6 August 2018: More Art and Other Miscellany

Left London yesterday afternoon and am now at Brockhall, where I will be based until the end of September. The weather is still hot and stuffy but the forecast promises some relief toward the end of the week when the temperature is supposed to drop into the high-60s. The house isn’t air-conditioned and a trip to Home Base proved what I had been told – fans are at a premium…in other words, they’re sold out. Too much air-conditioning is bad for you anyway, right?

I applied online for my National Insurance number this morning. For those of you outside the UK, an NI number is like a social security number. You need it for tax purposes as well as for being employed. The application was (surprisingly) very straightforward. I received confirmation that within the next 24-48 hours, I’d be given a date/time to schedule an interview.  Butterflies in my stomach but an item checked off my “To-Do” list. I also got my picture taken in a photo booth in Tesco for my provisional driver’s license application.

Despite the broiling heat in London, I managed to attend two exhibitions on Saturday. The first was the “Thomas Cole: Eden to Empire” at the National Gallery. Cole is celebrated for founding the Hudson River Valley school of painting in the mid-19th century. He was a Brit from Manchester who witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of industrialization on Manchester’s cotton mills (devastating from the perspective of the laborer) before moving to Philadelphia with his family in the early 1800s. His paintings are often epic in scale and serve as visual polemics on the destructiveness of modern life and industry upon Nature. The exhibition is beautifully and thoughtfully curated and makes for prescient viewing amidst today’s technology-obsessed media-driven world. (It was also, mercifully, very well air-conditioned!)

I then hiked from Trafalgar Square along Pall Mall and up to Piccadilly to attend the annual Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. The art on display this year is a riot of color, irreverence, and contrasts of style and tone. It was bright and fun and just what you would expect from an exhibition curated this year by Grayson Perry. Because there is so much to see and the walls of each gallery are hung to capacity — not to mention the hoards of well-lubricated attendees crowding each room (a full bar is on site in one of the galleries for the occasion) — one cannot possibly take it all in on one go. For that reason, the catalog comes in handy. I look forward to giving it a more thorough read this week.

In contrast, an accompanying show celebrating 250 years of the Summer Exhibition was a much more staid, though no less enlightening, affair. The newly renovated and greatly expanded Royal Academy is terrific to behold. I’ll be going back when next I’m in London.

On an unrelated note, I just started reading Ross Raisin’s latest novel “A Natural.” I didn’t realize he’d written “God’s Own Country,” the film version of which I streamed a few months ago and was absolutely smitten — shares a similar subject matter to “Brokeback Mountain” but better, grittier, and more real. Based on the reviews I’ve read, I think “A Natural” does something similar within the context of professional English football. I’m only fifty pages in, but Raisin writes like a dream.

That’s all for now. It’s 5:30pm which means “Eggheads” in half an hour. The game shows here are addictive.