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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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.



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.

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.



Long-haul flights are always a challenge but Lucy and Sarah were (mostly) excellent on our 24-hour journey. Kate was pretty well-behaved too. Virgin Atlantic offered a completely acceptable service. We walked straight through a deserted customs and the cab met us at the airport and we arrived at Tim and Bailey’s place in North London in record time. Made me feel like reading some more Will Self as I wandered the streets around Hornsey, Turnpike Lane and Crouch End.

It was wonderful to stay with friends and for the girls, having other kids to play with was excellent. Sonny and Eden were charming hosts. We had a lovely Sunday stroll around the lush grounds of Alexandra Palace or ‘Ally Pally’ to the locals. The weather was glorious and very much the beginning of a unusually fine spell of sun and blue sky in the metropolis I remember so fondly from living here in the mid-90s.

We walked 10-14 kilometres each day visiting Tower of London, London Bridge, Southbank, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Hampton Court Palace, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, Greenwich, the Globe Theatre and the British Museum. The kids were great and ‘our training’ around Kiama has prepared everyone nicely. One afternoon, as we walked to the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens Lucy, all aflame at our experiences, said she wanted ‘to live in London’.

I do too!

I also wrote a post about ‘Learning in London’ at my blog with a few reflections about our wanderings from an educational perspective.