, , , , , , , ,

After the hell train, the rest of my London trip went smoothly (by my usual standards, anyway). I took a bazillion pictures of Grandchild#1 which might, occasionally, include a few accidental shots of one of her parents in passing. (I know, I know… GC1 was so not impressed either.)

While she was at preschool, I did what every card-carrying OAP* London visitor does after they’ve seen St. Pauls and the British Museum, and of course, not gone on the Eye.**  I went to the Claude Monet exhibit at the National Gallery. Since the museum is in Trafalgar Square, the first step was to gawk at the sculpture du jour on the famously empty Fourth Plinth.

*[OAP=Old Age Pensioner. UK code for geezer. Shudder.]

**[No, I did NOT hang around Daniel Craig’s house in case he needs…anything. At all. Well, not for all that long anyway.]

‘The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist’, by New York artist Michael Rakowitz, is a replica of Lamassu made out of 10,500 tins of Iraqi date syrup. I could not make this up. The older gentleman next to me gazed thoughtfully at the artwork and then confided to his wife, “Makes me feel a bit peckish. Tea, darling?” (The original Lamassu, a winged bull statue which stood at the entrance to Nineveh from 700BC, was destroyed by the Islamic State group in 2015.)

The next step was to walk through the Monet exhibit, which had given orgasms to the reviewers I’d seen so far. Except… As I walked through the oddly-curated show, I noticed three things.

  1. Observation #1 (Huh!): Monet sure painted a LOT of stuff that didn’t have water lilies or cathedrals in them.
  2. Observation #2 (Heresy that could get your OAP status revoked and your AARP card cancelled): A surprising number of the non-water lily works were bog-standard oeuvre of the “sort your Aunt would hang on the back wall of her living room because it was done by a family member but isn’t funny/famous/ironic enough to hang in the downstairs loo” persuasion.
  3. Observation #3 (Nirvana that makes you forget #1 and #2 or maybe you’re just having those memory issues again): I got to the last room and there it was. Genius. The kind of genius that—even though you’ve seen/heard/tasted/read/experienced it a million times—still makes you cry on the million-and-one time. In this case it was seven (of his thirty or so) canvases turning the gothic facade of Rouen Cathedral into symphonies of air and color and light at different time of day, weather, and season. And it was another group from his paintings capturing Charles Barry’s recently completed neo-gothic orgasm—London’s Houses of Parliament—through the polluted London fog (about which he famously remarked,  “Without fog London would not be beautiful.”) I sat in that room feeding my soul while somehow almost an hour disappeared.

I’d probably still be there if my phone hadn’t buzzed to remind me that I promised to make dinner that night. I had the whole thing planned out: grilled salmon on the new balcony-sized barbecue grill I’d given my son-in-law as a housewarming present. I just had to do one or two little things first (like buy the food, marinate the salmon, and assemble the BBQ). Except…

  1. The BBQ appeared to have been fitted into its box by separating every piece into palm-sized bits for me to assemble as soon as I located the assembly instructions. Except…
  2. There were a LOT of assembly instructions, so many that they filled a little book. Three books, in fact. The only problem was that they were in Russian. And German. And Polish. Well, I have a University degree and lots of experience eating things that other people have grilled for me. I could do this, except…

    Some assembly required. 

  3. I couldn’t find the Fettauffangtopf. Luckily it was just hiding under the Frontblende; montiert mit Schlauch, Kontrolknopf, Druckminderer u. Einstellglied. Whew! I unwrapped and counted the bazillion Schraubenbeutel, each of which looked almost exactly alike every other Schraubenbeutel except…
  4. Those sneaky Schraubenbeutel apparently had subtly nuanced distinctions which would only become apparent about three steps after I’d already screwed them into something, which then had to be painstakingly unscrewed.  It took most of the day—much of it spent reminding myself not to verbalize my opinion of people who sell grills to linguistically-challenged grannies when there’s a two-year-old waiting to parrot the exciting bits to her parents—but finally a vaguely grill-shaped object stood proudly on the balcony waiting to be connected to the very smart and horrifically expensive bottle of propane gas. I could practically taste the salmon. Except…
  5. Brexit. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for the fact that the German hose connector was bearing a grudge and refused to mate with the fetching English gas bottle’s waiting embrace.

The grill people were very nice and promised an immediate refund. All I had to do was deconstruct the grill into its thousands of component pieces and send it back. I looked at the grill standing proudly, waiting to fulfill its char-filled destiny, and thought about the hours that had gone into getting it this far.

I suggested to my son-in-law that we consider the grill an ironic sculptural installation on his balcony/plinth. We stared at it, and for some reason I thought of the date syrup Lamassu. I was definitely feeling peckish myself. I went to make tea, while my son-in-law put the salmon in the oven. It was delicious.