London On The Cheap

Devotchka

The weather is batty. One minute you’re showing some (pale) skin, reveling in the promise of summer, and the next minute you wake up to a snowstorm. What could, at first glance, be wonky hangover vision, is the undeniable truth: it is April, and it is snowing. And you can’t do a damn thing about it. So get out there, make a few snow angels, and then check out our guide to escaping the freeze on the cheap.

Monday: The weather makes you head instinctively to Somerset House to ice skate, which is, however, cruelly closed until November. What to do? Head inside the Somerset House anyway to the little-known treasure trove of art at the Courtauld Gallery which houses one of the finest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings in the world. On Mondays, the Gallery is free to the public until 2pm (and is always free for full-time UK students). This Monday, they’re giving a short, free lunchtime talk from 1.15 to 1.30 on the piano’s ethereal cousin, the 17th century harpsichord.

Tuesday: What better way to cuddle up this wintry week than getting your cultural fix at a gay literary salon? Tuesday evening, head to Polari the monthly salon that features rotating guest authors and DJs. This week, Francis Bingham, biographer and editor of lesbian poet Valentine Ackland speaks. Upstairs in the colorful living-room-come-lounge at the Green Carnation, 5 Greek St. Starts at 7, reading begins at 8. Free.

Wednesday: Any band who got its start as a back-up for burlesque’s reigning queen Dita Von Teese earns automatic cool cred. Devotchka, responsible for the theme music in Little Miss Sunshine, plays tonight at the Scala. For a mere tenner, you can see this wonderfully odd quartet play hauntingly joyful music that fuses Greek and Slavic influences. Get tickets here

Alternatively, find out why it took Ingres twelve years to paint Madame Moitessier when the National Gallery puts the painting in focus on its special late Wednesdays’ lecture series.

Thursday: Apple is taking over the world. But you knew that already. You type away on their computers all day and you clutch their MP3 players on your commute home. Now, Apple is jumping on the literary bandwagon, too. On Thursday evening, head over to the Mac store on Regent Street as it launches its Meet the Author series in the UK. Nick Hornby reads from his latest book, Slam. Free.

Friday: Fancy some artful titillation on your way home from work? Check out the brand-new John Currin exhibit at Sadie Coles Gallery. American painter Currin has mastered the satirical oil painting, depicting fleshy, often distorted cherubic female figures in the technique and manner of Renaissance painters. His current collection mimics the 400-year old history of pornographic paintings commissioned by wealthy patrons, mixing wry socio-historical commentary with deft technique. Sadie Coles Gallery, 69 South Audley Street, open 11-6 Tue-Sat. Through May 10th. Free.

Saturday: Make it a Pinter day. This is the last full week of the Harold Pinter exhibition at the British Library, which charts the life of the actor, director, and writer with the help of the Library’s recently acquired Pinter archive. Then, head to an evening performance of the wonderfully wry The Lover and the Collection, where Gina Mckee leads an outstanding cast in a superb exploration of middle-class desire, jealousy and adultery.

Sunday: Itching to begin padding your spring wardrobe with new finds, but low on surplus squid? Go West, Young Man (or Woman), to Notting Hill to find one of London’s cheapest (unisex) second hand shops. Three Pound Shop, 28 Pembridge Road. Once you’ve thrifted your way to an appropriately Mod getup, geek out on a London Beatles Tour. Only £6, or £5 for students.

Or, you could stay in and watch White Christmas. Or films on global warming. Whichever.

By Kira Hesser

Image of Nick from Devotchka taken from their website, with thanks

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