I'm spending the weekend in London, which is great as it means I get to combine a visit to my Mum's with seeing some old friends from school and meeting my new agent for lunch.
I recently went to Venice, and whilst there saw a fab lampshade at a stall. It was quite sixties looking, like a giant white globe made of petals, and I thought Mum would love it. I should have realised, but when they handed over a flat pack I was too dumb to guess that that's exactly what it was - a flatpacked lampshade that I would have to construct myself. That's why I spent the first hour of my evening at Mum's - a woman I haven't seen since March - painstakingly weaving thirty bloody bits of identical plastic into an approximation of the shape I'd seen in Italy. The instructions were in Italian, with a handy English translation on the back - sample instruction: "when fissing the lost pieces, make sure leaf gap for light cord". Thanks for the help, manual guys.
My stepdad came over on the Friday and we had a great day in central London. First on our itinerary was a visit to the latest Anthony Gormley exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. If you live in London you might have seen the lifesize figures dotted on the skyline on various buildings around the South Bank. Watchers or invaders? Guardian angels or Gort from The Day The Earth Stood Still?
Inside, the most interactive part of the exhibition was his "Blind Light" creation - an 8x10m glass box full of mist illuminated by a bright white light. 25 people only are allowed in at a time. It's a completely disorienting experience - once you're in there, you can only see a couple of feet in front of you. I couldn't see past my waist. People suddenly loom out at you from the fog. Sometimes you hear a familiar voice and realise you're only a couple of steps from your own mother, but just can't see her. The kids there loved it, and every so often you'd hear "bang - ow!" as one of them ran into a wall. I found myself rooted to the spot, unwilling to venture a step in any direction in case I walked into someone. When you're in there it's a bit like a Tardis - from the outside you know it's a finite box, but on the inside you could be in the middle of an icy tundra. Very useful stuff if you're a writer - one of those experiences you make a mental note of, just in case one of your characters is ever caught in one of those notorious Antarctic glowing fog scenarios.
After the exhibition we grabbed a sandwich and ate it in a nice park near the river with a jazz band, and "keep off the grass" signs which kept the emerald lawn was pristine and empty, and forced all the office workers to jam themselves into the side bits of grass, with the pigeon poo and the snoring Special Brew guy.
Going to see each Harry Potter as it comes out is a bit of a family tradition, and Order of the Phoenix was on at the Odeon on Tottenham Court Road. With each film the reviews say "darker and more grown-up than the last one", and it's really true of this latest. The whimsy and light-hearted elements have gone completely out the window. Having read the book, which is extremely long, watching the film was a bit like seeing snapshots of the whole plot, but the oldsters seem to know what was going on, and they just watch the films (as the lights dimmed before Chamber of Secrets started, I suddenly remembered - and whispered a warning to my folks - "this is the one with the giant spiders". They thought I meant 'this is the cinema with the giant spiders', and sat there shitting themselves until the spiders appeared in the movie and the idiots realised what I'd meant - as if I'd go anywhere near a place famed for its huge spiders!)
Bought the last Harry Potter book afterwards, which I've already nearly finished. Pretty high body count so far - I'm impressed.