The story of relationships: Tracey Emin’s Love Is What You Want and Museum of Broken Relationships

I’ll admit I didn’t know too much about Tracey Emin when I decided to go see her exhibition Love is What You Want at the Hayward Gallery. Over the years I have been aware of Tracey Emin, the celebrity artist known for her quite ‘shocking’ artwork and behaviour that has been recorded in the tabloids, but not followed her career with great interest. When thinking of her work the bed, bloody tampons, her blankets and explicit images spring to mind.

A retrospective of her life as an artist, Love Is What You Want is a look into the mind and world of Tracey through videos, interviews, drawings, neon lights, blankets and… the written word. Suppose the way Tracey uses words in her art is what makes her so different. She is a storyteller, no doubt about it.

This is a story of love, sex, gender, aggression and vulnerability – the latter which is excellently conveyed in the video Why I Never Became A Dancer, in which Tracey shares the story of her teenage years in Margate, her voice so childlike and sweet. I am not sure I left the Hayward an Emin fan, but Tracey makes more sense now.

My second destination this cultural Sunday was the Museum of Broken Relationships. Ever since spotting the image of a gnome without a nose somewhere online I have been intrigued of what this show had to offer.

Split across to venues (Tristan Bates Theatre and 38 Earlham Street) the Museum of Broken Relationshipsis a collection of ‘seemingly ordinary yet incredibly poignant objects’ – I couldn’t have said it better.

The trinkets on display have been donated by people from all over the world who have gone through the heartbreak, sorrow, and happiness of relationships past. Among the donated items are a mix tape, a pair of underpants, a garden gnome, some white shoes and a bike.

This is a story of lost love – a story which most of us can relate to. And I think this is the beauty of this showcase. Each object tell a story of a failed relationship; some ending because of betrayal, others because of death or simply because the love fizzled out and the relationship had run its course.

Then there are the reminders – in this case a tiny box of matches – that sometimes you will never truly fall out of love with – or forget –that person.

When leaving the Tristan Bates Theatre visitors are invited to write messages onto blackboards, even directly onto the brick wall. A nice touch, and if you feel like sharing your story this is the perfect opportunity.

What can I say, it’s been an emotional kind of day.

The big freeze and travelling home for Christmas

No-one, I’m sure, has escaped the news of chaos in Britain over the past weeks because of the snowfall. Trains were delayed (none derailed though?), all major airports cancelled flights and eventually closed their runways. Thousands of people were stranded in the UK and abroad only a week before Christmas, with no hotel rooms, little information and no-where to go.

For anyone who grew up in a country where snow is no uncommon occurrence, like me, you may looked at the chaotic scenes that have been reported by the media in detail with a) astonishment that for the third year running the UK seem to have been ‘surprised’ by the snow and b) some amusement that 10 cm of crisp white snow can make a whole country go into panic mode.

As one of the many who had a ticket booked to fly out from Heathrow amid the turmoil yesterday, Tuesday 21st December, I followed the snow reports with great interests in the days leading up to it. First the airport closed as it couldn’t get rid of the show and planes got snowed in. Then on Sunday night one of the runways was re-opened, but most inbound flights were cancelled and there seemed little hope of making it out. UK newspapers reported that only 1 in 3 flights would take off over the next two days…

Monday night came around, two SAS flights after the one I was travelling on had been cancelled, mine still showed as one of the ‘planned’ ones. I packed my suitcase (full of lovely Christmas presents, and in hindsight very few clothes for the cold Arctic conditions I was heading to), woke up on Tuesday morning, and checked the official flight schedule from Heatrow Airport. My flight was still scheduled to take off! I got ready – it felt like preparing to go to battle – and tweeted at SAS, just to confirm my flight. As I was leaving my flat to head to the airport, a tweet from SAS said “it’s been cancelled. Call your local office to rebook.” WTF?! Here I was, all ready to go – not having been back at my childhood home for one year . My gut feeling said “go to the airport, the flight is showing as departing on the official flight schedule”, so I quickly wrote down the number I needed to call, and decided I’d call from the bus to Paddington Station. I eventually dialed the number only to be advised that “the office doesn’t open until 8am, please call back”. Excuse me?! People are stranded and customer service office doesn’t open until 8am.

Ignoring all recommendations to stay at home and not head to Terminal 3, I made my way to Heathrow. Arriving at the airport, I was met with rows of people queuing outsite with the hope of getting into the terminal, makeshift waiting areas (massive marquees) had been erected outside and the Salvation Army had set up a food stall. The doors were guarded by airport workers who ensured that no-one entered the terminal building unless they had a scheduled flight and that the check-in was open. The guy in front of me was told to wait for another 30 minutes…outside in the cold. I, luckily, got to go to check-in immediately. Inside the terminal, a white board next to the SAS check-in area informed Scandinavian travellers that only 10 or so flights were scheduled for departure; mine was one of them. On my way to the security area – the gateway to the departure lounge – I walked past people sleeping on thin foam mattresses with only a silver space age blanket to keep them warm. Others were sitting on the floor with tired and sad eyes – what I can only imagine was the effect of several hours, or perhaps days, of uncertainty and waiting for a flight.

I found myself, quite quickly in fact, in the departure lounge, among the lucky ones. As I sat there waiting for the SAS flight to get a gate, a cheer broke out not far away upon the announcement of a ‘go to gate’.

My flight was delayed for only one and a half hour, and eventually headed for the runway and its destination: Oslo Gardermoen Airport. Unfortunately, due to the delay, we arrived at 15.40 local time, five minutes after my connecting flight had departed. Having been rebooked to the 10pm flight to Bodø, I had to wait six hours at the airport, but eventually, eight hours later than thought, I finally walked through the door at my parents’ house.

I made it home for Christmas.

Oxjam Kilburn comedy festival

After a busy weekend; the Scandinavia Show on Saturday and a mighty Urban Walk around London on Sunday, I was more than ready for bed when I was on my way home on Sunday evening. Then a text from my flatmate ticked in, reminding me of the Oxjam Kilburn comedy festival I had said ‘yes’ to go along to. I had completely forgotten!!

Arriving home, legs aching from my long walk and head aching (lack of coffee I think) it was with heavy steps I walked down the road to Power’s to go to the comedy. I had not heard of any of the acts before, but being informed that one performer would sing about a panda bear cheered me up.

The room was filling up nicely when we placed our derrières on the church pews (interesting) and looked at the stage with wonder of what was to come. Kicking off the four day Oxjam Kilburn comedy festival was compère Jeff Leach (apparently quite famous – I hope my ignorance is excused, I’m foreign after all with much to learn). The acts, even if I had not heard of them before (apologies again) were of really high quality and made me forget about my tiredness. The crowd on the other hand, were a right mixed bunch. And it seemed like the odd ones had gathered at the front; Jenny who go by the play name of Penelope (she must have been drunk); the blonde Tracey who couldn’t stop giggling, before throwing ice cream at Jeff Leach (Thanks for the ice cream Oxjam – such a nice touch!); the guy who threatened to stab Jeff Leach (poor Jeff come to think of it); and not to forget random guy who clearly had just walked off the street (where he might even live…).

The second half turned into a mish-mash of random comments from those mentioned above, at times completely throwing the comedians on stage off their prepared material.  Some of it was actually quite funny, but I am glad I wasn’t one of the comedians.

Oxjam Kilburn is on today and tomorrow at Paradise by Way of Kensal Rise (Alex Zane on stage tomorrow) before coming back to The North London Tavern for Wednesday, where Gail Porter and Rufus Hound take on the Kilburn crowd. For the nice price of £5 (£6 on the door), it is almost criminal not to check it out! And you get to sample ice cream by Gelato Mio (trans. my ice cream).

I’m hoping that The North London Tavern will draw a slightly different crowd than Power’s… And Mr Panda, aka Paul Sweeney, this time I will bring my boyfriend so I won’t ruin your joke!