It’s a bit weird, going home. I always remind myself, on the way to Schönefeld, about the kids in cardigans. “Nobody will have coats on,” I tell myself. “They’ll all be huddling themselves together in flimsy little cardigan things.” And yet every time I arrive at Stansted, regular as clockwork, I’m always shocked, dead shocked, to realize I wasn’t exaggerating.
It’s a weird feeling. Home and homeless, all at once.
Last time I went back, I met up with my little brother and sister at the Tate Modern. I had really genuinely good intentions, you know. “I am now a Berlin artist-slash-intellectual type,” I told myself sternly. “I think I actually went to the theatre more often than the pictures last year, and my boyfriend wears really spoddy glasses. I no longer belong to the kind of people who laugh at modern art. I am an Artist Type.”
I stood outside the entrance to the Tate and swore to myself solemnly that I would not a) giggle at any willies, b) spend more time in the cafe than looking at installations or c) say the words “Is this really part of it or actually just a fire extinguisher?” No, siree. I would not make any posh people wish the Tate would start charging entrance again. AND ABOVE ALL I would open Rico’s eyes to the beauty of Modern Art (both paintings and installations).
But maybe pleb just flows in my veins where the blood should go. Walked in, showed Rico the giant spider, he was fascinated with the idea that it was a skeleton of a spider that lived when the dinos lived, I explained no, it was Art, not Science, but maybe one day spiders were gonna evolve that big, what did Rico think? Cool huh? Okay… but we can’t go in that room over there coz they’re using it for storage. It’s full of metal bunk beds, you see? They obviously don’t have enough room in the cellar… Come away, Rico, let’s go and look at the real art exhibition.
My brother coughs respectfully and regretfully. “I think these bunk beds are actually part of it, they’re actually meant to be art, Jacinta,” he says, a bit embarrassed. “That’s why
they’ve stapled a lot of French novels to them.”
I looked at the bunk-beds and then back at my brother.
“These are part of it?” I asked.
“Yeah, they’re part of it.”
I looked at the bunk beds and noticed, for the first time, how they all had copies of French novels stapled to them. And I sighed. My brother chuckled.
“You thought they’d just run out of storage space,” he said and started wheezing.
“Oh, shut up,” I said. “Let’s find the cafe. Rico needs a muffin or something.”
But there is something exuberant about the way the British hate modern art. We’re skeptical and cynical, but quite joyous at the same time. It’s like we’re chuffed to bits, really, at the thought of totally and absolutely not getting it. My brother’s mates came over that evening and we told them where we’d
“Oh, it’s full of rubbish, innit?” They said cheerfully.
“Some of it is actual rubbish,” one boy said, with great gusto. “Actual rubbish, from the floor, and they’re so rich.”
“Did you see that messy bed?” Another boy said. “Got
three million for that, she did. My bed’s twice as messy, maybe
someone’ll give me six million.”
“My bed’s twice as messy, and I got bunk beds.”
“Nah, they’ve got enough bunk beds at the moment,” said my little brother, always the voice of reason.