An entry from the diary of Ella Guru....
Sunday 29 October 2000: "Waiting for the Fish"
This morning I went to Waitrose, deciding I'd treat myself to quality food as a reward for not going out and spending all my money drinking on Saturday night. It seemed like a such a good choice, I thought as I picked out sushi and filled up plastic containers of fresh salad.
Even at 11:15 am the supermarket was packed. I didn't really want to get in the fish queue, but Sexton wanted yellow (smoked) fish. "This is simple potty," a woman said, trying to cram her cart in amongst the others. The considerably shorter meat queue was getting jumbled up with the fish queue, and I'd just as soon as done without, but, ah, true love: I'd feel bad if I didn't get Sexton's fish.
I started looking at people, all up so early to get their shopping done. One salesgirl walked by, about 6 feet tall and rail thin. A very thin a man in front of me in the queue resembled Sir Nicholas Serota. He had on jeans and a plain shirt and brown shoes. I looked at his attire and thought you really can't tell much abut this man from looking at him, as was true of most people in Waitrose. Then I looked down at my own attire and saw how easily one could tell all sorts of things about me: paint splattered sweatpants, and a day-glow vest that said "cyclist" as I'm obviously not a forklift operator.
I kept looking at the man in front of me, how thin he was, a small tub of humus clutched in his bony right hand. In one of Ranko Bon's recent emails, he describes how skeletal Serota was when he hugged him at a gallery opening. The man in front of me had sqaur-ish wireless spectacles, and gaunt cheeks. I've painted Sir Nicholas myself and this guy really looked like him. I stared over the slabs of bloody flesh (the fish queue was still not out of the meat zone yet) and wondered if my speculation was just something to pass the time while waiting for the fish. I thought about ringing Charles and striking up some sort of conversation about Stuckism, somehow trying to get an inkling if this man in front of me really could be Serota. But I mean, really, what were the odds that I would happen to be in Waitrose on a Sunday morning, standing in the fish queue behind the director of the 2 biggest modern art museums in Britain? He prolly doesn't even do his own shopping, and I was sure he couldn't possibly live in Holloway.
When I finally got my fish, and the man rushed off to nether regions of the bread department, I phoned Charles.
"Um... Can I ask you something...do you know where Nicholas Serota lives?"
"Near you. In Holloway. Why, have you seen him?"
"In the supermarket. I think it was him."
"Go up and introduce yourself! Tell him you're a Stuckist."
"No! I can't stalk someone in Waitrose! Anyway I don't know where he is now. He seemed to be in a hurry." I was trying to find some dried tomatoes as I pushed my cart erratically through the crowded aisles, still talking to Charles.
Indeed, as the man had had only a tub of humus and a piece of fish, he may have already been through the checkout.
But somehow in the space of 5 minutes the man had acquired an entire trolley full, and just happened to be in the checkout queue next to the one I got into. I watched as he unloaded a huge cartload of shopping, months' worth of detergents and orange juice. Meanwhile the family in front of me were taking ages, packing up crisps, and the till woman seemed to be going soooo slowly... I have no idea why really, but my hands were sweating and heart pounding, thinking I must at least say something to this guy. But I didn't want to interrupt his packing up his food. The seconds ticked by as I thought there is just no way we are both going to finish paying for our food and leave the store at the same time. No way. And what would I say anyway?
I had considerably less food than the man did, so despite the family in front of me buying up half the store, I had paid just before the man. I pushed my cart aside and slowly did up my panniers. Then I did it.
"Excuse me.." I said, very politely, of course, "you look terribly familiar..."
At first the man looked at me as any non-famous person would if a stranger approached them with such a line. After all, Nicholas Serota is not really someone the general public would recognise.
"Is your name..." I continued with his first name, and he finished with his surname. "I'm Ella," I said, "I'm a Stuckist." I really hadn't thought I'd say that. After all, we did have a show earlier this year called 'The Resignation of Sir Nicholas Serota".
"Charles Thomson did a really good portrait of you." I continued.
"Oh yes," he smiled. "I'm on my way to see your show."
"We haven't been to see the new Turner Prize exhibition yet," I said. Nick and I were now walking towards the exit, pushing our shopping trolleys.
"There's some really good stuff in it," said Serota, "But there has been good work in the past years, too. I would say that, though." (well not exactly that quote but something to that effect.)
We both laughed. He seemed very friendly, really, especially considering Stuckism represents the opposition to everything Serota does.
He said again that he was going to see the Stuckist show soon. As we parted in the foyer, him prolly heading for the car park and me for my bike, he asked which pictures were mine.
"The ones with the big wigs," I said. He nodded and said he'd look out for them.
Now I'm back home and have decided to let Charles sweat a bit. I might not even answer the phone when he rings.
Funny way to start a Sunday though, isn't it?
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