One Hundred Spaces by Rachel Whiteread @ Tate Britain

“Manifestation of negative space!”

The sentence was repeating in my head over and over while I paced excitedly around the installation “One Hundred Spaces” in the Duveen Gallery, Tate Britain.

The work was by the artist, Rachel Whiteread, who had been my hero since my student days.

“One Hundred Spaces” consisted of one hundred resin cubes, and these cubes were in fact, a direct result of the artist casting the empty space underneath each chair.

Representing what was supposed to be “empty” in such a spectacular way, she pulled our attention to something which we overlook most of the time.

Also, anyone who ever casted resin, including me, will understand how difficult to make these pieces. Synthetic resin – liquid methyl methacrylate to be precise, is notoriously difficult material to work with and can be very unforgiving if it is not done properly.

So each piece was casted in one go as I see no telltale line / lines on any of them…

I could imagine it must have been the hell of trials and errors before finding the right volume and mixture to create the piece of this size.

It is easy to be mesmerised by the end result alone…

However, we appreciate the artworks even more if we are aware of the process the artist experienced and the difficulties she / he overcame…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Bella & mud bath

Bella had a good run at Regent’s Park this afternoon. Unlike yesterday, it was very mild today and we had loads of fun, meeting other dogs and chasing a ball and each other in the park.

It was because of the recent bad weather, the sports field, where we always visited, was heavily saturated with the water and the ground was like a wet sponge.

The field may look green from the distance…

 

However, it was more brown than green when I approached it. The weather was too cold to dry the ground thoroughly and also the field was in constant use as football pitches which didn’t help the matter either.

We arrived at the Hub Café but found it was closed until the 2nd January…

Oh well, I’ll have to have a cup of tea at home then, I shrugged my shoulders and we headed towards the Broad Walk, throwing a ball and greeting four-legged friends as we encountered them.

Oh Bay-Bay, you are so DIRTY!

With the exception of her furry chest area which was under the harness, the rest of her body was covered with mud and the bits and pieces from the fallen leaves. Oh dear.

Bella and I, playing tag…

 

We teased each other, pretending to run away or to run after one another. Eventually, we had enough of running around and left the park for home.

While we were walking along the pavement next to the hedge of the Avenue Gardens, we met Bella’s nemesis, Mr.Squirrel.

Upon sensing Bella’s presence, Mr.Squirrel quickly but calmly took refuge up amongst the tree branches…

Can you see him?

Don’t be so smug, Mister!

Sorry Bella, but Mr.Squirrel is out of your reach and out of your life.

Now, we must hurry because we have a more pressing matter at hand. If you will like it or not, you are going to have a proper hose down as soon as I have a cup of tea at home. I am sorry but you are intolerably dirty.

p.s. Bella was washed, blow-dried and combed after I shared tea and panettone with Hubbie. Now, she is very tired and having a well-deserved kip next to me on the sofa…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Afternoon tea @ St Pancras Renaissance

The last afternoon tea I had was at the Lanesborough during last July. My friends were visiting London and they wanted to have a traditional afternoon tea (who wouldn’t?), therefore, I recommended there. This time, I wanted to take my girl Bella with me, therefore, I picked St Pancras Renaissance. In London, there were more than a few dog-friendly afternoon tea venues to choose from. However, most of the places were in West London and St Pancras Renaissance was the only hotel which was close from our place and also welcomed four-legged guests open-armed.

Hurry up, you all!

Even though her legs were short, she climbed the stairs much quicker than me. Why is that? Would I run up the stairs much faster if I got down on all four?!

Behind the present building, there are platforms for Eurostar…

The Victorian style building has Grade 1 listed status and the original structure was constructed in the late 19th century.

I distinctively remember how the place used to be before all the regeneration works transformed the entire area. It was in the early 90’s and the station just looked dirty and unloved. I think I was on my way to visit Cambridge and the train route was starting from St Pancras. The journey was made on one very cold February day and in my memory, the platform was utterly devoid of human beings and as cold as a tomb.

During the 1960’s, there were serious discussions regarding the future of the station. Some wanted the station to be closed and demolished altogether for inner-city redevelopment. However, the station was spared, thanks to fierce opposition by the Victorian Society.

The fortune of the station improved further in 1996 when LCR – London and Continental Railways won a contract from the government to reconstruct St Pancras. The company was to build a 109-kilometre (68 mi) high-speed railway between London and the United Kingdom end of the Channel Tunnel as well as to refit the existing St Pancras for accommodating 300-metre+ Eurostar trains.

After eleven years, during which there were a few ups and downs and the cost of £800 million, the station was reopened on 6 November 2007 by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Before the present St Pancras Renaissance opened its doors in 2011, the site was occupied by the remain of Midland Grand Hotel. The original hotel which was in the elaborate English Gothic revival style was designed by the architect, George Gilbert Scott in 1865. In its heyday, the hotel was known for expensive fixtures and luxurious decor. The place was decked with a grand staircase and every room had a fireplace. The hotel also sported the latest innovations of the time, such as hydraulic lifts, concrete floors, revolving doors and fireproof floor constructions. However by the 1920’s, all the utilities became out of date and it was decided that the hotel was to cease trading in 1935.

After the hotel was closed down, the place was renamed as St Pancras Chambers and it was used as railway offices by British Rail until the 1980’s before the building failed fire safety regulations.

In 2004, planning permission was granted to redevelop the existing boarded-up building into a new five-star hotel complex. The specification for the new hotel, which was to contain 244 guest rooms, two restaurants, two bars, a spa and a gym with a swimming pool, required a much bigger footprint than the former structure, therefore, a new bedroom wing was created on the western side of the Barlow train shed.

Steps leading us to a beautifully decorated hotel lobby…

The afternoon tea was served in their Hansom Lounge…

It was used to be the spot where the wealthiest passengers were dropped off during the time the place was used as a train station.

Bella wanted to explore the place. ‘Let me gooooo!’

No Bay-Bay! You behave yourself!

Then she went into the sulking mode. Oh no…

I don’t care. I’m gonna make you all feel guilty. Her turned back shouted her silent protest. Oh well. Never mind.

The lounge was very Christmassy…

We ordered their classic afternoon tea. For the actual tea, I ordered Earl Grey, Hubbie opted for Rooibos tea and David went for Darjeeling.

The first plates they brought to our table were sandwiches…

There weren’t any customary cucumber sandwiches but we were given a plenty of savoury fillings filled slices and rolls, such as salt beef with mustard & pickles, salmon with dill crème fraiche, roast chicken with fennel & orange, beetroot with goat cheese and so on. They were all very delectable.

For scones, I asked them to include a few scones without raisins or sultanas…

So Bella could join in our feast.

Then for the cake selections, we were served trays of coffee & amaretto panna cotta, lemon mousse, mini chocolate eclair, pistachio Madeleine and raspberry Victoria sandwich…

They were all great. However, I much preferred to have them, the sandwiches, the scones and the cakes, served altogether rather than to be brought separately. Also the time between each plate was served was a little too long for us. Therefore, for those negative points, I had to say the experience was 7 out of 10.

By the way, their dog-friendliness was 10/10…

One of the staffs brought a bowl of water as soon as we were seated and everyone was very attentive to us and Bella.

It was around 5:30pm when we left the hotel…

That meant we spent nearly two and a half hours chatting and drinking tea?! Wow, time flies when we’re having fun, we all laughed…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Boxing Day stroll

Let’s have a quick sweep before David arrives! I urged Hubbie to pick up a Pledge fluffy duster while I collected scattered Bella’s toys from the floor and threw them into the toy basket.

We were doing a bit of housekeeping because David was coming to stay with us for two days before driving back to Yorkshire.

He arrived around lunchtime and we had a light lunch consisted of quiche and salad. After lunch, we decided to have a little stroll in Regent’s Park.

Bella was soooo happy to be in the park…

 

She rolled on the muddy grass like crazy. Oh well, it was inevitable since she was kept away from her beloved playground for a long time.

While David and Hubbie engaging in a serious talk, Bella and I played with a ball…

Hey! What are you waiting for? Throw the bl**dy thing!

David was amazed by the way she chased and retrieved the ball…

As always, she did with such a gusto and joy. Bella the Action Girl!

Then, we headed to Smokehouse for tea and cake…

We sat outside and sipped cappuccino and munched on muffins. The wind was a little chilly but it was nice to stretch our legs…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Silence is golden

One thing I really loved about the past two days, especially those mornings, was how quiet my neighbourhood was. It felt like I was waking up in the countryside during one of those weekend-away trips. How well and deeply one sleeps if the surrounding is free from the usual clamour of urban life, I admired as I sipped a cup of tea which was kindly brought by Hubbie.

Our Christmas Day was a quiet affair. We watched some old black & white films produced by Ealing Studios and nibbled on mince pies and chocolates.

Then, Hubbie decided to jazz up the atmosphere with his Les Paul…

Van Halen wasn’t very Christmassy. However, I was already a bit sick of benign easy listening which was prevalent during the Christmas period so I was happy with him strumming.

Bella was quite happy with a variety of doggie treats she was showered. We had been indulging her a little more than usual because the bad weather was stopping us from taking her to the park.

She seemed to adore the salmon treat especially. However, all the extra treats made her ever more hyperactive…

Why am I not receiving any attention from you two? Bella demanded to know. Please please Bella, can I have some peace and quiet for a change? You should stop being a diva because it is so un-Christmassy…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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