Grayza goes to London Day 4

January 28, 2010

Second and last day of the Exhibition I’m hear for and it was fairly interesting.  Not as productive as I had hoped but it never did look like it would be an exact fit with what I’m looking for.  It was winding down by 3:30ish and there really wasn’t anything left to see so I went for a walk and found myself at the Kensington Palace end of Hyde Park.

As a person who hasn’t been to London much (which is no doubt apparent by the amount I have had to say about it in the last few days) place names like Hyde Park, Marble Arch, Albert Hall, etc.  are familiar but I have no frame of reference as to where they are from each other.  I’m not sure why, but I always thought that the Albert Hall was down by the river but it’s not, it is opposite the Albert Memorial (which is a truly awesome piece of public art and celebration of Empire with people from all over the world represented in what we would not call caricature).

I walked around Hyde Park for a while and then started to think I should do something more productive so hopped on the tube to check out the Saatchi Gallery (it was due to close in an hour or so but if it grabbed me I could come back tomorrow).  I found it – it was closed.  Later on the local news there was a report from the gallery showing a new exhibit opening tomorrow which not only explained why it was closed, but also showed me I wouldn’t have liked the visit.

Another long walk (my feet are aching this week!) back to the hotel stopping only for some Mexican food, and an early night to start to write up my notes from this exhibition.  One more full day in London tomorrow, and I’ve done all the main things on my list…?

Grayza goes to London Day 3

January 28, 2010

Today was the first day of the Exhibition that is my actual reason for being in London.  So a busy, long and uncomfortable day in Earls Court Olympia that certainly felt like hard work and I still have to try to write up the bits that I did find relevant.

After that, a very quick stop off at the hotel and then heading off into town.  I did a quick stop off at the Apple Store on Regent Street to pick up an ipad but they didn’t have any.  Then on up the road to BBC Broadcasting House for a recording of Newsjack in the Radio Theatre.  Once again, for me, this is a little bit of modern history because it is one of those places that you see so often on TV and know what has happened there that it is strange to actually visit.

Security was not trivial and it took a considerable time and an army of very well organised and efficient people with radios and black ‘audience team’ jackets to get everyone in to this full-house recording of a very good, fairly new, BBC7 show.

Radio Theatre – what has happened here – on looking around and seeing all the mics hanging over the audience reminded me that I was not simply there to be entertained but to play my part in this recording – by laughing and applauding at all the right parts.

I immediately grew concerned about whether my laugh was up to the job, in fact now that I was ‘on the spot’ I couldn’t think what my laugh was like!  Some people have very loud and distinctive laughs – I am not aware of being one of those but what if I am but no one has ever pointed it out to me.  I wanted to practice, to try out one or two alternate laughs in case mine stood out too much or didn’t fit, but it was too late – the lights went down, the audience quietened down and the produced was on stage explaining what was about to happen.

I’ve always wondered with radio shows and I suppose comedy in general how a recording works.  Things are bound to go wrong and the audience can’t be expected to laugh at a repeated punch line like they (hopefully) did the first time. Also is it like film where they keep recording the same bit till it is OK then move onto the next.  Well, to answer my own questions – it was very informal (they don’t all wear evening dress at the BBC anymore).  The cast ran through virtually uninterrupted, from start to finish apart from the odd ‘corpsing’ or line-trip, where they simply picked it up again straight away.  Then at the end the producer came back on stage from the recording booth at the back with some notes of parts to pick up and some new material that had been written during the recording (this is a news based show after all).  The cast, did interact with the audience a bit but that was mainly when things went wrong or if they themselves found something very funny.

So, even though I couldn’t get tickets to one of my favourite Radio 4 comedies I have heard Newsjack before and it was fun to see it recorded.  Again, if you are planning to travel to London (and this does need some booking ahead) check out what BBC shows are being recorded.  They are free to attend and not only do you get a good show, but see how it is made.

In the way back I passed this fence but didn’t hang around

Grayza goes to London Day 2 (part two)

January 28, 2010

Trafalgar Square: if you are in London you have to visit this place.  It is (again) bigger than I had remembered and a simply awesome space both for the feeling of openness and closed in by the dominating surrounding buildings and traffic flowing towards it.  This is also a place where so much has happened over the years and yet it still struck me as a little surprising that the whole place is in fact a monument to Empire, great warriors and most obviously I suppose the battle of Trafalgar with Nelson on top his column and lots of Naval type sculpture.     Anyway, perhaps more of this later, when I arrived in the square it was late afternoon so time to rush on.

My fifth main target for the day was The National Gallery, which makes up more than one side of the square.  However, by the time I made it I only had 45 minutes before they closed – therefore Museum Technique #4, is a slight tweak to #3 by saying to the staff at the information desk “If I only had 45 minutes what should I see”.  At The National Gallery the map made great sense, the works here were separated by time periods and in each collection there were some highlights mentioned and which rooms they were in.  I immediately gave up on seeing much, went into the first room and stuck to that collection.  Incredible!  Again I really can’t do it justice here so perhaps given more time, and if I get the chance later in the week I will come back here because 45mins is ridiculous.

To end the day I aimed for St Martin-in-the Fields (which isn’t) and got tickets for The Belmont Ensemble of London which is part of a week long Mozart Festival.  Now, my original plan was to try to visit Trafalgar Square at some point this week around lunch time and take in one of the free lunch time concerts at St Martin-in-the Fields (which isn’t).  But there was no way of doing that today but now it was in my head I really wanted to go to this.  I’ve not been to many classical concerts but this is more due to lack of momentum than lack of interest.

Before the concert I grabbed some dinner in the crypt café – downstairs in St Martin-in-the Fields (which isn’t) – which is a very impressive modernization of this ancient crypt space.  Also, to call it a café doesn’t do it justice, as although it is self service the quality is very high and is very good value for money and a very nice space.  I would highly recommend anyone visiting London aims for Trafalgar Square at lunch time, to eat in the crypt of St Martin-in-the Fields (which isn’t) and even possibly catch a lunch time concert.

The concert itself was just a perfect fir for my day of wondering these old historic streets looking for the whys, hows and whats of London streets, churches and museums.  The beautiful, traditional church building had great acoustics carrying every detail of the performance.  They played a mix of Mozart and Handel, which confused me as this was a Mozart Festival, but what do I know.  I was also a little disappointed that neither Mozart of Handel were actually there – this must have been some kind of tribute-act ?!

The building itself has many nice architecturally touches, flamboyant chandeliers and sculptures.  However what really caught my eye was the main window which is very modern and intriguing.

It is almost entirely clear glass with the white led (I think traditionally it would be lead but I couldn’t get too close to this) creating lines, which start as a plane grid but moving towards the center create an optical effect of a cross.  At the middle of the cross is an off-set oval piece which is, or appears to be light.  I think, this piece of glass is etched or opaic   !!! but may also be lit at some angle, but although I did try to investigate I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Also, when I went outside to see if it was back lit (which it wasn’t) I noticed that the window is also distorted i.e. not in a single flat plane.  Anyway, I will do some online research eventually, but for me this window is so simple but striking and says everything about God being at the center of everything, at the center of the cross, God as light, the sacrifice of that light, that light still shining even though the cross is empty, the cross is ethereal, we don’t see the cross in this window but it is represented and alluded to…. OK I’ll stop, after all, on the other hand it is just a window.
[update: found some more info  – “The one controversial note struck in the otherwise impeccable interior is a new east window by the Iranian-born artist Shirazeh Houshiary. This appears to depict a cross as if seen reflected in water, a work of rippling lines seemingly at odds with Gibbs’s classical forms.” ]

After the concert it was back out to Trafalgar Square which is a very different place at night than in daylight.  I could, but for the moment wont, wax lyrical about this place but instead I will just let these two photos sum it up.

Grayza goes to London Day 2 (part one)

January 28, 2010

This is the only day that I have all to myself so have to do everything, which is a tall order.  I started with the biggest slowest breakfast I could manage.  Thus fortified, I headed Underground again and this time managed to get it right but got off a stop early (Embankment I think) to have a little walk along the river, and found a Tardis too thin for even David Tenant to fit into.

And on across the Millennium Bridge (where it is very hard to take a good photo because there are so many people posing for photos), to Tate Modern.  No photography inside I’m afraid.  Now this is somewhere I have long wanted to visit and was one of the first things I wrote down when planning this trip.  I wasn’t all that impressed though.  The collection itself has a lot of interesting pieces, the building has some impressive moments and some real let downs leaving it impossible not to cover some areas several times and not making it clear (to me at least) any sense of continuity or cohesiveness – why were these collected together in this room, is there any reason to see this followed by that… etc.  I also tried Museum Technique #2 here, which was to pay for one of those headphone interactive guide things, I won’t do that again!!!

The audio guide felt very isolating (because of having headphones on) and didn’t add any route or order to anything. I suppose this could be so that users have the flexibility to see what they want in their own order but there could easily have been a recommended path.  Also the guide only went into detail on one or two items in each room.  While I wouldn’t have wanted to listen to detail about every single thing it would have been more useful to be able to choose information on more than that.  Also the big Dell PDA thing was heavy, a handful to operate and just got in the way.  It didn’t take me long to give up on this and listen to the school trips that were going around as the comments from some of the younger ones was much more interesting.

That moan out of the way there are some incredibly iconic pieces here that I am glad I have seen first hand.  Also the current exhibitions were fairly interesting, perhaps with more time than I was giving it I would have enjoyed the place more.

I was about to leave when I decided to take a walk down to the big machine hall which had looked empty to me – this was an incredible experience which I’ll go into when I have more time.  Honestly this was the most thought provoking, perspective altering, inspiring, frightening and enjoyable piece of ‘art’ I have EVER experienced!!

So, back over the bridge and up towards St Pauls, which was the second thing I had written down to visit and climb to the top of, etc.  I was surprised by how massive it was, but then everything here is larger than I expect them to be.  I think of Kelvingrove Museum as being ‘museum size’ all these buildings would laugh at the size of Kelvingrove.  Anyway, St Pauls, I went in, was asked for £12.50 and told that there would be no photography.  Now photography is the main thing I would be doing and I didn’t think that would be value for money.  Perhaps with a tour guide or something, but no it didn’t interest me.

Speaking of money.  I’ve not been going out of my way to do this trip on the cheap but I’m not in a position to be too extravagant either.  Accommodation is the biggest cost for me, the gig I caught last night was free – I found it on the National Theater web site and liked the sound of a blues guitarist.  Today I was planning to catch a lunchtime concert, which was also free but missed it.  Museums and Art Galleries tend to be free ( I always try to eat or drink something and give some kind of donation, but still).

OK, so not too thrilled with Tate Modern and St Pauls effectively written off I started walking about in the general direction of Fleet Street looking for the Temple Church.  Before that however, on my way down I glanced left and spotted this little gem:

St Bride’s Church.  I didn’t get a good look around inside as there was a lunchtime recital taking place that I didn’t feel like., but I did catch this interesting fact: this was Christopher Wren’s tallest steeple and the inspiration for the first Wedding Cake.  So there you go – a little education – now on to the drivel.

It took some doing to find the Temple Church.  In keeping with the legends of Knights Templar it is hidden not just down a side street but an archway with a half closed door over it and no sign posts that I noticed.  It is an extraordinary building and invites you to make mystery out of every piece of architecture and sculpture – no wonder it plays a part in the DaVinci Code.

Much, much more walking took place after this when I discovered lots of theaters, lanes, interesting looking buildings and eventually made it to the British Museum. It’s rubbish don’t bother going!

OK, that’s a little rough it just wasn’t my idea of a good time today.  The building is fantastic and the staff were awesome.  I tried my Museum Technique #3 here which was to go straight to the information desk and ask how the museum worked and what was considered to be its highlights.  Did I mention that Museum Technique #1 happened yesterday at the V&A when I walked around aimlessly looking at everything and taking every turn – it didn’t work, I got lost.  So Technique #3 told me that the museum was organized by country of origin of the pieces and everyone came here to see the Egyptian and Greek stuff – I had a coffee.

Ross had insisted I should come here to see the Elgin Marbles (even though I have been to Elgin) and the Roseta Stone, here it is…

After that I noticed I was looking at the building more than the exhibits, got board and left.  At this point I would like to say that contrary to a lot of how this sounds, I’ve been having a very pleasurable, relaxed and fun day!!

Next, came more walking.  I did think about using London Transport but I just kept walking and finding more interesting places. I’ve been using Google Maps with the GPS on my phone plus a few other London apps I downloaded today has really hit my battery hard, but it just about lasted and led me to Trafalgar Square.

That’s all for now.  Day 2 has to be split into two because it is taking too long to sort out photos and everything so I will try to catch up tomorrow..