Saturday, October 05, 2013

A Bad Palace and Good Art

I did not catch sight of Kate and Royal Baby Boy George yesterday, and I now know why it's perfectly fine to have been to London umpteen times and never have seen Kensington Palace. I wish I hadn't, but at least I got in free. 

It's really a theme park, and not a very good one. The idea is that, as you move from room to room, things are revealed to you -- through objects, whispering voices, and snippets of text stencilled on walls and furniture -- about the royal occupants. The first room, telling us about Victoria's coronation, had bits of writing by Victoria's privy council painted on a large table. When I saw "love" woven in a repeating pattern all over the carpet, I just should have turned back. I hate that sort of shit. But I pressed on, moving quickly through the rooms and not lingering to hear any of the whispers. The fashion part was ok -- several dresses worn by Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, and Diana -- but the place as a whole was a waste of time. 

Everything improved considerably after I left the palace via the sunken garden (which was lovely). I quickly found the set of parish boundary markers I was looking for, just north of the Round Pond. Some anorak types are trainspotters; I'm always on the lookout for parish boundary markers. This pair was mentioned by J.M. Barrie in Peter Pan, but he took literary license and turned them into headstones of dead infants who were buried in Kensington Gardens. In fact, they mark the boundary between St Margaret's Westminster and Paddington Parish. I took several snaps for the Parish Boundary Markers photo group (surprisingly, they hadn't been added to the group previously).

Next stop was the Serpentine Pavilion, where I had a much-needed sitdown and my first food since landing. The cloud of steel, designed by Sou Fujimoto, is really cool -- it rises up into the trees and sky (not down into the ground as last year's pavilion), and provides good ops for climbing (not me -- I hate heights) and photos. This year's caterer is Fortnum & Mason. The had a very nice, though rather pricey, potato leek soup on offer. 

I took a look round at the exhibition in the gallery (arte povera works by Marisa Merz), then walked across the bridge to the former gun powder magazine that's now the Serpentine Sackler Gallery. I'm not too keen on the Zaha Hadid extension, but the exhibition there was fab -- an installation of works of unfired clay, ranging in scale from minute to elephantine, by Adrian Villar Rojas. 

My next, and final, stop was at the Science Museum to see Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr. This has to be one of the best photography exhibitions I've seen in years (in addition to the marvellous Everything is Moving exhibition that I saw last year at the Barbican). There are scads of black and white photos, taken in the late 1960s to early 1970s, of English people being uniquely English -- at the seaside, the derby, dog shows, church fetes, etc. The article in the Guardian describes it better than I can. 

£20 to top up my Oyster card
£4.50 Soup at the Serpentine Pavilion
£4 Only in England exhibition
17,267 steps (6.54 miles)

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