Friday, October 11, 2013


Yesterday, when I looked at my mobile several times as I was out and about, the screen said either "Not in service" or "Unregistered SIM card." Finally, I took the battery out, put it back in, turned the phone off and on, and then I was restored to the O2 network. I'm taking this as a little metaphor for where I am in my visit. I'm running out of steam and need to recharge a bit before the final sprint. Some of this is fatigue, and some down to the weather, which has turned very cold, blustery, and intermittently wet. Consequently, Thursday was slower-paced, and so there will be less to put this post. That's probably a good thing, as I write these posts first thing each morning, and today I need to be out early to meet Maggie at the Museum of London.

I started the day with another Pilates mat class at the studio up in Queen's Park. It was a beginner class this time, which was a better fit for me than the class I did earlier. This was the first time I'd worked Pilates classes into my vacation plan -- it turned out to be a really good idea, and I'd definitely do it again.

After that, I mooched around Roger's patch a bit, looking for blue plaques to photograph for the Open Plaques archives. I found three in the area that don't yet have photos on the website, so I snapped them. It's more of that anorak thing I was telling you about a few days ago.

A long bus ride on the 414 took me to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where I bought a ticket (half price with my Art Pass) to see Memory Palace, the current special exhibition in the space near the ticket desk and the gift shop. I've seen several interesting things in that space, but I can't say this is one of them. I suppose you'd be more likely to enjoy it if you were about 17 years old and into graphic novels. The premise of the installation is that it is set in London in the future, when all memories (both human and technological) have been erased and banned. The character is in prison, and is reconstructing his or her memories of what London used to be. Ho hum. 

Onto the number 360 bus to Pimlico. My next stop was Tate Britain, where I had a choice of special exhibitions -- Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life and Art Under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm. Both were timed entry, and the wait for the Lowry (who I know nothing about, but apparently is "much loved") was nearly an hour, so I opted for the latter (also half price on Art Pass). Good choice -- I really enjoyed it (well, 2/3 of it) and learned quite a lot. It's divided into three sections, for attacks on art in the name of religion, politics and aesthetics. The religion bit had to do with destruction of religious iconography during the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII and the puritanical regime of Cromwell. Fragments of stonework from abbeys, paintings from churches, stained glass windows, all showing broken limbs, ax marks and other scars were on display. I knew that the monasteries and their property holdings had been broken up, but I didn't realise the extent to which religious art was literally broken into bits. The next section had to do with the desecration of public art for political motives, for example statues of reviled generals having their heads lobbed off or being blown up by the IRA. One room was about the attacks that the Suffragettes made on paintings in museums in their effort to have the cause of real women rise to the level of concern that people had for artistic works of beauty. You could listen to an interview, done in the 1960s, with a suffragette who had taken a meat cleaver to a painting of Venus. Very interesting stuff. The last part had to do with artists who employed means of destruction in the creation of new works of art, or art that was defaced by those who objected to it on aesthetic grounds. This bit really didn't work very well, so I breezed through it. I also looked at a small exhibition of art work by Sylvia Pankhurst, a major figure in the suffragette movement. Apparently I wasn't alone in not knowing she was an artist. Prior to this exhibition, none of her work had been displayed in any museum in Britain. She did lovely paintings of women at work in mills, as well as the designs for all the suffragette banners, pamphlets, badges and even a tea set. 

After a sit-down to rest my weary back, I walked up Horseferry Road to the Old Monks Exchange pub, where I had a great meet-up with some mates from Guess Where London. Malcolm brought with him a sample of necklaces made from bits of clay pipe found on the foreshore by our friend Jane. I'd been wanting to buy one from her for ages, but we hadn't managed to work it out before this, and she is away at the moment so Malcolm acted as her agent for the transaction. After, Simon kindly helped me find my bus stop in the chaos of construction around Victoria Station, and I was back at the flat and in bed by 11 pm.

£10 to top up Oyster card
£3 Memory Palace at V&A (half price on Art Pass)
£6.50 Art Under Attack (half price on Art Pass)
£1.95 banana cake at Tate Britain cafe
£6.50 ale and carrot soup at the Old Monks Exchange
£30 clay pipe necklace
14,835 steps (5.85 miles)

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