Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Bad, the Good and the Posh

Jet lag? Not me! After taking mat class at NY Pilates Studio, I was all stretched out and ready to go. We were headed to Charing Cross to get a Southeastern train to Bexleyheath. Normally, we'd take the Bakerloo line from Queen's Park, but Roger wanted to drop off a print at the framer in the Harrow Road, so we got on a Hammersmith and City train at Westbourne Park. I would probably have changed for the Bakerloo at Paddington, but Roger knew there would be a shorter walk between platforms if we went to Baker Street. At Edgeware Road, the stop in between, it began to be apparent that something was wrong as we sat on the tracks for an unusual amount of time. We could catch bits of the announcement over the tannoy on the platform -- "signal failure," "alternate routes," and "number 205 bus." Finally, there was an announcement on the train -- the signal failure was at Moorgate and our driver was waiting to hear whether he could go ahead to Baker Street or King's Cross, and we should wait for him to let us know. So we waited. Then, he told us that the train we were on was terminating and we should cross to platform 2 and take the train back to Paddington to change for the Bakerloo. We followed his instructions and got into an empty carriage and waited there for something to happen. But the train didn't seem to be going anywhere, so we headed up the stairs to the exit, turning back to see that train pulling out. As we continued to the exit, we heard an announcement that the train on platform 1 (our original train) would be departing for Baker Street. Yup, we saw the carriage doors close and the train leave the station. Out to the street we went, onto the 205 bus, over to Baker Street, into the station and onto a train to Charing Cross, and from there on had an uneventful journey to Bexleyheath. 

Red House was the home of William Morris. It was in the middle of an orchard when it was built in 1860, but now it's in the middle of suburbia. We reached the house by way of a 15-minute walk through residential streets and found ourselves in what seemed to be a scene right out of an episode of Father Brown. The Friends of Red House (average age about 70) were having their annual garden party, complete with cake and sandwiches, tea, Pimm's, and a brass band. The house is a lovely, asymmetrical Arts and Crafts masterpiece. The National Trust has held the property for about ten years, having completed a significant amount of restoration work since then (with much more to come). After wandering around the house, the flower beds and the veg plot, we joined the OAPs in the back garden. I had my first glass of Pimm's! I can't say it would be my cocktail of choice, but it wasn't bad. 

On the way back, we made a stop at the Whole Foods in Kensington Church Street. I'd heard about this multi-storey temple of veg and capitalism, but I'd never been there. It's more over-the-top than I imagined, and full of more yuppies and their demanding children than you'd ever want to encounter. They sell essentially the same products as Whole Foods at home, but there's something about the elegant presentation in this former department store that makes you think that you MUST CONSUME. There's even a little bar, where you can have a glass of wine or a pint of beer -- probably a bad idea to get tipsy and then try to find your way out of the store without buying all manner of exotic, expensive edibles. 

My expenses for the day were modest:
£15 for mat class
Red House was free on my Art Pass
£3 for a litre of coconut water at Whole Foods

11,162 steps on the pedometer (but probably another 2,000 or so for the walk up to the Pilates studio and back), 4.4 miles (which I'm going to round up to 5.4 miles)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Arrival Day

I'm in denial about it most of the time, but today I will readily admit that I am 60, which has its distinct advantages and disadvantages. On the upside, I now qualify for concession (discount) prices at museums. (If I lived in the UK, I'd be able to get a Freedom Card and ride all the tubes and buses I wanted for free.)  On the downside, I don't go as far or as fast as I used to, nor do I accomplish as much.

First, to tell you about what I did manage to do on my arrival day, having had three hours of sleep: I headed out a little before noon, taking the tube to Charing Cross. My first stop was the National Portrait Gallery, where I looked at the BP Portrait Award 2014 exhibition and a display about the Suffragettes. On leaving, I looked up at the big globe at the top of the Coliseum and decided to pop in to say hi to Barbara in case I didn't get a chance to see her later in my visit (but happily I will). 

Next, I crossed the river to the Southbank and grabbed a bite to eat at the little food market near the Royal Festival Hall. From there, I was on a mission to find a vintage caravan that I knew was going to be somewhere near St John's Waterloo. A path of big, orange pigeon footprints on the pavement lead me straight to the Caravan Gallery, where I had a lovely chat with Jan Williams, one half of the photographer duo that is the inspiration behind this project. She and her partner are living my dream -- traveling around with a vintage caravan in tow, photographing the quirkier aspects of life in the towns they visit, and showing their photos wherever they park. 

From there, I ticked off two more things on my list: a stop at the Pieminister in Gabriel's Wharf to buy a Heidi pie (to eat later), and across Blackfriars Bridge for a stop at the Hoop and Grapes to see the landlord and pay the deposit on the function room for a meet-up of photographer friends on Thursday. At that point I was beginning to run out of steam, but I pushed on to Tate Modern. I always forget how far it is from Waterloo to Tate Modern. In my mind it's a five minute walk, but in reality there are two bridges and a lot of steps in between. By the time I crossed south over the Millennium Bridge (stopping to take photos of Ben Wilson's chewing gum art on the bridge) and reached Tate Modern, it was 3:30 pm. I knew I'd be taking my chances about getting a ticket to see the Matisse cut outs as it's a timed entry exhibition and wildly popular. The sign at the ticket desk said that the next tickets available were for 5 pm and I knew I wouldn't last that long, so I bought a ticket (concession price, no gift aid, with 50% off using my Art Pass) to see the Malevich exhibition instead. I knew nothing of Malevich and, despite studying a lot of art history in college, I'd never even heard of his seminal black square painting. The exhibition was great -- really interesting work covering a time span of about 30 years and a range of styles as he evolved from impressionism, through fauvism and cubism and other forms of abstraction to something he called suprematism. 

By the time I finished with the exhibition, I was so knackered I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. But I made my way back to Waterloo station and onto the tube and back to the flat. 

After eating a good dinner, drinking a lot of wine and sleeping like a log last night, I amazed myself by getting out of bed this morning and up to the NY Pilates Studio in Queen's Park for 9:30 mat class. I'm now all stretched out and ready to go. Our destination today is The Red House in Bexleyheath.

Expenses Friday:
£20 to top up Oyster card
£3 for spinach and cheese tart for lunch
£4.50 for Heidi pie to be consumed later
£50 deposit (refundable) on function room
£6.55 for Malevich exhibition

20,854 steps, 8.22 miles

Friday, August 29, 2014

I'm Baaaaaaaaack!

Landed at Heathrow this morning after a long journey. The only real snag was discovering that the Massport lot at the Shoppers' World in Framingham is no longer at the Shoppers' World. It's been moved to a temporary site near Natick. But I had plenty of time to get there, so all was well and the journey was uneventful after that. I managed to make it from Heathrow to Paddington and exit to Praed Street without having to climb a single step -- this is a first, and my back will thank me for it. Got to the flat at 8:50 a.m., where I had to haul my bag up two flights of stairs, however. 

I'm caffeinated and unpacked and about to get in the shower. I'm heading to central London today -- possibly the NPG, definitely Tate Modern,  stopping at the Pieminister at Gabriel's Wharf to pick up a Heidi pie for my dinner, and over to the Hoop and Grapes to pay the (refundable) deposit on the function room for our Guess Where London meet up on Thursday. I'm hoping to find the Art Caravan on the Southbank. This might prove too ambitious for my arrival day (on three hours of sleep), but we shall see how long I hold up before crashing. Will post an update this evening or tomorrow morning. 

Very happy to be back in Blighty!