Sunday, 10/23. A morning jog. Dogs. Laundry. Thoughts about coffee. Sloane Ranger for a day. Victoria and Albert Museum. Maker culture and postmodernism. More laundry. Liqueur from Sardinia.
Slept late enough for the sun to be well up, then went back to Hyde Park for a jog. This time my jog encompassed Kensington Gardens as well, and I loped past the well-fortified Russian embassy on the west side of the park. Upon returning to the park I took a premature right turn and ended up on the Kensington Palace grounds themselves, where I briefly interrupted some gentlemen preparing to cast their R/C sailboats on an ornamental lake. Of course there's a Model Yachting Association of Great Britain, so I reckon these fellows belonged to that esteemed organization. I gracefully turned around and jogged back the way I came (O HAI I TOTALLY MEANT TO DO THAT).
Back in the park, dodging bicycles and horse poo, I spent some time observing dogs and their owners. I don't think I've ever seen such pampered, happy-looking dogs. I know I'm looking at my surroundings through rose-tinted glasses, but I wanted to take all the dogs home. (GET ALL THE DOGZ!) Most owners seemed happy to let their dogs run free, trusting them not to flee, and the dogs seemed to be pretty content with this arrangement. One canine in particular made me smile: the dog had lagged behind its people, content to sit for a moment in the sunshine. The man called, but the dog didn't come. The man spied a squirrel and started chasing it in circles. The woman started to laugh. The dog's ears pricked up: Hrrrmmm? Then the dog's eyes widened: Squirrel! The dog took off like a rocket while the squirrel skedaddled. Canine and hominids lived happily ever after.
After the fun the work began: Sturdy Helpmeet™ and I needed to do laundry. The hotel lobby had a flier for the nearby Pimlico Laundrette, so we packed our dirty things into a couple of bags and schlepped them through the neighborhood. It turns out the map on the flier was not drawn to scale, so we took a route about three times as long as it needed to be, but it was such a lovely day and such a lovely neighborhood that we didn't really mind. Originally we thought we might do the laundry ourselves, but it turned out that the establishment was willing to handle the chore for a modest fee, so we took advantage and spent the afternoon wandering around.
First stop: breakfast! Er, lunch. Brunch. At Daylesford Organic farm shop and cafe: yum. Smoked salmon and eggs on toast, with coffee to die for...
Oh, the coffee. I'm soooo spoiled now. I think I'll have to buy a French press (or maybe an espresso machine) and a bunch of small coffee cups. And a better grinder. And sugar cubes. And teensy little spoons to stir with. And maybe some Eastern European guest workers. Something about the coffee in London just blew me away, every time, no matter where I drank it. I used to be impressed with my automatic grind-and-drip coffee pot, but now I know what a shallow and flaccid brew it makes. The worst part? My flaccid home brew actually compares favorably with most of the stuff I get from local fancy coffee shops in Austin. Maybe it's the side effect of drinking coffee that's sat in a thermos, from big paper cups. I don't know, but since coming home I've felt like I've downgraded from Ferrari coffee to Ford coffee. Something Must Be Done.
Yes, I know: "First-world problems."
Fuck that shit. I want my coffee.
After lunch we became Sloane Rangers, wandering along the expensive streets and shops of Kensington and Chelsea until eventually we found the Victoria and Albert Museum. (Note that we didn't actually buy anything from these expensive shops, so I suppose we're just Sloane Rangers in Training. Maybe Sloane Hobbits.) Instead of wandering all about the museum, we stuck to two small exhibitions, and they were a lot of fun.
Power of Making. This room was basically full of Boing Boing porn, and being Boing Boing porn, I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd seen most of it before. The demonstration of 3D printers was very cool, however, and I think it's great to see a major museum celebrating outsider art and DIY manufacturing, building, and craftsmanship. There was a line to get in, and I think that's cool, too.
Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970–1990. (First rule of postmodernism: all titles must have a colon in them.) This was what I really came to see. It's all about postmodernism in art, film, music, architecture, design, and even commerce (but not so much in literature or philosophy, which was a bit of a disappointment, but then it is an art museum after all). The Blade Runner bit was predictable but satisfying, the home decor bit was slightly bewildering at times, and the music bit was a flashback to the 80s. I especially liked the Grace Jones video, which I'm sure had nothing whatsoever to do with my fond memories of her bravura performance in Conan The Destroyer. (SUBVERT ALL THE DISCOURSES!)
After the V&A it was back across town (for an extremely limited and local definition of "town") to the laundrette, where we collected our nice clean clothes and and hauled them back to the hotel. At this point our feet were barking and our dogs were tired, but we were also ravenous, so we debated whether to go back out for food or to ransack the bed & breakfast's supply of shortbread cookies. Real food won out in the form of Oliveto, a Sardinian restaurant around the corner from our hotel.
Oliveto's pizza was brilliant, the pasta was amazing, the tiramisu was divine, and even the bottled beer from Sardinia was lovely. But the star of the show was mirto, a Sardinian liqueur made from myrtle berries.
Mirto is hard to describe. It tastes like licorice but smells like an herb garden or a windswept field of wildflowers. Wine experts will talk about how a vintage evokes the soil and climate where the grape was grown, but I've never experienced anything as strong (in terms of evocation of place) as this mirto. It's a rocky hillside in bloom and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in TechniColor, CinemaScope, and full-blown Smell-O-Vision. It's amazing. And Cyrano De Bergerac was actually Sardinian, so I think we should slap the swashbuckler on a bottle and sell it to everyone. Mirto. Look for it.
Next time: A split-up. Swanley. Wested Leather. Bromley. Primark. Down House. Science, politics and philosophy with a nice Turkish couple. Snuff. Toku.
The Electric Smack Shack
If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn.
- Belated observations from Londinium #2