Out of the tube at Blackfriars into sunshine, much brighter and more real than the light I'd endured next to the snoozing lady on the bus, light which had me pulling up sleeves and stretching fingers in luxurious vegetable pleasure of sun and feeling myself thicken and grow stronger, like a primrose in the spring. In the centre of the bridge a man was filming something upriver and there were blimps outside the Tate, ducking and diving like stunt kites in the hard wind, and I remembered that it was Comic Relief and me with bright red As they were faster and therefore more nimble, I struck a straitish line and trusted them to do the dodging. By the grace of the crowd, I passed without inconvenience to anyone, not the sparkle-haired office skivers, not Lady Godiva in a red t-shirt, not the guy with the really nice blue wig, not all the virtuous. earnest clowns with red noses painted on, because this year's noses were so safe and elaborate that they wouldn't stick to your nose. Outside the Tate, tourists were posinq with a partly deflated blimp, casualty of the high winds, like hunters showing off a kill.
I stepped out of the cafe and onto the balcony, and discovered abruptly why almost no-one was out on it. Cold March air in the shadow of the tall chimney, and real hard wind that whipped the hair of escapee schoolgirls and tore the crumbs from my muffin and flung them in the faces of older boys, out there too, compulsively smoking. But I didn't have to wait for long; just time enough to get cold and go in twice (once for each balcony) and to put the finishing touches to the script for next week's strip, Ripley on the Tube.
We were here to see Beckmann, hardly on my top ten list, but I was here after colour, following a disastrous attempt to put a colour layer on this week's strip, and Beckmann certainly had lots of ideas about colour. Also weird fish, sly birdies, and naked men slyly glancing at each others' huge parrots. Elle loved it but it felt a bit too much like work to me, put me in mind of the man who caught me reviewing Lady Windermere's Fan, and said, I was wondering if it interfered with your enjoyment of the play; I'm a surgeon, I often find myself looking at people in anatomical terms.
When our eyes were stinging and our brains aching we stumbled back to the tube (pausing only to spit in the general direction of the lousy selection of postcards) in search of peace and shadowy goodness at the V&A. What we found was the less than soothing Tale of Hamza, elaborate, lurid and exquisitely detailed court illustrations of the lives of Islamic Hero-kings, seething with giants and devs and dragons and magic three-eyed purple horses. They also do story-telling, on biq silk cushions. Who wants to go back for a proper look? It's free!
Then I would maybe have gone home, but Elle grabbed my undirected addled picture-stuffed head and stumbled me back to her place, where her neglectful husband has been leaving her abandoned a bit lately (he works in the city, diddling the stock market, and recently his time has been divided between working, drinking, and wandering around grey-cheeked and hollow-eyed) and proceeded to cook for me while firing off txts to other teachers fishing for jobs. Predictive text is giving her bother. It suggests "faking" for "Ealing" she says, chopping the peppers so she can pretend she's making real sauce and not just automatic pasta and I blow red wine (label in Sicilian it must be good) through my nose.
And get home late and very drunk.