London Variety Part II

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.

View Of The City And Canary Wharf From MS And His Girlfriends' Flat

View Of The City And Canary Wharf From MS And His Girlfriends’ Flat

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.

Sunset Over Walthamstow

Sunset Over Walthamstow

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.

William Tyler At Cafe Oto

William Tyler At Cafe Oto

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.

The Temple Of Mithras

The Temple Of Mithras

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.

Turner's 'Fishing Boats Bringing A Disabled Ship Into Port Ruysdael' (1844)

Turner’s ‘Fishing Boats Bringing A Disabled Ship Into Port Ruysdael’ (1844)

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.

Howard Hodgkin's 'Dinner At West Hill' (1966)

Howard Hodgkin’s ‘Dinner At West Hill’ (1966)

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.

Embroidery By Madge Gill

Embroidery By Madge Gill (Victorian/Edwardian Artist From Walthamstow)

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.

Honeysuckle Print Wallpaper - Typical William Morris

Honeysuckle Print Wallpaper – Typical William Morris

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.

William Morris Gallery

William Morris Gallery

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!

Catching Up With London

The effects of my retirement last year are not only about me. Long Suffering Wife (LSW) had to be in agreement that my retirement was a good idea since it was clear that there would be a significant impact on her too. That has proved to be the case since I stopped work and moved back to the family home from my 5-day-a-week flat in London. She no longer has large tracts of the day to herself and the house that she controls so well now has an additional presence (/interloper?). It was therefore somewhat of a relief for LSW when, for the first time in 7 months of retirement, I headed back to London for a few days last week and gave her a bit of space and time alone.

I know that she enjoyed that. I also had a very good time.

Replica of the London Olympic Flame Mechanism

Replica Of The London Olympic Flame Mechanism At The Museum Of London

I visited the Museum of London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Temple of Mithras under the new Bloomberg building. I also took in an occurrence of The Lantern Society (one of the best folk clubs in London and one I had frequented regularly until last July) and spent a couple of hours in the Rough Trade East record shop listening to new music. That was all fitted in around a few catch ups with Middle Son (MS) and some old friends. It was also good to go out for dinner with Eldest Son (ES) who put me up in our Barbican flat. It was an active few days.

Tudor Portraits At The National Portrait Gallery

Tudor Portraits At The National Portrait Gallery (Katherine Parr, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, Henry VII). Wonderful Vibrant Colours Still

The cultural highlight was the Opera exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It’s a history of opera told through focus on seven operas as they premiered in seven cities including Venice, London, Paris, Dresden and Leningrad. The exhibition shows how each opera was influenced by the events and politics of the time and, in turn, ignited passions in the cities in which they were performed. The magic was in the immersive experience generated by the wearing of headphones that responded to where one stood physically in the exhibition. They played the operas (also shown in videos) but also provided spoken insights into them and other sound effects all of which amplified the historical context in the cities in which the operas debuted. It is a fascinating exhibition.

I also loved the Temple of Mithras which was a swish and free exhibition of a Roman temple that was discovered in the Second World War and is now re-positioned in its original location under the new buildings in Walbrook. A lot of money has been thrown at the display and it’s well worth booking up a visit.

Temple Of Mithras

Temple of Mithras, Walbrook

After all that walking and cultural input, it was important to eat and drink well and I did! The ineptly named Flavour Bastard restaurant provided a very tasty lunch. It was near empty but that meant there was no rush as I caught up with an ex-Accenture colleague made redundant from Accenture with myself in around 2009. The canapes at the Accenture Alumni event I briefly attended were small and tricky to eat but dinner at Flat Iron with ES was more straightforward.

I also had a good evening of beer and curry with two other work ex-colleagues from a project way back in 1977. We have differing views on Brexit but otherwise set the world to rights and discussed the benefits of retirement. One retired 5 years ago, the other has yet to sample the delights.

Mark and Mike

Old Mates Contemplating Retirement, Grandfatherhood, Beer And Where The Next Curry Will Be

We agreed that what primarily keeps, or kept, us at work were the qualities of people we work(ed) with. In my case the impact of that aspect of retirement was diminished by the fact that, in the later years of my career, most of the people I interacted with were overseas. Therefore interactions were rarely face to face and were, correspondingly, of relatively limited depth. That reduced the sense of loss when I retired.

I think we also concluded that a clean break from work is probably the best option – one can always resume some form of work later if work-less retirement doesn’t provide all one needs. Finishing work abruptly on a stress high may not be healthy but, in my case, the intensity of work had already decreased as I moved into the final work years. So, again, the impact of stopping work was not as great for me as it may be for some.

More of an impact for me was the sudden move out of London. However, that also has been ameliorated by the fact that I can still have weeks like last week when I can visit and stay in my old flat on the sofa bed.

I’m looking forward to my next visit already.

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Music At The Lovely Lantern Society Folk Club