this bit. Apologies in advance if I don’t say anything nice about the post on your trip to the JB – it’ll be an attempt to appear humble.

    And pinkmutton is right. I live in London and I’d really lost interest in it until recently. Your blog is a big part of reviving it.

  5. Matt: Duxford link updated! Another way of reviving interest in London is to look out for Smoke, a lovely little zine which you can find in Borders and the Photographer’s Gallery. It’s totally devoted to loving London and the writing is extremely good. I buy it every time I’m in London, though sadly that means I only have 2 issues from the past 2 years. :(

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