It has been more than a month since I last blogged.
We had a family holiday in Latvia. In Riga we got acquainted with the Latvian institution of the lido — local parks have council-funded jumping castles, little electric cars, trampolines, and beer gardens! So Griff was in heaven, and so were we. Riga is a Unesco-listed medieval town with flourishes of art nouveau — I loved it. After a lot of looking around for a church that would let me actually do something churchy rather than touristy, I managed to light a candle for Dzintars at Svetas Marijas Magdalenas, a beautiful little place dating from the 1200s and now locked in by newer buildings. I sat on a pew and had a nice chat to my old friend. There are other dead loved ones I’d like to talk to sometime soon, in particular my great aunts Edna and Aggie.
After a few days in Riga we went to Jurmala, a seaside resort, where the best thing for me was watching Richard and Griff spending hours tumbling and diving in the pool. Julia, Helen and I did spa stuff: steam rooms scented with peppermint, saunas of 60, 80 and 110 degrees, then ice-saunas… and sloughing off years worth of old skin in the salt room. Evenings we spent playing air hockey and getting whiplash on the dodgem cars, and eating the rather terrible Latvian cuisine (for the vegetarian, lucky me, it was mostly pickled garlic, pickled cabbage, pickled carrots). The fashion in Jurmala was extraordinary. Most women looked like this.
Richard and I went to Moscow for a few days. Underneath Moscow there are mosaic-covered golden metro stations, grand as concert halls, and trains every minute or so. Above ground there are gridlocks of black 4WD BMWs, each carrying one very rich driver (Moscow has more billionaires per capita than anywhere else in the world). There’s a McDonalds at Red Square that people queue for. The photo below pretty much captures what Moscow looks like once you’re out of the centre.
In high school and during my first year at Melbourne University I learned Russian, and I was surprised by how much I could remember… although it still wasn’t enough to stop us getting lost several times. A dear friend from my undergraduate years, James Jenkin, became a Russian linguistics expert and went on to write the Lonely Planet Russian Phrasebook. I bought it for the trip and it was most useful, although I was sad I didn’t get the opportunity to use phrases from his ‘sex’ section such as ‘pabihstryeey!’ (faster!), ‘nichivo ya sam zdyelayu’ (don’t worry, I’ll do it myself) and ‘i vot pachimu tih nye zamuzhihm da’ (is that why you’re single?).
Anyway, enough of that high-brow stuff. I’ve had a couple of exciting fashion moments in the last month. In Riga I found these Sigmund Freud earrings.
In Moscow, Richard and I took a trip to somewhere the guidebook described as the ‘only avant-garde fashion shop in the city’. It took us a while to find it, in a grimy industrial area slowly being colonised by artists and artistes. Then, lo, the shop, Cara&Co, was filled with Australian labels! It was such a surprise to find Metalicus, Akira, Ksubi and Dinosaur Designs in Moscow… it turns out the store is owned by an Australian and has been ranked one of the ten best boutiques in the world. I didn’t buy anything but convinced the husband to purchase a zippered hoodie by gene par Yukio Mishiba, who says that his clothes ‘take on the shades of the city: the color of dusty asphalt, slushy snow, the polluted night sky’. And yes, that description does make the murky grey-green-beige top seem quite beautiful.
Back in London, I wandered out of the British Library one sunny lunchtime, down Evershalt Rd towards Camden. I spotted a delicate-looking silk top wafting in the window of the YMCA op shop… inside I had to wait for a man to stop pawing it, then I pounced — hoorah, it was Prada, and beautiful, and a perfect fit, hoorah. It’s the colour of, oh, a Barbie doll that’s been left out in the rain, I suppose.
In another fashion high/low I saw a woman on the street wearing a pair of these shoes and became obsessed.
Some searching on the web using words like leopard, cheetah, wedges and slutty soon identified the shoes, waiting for purchase in China. About 25 quid and a week later they arrived on the front doorstep. They’re completely vegan — made of 100% plastic, cardboard and polystyrene — that could be a good thing or a bad thing. They’re remarkably comfortable as they weigh hardly anything. I wore them out last week with Julia and Sonja, to a talk at the Whitechapel Gallery and then a curry dinner.
In other news, my fabulous research team (five of us) has been funded by the ESRC to look at cosmetic surgery tourism in Europe and Southeast Asia, with the very grand sum of ₤240,000 to be spent over two years. So there will be more time for me in cosmetic surgery clinics in Thailand. I know it seems a strange place to have fun, but I really do love my research!
Richard and I are off to Berlin on the weekend to play with Yiorgios, then spending the following week in Leeds while I have meetings with my co-researchers…