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I love London part 3

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I Love London part 1 is here and part 2 is here.

P1230725Having been on my travels to Croatia and Bosnia this summer I had a strange feeling as I entered my second week away. I live in London, the world’s most visited city and I live in the UK, a place many people want to call their home. Indeed, we’re so popular that our Government feels it ought to demonise and spit hate at anyone that wants to come live here. We’re full up, apparently.

The feeling I had was that I wasn’t making the most of my own country and home city, and perhaps my obsession with getting away isn’t the best use of my time off. So, I used the opportunity of having my mum down to be a tourist in London. First stop, the Tower of London to see the poppies planted to commemorate the 888,246 British soliders killed in the war. An astonishing sea of red constrasts sharply with the grey of the building and green of the grass, creating the second spectacle commemorating the war. The other was Ryoji Ikeda‘s ‘spectra’, the beam of light projected into the skies above London for a week. As impressive as the beam is from afar, up close it takes on an almost solid form – flies dancing through the light remind you of its ethereal quality. The light entranced everyone who saw it.

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On top of the many free events that go around the city all summer, there’s the small matter of the museums and galleries of London which together is quite likely the biggest concentration of free art, design and exhibits anywhere on earth.

Let’s take the Tate Modern – we walked past Waterlillies by Monet in a matter of moments, not for a second thinking that some of the paintings in this series sell at auction for over ¬£20 million. We also saw work by Picasso, Dali, Matisse, Pollock and Rothko. I was fascinated to read that Rothko was commissioned to paint a number of pieces for an upscale New York restaurant but upon realising the work was too dark in mood, he donated the works to the Tate.

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We headed over to the Imperial War Museum to see their new layout and what a triumph it is. You walk in to see the spectacle of a Harrier Jump Jet, Spitfire and “doodlebug” suspended above you – above you a boat juts out of the glass windows in the beautiful atrium and above it a Landroveris similarly frozen in motion. Upstairs, the Holocaust exhibition is deeply detailed and disturbing; it’s tragic to see what happened to the Jewish people back then hasn’t been confined to history as the people of Gaza suffer a disgraceful blockade, Putin marches in and out of Ukraine and IS slaughter all who don’t want to convert to Islam. The world is in a dark place and the Imperial War Museum is a depository of our failings.

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If the Imperial War Museum catalogues our war-hungry past, The British Museum highlights our ability to conquer culture and then nick it. It’s still astonishing for me to walk in there and find rooms I’ve never explored. As usual, walking past a totem pole, stuffed birds, ancient texts and incredible Egytpian and Greek statues becomes second nature and a walk through the Great Court always makes me sense just how impressive the museum is. Is there anywhere else that can match the grandeur of The British Museum?

Our cultural lives are so improved by free access to these musems and galleries, it’s hard to think back to the days we had to pay entry fees to them. While this is still free, we should take joy that these artworks and masterpieces are not solely in the hands of the super-rich and that we are free to admire them at our leisure. I may well love going abroad for my holidays but when it comes down to it, there’s no place like home.

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I love London part 2

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Back in 2012, when London ruled the world and the Olympics embraced a spirit of inclusion (hi Russia and Racist-van Tories) I wrote about my love for London and here’s part 2. The weather today has been exceptional, almost hard to imagine it’s still February, so as I wandered about a rare state of bliss overtook me. The last time this happened was in Toledo, which is as beautiful a city as any other I’ve been to. I described that state of bliss as me “powering down”, with my brain happily emptying itself.

This walk was from Soho down Regent Street and into St James’ Park and onwards to Green Park, ending at a protest about Japan and Dolphins.

 

Walthamsnow

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The snow started early this morning and it still making something of an effort to give me a snow day, but I guess I won’t know until the morning…it’s like Who Wants to be a Millionaire, with snow money. However, snow always exictes me like a puppy so I had to get out and take many photos! Here are a few!

Lloyd Park in Walthamstow looked particularly fine!

The William Morris gallery is always a good place to go for the cafe; the caramel cappucino left me with a headrush – but then I drink coffee about once a month so that’s no slight on the coffee.

William Morris gallery

My usual route, if I stop off for a much-needed slice of cake is then onto Walthamstow village. The walk alone demands cake; there’s this little hill…you can’t imagine the utter effort it takes to walk up a slight incline. Mmm, cake.

The very modest Town Hall

 

Past the lovely town hall, lots of people were sledging down the hill. It’s always nice to see people using the grounds as local space, rather than it being all blocked from the public.

The Village has a very atmospheric church and graveyard, flanked by Almshouses (is it ironic that the almshouses are now lived in by well off folk?) and woodland.

Spooky graveyard

After this, you reach the central streets of the Village with the most remarkable Spar supermarket; they make fresh pizza in-store, have a brilliant bakery and sell lots more local and farm produce than your usual store. Sadly, living in the village is ever so slightly more expensive than buying diamonds every day and giving them to mad tramps with bad breath

Just before heading home, we popped into the Turkish supermarket and bought some of their excellent butter bread.

To sum up. Walthamstow is lovely and even better in the snow. Hurrah!

 

 

I love London part 1

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Welcome to part one of a series I’ll sporadically/never update due to my ability to – and I think this could be cute but is probably annoying – forget most things. Today I went to Chesham high street to give my beloved some vouchers he wanted to use. I arrived at Sainsbury’s without any vouchers and at that point clocked that my little journey to town was pointless, but it was a nice day so somehow it was all ok. I do that a lot. Maybe I should be a forgetful but brilliant scholar who has the ability to shamble in a room to amaze people. I have many skills to work on.

The point I intended to make at the opening is uh, about towns. I am moving to London next week, but in a way, I’m just moving to a town connected to another town. A thought that came to me today was that you can live in London or live in London, where you try and take advantage of the city and what it has to offer, rather than complaining about everything but at the same time mocking the idea that anyone would go to Zone 5 let alone leave the M25. For me, I can see the benefits of moving to London are enormous but I will fight the urges to become a Londoner who is as provincial as those they mock:

  • Zone 9 is lovely and green and the air is fresh. Spending an hour on a train is boring. Zone 3 takes me to Oxford Circus in 22 minutes.
  • Transport links in Zone 3 are (compared to anywhere I’ve ever lived) sensational. I can go to Victoria and take off somewhere. I can even use my local train station and head to Essex or the seaside without breaking a sweat.
  • I love galleries and exhibitions, and I’ll be much closer to them.
  • Night-buses! Actual buses that run all night! I can go and see my friends, many of whom live within 5 miles of my new home by bus, too!

Of course there are loads of annoying aspects of London but when the title of the post is “Bloody London: Part 257” I’ll be banging on about them ad nauseum. For now I am super excited about the new changes ahead. One is trying to go to new things – that’s what I mean about living/living in London; I could have easily have gone to the V&A yesterday and been totally content, but I do that plenty already so in the coming months I’ll be cracking out the Time Out app, going with friends’ recommendations and using Twitter to find exciting new things to do. Yesterday I visited the Mr Brainwash exhibition near Holborn to check out his giant murals on the outide of the Old Sorting Office and the extensive artworks inside.

It was a stark reminder of how lucky, how very very lucky we are to have free access to so much art and culture¬† when I recall the 4-hour window of free entry to MoMa in New York. MoMa was absolutely brilliant, but for $15, I’d have thought twice, paid and wept. The exhibition was a heady mix of spray-paint, vinyl artworks and giant statues made of stuff like car tyres. There was a nice nod to his film “Exit through the gift shop” where you were allowed to take two large posters, three postcards and a free drink on the way out. The cost of that exhibition must have been enormous but he can command up to $80,000 for a piece of work, so it’s all a totally glorious advert. I’m fine with that. We’re all fine with that.

After, I headed to a Mexican place for a taco – London now has more Mexican places than Mexicans, surely? It was as you’d expect, yummy. Headed off to The Photographer’s Gallery off Oxford Street and checked out the Deutsche Borse prize nominess and a selection of Japanese photobooks. For the photobooks exhibition you had to put on gloves, which on contact with the glossy paper make a noise that is as scary to me as the noise of balloons being touched. Ughhh. Yet again, it was free!So, my first lesson from the sporadic/one-off I Love London series is that good times can be had for free and also, people are still somewhat lovely on the Tube. A woman waved at me to check I knew I’d left my phone on a chair. Lovely.