I got my car back on Thursday night complete with its fancy new GPS stereo unit, which looks brilliant.

New stereo

My new car stereo looks the part, but doesn't work.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as good as it looks. The CD player neither loads nor ejects discs, which on a weekend completely monopolised by Michael Jackson has been quite a trial. More serious, however, is the problem with the satellite navigation equipment. I drove over to London on Friday night, hoping to use the touch-screen GPS unit to avoid using a map. This, it transpired, was not a terribly wise decision.

I don’t know exactly who designed the user interface for this system, but they made one fundamental context error: they assumed that when I switch on my GPS I only want to use it for ten seconds. After ten seconds, they appear to have surmised, I’ll suddenly develop an urgent desire to hear the tennis scores from Wimbledon and need the source switched back to radio. The GPS unit seems to work very well, but since it keeps vanishing in the middle of giving directions I’ll never be able to use it. I’m only pleased that the blasted thing was a present: if I’d spent my own money I’d be even more livid than I already am after having spent an hour driving around Raynes Park, switching back to the satnav every time I approached a junction. Software engineers take note: beta testing is not optional.

Anyway, I managed to find my destination eventually and settled down for a weekend of jollity with C. and his long-standing tenant R. On Friday night the television continued to regale me with stories about a deceased pop star, but since we had half a bottle of rum and some orange juice that wasn’t as terrible as it would have seemed that morning. On Saturday,  we sallied forth in search of art and found it at the Hayward and the Tate Modern respectively. In the Hayward’s exhibition, Walking in My Mind, I was able to renew my long-standing argument with contemporary abstract art, which I think is astoundingly pretentious and too easy to create. The best exhibits were the huge installations that looked like sets for a children’s television series, like the one pictured below.

Who needs drugs when walk-in hallucinations are available in London?

Who needs drugs when walk-in hallucinations are available in London?

The less said about the paintings with slogans the better. I know when someone’s trying to prove that they’re cleverer than I am, and it still annoys me when they clearly aren’t. Fortunately, nobody was particularly interested in sticking around once we’d seen the enormous smoke-ring machine, so I got to leave the gallery and have a couple of drinks instead.

After wandering around Tate Modern for a while, pondering how a boring home movie of people passing a balloon around becomes art if the people are naked, we headed off to Tottenham Court Road for some drinks. It was R.’s party really, but C and I tagged along, and met up there with the Crimson Welshman, who was looking for something to do, and R’s friends from Reading University. We drank rather a lot, and I ended up getting into a heated argument about the purpose of a translation. I hold that poetry doesn’t survive translation intact, but that the translator’s job is to get as close to the original as possible, not offer a new artistic interpretation. Someone didn’t like my further statement that it’s not possible fully to appreciate poetry in translation, and that the translation is not a substitute for the original work. I think she may have taken a degree involving critical theory, because the counter-argument was that we can never be entirely sure that we have fully understood the meaning of any poem, and that even reading it in the original is an interpretation of a kind. I say that at least when we read in the original language the work hasn’t already been filtered by the mind of the translator. Then I drank a bit more and lost the coherence of my argument. I was clearly right anyway, and the steak was rather nice.

On Saturday, C. and I drove over to see a couple of old university friends, who were having a small barbecue. They have children now, so events were just about at my level. We ate a lot of cremated meat products and followed them with a pile of cream that contained at least two strawberries. Realising that I hadn’t taken many pictures, I tried to get a self-portrait done. Being a good friend, C. decided to ruin it.

My narcissism is punished with physical satire

My narcissism is punished by physical satire

We motored back to Raynes Park, where I got into my car and drove straight back the way we’d just come. In retrospect it would have been sensible to drive over separately, but at least I avoided further dependence on my completley unreliable navigation equipment. I got home at nearly ten, dog tired and glad not to have children. I’m looking forward very much to the quiet weekend at home that’s coming up.