The Leaving of London

The last time I left London, it took 16 years to return. It would make me sad if so many years were to elapse before my next visit. However, one assumes, sitting here in our crisp, white, wifi enabled apartment in Hong Kong, jet lagged in the early hours of the morning,  it will be quite a while.

We spent our last day in London packing but found a few hours to explore the Tate Modern and the nearby Borough markets, where, once again, small kindnesses mean so much. We were having an excellent, inexpensive mezze plate at The Turkish Deli when, what proved to be a rather superb Turkish coffee and delight, appeared. I was teasing the girls, who are fans of these sweets, that to get one you needed to have a coffee. They declined, the man laughed. He reappeared a minute later, with two scrumptious Turkish delights. It is good business and karma. The girls were delighted and it is just another, of the many kindnesses strangers have shown us.


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Created in the year 2000 from a disused power station in the heart of London, Tate Modern displays the national collection of international modern art. This is defined as art since 1900.

The Tate Modern is a superb space and I particularly enjoyed the photography exhibitions. These included, Boris Mikhailov, an important, challenging chronicler of the Soviet period and Ryukichi Shibuya (1904-1995) whose work was exhibited in, ‘States of Flux: Japanese Photography and the Bauhaus’.

      Cigarettes, Camera & Coffee; Two women on street; and Woman in Kimono

My favourite, new discovery was the photography of Guy Tilliim. Anyone trying to show, ‘how complex and conflicted the world is, and how difficult, and ultimately false, a single representation can be’ has a philosophy I admire and the kinds of shots to disprove it.

I felt inspired and messed around with some experimental shots, manipulating ISO and aperture. I was quite happy with this one:


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Lucy and Sarah really were also inspired and liked the Tate Modern’s ‘postcard’ initiative (below). We found it hard to drag them out of the gallery, as the appointed hour for departure and prospect of a slow cab ride to Heathrow, approached.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

The space is very well arranged to engage young children, in an artistic and physical sense, with the gallery environment. When was the last time you rode a slippery dip at an art gallery? This (below), however, looked suspiciously like gambling.


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We always try to have brief discussions about whatever catches the eye and both girls were less than impressed with some of the stats presented re: women having solo exhibitions in prestigious galleries.


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Outside the building are some nice spaces and trees. We wished we had more time to sit. The light was gentle and we all felt sad to be departing London.


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While walking to the London Bridge tube station we stumbled on Clink Prison but did not have the time to visit this cheerful place.


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Sarah was very sad to leave Eden, her new friend and we had many tears from both of them as the cab was being packed. ‘At least there’s Skype’, said Sarah, through wracking sobs, as we wrestled with the traffic.

Cambridge

My Twitter buddy Zoe Rose showed us around Cambridge. She was great with the girls and it was a good opportunity for us to have some more local knowledge of the university town. Lucy was swayed, either by Zoe’s propaganda or the compact beauty of the place, into preferring Cambridge over Oxford.


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We explored St Edward King and Martyr Church, where ‘the Reformation was first preached in 1525’, chatting with Geoffrey, the Treasurer. We all wondered about the ‘gothic services’ and learnt that quite a deal of wax is spilt on the floor as a result.

We strolled through Trinity Hall, down to the river. It truly is a magnificent location and hearing the students many accents and dialects was very interesting. I wanted to snap a few shots of young women, wrestling with huge stacks of books, as they walked but couldn’t quite get a shot. One student had a pile that was bound to topple.

I had a quiet chuckle at this sign in this college:


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore

On Zoe’s advice, we rang the bell, at Kettle’s Yard House, and were ushered into an aesthetically pleasing world of pebbles and shapes, art and light. Jim Ede, a former curator at the Tate Gallery, created a home that was balanced, ‘a harmonic whole’. It is a brilliant place and inspires one to create such spaces at home, especially with the thousands of pebbles, the girls collect.

We wandered along the river after lunch and the touts failed in convincing us about punting. It was a little windy and we were running out of time.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

Cambridge feels very rural, with cows and open space. It would be a nice place to live, as Zoe attests. One just needs to ‘keep off the grass’.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore

Galleries

We spent most of the day at the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery in London. This meant there was a good balance of photography, contemporary art works and masterpieces for us to ogle. I saw some of my favourite paintings and both Kate and I enjoyed all those iconic representations of ‘The Tudor’ period. I am currently reading and have almost finished ‘Wolf Hall’ so it was good to see Thomas Cromwell’s portrait.

The AmbassadorsHans Holbein the Younger‘s iconic painting from 1533 looks like it was painted recently. The restoration must have been extensive as it has a HDR-like vibrance about it. My interest in this painting was through reading (and watching) a John Berger essay in ‘Ways of Seeing’. I knew enough to keep Sarah and Lucy pretty interested.

As you probably know, walking to the righthand side of the painting allows one to see the anamorphic skull, in the foreground, clearly. Sarah was heavily into this and kept walking back to the centre, then back again, to immerse herself in the effect. So did I. I love this painting.

We saw some really interesting, for a variety of reasons, photography and installations. Mick Jagger: Young in the 60s was good but Comedians: From the 1940s to Now was just superb. Sarah refused to look at a self-portrait, sculpted in blood, by Marc Quinn and once again, who could blame her. Everyone liked the breathing, digital portrait that blinked but I cannot remember the artist.

We really explored both galleries pretty thoroughly. Sarah, looking thoughtful, said, “if you put all these paintings in a row, they make a journey”. The subsequent praise she received kept her going for another hour or so. It is a long day for a 5 year old but she was great.

We had an amusing incident today. Outside the Portrait Gallery we saw a camera man standing in the middle of the road, risking life and limb, filming a man walking out of the entrance, who appeared to be a television presenter. They did this several times. Lucy asked them what they were doing and they were playing a prank on a friend, Simon Pearson, who had an exhibition (of cartoons?) at another (very minor) gallery. Their idea was to make out that he was exhibiting at the National Portrait Gallery. Pretty funny stuff. The pranksters were quite amusing. Lucy and Sarah were subsequently interviewed for the ‘doco’ about their knowledge of the cartoonist.

Cambridge tomorrow.

Oxford

The very name of ‘Oxford’ conjures many cultural, literary and historical images for ‘the reader’ lucky enough to travel to the town. We were able to explore, bathed in that rare sunshine of October. There was much to think about and enjoy. I wished for my tripod and more time but the day was very satisfying.

Lucy was desperately keen to visit Christ Church College, due to the Harry Potter connection. She had to live with the disappointment that ‘The Hall’ was closed. She coped and understood that all the new students were commencing their academic careers, using that space. She also learnt a little about the ‘magic of film’ as the buildings did not live up to her Potterish expectations.


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This anachronistic looking gentleman was on duty ‘inside’ the college and was happy to have his photo taken.


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This man was ‘outside’ the entrance. There is something haunted and Lear-like in his stare. I indicated my desire to take a photo. He paused, from ‘rolling a smoke’, and I took that for a yes. He stayed in my mind all day.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

I was completely enthralled by the location of ‘The Inklings‘ pub, the ‘Eagle and Child‘, understanding why all those Oxford dons, considering the proximity to their rather stately homes, visited so frequently. Location is, of course, everything.


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I was amused by some of the signs and plaques located in and around the ‘Bird and Baby’, as it was known to JRR Tolkien and friends. This quote from ‘Lord of the Rings’ is particularly appropriate for the pub to highlight:


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Not sure that JRR Tolkien, with his love of ‘the pipe’, would have frequented the establishment as often if the following prohibition was displayed, as it is now, prominently at the door:


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

Samuel Pepys wrote about the “first coffee house in England” in his diary. The Grand Cafe certainly peddles strong, aromatic coffee and Sarah can vouch for the brownies, Lucy for the chocolate cake. After this, we had the strength for more wandering down to the river. We did not do any punting but certainly liked the authentic look of the vessels. They must have done countless laps of the River Isis.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

We visited several colleges and the Bodleian Library and their treasures. Lucy became a little obsessive about the nature of the ‘original’ and was none to impressed with the imprecise answer about the Magna Carta that she prised from the assistant. Lucy, here is ‘the answer‘!

This is a fascinating question:


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My answer: not necessarily. Having said that, one would be enthusiastic about encouraging any human being to read, though, I’d have never seen it as a ‘moral’ activity.

After this visit to Oxford, I will be encouraging Lucy to read Phillip Pullman’s, ‘His Dark Materials‘. I loved this trilogy and think Lyra is a hero she will admire.

Finally, we did see some candidates heading, in their traditional garb, to the examination halls. One cannot feel too sorry for them, especially considering that a student has three terms of 8 weeks in length.

That should leave plenty of time for reading!


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London: Sun, Woods, Museums & Curry


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When one can walk amongst the oaks and beeches of an ancient forest in London, in record temperatures, on the first weekend in October, superlatives seem somehow inadequate.

Tim’s idea of a stroll through Queen’s and Highgate Woods was a great wandering way to enjoy the unexpectedly warm weekend sunshine.

The kids were exuberant and made me laugh. So did this dog.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore 

It wasn’t all sunshine and vitamin D. We did spend some quality time indoors, at the Natural History Museum, which is obviously brilliant. Lucy and Sarah loved the ‘hands-on’ nature of the Investigation Room and talking with ‘the experts’.


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Bailey suggested we have a curry at Aladin in Brick Lane and explore some markets in the East End. Superb Indian food and the vibe on the street made for a balmy evening in a place very unlike the October London I know. Managed to capture the mood a little with this shot below.


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Many thanks to Tim and Bailey for their ongoing hospitality here in North London.

Cheers!

Sarah’s Photography

Sarah requested a camera for her recent, fifth birthday. We thought she’d move on to some other ‘toy’ but the camera was the number one choice for several months. We were just about to embark on our European adventure so we thought it a good present. She was very happy with the Nikon Coolpix L23 which allows anyone starting out in photography to point and push.

We notice that her framing is getting better and much more time is taken to compose each shot. I feel quite chuffed with her portrait of me, at Dove Cottage, earlier this week.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Sarah Rose 2006 

Sarah knows about flickr and wanted to ‘put her photos’ on the internet. I cannot see a reason to prevent her from doing this so we just set up an account. Here’s an interesting perspective of Dove cottage:


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Sarah Rose 2006 

This is one of her first pics – the London Eye.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Sarah Rose 2006

I remember my parents having a box brownie and some other camera that I played with at Sarah’s age. I did not own a camera at all until recent years. I wonder what early exposure (pun intended) will do for Sarah’s creative juices?

Wordsworth

Wandering around Grasmere gave me the pleasure countless lovers of poetry, literature, walkers and nature-lovers must have felt over many years. It is very easy to relate to William Wordsworth‘s first flush of enthusiasm for this ‘paradise’ the poet Thomas Gray had described in his journal in 1769.

It is still possible to escape the tourist hoards and wander quietly. We enjoyed our stroll along the river. I did note that the view from Dove Cottage, that Wordsworth enjoyed while he wrote his most famous poetry, is now one of quaint houses rather than landscape. I must admit, in the same way Lucy enjoyed fondling a 2000 year old bronze good luck statue at the British Museum, I really wanted to lay on William’s couch and look out his window. I restrained myself to a furtive photo instead.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas de Quincey are dwarfed, in the tourist brochures, by Wordsworth. However, at the Wordsworth Museum and in the guided tour of the cottage, their presence is recorded and I learnt some more about this important period in the development of Romantic poetry. Interestingly enough, I asked several guides if they had read, one of my favourite biographies, AS Byatt’s, Unruly Times or her Man Booker Prize winning novel, Possession. No luck.

The kids weren’t too certain about the ‘famous local gingerbread’ but tried it nevertheless. I was also unconvinced but have developed a taste for the Kendal Mintcake – made famous by Edmund Hilary  and am sure that I’d have more than my current one filling if a resident of the area.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Darcy Moore

Have you memories of Grasmere or the Lake District to share?