On Friday we went up to the V and A to the Shoes: Pleasure and Pain exhibition. Sadly more pain than pleasure, the place was heaving. Why don't they manage visitor numbers in these major exhibitions better? What's the point of timed entry if you can barely glimpse the contents of the cases through a sea of bodies? And it was so hot - have they never heard of air-con? And dark. According to Jess Cartner-Morley, the dark signifies eroticism:
'The themes of the show are transformation, status and seduction. That these are all linked, and that sexuality is imprinted through their core like a stick of rock, is suggested by the decor: in a boudoir’s half light, areas are semi-divided by velvet curtains falling in thick crimson folds.'
I suppose a press person strolling around the preview, glass of fizz in hand, might appreciate that particular design concept, but not the rest of us, crushed in a mass of humanity.
As a life-long lover and collector of shoes, what did I think? Not much, to be honest. The tiered displays of shoes in glass cases felt sterile, and it was hard to read the labels because of the crowds. A bit tame, too. 'An exhibition for beginners,' sniffed Philosopher.
There was more eroticism on show in the recent TV documentary about Christian Louboutin. Well, at least I wasn't tottering round in his 5" stilettos. I don't know why high heels are still so inflammatory in gender political terms. Surely feminism is about having choices, and we can pretty much choose whatever footwear we like. If we had been Chinese women with forcibly bound feet then we'd have something to worry about.
|A bit sterile?|
But I digress. Really? A life-long love of shoes? As a solitary little girl, I do remember being drawn to the two little companions in the Start-Rite advertisement. Presumably that illustration is based on the picture of 'The Cat who walked by himself' by Rudyard Kipling.
It was a lovely sunny day, and the Thames was looking particularly leafy and sparkly. We stopped for coffee by Twickenham Church, and then passed Eel Pie Island. I went to a party there in the early 70s, wearing a new Biba dress and fearsome cream suede platforms, all in the hope of snaring the too-hip-it-hurt man from work who had invited me. I don't think he spoke to me all night.
|Beautiful trees on the bank of the Thames|
|Looking up -river to Eel Pie Island|
|A willow-tree curtain|
We followed Walpole's suggested tour of the house, using his own guide-book, reproduced for visitors. The man sounds a complete nightmare, arrogant, egotistical and always falling out with people. To return to the cat theme, Walpole owned Selima, the cat immortalised in Gray's 'Ode to a Favourite cat, drowned in a tub of Gold Fishes.' The tub, actually a very large chinese pot, was once displayed at Strawberry Hill.
It was all interesting and curious, and we were glad we went. On the way back we stopped at a nearby pub named after Alexander Pope. Pope had a huge grotto built underneath his house. It is still there, and is currently being restored. Now, that I would like to see....
|Waldegrave poodles - Laura Ford|