Saturday, October 10, 2015

Two friends, another walk and more art

My faithful readers will remember the second Friday of my 2014 visit, the day my camera died as I was taking a long walk through Poplar to Trinity Buoy Wharf. This year, a fortuitous opportunity to return to Trinity Buoy wharf fell into my lap. I'd found out several months ago that Wilton's Music Hall sponsors a free, weekly Friday walk to somewhere in the Tower Hill/Tower Hamlets area. I'd wanted to join the walk during this visit, and I signed up without knowing where they'd be going on 9 Oct. My Flickr and Facebook friend Kathy saw my post that I was planning to do this, and since she'd never seen Wilton's, she was keen to go along. We then found out the destination would be Trinity Buoy Wharf (via DLR, not walking the entire way), which Kathy had also never seen and I was robbed of my chance to photograph last year.

So, out the door I went at 8:10 am, arriving right at 9:20 when we were told to assemble. The group walked to Shadwell station and boarded the DLR for Canning Town. Our guide for the walk was Alan, an artist who knows the area well. It's not easy to reach Trinity Buoy Wharf, as it's always been an isolated spit of land between the River Lea and the Thames. Alan told us that part of the area had been called Bog Island in the 19th century, and of the 140 kids who attended the local school, 100 shared the same surname.

When we got to the wharf, we were met by David, who works for TBW and was there to give us a tour of the lighthouse, normally only open at the weekend, where there's a sound installation of Indian bowl music that's on a loop that will not repeat for 1000 years. The narrow steps up to the top of the lighthouse were a bit scary, but worth the anxiety as the views were great -- the O2, Canary Wharf, and parts of Poplar.  Instead of the usual free tea and cake back at Wilton's at the end of the walk, we were encouraged to make a donation to the lighthouse and to purchase something at the little caff (the one where Jen, Jane, Malcolm and I had lunch last year). Kathy and I got food and tea, and we were joined by an older gent who was on the walk. Quite a talker he was, and we ended up getting a late start back to Canning Town. The walk was a good fun, and Kathy and I will do it again next year.

The Jubilee line took me from Canning Town to Green Park. A short walk from there, I met my friend Judy at the Royal Academy to see the Ai Weiwei exhibition. It's popular exhibition, and a bit crowded, but no school kiddies. Photos were allowed (Judy said that Ai Weiwei encourages people to photograph his work and post it on social media) and happily I didn't see one single selfie stick. I'm not sure if the sticks were expressly banned or if the RA just draws a crowd that isn't obsessed with selfies.

We then took the 14 bus to the Victoria and Albert, got some lunch nearby, and walked up to the Serpentine Gallery and this year's Serpentine Pavilion. We both agreed that this year's pavilion is a good one. I liked it better than last year's pod, but not as much as the cloud pavilion in 2013. We had a good time taking photos before checking out the exhibitions in both of the galleries.

Next, we strolled back down Exhibition Road to the V&A to see the Tower of Babel. (I'll add a link when I get home, or you can Google it in the meantime.) The artist spent two years on his bicycle, photographing shops -- from chicken shops to nail salons to hardware stores to fancy places like Harrod's -- and then worked with ceramicists to transfer the photos onto 3-dimensional ceramic blocks. The shops, some 3000 of them, were then stacked in a hierarchical tower, with the lowly ones at the bottom and the chic boutiques at the top. The individual shops are for sale on his website, starting at 95 pounds and going up to several hundred pounds each. Judy saw a man who was choosing several of them to purchase. I'd love to have one, but I think cost and logistics are prohibitive.

After a sit-down, Judy needed to head back home. Since Roger was going to be out at Sadler's Wells, I figured I'd do some of the Friday Lates (many of the museums stay open late on some or all Friday evenings). The Natural History Museum's lates is the last Friday of the month, but I had just enough time before closing to walk around inside for a bit (I'd never been in, but had seen it in photos and movies, most recently in Paddington Bear). Then I went to the Science Museum next door -- the Media Space, which is generally of interest only to adults, stays open till 10 on Fridays. I saw two photography exhibitions. The first was a large exhibition of the work of Alec Soth, an American documentary photographer. He takes large-format photos of American people and landscapes. In style, his landscapes were portrait-like, and his portraits all told something of the time and place that the people inhabited. Somewhat distressing and depressing, all beautifully done. I also saw an exhibition of the photos of Julia Margaret Cameron, who did portrait photography in the mid-nineteenth century. These were also moody and evocative.

My energy was fading, so I nixed my plan to go back to the V&A for the Fabric of India exhibition and/or back to the Serpentine Pavilion for some night photos. Instead, I got the tube and the a bus back to the Harrow Road, picked up some soup and rolls at the Coop, and went back to the flat for dinner, another episode of Outnumbered, and sleep.

£1.25 donation to the Trinity Buoy Wharf lighthouse (all the change I had at the time)
£3 bagel with hummus at the caff
£6.30 for the Alec Soth exhibition
£4 for my dinner food plus Hobnobs and Gingernuts to take home with me
27,223 steps, 11.67 miles

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