Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I have travelled twice to London and once to Edinburgh in the last couple of weeks. Our trips to London related to our preparations to sell our flat in the Barbican. It is no longer required now that I have retired and our sons no longer have any great need for it. I shall be sad to see it go – it was my base 5 days a week for pretty much 20 years of London working – but go it must.
We got those preparations for sale done very satisfactorily and the flat is on the market. However, we also found time to visit a few exhibitions and bar and restaurant venues; London is always a great place to visit and the flat was, as ever, a very comfortable place to stay.
Our trip to Edinburgh was sandwiched between those London trips. Edinburgh is, of course, a much smaller city than London but it is a national capital and has many of the same sorts of sights and attractions. Above all, it now is home to our First Grandchild (FG) and we currently need no greater attraction. As any parent or grandparent will know, it is amazing how fast babies develop and start to take on a character of their own. We are lucky to be able to see this with FG and it was such an enjoyable trip!
Once again we stayed in the Premier Inn Hub in Rose Street. It is inexpensive, very comfortable, small but perfectly formed. It is close to where Eldest Son (ES) and his partner live. It is central and close to all the main city sights. The Premier Inn Hub chain has become our go-to hotel and, once the London flat is sold, I can envisage us using it in London too.
Once again too, we visited the Joan Eardley exhibition (now finished) at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. I enjoyed it hugely during our first visit. This time we had FG duties (very willingly undertaken) so the visit was briefer but, not having heard of Eardley before last Autumn, she now has a firm place in my compendium of favourite artists. FG wasn’t fussed by the art but seemed to like the ceiling lights.
We also visited an exhibition (also now finished) in the Scottish National Gallery of JMW Turner watercolours. These had been collected by Henry Vaughan , a great admirer of Turner, and then bequeathed by him to the Gallery in 1900. As he did so, he specified that, to preserve their colour, they only be shown in the typically dull days of January. This exhibition was a rare occasion when all 38 had been brought together in a single show.
Turner is definitely one of my long standing artists and the exhibition demonstrated many of his best traits – the atmospheric glows of storms and skies, the complex colouring and the huge vistas. There were also some more delicate portrayals such as an empty chair indicating the recent death of a friend. No one painting felt great but the ‘whole’ created by the 38 pictures was interesting.
Another highlight from this Edinburgh trip was our first walk all the way to Leith.
Leith has a rather different feel from the other parts of Edinburgh we have come to know. Whereas large parts of the New Town area where ES lives are unchanged in a hundred years, Leith is developing quickly and has a slightly different, almost East London, buzz about it.
In New Town, LSW and I spent an afternoon perusing the high quality art galleries in ES’s street (Dundas Street) and then had a relaxed drink or two in a relatively new bar called Spry. Incredibly, despite it only apparently having about a dozen seats, we got a table by the window and liked the ambience very much.
As on previous trips, we ate well. ES’s partner produced another lovely meal, we had a surprisingly relaxed evening at Pizza Express with a sleepy FG, and a substantial Indian takeaway. It was great to meet up with ES’s partner’s parents again (especially as the football team I support happen to have beaten one of the teams her Dad supports in the afternoon 🙂 ). And it was especially great to see FG smiling, growing and, between rather sleep-deprived nights, giving his new Mum and Dad some real joy.
Back in London, I visited the National Maritime Museum to see the Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition. I’ve seen this exhibition in previous years and, while I don’t understand the techniques used in taking the photographs, I love seeing the results. It’s a little-known pleasure.
LSW and I also had another pleasant (and, incredibly, free) dose of Isamu Noguchi; this time an exhibition of his relatively recent work in the large spaces of the White Cube Gallery. It was, of course, a much smaller exhibition than that we had seen last month at the Barbican, but it reflected many of the same themes which I found reinforcing and strangely comforting.
On the way, we discovered a good new breakfast venue: Watch House at Tower Bridge. Ozone, which is our normal breakfast haunt is also very good and both are open early. Edinburgh has some excellent breakfast places but few open early enough for us. It’s a small area for potential improvement in the comparison between London and Edinburgh. However, First Grandchild puts a gloss on Edinburgh that makes it the go to city for me at the moment!