The General Assembly

As predicted I had a ball in New York. What a great place. The icing on the cake was spending 3 days at a conference in the United Nations Headquarters. I got the impression most of the delegates took the surroundings for granted, while I was obsessing over the typography, the chairs and the general ephemera of international relations, 1950s-style.


In the conference room there were two rows of chairs in different colours - one row for delegates, the second for alternates. The desks had little microphones, an earpiece and a space for a nameplate if I'd been a country there on diplomatic business. The nameplates were sitting out at the back in a huge pile, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe with the Holy See sitting out on top.

Phone booths

Outside the conference room there were these phone boxes, and the best thing was they usually had two or three people in national dress in them, making an urgent call. It was like an old film. And everything else in the building was beautiful. The assembly rooms are spectacular, in a Cold War, Dr Strangelove kind of way. It's a combination of modernist aesthetics with the most beautiful colours and fantastic detail - classic typography, muted lighting and great seating.


It was hard to do it all justice without a better camera but here's the United Nations Flickr set. There are much better picures in The UN Building by Ben Murphy, some of which are also on his website. The book also has the background on how it was built - the committee of international architects, Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer among them must have tested diplomatic protocol to its limits before the place was even built.

Sorry, we are closed

Many, many thanks to everyone who has posted New York tips. Now I'm raring to go. It's at times like this that blogging really pays off - it's better than any guide book. I got a few by email and word of mouth too so will stick them all up when I'm back. There hasn't been much time to write lately so I'm hoping to either catch up or chill out when I'm away. Do people still say chill out? Anyway, back in a week or so.

Inside The Sage, Gateshead

[Continuing from Day 1]. Today we're up early and into Gateshead/Newcastle. I understand there is a difference now. The Get Carter car park is still in action but we park at the Sage and have a wander round. It's very nice inside, like an inside out Guggenheim. It takes ages to find somewhere to eat and we breakfast under the Tyne Bridge like common trolls. I'm hoping to see the Civic Centre, a modernist delight with seahorses round the top but we run out of time and go to the Baltic instead for the Spank The Monkey ("urban and suburban art") exhibition. There's a giant space invader in the window and a Takashi Murakami video thing. Tommy likes the man with his trousers down (by Os Gemeos). As art goes, it's surprising family fun.

Apollo Pavilion, Gateshead

Then it's on to the north-east's two largest pieces of public art - a photo opportunity at Antony Gormley's Angel of the North on the road out and then on to Victor Pasmore’s Apollo Pavilion in Peterlee, County Durham. One for the new town collection. It’s only supposed to be a quick stop but it gets even quicker when we park up. Peterlee is not one of England’s beauty spots. Bizarrely, the Pavilion is well-signposted but utterly derelict. I’ve read a few things saying how big it is so it’s a lot smaller than I expected. The point is not that it's too big, but that it's completely out of proportion to everything else around it. As a card-carrying member of the Twentieth Century Society I feel like I should like it, but I really don’t. It’s hard to know how this ever seemed like a good idea. Let’s cheer up a dingy council estate with some brutalist public art. It’s filthy and crumbling, straddling a stagnant pond. I feel a bit guilty for dragging everyone here, but Neil is studying town planning and this is a good example of what not to do.

We have lunch in Thirsk which is like its name suggests - bustling and brisk. Like breakfast, lunch in a Baker's Oven takes ages through incompetence and misunderstandings. Every interaction is like the “No need to be rude, dear” sketch from The League of Gentlemen. It feels like we'll never get fed. The plan was to stop in Hull but we’re running a bit late so it’s through the outskirts (bagging one cream phone box) and over the Humber Bridge. It costs £2.70 so it had better be good. We whizz through Grimsby and down the coast into Lincolnshire. The scenery is flat and featureless and we can't see the sea. We get to Mablethorpe and Golden Sands, our chosen destination just as it's getting dark. Our caravan is right at the back - a punishment for getitng it cheap, I'm sure. The place is deserted so we go out to explore. Mablethorpe is more commercialised than I expected (that's not saying much) and almost completely closed. I wonder if we've done the right thing. Make mental note not to come on holiday out of season again. Anyway, the chippie is open so we get some dinner and retire to explore our caravan. It's massive - three bedrooms so we've got a spare. It's not pretty but it's functional and comfy so we spend a night in watching telly, not quite sure where we've landed up.

No idling

I haven't finished with my last holiday yet, but am thinking about my next trip. To New York in a week or so, for work. Yes, I know how lucky I am. It's my first visit there and I have a day and a half free. What should I do? Where should I go? What should I see? I don't have much money and am pretty worn out at the moment so don't feel like doing much - no art museums or anything too taxing. I'd like to wander about, eat some interesting food, and see something amazing. I'll be staying near the UN if that makes any difference. Grateful as always for your collective wisdom.

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