As planned, we are in London again. We are treating the week as something of a holiday and the weather is so warm it certainly feels like could be in Madrid or Rome. We are effectively being tourists in our capital city and are working our way through a plan of food, music and art. We are also taking the opportunity to catch up with Middle Son (MS), stay in his new flat with its wonderous view of central, southern and northern London, and even to cook in his kitchen.
I have been cooking increasingly often in retirement and, even more surprisingly, am cooking increasingly vegetarian meals. Earlier this week, we further adopted MS’s flat as a sort of Air BnB by inviting over Eldest Son (ES) and his girlfriend. I cooked a meal of bulgar wheat, tomatoes, aubergine and lemon and mint yogurt that I have been perfecting at home. Admittedly, this time, I added a few slices of (probably farmed!) salmon. So, not vegetarian after all, but we are reducing meat intake slowly. Anyway, it was a lovely evening watching the sun go down over Alexandra Palace.
During this London visit, we have also stayed with Youngest Son (YS) and his girlfriend in their new flat in Hackney. We had planned to see an American guitarist called William Tyler with them at Cafe Oto which is one of my favourite music venues. Unfortunately, YS’s wasn’t well and so only Long-Suffering Wife and I made it to the gig.
We got there early enough for front row seats and the performers and music were as intimate as they always seem to be at Café Oto. William Tyler’s technique was awesome and, despite him not having a band or vocals (apart from some amusing inter-song banter), I loved the whole experience.
LSW and I have also visited (in my case, revisited) the Temple of Mithras in the new Bloomberg Building in Walbrook. I first saw this in February last year and was impressed by the classy presentation of this ancient monument – discovered during demolition after the Second World War and relocated to its current underground site a few years ago. The information about the cult that worshipped here in Roman times is scarce and the ruins themselves are sparse. However, the free show (but you have to book) makes the most of a little. The lighting is very clever and it engenders an atmosphere of mystery and eeriness. I recommend the 30 minute investment of time.
We then went on to Tate Britain. Our intention was to see the Frank Bowling exhibition but, as we had with the Van Gogh exhibition at Tate Modern a couple of weeks before, we made the rookie error of turning up a day after the exhibition had closed! Never mind; the Tate always has great art to feast on.
I was relatively controlled and focused on just 8-10 rooms including those housing the Turners. I do love his portrayal of outdoor light, especially in his later, almost abstract work. I particularly enjoy his seascapes which either capture the energy of windswept skies and seas, or the calm of his famous sunsets.
On this visit I also enjoyed some of the British abstract art from the 1950s including Howard Hodgkin, the paintings of the St Ives crowd and the Bloomsbury Group, and the Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth sculptures. There was also a rather odd but interesting new installation of old machines – posing as art – in the main hall. This was called Asset Strippers and was created by Mike Nelson as an ode to the last days of the industrial revolution in Britain. Given the UK economy focus on services, it did provide a whiff of nostalgia perhaps.
Moore and Hepworth
Later the same day, I revisited the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow that I went to earlier this month in the midst of MS’s early recovery from his accident. Then, I couldn’t concentrate much on what I was seeing. This time I spent longer in the temporary exhibition of Madge Gill’s work and the permanent history of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement he founded with a few of his early friends and business partners.
The portrayal of William Morris, his life, his work and his influences and influence is well structured and compelling. He was an artist, designer, colourist (fascinated by natural dyes), writer, printer of books, retailer, environmentalist, and, from the age of 50 a raging socialist activist. He fitted so much into his life and his concern for social issues and the environment, particularly after he visited Iceland, was remarkable.
I ended up liking him and want to find out more about him (and his close colleague John Ruskin). He seems to have been a man ahead of his time on social and environmental issues and but also, in his hankering for past styles and craftsmanship, a man out of time in the century of industrial revolution. It is great that the Gallery, like Tate Modern and the Temple of Mithras, is free to visitors – that is in line with Morris’s beliefs: “I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.”
Following so much cultural input, LSW, MS and I headed off for a local pizza at Sodo Pizza which was sufficiently wheel chair friendly and excellent. I’m enjoying my stay in Walthamstow!