The ASAI woman has swum oceans, endured chaotic war zones and now wants to take root. It’s not her home. She has none as yet. But Englishness from afar appeals. The spice has dissipated to make way for wools that have lived, cottons that are etched with memories and floral sprigs and dreams of humility that are patched together in leather, paint and lace. The shine gives way to tarnishing. The hot wok has cooled. The riot has been quelled. Slouch, not sass. Come away and feel something solid, something still, something real.
“Take back control,” you say. Control of what? Our Empire? Fortune in the hands of the few, and not the many? Of a Britishness that is shaded in loden, moss-tinged, slate, oak and mire? Of layers that can protect the land and body? But those wools and cottons once spun up North, now hail from Japan. What was soft is suddenly structured and vice versa. The slit of a skirt is Vietnamese. These generous and cocooning proportions can’t be found in Boston, in the East Midlands. The jester crown is now misshapen and knitted in humble wool.
The British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel in his top hat and waistcoat oversees this honest worker, trussed in trenchcoats. The work of German photographer August Sander peer back at you with diligent eyes, hands that have grafted and tools of trade that are the foundations of this country. They’re “Men without Masks”. They have nowhere to hide. And neither does A Sai Ta, as he bravely peers into the world of the landed gentry. It’s not his world. What goes down inside these crumbling mansions filled with dusty portraits and attached to acres of land? This is England? Who knows anymore…
The feet are firm on the ground but the knuckles glint and hint with shells and crests. Wealth is hidden in linings, smeared onto fingers and piped onto trenchcoats. The streets aren’t paved with gold anymore. Everything is off-shored and embezzled. The future isn’t sure of itself. #TheGoodLife sure looks inviting.