The airbnb was a tiny three-story house surrounded by huge housing blocks. I arrived with Ray about 2am, and the Colombian women who live there were having a party with music and dancing and several friends. We were too tired to join it, but Ray had brought back a tin of patisserie desserts from Romania which weren’t going to last more than a day, and this was a perfect opportunity to share them while we still could, so I went down and had a local Stella and a nice chat with a guy named Sadik. It was quite inexpensive, and they say it is rented pretty much every day of the year. That will happen when you have a place in a city with a low price.
Sunday we planned to meet our friend Frank for an afternoon meal. We stopped in a cafe for breakfast, and then decided that rather than take the bus and decide what to do, there was plenty of time to walk. The walk took us past Battersea Power Station, defunct for 20 years but still standing, which is in the midst of becoming a huge development with many large new apartment buildings (and probably no new parking). We walked through Battersea Park and across the Albert Bridge to where Frank is now living, with his mother. An art-curator friend of theirs from Kentucky was there, Frank fixed a great meal of roast lamb and vegetables, and we listened to their grandly gossipy Kentucky tales. We did take the bus home.
We spent most of Monday at Tate Britain, where Ray wanted to see a couple paintings by Henry Scott Tuke. Wonder why. There’s lots of stuff there from the last 200 years, and we walked past much of it. Then we went up to Mayfair to see some Henri Cartier-Bresson photographs. Inasmuch as candid photography is either illegal, greatly frowned upon, or subject to endless litigation about privacy and ownership of image now-a-days, most of his most famous photos could not be taken in 2015, unless they were taken by security cameras, which capture every movement in urban England with no restrictions whatever.
There were tons of galleries there, and we happened on some other interesting places as well.
We met Val and Sue, who we’d gone birdwatching with in Trinidad in February, and had Indian food and then a little tour by car: I had no idea they’d rebuilt Shakespeare’s Globe on its original site, and that London has the tallest building in Europe, the Shard. When Dubai purchases London, it will make a nice atrium piece in a building ten times the size, as with the Shot Tower in Melbourne.
There was no obvious thing to do on Tuesday. I took Ray down to Brixton Village for breakfast; it is difficult to find people who actually squeeze oranges in London. A little Jamaican health food place turned out to do that, and Ray found a place which sells outsider art and bought outsider post cards. We’d written down names of some other interesting shows posted on Time Out, and headed for the Royal Observatory where there was a nice exhibition of the winners of the Astronomical Photographer contest. The photos were all shown in a darkened room on really nice monitors; there were several really good ones. I was impressed by how much dust there is in Orion and how convenient it is to be able to take a 300 hour of the course of several months and matte the resultant images using software.
We spent quite a while looking at them. The Prime Meridian is still out of kilter with WGS84.
We took the Docklands Light Rail to the Museum of London Docklands, which has two floors of exhibits of the history of London and the docks area, arranged in an annoying Ikea-style maze; we had gone there to see a photography exhibition and it took awhile to bail from the history section. IKEA has had a baleful influence on the designs of many spaces. The exhibition was about Christina Broom, a photographer in the early 20th century known for taking pictures of soldiers before and during World War I, and for documenting the suffragette movement. We tried to go to a third gallery located in a university, but we’d gone to the wrong campus. It wasn’t that far from where we were meeting our friend David and his family for dinner, so once again, we took the opportunity to walk there. We met them at Il Bacio, a Sardinian restaurant in Stoke Newington. His kids Zac and Jacob are a lot of fun.
Wednesday we headed to Kings Cross, a single subway journey from our airbnb, and boarded a Virgin train to Newcastle.