Awake at four AM. As always happens. I put in earbuds and turned on the phone’s white-noise feature, took deep breaths, and after I while I realized I was floating through enormous architectural formations. For a moment I seemed to surface to consciousness, whereupon I noted that I had, perhaps, been dreaming, and that was a hopeful sign. Best get back to it, then.
ALARM, eventually, and up.
Daughter was to meet her friends for lunch, then we were to meet at the Tate. First order of business, though: a proper English breakfast.
The breads come in little wooden boxes marked “Pain.”
Everything was delicious, including the lurid eggs. Actually, it was “Scrambled Egg,” suggesting that everything in the pan came from some enormous bird that ate a lot of saffron. The coffee was regrettably tepid, though, and the second I noted this fact I could sense Natalie bracing for thing all chidren dread, which is Dad Saying Something.
Well, it's helpful! If the coffee isn't satisfactory, better they hear it from someone who won't make a row about it? Besides, it'll be a chance for the manager pretending to be concerned, and practice those words about looking into it, and speaking with someone, and ensuring it doesn't happen again.
Then, time for Brutalism! It’s always time for Brutalism!
There’s a “shopping center” nearby, adjacent a park, and it seemed to be a good way to walk off the breakfast and fill some time. It was . . . interesting, as a cultural artifact.,
Not a “shopping center” in the mall sense, but a courtyard in an apartment complex. Like most buildings of its era and style, it has aged terribly, stained and rusted, but you see the basic idea. We’ll blow up this old paradigm, and really there so much of it about there’s no loss, and insert this new open structure that really opens up the street.
“How about its relationship to the park?”
“Any recognition of such is purely accidental.”
It’s not overscaled, so it doesn’t ruin the neighborhood. Twice as much would be dreary and Clockwork-Orangeish. The main public area does have a nice open feel, but gah: don’t know why anyone thought this was a good idea, ever.
The area abounds with references to the Bloomsbury group, since they bunked in a few of the buildings around here. Look, there’s where Lytton Strackley lent John Keynes two quid! What? Of course there’s a marker! Look, you can see where Strackley's body odor permanently withered this elk.
The area by the concrete obtrusion above also has an endless number of heads and squat columns. The protective netting gives the fellow a proto-Pinhead look:
I've never seen columns like this. If I hadn't looked up in a certain direction, I wouldn't have seen them.
A reminder that they didn't always pop for the ornaments, and that post-war buildings often looked like machines for mincing humans into slush, and pumping the goop to the upper floors for final processing:
Next it’s the Tate, after some more COVID testing queries. Two-fold unease: testing positive, of course, but being able to find a damned test at all.
LATER. Famished; Indian meal ahead. So. Daughter went off to see her friends; I went to find a COVID place. Found it. Continued on towards the Tate, walking past Trafalgar, down to Millbank area. Nothing I love more than to just walk around in a city. In this city.
Monty; say no more.
Some forms abide over the centuries:
Alas, I had the route-generation feature running, tapping my wrist with turns every so often, and as a result my phone went down to 40% by the time I got to my destination. Horrors! A museum awaits, and then I need it for . . . for . . . the things. You know, the Things. So I plugged in my battery, feeling smug that I had one. So far this trip is turning out fantastic when it comes to all the cords and adaptors and such that I brought; really nailed that tech kit.
But while recharging, I’d best not fritter away power. So I talked without taking many pictures. Walked across the Vauxhall bridge, crossed back, then sat in the park with nothing but my own thoughts. It was awful! There has to be a historical plaque around here somewhere . . . ah.
This area was once the embarking point for prisoners shipped off to Australia. The mood maintains to this day, I think.
Tate-wise, here's the neighborhood.
I decided to go inside and look around at a room we wouldn’t otherwise visit, and found a deserted exhibit of ephemera, to use the kind term. They have nine billion pieces of stuff, so there’s a room of stuff grouped by decade. Mostly an account of the decline of civilization, it begins with handwritten notes and drawings and concludes with pamphlets and examples of modern movements that produced nothing but angry drivel, touching en route the movements of the 60s that enshrined the New as an unchallenged paradigm.
But it all began back in the earliest years, when the post WW1 movements were ramping up, DEMANDING a new art that truly reflected the Machine Age. We have produced a manifesto! We are AGAINST things!
These things we condemn! Let it be known! Also, here is our shite art!
Later our grandsons will sell the pieces as ray-guns for a low-budget science-fiction movie!
Daughter arrived, and we headed into the main building.
The main exhibit, Hogarth and The Europeans, had raised eyebrows and rolled some eyes with the tenor of the notes, which viewed the paintings through modern identity politics. Some silly things, but could be worse.
The overwhelming mood of the museums’ collection was overcast. (At least what we saw.) You walk into a room dominated by a French painting with bright blue, and it's like the sun broke through after a month of clouds.
To show how times change: this fellow was keen to be shown with bare legs in the Roman mode, or so it said, but it just looks as if he showed up without pants.
One of those paintings where you suspect the subject sat for a couple of days after everything else had been finished:
It's a haunting work:
The ability to conjure the illusion of fabric never, ever fails to amaze the non-painter.
One sign pointed to the area devoted to Mark Rothko and JMW Turner. Turns out Rothko had requested that his Seagram paintings go to the Tate, if they could be put next to the Turners.
Nice way to claim equal billing. But I like them.
Rattling back in the Tube to the hotel, then split up again, Daughter to the pub to see friends, and me to a nap. Made it to Dishoom at 7:30, and there was a line out the door. So: stand in the cold, or find some place where we could get in straight away? Rattling back in the Tube to the hotel, then split up again, Daughter to the pub to see friends, and me to a nap. Made it to Dishoom at 7:30, and there was a line out the door. So: stand in the cold, or find some place where we could get in straight away?
Not really a question at all. While we stood outside for half an hour - temps in the mid 30s - they brought by some brandy, then some chai, then mint tea. Brilliant! As they say. The meal, as ever, was indescribable, and we ate every possible molecule. It’s the type of experience where you want to read restaurant reviews after you’ve been there, the way you read glowing reviews of a movie you just enjoyed.
Then a pub. The Swan and Thistle, or the Boar and Fife, or something. It was a Samuel Smith pub, and the whisky was made by same. RMB, or something with that name. Delicious, in the Grants genre. The bell rang hard at 11, ending the best day of the year so far. London, a Museum, Dishoom, the Pub. Slept like a stone.
Wide staring awake at 3:15.
Tomorrow: up and out, again - but we strike north.