Tango – the first night

I love dancing and have done modern jive for a number of years, but somehow I became bored with it and hadn’t been for a month or two. So, as an attempt to get back into partner dancing another way, I tried Argentine tango last night. It was fab. The lesson was all about connection and technique, lead and follow (with the guy leading and the woman following, although we tried it the other way around to check how it felt). Then, the friend I went with and a couple of others I know from modern jive had a dance afterwards, using some of the steps that I’d learned at a modern jive/tango fusion Jango. Again, this was fab. The dance is very much about a connection between two people, sensing where they are (where their weight is) and leading or following on from that. Now, if all conversations started with the same opening (finding where your partner is coming from) and worked as hard at maintaining that connection, we’d possibly be a lot better off.
My friend Clive has promised to sort me out with evenings where I can learn steps as well as technique (last night was very much a kind of vertical pilates lesson, but much more fun). I’m really looking forward to more tango. Yum.

Columbia Rd Style & Fashion

I love going to Columbia Road flower market. It’s the closest London market to me after Petticoat Lane and I’ve now mastered the art of getting there without getting lost or the need for an A-Z. It was pretty cold and some hot marketeers were promoting a digital TV channel (I think) by handing out branded hand-warmers – two to each person. Each warmer was a kind of bendable plastic pod that fits into the palm of your hand and is activated by bending a piece of enclosed metal backwards and forwards a few times. It then glows with heat for a good 15 mins and can be recharged by putting into boiling water. It just hit the spot!
On the way there, I was struck by the repetition of posters on the wall and their message (STYLE STYLE STYLE FASHION FASHION FASHION) in the somewhat eclectic and “up and coming” area of Shoreditch.
I’m not a massive fan of graffiti, but this was in some of my favourite colours, so I photographed it, imagining a graffiti series of square images.

On a completely different topic, another wedding photographer on an on-line forum suggested listening to Pandora – a customisable radio station based around your tastes. I put in my favourite group to start it – Pink Martini – and it’s found all kinds of Latin and ambient music. You can fine tune it by approving or disapproving songs it plays. Some of the tracks have seemed like real duds, but Robert Downey Jr singing Smile and Cyndia Lauper with Stay are fabulous finds. The station also does “quirky”. A band called Senor Coconut & His Orchestra have added their own particular Latin speed flair to Riders on the Storm and Beat It (yes, the Michael Jackson song). They probably could be filed under the category “very special”.

Only Smarties have the answer

I was asked “Do Smarties have the answer?” today by one of the Docklands Light Railway train captains when I offered him some from one of the new hexagonal tubes. He said it was one of the sweet’s advertising slogans. So I check and there is indeed an on-line fanzine with the slogan as its name and the manufacturer’s site says that 17,000 Smarties are eaten every minute in the UK. Well, our train captain wasn’t doing his bit for Smartie consumption today, but he could do mean EastEnd and Yorkshire impressions when not making announcements in his “posh” voice. He was such a honey, it was almost a shame to get off his train, but when I did, there was this ad, which I liked. I just wondered whether it was dreamed up by a man or a woman.


Having the sun out for the second day in a row seems to have a lightening effect on people. Just walking along the river to buy the Sunday paper is such a pleasure. It seemed especially easy to offer to press the button on a point & shoot camera for one couple and to meet a newly clipped schnauzer Henry belonging to another couple. If I was going to have a dog in my life, it would be a schnauzer; they are such gorgeous, peppy and intelligent dogs.

A Decent Coffee

My local cafe & deli, Verdi, is having a web site put together. Today, I took some exterior images of the cafe and some of the food it serves, which will be added to the site before it goes live. One of the delightful things about doing this is getting to eat a delicious meal after it’s been prepared & photographed … as well as one of Besa’s yummy cappuccinos.
Verdi’s owners and staff are like a meeting of the United Nations – they all seem to come from different countries and backgrounds. The food is good, but what I love about going there is being around such friendly people, who know their regular customers. I’ve photographed them all and put their images on the walls. The only difficult thing is trying to avoid the Byron Bay cookies and desserts.

PS The whale pictured in my last post died a few hours after the photograph was taken.

Today’s music: Cosi fan tutte (Mozart) on BBC Radio 3 live from the Met (New York’s Metropolitan Opera) with Thomas Allen & Magdalena Kozena.

Having a butcher’s …

Hook/look rhyming slang aside, I noticed a traditional butchers today, complete with straw hats and lots of delicious looking organic cuts in the window. It looked so good, I’ll have to go another time when I’m looking for something special … and am visiting Holland Park again.

I also went to the third-last day of Degas, Sickert & Toulouse-Lautrec at Tate Britain. I hoped to beat at least some of the queues by going on a week-day, but it was still crowded. However, it was completely worth it. The exhibition was meant to show the dialogue between British and French artists in the late 19th and 20th centuries. What I found fascinating was looking at some of Degas’ work where he’s deliberately cut off or through some of his subjects, as if he’s a taking a snap-shot. The work is still balanced, but not in a traditional way. His painting of a show, looking from the orchestra pit, has the musicians captured in detail, with the people on stage appearing as grey-greeny squiggles, fairly much out of focus – or whatever the painterly equivalent is of a photographer’s wide aperture/small depth of field.

Walter Sickert had painted the most striking image of a singer (Minnie Cunningham) in a red dress on stage. Everything except the dress seemed muted by comparison. Where Degas made you look at the orchestra pit by his focus, Sickert made you look at the singer mostly through his use of colour. I don’t understand why so many portrait and wedding photographers seem to look only at other photographers for inspiration when there is art like this screaming ideas. What’s more, an exhibition comes with a built-in commentary to help you make connections and understand the context of the works. (Sorry, I’m finished on the soapbox for now).

On a completely different note, the room on “Elegance and Decadence in Portraiture” was far more predictable with centred subjects lit in a very flattering light (and the dress that Lady Colin Campbell wore is to die for). The portrait of Whistler, by Giovanni Boldini, does bear a striking resemblance to Catweazle, though (not surprising that Whistler apparently didn’t like it).

There was just enough time to see the four short-listed Turner Prize artists as well. The guy who won had pulled apart a shed, rebuilt it as a boat, gone down a river then reassembled the shed. He’d also photographed a platinum mine where its product was used to make the five platinum prints on show. Somehow it’s really satisfying to see art which feels complete, having a beginning, a middle and an end.

The sun was on its way out by the time I left the Tate’s Millais statue.