A couple of week-ends ago, Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I went up to London to stay with a couple who have been friends of ours for a few decades. They live in Chiswick and the territory is familiar to us since we lived for several years in the 1990’s in nearby Kew. The stay with them was a chance to catch up on our respective lives and those of our offspring, to observe recent neighbourhood changes, to share views of current issues and re-discover a couple of walks that we haven’t done for years. We had a great time.
We went up to London on the Friday morning and parked outside our old house in Kew. There was then time for me to visit Tate Britain and see the William Blake exhibition there, and for LSW to head into central London to peruse the shops there.
It seems that William Blake was somewhat of a mystery during his life-time and remains so today. I enjoyed the cleverly displayed books of illustrated poems and his apparent pre-occupation with the darker aspects of myth and religion. I liked the combination of big works with grand gestures and delicate pieces with intricate engraving. The narrative of his topsy-turvy life was interesting too but, for me, too much of his motivation was left unexplained – perhaps because there is no definitive view on what he was trying to achieve.
As it happens, I also struggled with finding a real point to the popular and much publicised ‘Year 3’ exhibit by Steve McQueen in the main hall of the Tate. This was a huge display of hundreds of traditional school class photos showing all Year 3 children in London schools. I confess I didn’t ‘get it’ although I understand that many of the participating classes will now visit Tate Modern to see their photo and also, hopefully, kindle a love of art.
On the Friday evening, our male football loving host and I eschewed the possibility of going to see his football team play an evening game. Instead, we relaxed over excellent food and rather too much good wine and chatted. However, I had forewarned the company that I was committed to seeing my team – Forest Green Rovers (FGR) – and two of our sons at Leyton (Orient) the following afternoon.
On the Saturday morning, following a satisfying carbohydrate and coffee breakfast, we went, fully fuelled up, to The Wallace Collection in Manchester Square. I had visited this lovely, free museum earlier this year when seeing a Henry Moore exhibition there. This time, I focused on the paintings on the first floor which I didn’t remember from my earlier visit. What was especially interesting about this was that several were of Venice which LSW and I had visited only a week or so previously. The paintings by Canaletto and his school of artists, brought home what we had felt during our Venice visit: that Venice has hardly changed in centuries.
Venice Cityscapes By Canaletto and School Of Canaletto In The Wallace Collection
I left the others at the Wallace Collection, with their plans for lunch and a visit to the Antony Gormley exhibition at the Royal Academy, and headed east to grimier terrain in Leyton. It was great to meet up with Middle Son (MS), Youngest Son (YS) and one of his friends there. The game itself was thrilling and FGR achieved a hard fought and rather fortunate 4-2 win.
We left the ground buzzing with football excitement and the sons started talking about seeing the late afternoon Premiership football game in a nearby pub somewhere. Two of our party were sporting distinctive FGR shirts so prudence was forcing them to think of pubs away from Leyton where Orient fans wouldn’t be drowning their sorrows. They settled on Bethnal Green a couple of tube stops away. That was on my way back to the hospitality in Chiswick so I went with them.
I love football (you may have noticed!) and I wanted to both spend more time with YS and MS and see the Premiership game too. So, almost without really consciously deciding anything I sleepwalked with them out of the tube, out of the station and into a grotty but TV-equipped pub to watch the game.
As the first half progressed I wondered about the second pint of (awful) beer and whether I could stay a bit longer without annoying LSW and our hosts back in Chiswick. My decision making was forced by a text on our family group-chat from LSW who was wondering where I was. While I was pondering a response MS, YS and his friend burst out laughing. YS had already posted a picture of me, clearly in a pub and looking at the text on my phone. I was rumbled!
I sloshed the second pint down and left the pub at half time. I arrived back in Chiswick in time to have got away with squeezing in the football. I settled back into our hosts’ wonderful hospitality, still excited by my team’s win and armed with news from MS and YS.
Next day was calmer. We had a relaxed walk around Chiswick down by the Thames and topped up with alcohol at a local pub before indulging in Sunday lunch. Good times indeed!