As I get older, my grasp on this world begins to loosen.
Saturday. 10.30 pm: Off to the Museum of Brands, at Ladbooke Grove. To my mind, it was less about brands and branding, in the contemporary sense of that term, than brands in the old fashioned sense: being, the companies that made things. The ‘Museum of Stuff’ might have been a more accurate description of the contents. The display was under-curated. I needed more dates, descriptions, and interpretations. Nevertheless, this aspect of our material culture is as astute and reliable an index to the values, preoccupations, and obsessions of society as any fine art object. Of course, the opportunity to see toys, confectionary wrapping, and TV tie-ins from my childhood was reason enough to visit. This was conditional time travel.
1.00 pm: I took lunch in a Japanese restaurant off Portabello Road: a filling and tasty bowl of chilli-Chicken ramen with rice noodles (in order to avoid gluten). After which, I explored the Portobello Road Market: the tat and veg end. I’ve never seen Notting Hill, so the iconography and places associated with the film (which a good many Japanese tourists were photographing with palpable glee) were entirely lost on me.
3.30 pm: From Notting Hill I journeyed to South Kensington and another appointment with history at the Victoria & Albert Museum: the ‘Museum of Stuff’, par excellence. My elder son and I were bowled over by the Trajan column (in two parts), as viewed from above (or, rather, half way up its height).
We headed for the photography gallery, thereafter.
Eugene Atget’s suite of the staircase rail, Versailles, which I’d never seen before, was arresting. Astonishing. There’s something visible and, yet, unseeable in these photographs, other than the ostensible subject matter. One day, I’ll leave all these glorious wonders behind, like everyone else who has either passed through the museum’s doors or contributed to the collections. Life and its substance are intensified and made more precious by the recognition of their (and my) evanescence. Homeward:
Sunday. 9.30 am: I attended a traditional liturgical service at Holy Trinity Church, Clapham Common. This was William Wilberforce’s church. In view of his tireless work to bring about the abolition of the slave trade, it was heartening to see so many Jamaicans and Africans among the congregation.