We went on a short trip this afternoon to Wilton Way in order to call in on Momosan. They had an exhibition in the window of the work of a young Japanese potter called Yuta Segawa, who has previously shown in Tokyo in an exhibition called FUCK THE BAUHAUS. I’m not sure what to make of this, but admired the display:-
I was walking along the back route to the canal and thought that I would have a look at the Novo Cemetery, one of the best and most dramatic of the East London Jewish cemeteries, when I remembered that there is a fourth which I have never seen and is only available by appointment. I managed to penetrate Queen Mary (I don’t recommend it as I may well have been trespassing) and discovered behind some student accommodation what remains of the oldest Jewish cemetery in the country, opened in 1657, only a year following the establishment of a Spanish and Portuguese congregation under the name of Sha’ar Hashamayim, ‘the Gate of Heaven’. It was on the site of the garden and orchard of a pub called The Soldiers Tenement. Not much to see, but the atmosphere of Cromwellian liberalism:-
You might not guess it from this morning’s Financial Times, but Stepney Green is actually quite green. So, on my Saturday morning walk to buy goose eggs from Marsh Produce who have a stall in Stepney City Farm, I took photographs of the walk down the side of the Green:-
And the chickens:-
I have been writing – or at least thinking about – a talk I am giving to the Art Fund in July and was remembering that East London is not quite my first book of photographs because in 1976 I did the photographs for a book about Tunbridge Wells by Terence Davis, a friend and author of books about John Nash. He and his partner, Nicolas van den Branden, had a small cottage in fields near Wadhurst, to which Terence had added a grand gothick library, and he asked me whilst I was still an undergraduate if I would take photographs for the book he was writing. I enjoyed it immensely, but can’t help noticing that the photographs are a bit blurry and that the lens of the enlarger was covered in hairs and grit:-
I went out first thing this morning to the new local branch of Sainsbury’s to buy a copy of the Weekend FT to check that the article I’ve written about Stepney Green has appeared in the colour magazine. It has (p.27). I found it harder than expected to write a longer piece (well, it’s not that long), having got used to the blissful superficiality of a blog entry. And it’s odd to see it illustrated with someone else’s photographs, including a basketball game in Bethnal Green Library Park and a brown and white sheep in the local farm. You can spare yourself £3.80 by reading it online (just google Saumarez Smith Stepney Green).
Edmund de Waal gave the biennual Leo Baeck Lecture this evening at Queen Mary on the subject of ‘On the Eve of Departure: Art and Exile’. He must have talked about the background to the writing of The Hare with Amber Eyes a hundred times, if not a thousand (it was published in 2010), but he still managed to invest the circumstances of his family history with extraordinarily vivid immediacy, as if he was only just telling the story for the first time of Charles Ephrussi in 81, rue de Monceau, Viktor von Ephrussi, his scholarly great grandfather, his grandmother Elisabeth who only died in 1991, his great uncle Ignace, who left Vienna to become a fashion designer, and Victor de Waal, his wonderful father who was chaplain of King’s and Dean of Canterbury. Maybe talking to a scholarly Jewish audience gave the narrative a different edge, because, although his father had apparently suppressed his Jewish upbringing, Edmund said that a visit to the Leo Baeck library reminded him of his upbringing. It was a tour de force.
I don’t normally do restaurant recommendations on my blog (unless they’re in Anglesey), but last night we were booked in to the Waterloo Bar and Kitchen next door to the Old Vic, which turned out not to have disabled access. So, after two beefy waiters failed to lift the wheelchair, we retreated to La Barca on the other side of the road. We had the nicest and most delicious meal and the warmest possible welcome, so this is a way of conveying our gratitude.