Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A bit of culture

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to land a fairly good job at one of the large media groups in the UK, based at the end of Blackfriars Bridge. That's the bridge in the photo, and the office I worked in would have been just to the right. Thirteenth floor, and curtain walled with an amazing floor to ceiling window that looked out onto the river. The building in the middle of the photo is the Tate Modern, which was a couple of minutes walk away, and for one reason or another it came up in a conversation yesterday and got me thinking that it's about time I paid it another visit. I used to go quite regularly, and once I went there on a Sunday afternoon on a first date with a woman I'd spoken to a few times but never met before. She asked me if I'd seen The Weather Project by Olafur Eliasson, the fourth in the annual Unilever Series of commissions for the Turbine Hall. When I said that I hadn't she was beside herself with excitement.

I drove there after picking her up, and as we parked she reached into her handbag and pulled out a spliff. "If you haven't seen it before" she said, "you just have to be stoned. Trust me." So we sat in the car for a while, smoking and generally getting rather giggly, and then went inside, and down the ramp into the Turbine Hall. Where I just stopped dead in my tracks. The hall was filled with a gentle machine-hum, and the soft orange radience from the "sun" on the far wall gave the atmosphere an almost surreal feel. I'm not sure if it was because we were stoned, but the feeling of complete calm was unlike anything I'd experienced before. It was awe-inspiring.

You may not have noticed from the photograph above, but at a point half-way up the sun, there was a suspended mirrored ceiling, creating the impression of a complete circle and providing a view of the entire hall for anyone who glanced up. So overpowering was the desire to look at the mirrored image above that almost everybody found themselves laying on the floor, staring up and losing themselves in the totality of the experience. My date and I lay down and didn't move for nearly two hours, chatting about anything and everything but really not caring too much. It was without any shadow of doubt the strangest, and the best, first date I've ever had.

My relationship with this woman became even stranger, it has to be said. On our third date, she came round for dinner, and it was no real surprise that, after a bottle or two of wine, we ended up ascending the stairs at some point in the evening. (In fact, when I suggested it she looked heavenwards and said "Thank you, God", which was, at least, indicative of a degree of enthusiasm.) I lay on the bed as she slowly undressed, and then - as she stood naked before me - she looked me straight in the eye and said "Now don't have a fright at what I'm about to do...". And with that, she shook her amazingly long, lustrous blonde curls and then carefully lifted them from her head, revealing a dark brown crop beneath. No more than a number 2 clipper in hairdressing terms, at most. I was completely astonished, and then incredibly aroused... and that night will go down in history as one of my wildest ever. And there have been some wild ones, believe you me.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out for us in the longer term, but I still look back at those experiences with a smile on my face. And I really must check what's showing at the Tate Modern, which is, of course, where I started this post.

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