Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A Trip down memory lane

in more ways than one.

Yesterday, I went into London to the Tate (Britain).

As I waited for the train, I was reminded of the number of times I stood on platform two, early in the mornings in 1981, as I commuted into school. Admittedly, it was 10am, not 7am, but the platform was just as cheerless as ever.  After a series of 'trains cancelled due to snow or strikes, I abandoned British Rail in favour of the joys of commuting down the A1 for the following three years.

The Tate is being re-furbished. The grand main entrance is blocked off and covered in hoarding and scaffolding.

I arrived at 11am. My ticket was for 11.30 admittance. I sought out the famous Tate Restaurant to recce for lunch. It's closed for refurbishment until November.  I eschewed the very non-British confections on offer (American muffins and Danish pastries) and opted for a paper-cup of tea in the temporary cafe while I waited for admission to the Lowry Exhibition.

The exhibition was a little disappointing. First, it was absolutely crowded. There was no time to stop and study each exhibit as so many people were jostling for a good viewing position. Second, I had hoped to see some of Lowry's early work, submitted while he studied at the Manchester College of Art. There were a couple of earlyish works, and some by his instructor to show the influence of the French, Impressionist painter, but none of Lowry's early portaits or life-studies.

The Football Match sold for £5.6m in 2011

Nevertheless, I did see the original 'Daisy Nook Easter Fair' (my parents met there in the late 1930s) in all its colourful glory, and a few others that reminded me of my earliest school days and life in Manchester. One or two 'Football Matches' took me back to the times my father and I went to watch Manchester City play at Maine Road. Lowry was a life-long supporter so, perhaps his painting is of that very place?

I have visited the Lowry in Salford, which houses a much more comprehensive collection of Lowry's works (as well as the previously unseen early works from his Art College days). Perhaps I might re-visit some day and take a trip to those small towns ( from which the industrial landscapes Lowry painted, have now disappeared.), and  the Pennine Way trails of my teenage years.

A Turner room, from the staircase gallery
I made my way through the final Lowry room and went in search of William Blake. To get to Blake, one passes through the Turner rooms. Then it's up the narrowing stairs and, finally, to Blake. I'd been to see Blake before and remembered being disappointed by the small size of most of the images. No such disappointment this time. I knew that Blake's works were mainly illustrations for various books.

TheFall of Rosamund

A new image, to me, is The Fall of Rosamund. This is so unlike the work of Blake with which I am familiar, that, had it not been in this room, I would not have thought of him as the artist.

By now, I was feeling peckish. I headed off in search of a cafe that would overcome my earlier disappointment at not being able to dine at The Tate. I found a likely candidate at The ETSU cafe, Millbank.

I ordered a bacon sandwich (which turned out to be a whole, extremely soft and fresh, ciabatta loaf) and a cup of English tea and watched the world go by along the banks of the Thames.

The Shard (City of London) from Vauxhall Bridge

Suitably nourished, I made my way along Millbank towards Westminster, where I intended to take the Tube back to Kings Cross Station. As I walked, I remembered a much earlier time in my life (1971), when I walked across London Bridge from South of the river, towards the City's Threadneedle Street. I worked there for a year with a Marine Insurance Company  until it re-located to South London, where we lived.

Looking towards Westminster from Lambeth Bridge. The London Eye wasn't there in 1971.

As I neared the Houses of Parliament, the crowds began to thicken. Through Victoria Tower Gardens and  into Westminster Square and it became difficult to navigate through tourists weilding cameras, consulting maps and street signs, and queues for tours of various public buildings.

Footsore and weary, I descended into the Undeground and the route back home.

At Kings' Cross Station, I was, once again, surprised at the changes that had come about since my last visit to London in  May. I can't ever remember getting lost in the station before. It took me a while to find the Departures' Boards. Then I spotted something I don't remember seeing the last time I waited beside Platform 9 3/4. A mini-Diagon Alley shopping 'mall''.

Finally, onto the train home and out of London, past the Emirates Stadium, and into the Hertfordshire countryside. Day's out in London always leave me tired and ready for home-comforts. I had a very interesting trip but I won't be repeating the journey any time soon.