Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Installations in London

London is always full of interesting things to look at, and these days people flock from miles around to stare at a hole in the ground. The Tate Modern prides itself on the large installations that guest in the main turbine hall, and the current artwork there is Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth. It 'opened' in October, but I hadn't been able to get down to take it in until now.

It starts off as nothing more than a hairline graze in the floor, then follows the sloping entranceway down, widening and deepening as it does so. Salcedo says the work symbolises racial divisions, and the gap between white Europeans and the rest of the world's population. I can see how it can reflect division - but at the same time was having to constantly fight the urge to think "But it's just a crack in the floor."

It's very well made though, I guess they must have fitted a false floor or something. I considered Googling it to find out, but that would maybe take some of the mystery away. Having said that, I've managed to see almost all of the turbine hall installations, and Shibboleth is nowhere near as good as the slides last time, or my personal favourite, Olafur Eliasson's Weather Project.

After that, a quick jaunt west along the Thames to Trafalgar Square for the next rotating public artwork series - the fourth plinth statue. Built in 1841, the plinth was supposed to house a noble hero in the usual manner (the other three hold up George IV and two colonial era Generals - Henry Havelock and Sir Charles Napier). But the fourth statue was never built, so the plinth sat empty for 158yrs. Eventually a contemporary artwork was erected there for 12 months - the latest being Thomas Schütte’s sculpture Model for a Hotel 2007.

An architectural model of a 21 storey building, it was also titled 'Hotel for Birds', aping the famous Trafalgar Square pigeons. But as you can see, they don't seem to like the beautifully coloured perspex - preferring to roost in nearby trees. Proposals for the next artwork to go up are here, and I particularly like Anthony Gormley's idea of plonking real people on top, to just stand or sit there, being stared at.

But it wasn't all art and trying to find hidden meanings in artist's perceptions. I also went to the London beer festival (research for the other blog, of course).

And ended up in a deserted tube station, which usually happens to me at some point. Bounds Green, in this case, on the Picadilly Line. Thankfully that next train did indeed arrive 2mins later...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cheating with Delia

The nation's favourite and most-revered TV Chef is back - Delia Smith has a new series in the ex-MasterChef slot at 8:30 on BBC2. 'The Blessed Delia' as I believe people call her, has been cooking on British telly for almost forty years, so quite frankly it's amazing she's got any ideas left. But it seems she does, as her new series is called How to Cheat, and first up it's how to make easy recipes from everyday foodstuffs. Presumably next week she'll move onto other things like poker. Anyhow, I've never seen a Delia programme before. So how was it?

1 min - It begins with her East Anglian mansion and an easy-listening soundtrack from a Yate's Winelodge. A cat wanders around. Delia speaks - "In my 39 years of writing recipes, I have tried to gauge where people are and help them with their everyday cooking. But there are many people who are too afraid to cook, so we need to evolve a new way of cooking, because meals still need to go on the table..."

3 min - "We're going to do a smoked salmon and quail egg pie." Um, fair enough. Quail eggs? But she's off, opening packets and cooking from tins. Hey, I cook from tins! She's like me! But what brands is she using? Some very frustratingly quick edits used as she teases the packets in front of the camera for a microsecond.

4 min - A look inside Delia's concrete-lined ramekin storage facility.

5 min - Back to the pie, and apparently quail eggs come in packs with celery salt for dips. Something else the nation will sell out of tomorrow. The next addition to the pie is frozen mashed potato. Now I've been a student, but I've never heard of frozen mash - the powdered stuff with the robots was as far as I got. But the frozen mash goes on the pie, looking worryingly like urinal cakes.

6 min - I love the way she's talking about these newfangled foodstuffs, it's like she's only been told they exist half an hour before they started shooting. You can imagine her in a corner talking to a clipboard-toting researcher - "Wait a minute. Run that past me again. Beans. And Sausages. In a Tin. Together? Why the fu..."

7 min - Mashed potato in a chocolate cake. What? Maybe she has run out of ideas after all. Nigel Slater appears, eating said cake, and he looks amazed when she tells him it's got mash in it. "There's something spicy in here too?", he says, frantically changing the subject. "It's five spice" Delia replies. "Ahhh, five spice!" says Nigel, probably thinking it was Harpic, or something.

9 min - The first mention of Norwich City. I was wondering when that was going to happen. Delia is one of the club directors at the perennial Championship makeweights. She wanders around the dressing room, checking on the players as if they are free range chickens. "They do look happy."

14 min - Delia's How To Wedge. Blimey. Apparently you heat them under the grill and throw plastic eggs on. It looks like the salads they serve at Pizza Hutt.

15 min - We're blending sauces now, to go over the wedges. I guess she must have drawn the line at Doritos Dippers. I wonder if Delia's mini blender will be on the shelves soon, like Jamie Oliver's 'Flavour Shaker', which has amateur chefs up and down the country standing in their kitchens making extravagant wanking motions.

17 min - A mysterious man appears. It's Mr Michael Delia. There's a touching interlude about how they met (apparently Delia was a bit of a looker). Nigel Slater seems to have disappeared.

22 min - She's got plenty of recipe books, that's for sure. "I like simple food - I've always hated theatre on a plate". She heads downstairs to make some rustic bread, which looks raw when she cuts it open. A quick flash of Nigel Slater jumping the fence in the background.

26 min - More Norwich City. They talk about the best Delia clip ever - where she charged onto the pitch at half time to shout LET'S BE 'AVIN YOU!!! encouragement at the home support, having had a few too many brandies beforehand. Michael Delia says "You can't visit an away football ground without someone coming up to you and shouting 'let's be havin' you!'" "Yeah," says Delia snippily, "So why do it again?". I swear - the very next shot is her having a drink.

27 min - Norwich beat Southampton 2-1. I wonder how many retakes that took? Meanwhile, back at her house, the cat's still looking for a way out.

28 min - 'Lazy soup'. "What you have to do, is simply open up the tin, thus, using a tin opener - if you have one, and gently stir. Now what you mustn't do, is allow it to boil, as this will impair the flavour. It says on the label, here."

29 min - More urinal cake potatoes.

29 min - Nigel Slater reappears, whispering to the crew about Delia, with a worried expression on his face. "She's taking shortcuts, but it's fine. We're still cooking. There's nothing wrong with that, these days. Can you take me with you?"

30 min - The cat seems to be dead.

30 min - Hands up, the lazy soup looks rather nice. I might even try and put one together. The episode ends with the crew tasting the soup. The soundman gets to try it. "Ooh, I wanna hear you slurp", says Delia. Or you'll end up like Nigel.

Next week, not How To Cheat at Taxes, or How to Cheat a Polygraph Test - but recipes involving tins and jars. Delia certainly moves with the times, that's for sure. Will spaghetti hoops make an appearance? What will be the mystery ingredient in the cake she makes for Nigel? Corned beef? I'm not sure I'll tune in to find out. For me, as soon as Emily from MasterChef gets her own series, the better. And as if my evening's disbelief hadn't been suspended enough, BBC2 then show a trailer for an Easter Passion Play which seems to have James Nesbitt as Pontius Pilot. Eh?

Delia Smith Online
Let's be 'aving you - Delia's drunken outburst at Norwich City (57,000 views on YouTube)
SoccerAM's fantastic Delia sketch