London Variety Part III

The exploitation of London’s variety continued last week during our last couple of day’s stay with Middle Son (MS).  We saw some old friends, invited Youngest Son (YS) and his girlfriend over to MS’s flat for dinner, did some even finer dining at Flor in Borough Market, and saw some more of Walthamstow.

Flor, Borough Market

Flor, Borough Market – Small Plates Served With A Smile And At An Easy Pace

Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I also took up some advice from a friend in our home village to visit Thomas Carlyle’s House in Chelsea.  Carlyle was a Victorian historian and socialite. My interest in him was enhanced by the fact that I had been to the William Morris Gallery earlier in the week.  Consequently, I could connect some of the dots between Carlyle’s friend and relationships and those of William Morris who was well known to Carlyle.  In particular, there were lots of references to John Ruskin with whom I have become rather fascinated.

Thomas Carlyle's House

Thomas Carlyle’s House

Thomas Carlyle’s house has been preserved by the National Trust in a state close to that pertaining when Carlyle died.  Few of the artefacts are of great artistic merit but the overall feel of the place felt authentic, the garden was surprisingly peaceful and the information leaflets throughout the rooms were very informative.

Thomas Carlyle's House - The Drawing Room

Thomas Carlyle’s House – The Drawing Room

In fact, it seems that Thomas’s Scottish and forthright wife, Jane, was the more interesting of the pair.  She was a great letter writer – an author of thousands of letters it seems.  These describe everyday life in her household and relationships amongst her friends and acquaintances.  Many of the extracts on display have a straightforwardness and humour that is charming and they are insightful about the quirks of life in upper-middle class Victorian London.

MS’s flat in central Walthamstow is very comfortable.  His enforced move out of his previous, smaller and darker flat in Pimlico has been one of few upsides following his accident.  He loves the views, sunsets and feeling of proximity to the weather from his 7th floor flat. Increasingly, he will get to enjoy the bustle of Walthamstow.  I already am.

Walthamstow has a pleasant centre with a village feel, open space (Lloyd Park especially), many reasonably intact Victorian residential streets, street markets and, in the graffiti and it’s rather strange Hoe Street Community Bank, a healthy scepticism of establishment.

Views Of Walthamstow

Eldest Son’s girlfriend has lived in Walthamstow in the past and has given advice on where to go.  Also, the daughter of a best friend of ours has lived there for several years.   She visited us last week in MS’s flat with her very sweet new baby.  She was able to impart even more current local knowledge on places to see, and to eat and drink in (including in the numerous local, independent breweries).

A Small Fraction Of Walthamstow High Street Market

A Small Fraction Of Walthamstow High Street Market

Wandering around the almost mile long high street market, and then the backstreets of Walthamstow, I discovered some of these.  Gods Own Junkyard and the Wildcard Brewery look to be worth trips when they open at weekends.  Future visits shouldn’t be short of options for eating and drinking in modern, industrial style places with a good atmosphere.  Indeed, with all three sons currently in the north-east quadrant of London – Barbican, Hackney and Walthamstow – options for somewhere to stay, places to go, and fun to have, all seem to have multiplied.  The incentive to visit London is as great as ever.

Gods Own Junkyard, Walthamstow

Gods Own Junkyard, Walthamstow

First though, deploying the flexibility of retired life, I have had to do a couple of days work at home on the village Neighbourhood Plan and then have travelled north to Nottingham to visit my parents.  Unfortunately my Mum has had a fall at home.  She is now recovering in hospital.  It was good to see them both, even in the circumstances, and now MS is on the mend, I can visit them more often.

Walking Along The Nottingham And Beeston Canal, Nottingham

Walking Along The Nottingham And Beeston Canal, Nottingham On The Way To Queen’s Hospital

I can see that my Senior Railcard is going to come in for some heavy use in Autumn as I shuffle from home to London to Nottingham.  Also, having missed a couple of games during my visits to London and Nottingham, I am off to Cambridge to see my football team (Forest Green Rovers) with my Best Man (BM).  Recent months haven’t been quite as I had foreseen, but I have been, and remain, busy.

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!