Ships

I turned to my left,
you moved to your right,
we met in the middle:
hands reaching out,
foreheads touching,
lips finding mouth.

I moved to the east,
you sailed for the west,
an ocean between us;
heads drawing in,
bodies repelling,
soul losing heart.

Relaxed Dining in Balham

On a bitterly cold, February evening, we made our way from Balham station to Harrison’s restaurant and cocktail bar, which re-opened this month.  Unfortunately, we were walking in the wrong direction, but a glance at the door numbers soon made us realise our mistake, and before too long we were at our destination.  We were welcomed into a spacious, airy and yet delightfully warm space with an open kitchen and bar, and ushered into a comfortable banquette by friendly, attentive staff, who gave us time to digest the table-mat style menus, which are updated daily to include three specials.

Mary enjoyed her starter of Baby Gem, Pear, Watercress & Pomegranate Salad which she found both refreshing and warming, as the sweetness of the fruit was tempered by the zing of the house honey and mustard dressing.  Jon loved his piping hot Smoked Haddock & Slab Bacon Chowder, and found the small chunks of potato added a novel texture to the dish.

Mary chose from the menu for her main course: her Pithivier consisted of a glazed puff pastry crust stuffed with ricotta, wild mushroom and spinach, served on a bed of curly kale.  It was divine: warm comforting food which melts in the mouth in a perfectly sized portion.  Jon, having turned to the Specials menu for the Crab Meat, Chilli & Garlic Linguine was slightly disappointed to be served spaghetti instead and for it to be under-spiced.  A request for chilli oil brought a small bowl of oil and sliced chillies which helped to increase the spiciness.  The dish was pleasant enough, but failed to surpass the starter.

Neither of your reviewers are regular desert eaters, but Jon found the prospect of Salted Caramel ice cream too good to pass up, and, along with the Chocolate Fondant (with sprinklings of toasted pistachios) which accompanied it, it was.  Mary’s Strawberry Ice Cream was bursting with fruit, thirst quenching and creamy, and it certainly says something for the warm atmosphere of the restaurant that we were both ready for something cooler on such a cold evening.

After our meal, our charming hostess Agatha showed us around the rest of the space, which includes an elegant private dining room, seating 14 with comfort, as well as a cosy basement cocktail bar (closed Sundays and Mondays).

Overall, Harrison’s is well-designed, with good food (the menu would benefit from a couple more vegetarian choices, but what there was was delicious); affable, solicitous staff and a cosy, relaxed atmosphere.  If you live in the area, or even if you don’t, I recommend paying them a visit to see for yourself!

For more information, or to make a booking, visit http://www.harrisonsbalham.co.uk/.

Mary Tynan and Jon Axford

The Crime of the Century

Whenever Dylan Mohan Gray, the director of Fire in the Blood, is asked what the film is about, these are the words he uses: “the crime of the century.” This impressive and highly-engrossing film tells the story of big pharma, patent law, and how profit is placed before human life.
The film tells the story of the struggle to enable access to medicine for AIDS victims in Sub-Saharan Africa, who were still dying in their millions for many years after antiretroviral drugs had transformed HIV into a treatable condition in the West. 10 million or more people died preventable deaths as a direct result of Western pharmaceutical companies and governments blocking access to affordable, available generic medicine.

The documentary puts a human face on the issue, with many memorable contributions both from well-known names and from ordinary Africans affected by the virus. HIV-positive Human rights activist Zackie Achmat refused to take antiretroviral treatment, despite rapidly failing health, until the South African government publicly funded the medicines for all. Yusuf Hamied, the chairman of Indian generic drug company CIPLA, turned the tide when he offered to supply the AIDS drugs for less than $1 a day to developing countries, and to share the technological knowledge necessary for production. Lisa Kalolo, a South-African child faced a bleak future, but thanks to ART she is now attending school and living a normal life.

However, although the AIDS situation appears to be solved, we are warned that those currently taking “first-line” ARVs will, in the future, have to change to more complex ARVs which are not, and are unlikely to be, available in generic form. Director Dylan Mohan Gray also points out that AIDS in the developing world is only part of the scandal of big pharma and patent regulation: almost 50% of Americans are unable to afford their prescriptions, and approximately 33% of deaths worldwide each year are caused by treatable and preventable diseases. This situation looks set to disimprove significantly as American and European trade measures continue to cut off the supply of affordable drugs from India.

This is an important film about a significant matter which is of relevance to anyone. The implications for the world from this issue are wide ranging, and it almost feels as if Fire in the Blood should just be the first of a series of documentaries that explores the future of access to affordable medicine. This affects us all. Please watch this film.

For more information, or to find a screening near you, visit http://www.fireintheblood.com.

Mary Tynan

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A Brief History of Time

David Breuer-Weil’s Project 4 is an underground voyage through eternity.  The show seems to chart the ascent of man from the depths of the remote past, through the present, and forward into the far future, in parallel journeys of physical and spiritual evolution.

Walking down the steps to the graffiti-covered underpass, one is surprised by the almost club-like entrance to the exhibit.  Thankfully we were both on the guest list and over 18, and so duly proceeded into the Vaults, where we were greeted by professional, welcoming staff who directed us to the cloakroom, where it was a relief to give up our coats and umbrellas.

Once fortified with champagne, we started our journey of discovery in the Aspiration room.  Aspiration means both hope and breath, and this sentiment is embodied by the sculpture Emergence rising out of the earth like the birth of man, paralleling the consumerist growth of modernism – depicted in several of the room’s paintings by terraced houses accompanied by their paraphernalia of sofas, lamps, pianos, etc.

Birth, 2008, oil on canvasThe second space, Community, charts pivotal moments in the concept of oneself and one’s surroundings, as in Birth, which shows small groups of people coming up out of water in their own community unit bubbles.  Individuals inspired both reviewers, with one seeing a roadway turned sideways to symbolise a tunnel out of the earth, while the other (with a degree in Art History) was impressed by what she called “gooey plop!”

Commodification, on two levels, represents two dimensions in three.  Downstairs a giant foot (of God?) awakens Neanderthal consciousness, whilst on the upper level heads within heads explode from inside each other, with Interior resembling a bird’s nest of baby heads.  Back on the lower floor, Translations is the embodiment of being part of a book, and of how literacy contributed to the development of humanity.

Translation, 2008, oil on canvasMoving into Itinerancy, Origin shows the earth as a womb cracking open to spread mankind over its surface.  Frame symbolises the industrialisation of nature, whilst expressing a sense of serenity and beauty that is in contrast to the dynamism of many other pictures in the exhibition.

Continuity continues the human story into the future, with the 6 Orbit Panels echoing the Age of Aquarius.  Orbit 2 (Interiors) is the culmination of the isolation of modern humankind – individuals in rooms with only technology for company – the ultimate extrapolation of the bubble in Birth.  We move forward as man makes his way into space, with Milky-Way being the highlight of the show for both reviewers.  This is a sensitive representation of a beautiful celestial event, with the artist cleverly dropping in humans to float around the nebula.

Milky-Way, 2012, acrylic on canvasIn the final room, the exhibition appears to culminate in our own destruction, with exodus, fire and destruction characterising the paintings with titles such as Mortals and Afterlife 2.  After travelling through time, we watched a video of the making of David Breuer-Weil’s guide to the galaxy, with one reviewer finding the sight of the artist spreading paint across the canvas to be both erotic and inspiring.

Project 4 is an amazing and awe-inspiring exhibition, which cannot be recommended highly enough.  We were there for an hour, but could happily have stayed for three times as long.  A wonderful show in a sympathetic environment: it is not to be missed.

Project 4 is at  The Vaults, Arch 233, Leake Street, London SE1 7NN until Saturday 24 March 2013, open Monday-Saturday, 10am – 6pm and Sunday 12 – 4pm.  Admission is free.  For more information visit http://www.davidbreuerweil.com.

Mary Tynan and Fay Ryder