Sunday, 21 July 2013

'I'll take the stairs'

I took my daughter to see the opening of the 'David Bowie is…' exhibition at the V&A. We stood in a 45-minute-long queue - not to get in as such, because as a member I can swan right past the average punter, and anyway it was members-only at the opening night. No, we were queueing for the headsets which delivered music and information about select exhibits. As we waited, and shuffled slowly towards the desk to collect our headsets I had a chance to weigh up the other visitors. They were a motley crew, as you might expect. A fair few were like me, middle-aged mums with shiny teenagers. Some had younger children with them (who must have found the whole thing quite bewildering, like some mad circus, which it was).

And some were what I had hoped for - the poseurs of that era, still dressing up to show off in public, as they had back in the day. They came singly and in couples, and had made such an effort to stand out it seemed rude not to stare. One woman, 60ish, wore half her short hair black, the other half white (like a '30s Cruella DeVille). Her skirt suit was black with white trim, and her stockings white and black the other way round from her hair, if you see what I mean. She tapped the floor with an elegant walking stick. I'm not sure she wore a monocle - but she should have.

A couple stalked past. He was impossibly thin, she sported middle-aged spread. Incredibly angular, he appeared to have traveled at such speed that the top of his head was still trying to catch up with the rest of him. They gleamed and glittered with lurex and post-punk plastic, and were very smart and disdainful, raising their eyebrows in pity and pursing their lips in disapproval at the rest of us. How exhausting it must be to be elevated to so lofty a position.

The exhibition was spectacular. I'm sure there are many reviews for those of you who are interested. For me, some of the most interesting pieces were: footage of David performing some spectacularly embarrassing mime which made me laugh out loud (he is brave to allow us to see that), a lovely photograph of Lindsay Kemp looking very beautiful in full make-up and glittery cozzy, DB's ridiculously impractical asymmetrical knitted jumpsuits and the two dolls with DBs animated heads projected onto them. There was no mention of Angie at all, which seemed a bit peevish, considering…

As we passed through the exhibition, our dodgy earphones delivered music. Every time a new song played I felt 'That was my Bowie era…no, wait, this was…'. What a versatile musician, and what a lasting impression he made. Number one child thinks him a marvel and she's made a little shrine to him in her bedroom. I had rather forgotten how much I love his music, and now I have Hunky Dory playing in my head all the time.


  1. I'm just taking advantage of a small window of internet availability, and catching up.

    Dear old David Bowie. A friend at university saw him in Birmingham and described him as being like an orchid in a window box.

    And I hope you swanned with aplomb.

  2. And your talk of monocles reminds me that I have a beautiful lorgnette of my MOL's, the chain all round opals and gold links, which I must look out and have made to my prescription, now that I've entered the peering phase of life.