Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Retrograde Ramble in the City

Most of yesterday was taken up with future-oriented activities: doing a load of laundry so that I'd have socks and underwear for the second half of my visit, and various errands that Spooner needed to do in order to be ready for his expedition to a farm with his students (leaving today, returning on Friday). One of his missions involved a trip to Citibank to deposit a check. The nearest Citibank branch is in Hanover Square, which put us very close to the Opera Gallery in New Bond Street, where I'd just read that Mr. Brainwash was having an exhibition. We figured this was not to be missed (note that I didn't say "too good to be missed"). It was as we expected -- Mr. Brainwash's work is largely derivative, but in case he shows up in another movie (he was the subject of Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop), I wanted to say I'd seen his gallery show in London. His non-derivative pieces involved using bits of broken vinyl records to replicate black and white posterized portraits of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, etc. Though somewhat creative, these weren't exactly interesting. But there were some things in the gallery by other artists that we enjoyed seeing.

The highpoint of the day was a backwards-looking activity -- Through the Time Tunnel: A Retrograde Ramble, a guided walk in the City. We met up with my Flickr mate David at Tower Hill Station for this two-hour walk backwards in history from the 21st century to Roman London. Our guide, Steven, is an amateur history buff who had worked in the City for 30 years, using his free time to explore and learn about its history and hidden gems. Now retired, he leads seven different walks each week. He showed us the old Royal Mint building, a hydraulic pumping station, the first Peabody estate in London, remnants of a rail line used to bring goods from Shadwell and Limehouse docks to the warehouses in Tower Hamlets, Wellclose Square and Wilton's Music Hall, St Katharine docks, and some bits of the foundation of St Mary Graces (destroyed in the dissolution of the monasteries; I had seen a skeleton from this location in an exhibition at the Wellcome Collection several years ago, so it was really interesting to connect it all together). Our walk ended at All Hallows by the Tower, where we saw a Roman tile floor in the crypt. This was only the second guided walk I'd been on (the first was about Jewish radicalism in the East End) -- both were non-commercial, done by local history enthusiasts, and were highly informative and really fun.

After the walk, we dashed off to do the last of Spooner's errands. This afternoon, he and his group of 14-year-olds will take a bus to somewhere in Hampshire, where they'll stay in a hostel, cooking their own meals, and will work for 2 days on an organic farm that has buffalo, pigs, chickens and vegetables. I can't wait to hear the stories when he returns on Friday.

£20 to top up my Oyster card
£5 for the guided walk, which goes to Oxfam and Cancer Research UK

13,578 steps (and a lot of bus and tube journeys)
5.35 miles


  1. St Mary Graces skeleton info here:

  2. What, no FOOD? You'll have to get Spooner to bring you an egg. Hadn't heard of Mr. Brainwash. Not really my cup of tea, but....the Retrograde Ramble sounds top notch.

  3. Anonymous12:05 PM

    eat, girl, eat. What about those tuna and corn sandwiches????

  4. Not to worry. I always take some slices of walnut & raising bread with me to nibble on during the day. But I'm still in need of a tuna and sweet corn sandwich.