Bravo to the team at Open House for another amazing opportunity to see inside London buildings not normally open to the general public. Chartered Accountants’ Hall normally joins in, but because of an extensive two year refurbishment decided to pass this year.
Due to an excellent seventy somethingth birthday thrown by Philip Taylor in the Reform (“in case he doesn’t make it to his 75th”) we actually awoke in one of the buildings in Open House. Being in Pall Mall, we thought a round trip of Marlborough House, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Banqueting House might be possible – and indeed it was.
All the buildings were stunning. Marlborough House (sadly unbeknownst to me before the visit) is a royal palace and the international HQ of the Commonwealth. Passing through the Blenheim Room (“one of the handsomest rooms in London”) we eventually made it to the State Drawing Room with the oversized meeting table set up for every country in the Commonwealth.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office continued the theme of intimidating foreign visitors (back in them olden times) with spectacular architecture and art, the Locarno Suite being a highlight. What was surprising is how long this was hidden under plasterboard and pigeon droppings before being unearthed during extensive restoration in recent years (and still ongoing).
The Banqueting House has been on the to-do list for a long time, and it was worth the wait. The Rubens ceiling pays some time spent studying it, with some handily placed bean bags providing an ideal viewing opportunity as well as somewhere to rest!
We will certainly be back next year.
Durbar Court, FCO
Banqueting House – ‘that ceiling’
Waiting with one of the newer members
Huge shout out to James and Elizabeth Montgomery for their very generous invitation to sing Spem in Alium to celebrate James’s 70th birthday. Taking much of Saturday 12 September to put together, most of that time seemed to be spent drinking, eating and socialising. There were separate choir practices in the morning before coming together for a final full rehearsal in the Cathedral Quire just prior to a performance in front of invited guests.
This time I sang tenor in choir 4, slowly working my way down the choir having sung tenor in choirs 1 and 2 previously. I think it fair to say that the final performance held together very well under the expert direction of Tom Seligman.
A very self-indulgent way to spend a Saturday (for me and my 70 fellows singers!).
Full copies for every singer
Gathering in the Paul Woodhouse Suite first thing
Getting the 8 choirs into a horseshoe
Addressing invited guests
Would you believe James thanked us for attending!
Another birthday, another excuse to visit one of London’s newer towers, this time 20 Fenchurch Street. The Sky Garden at the top has recently been opened to the public along with two separate restaurants. After a slightly extended journey (change of trains at Basingstoke and a diversion around St Paul’s, as the Queen was attending a service to commemorate one year since the end of the British presence in Afghanistan) we went for a visit to the top, nipped into Leadenhall Market, took lunch in the delightful Darwin restaurant and went home via Borough Market. The views from the top of 20 Fenchurch Street were magnificent, with sloping glass helping. We even got to view the flypast of helicopters, a Hercules and a couple of jets looking down from Darwin. Worth a visit to the top.
#15 – as old as me
Tower 42, Cheesegrater and Gherkin – oh, and Bex & Bry
St Pauls and BT Tower
Hanging gardens of Fenchurch Street
Looking down at Bex
Not many straight lines here
A short break to Zebrugge (to celebrate our wedding anniversary) gave us the opportunity to compare the QM2 with an earlier (and only) cruise on the QE2. Both were staffed by extremely professional and courteous staff, but the QM2 was more like a Las Vegas hotel compared to the understated elegance of the QE2. Sad to hear about the slow demise of the latter ship. The brief visit to Bruges was a welcome break, but not sure Winchester Market has much to worry about in the global Christmas market stakes!
Birthday October 2008 – Central Lobby
Wedding Anniversary 2014 – Grand Lobby
Singing in the Queen’s Room 2008
The largest ballroom at sea – 2014
QE2 Deck and funnel
Balcony staterooms 2014
New York October 2008
Early morning in Bruges December 2014
QE2 getting ready to sail
QM2 getting ready to sail
QM2 from the QE2 – final transatlantic trip
Another birthday, another excuse to play hookey and do something else instead. This year consisted of a visit to the Rembrandt Late Works exhibition, another lunch deal at a noteworthy venue and a failed attempt to see the poppies at the Tower of London. Conclusions were (1) that the exhibition was rather overshadowed (much like the paintings) by the sheer number of people visiting the rather small galleries (not the case with Leonardo or Canaletto) and (2) the lunch deals at these wonderful restaurants really are worth considering. Although we missed the trip to the Tower on one of the old Routemasters still running, we did manage to catch a brief exhibition of new Routemasters in front of the National Gallery. I still hope to catch the poppies with a quick walk out from work one lunchtime.
Overdosing on Cath Kidston
Course #11 of our three course lunch
Another day trip to London – a late birthday celebration for Rebecca. Without children, but with art. The day built up to an evening lecture, ‘On Colour: Veronese and Matisse’ by the two curators of the current exhibitions for these artists.
First to the Tate Modern to hunt down Matisse in the form of the ‘Portait of Greta Moll’ (1908), even though the talk and future exhibition is on his cut outs. Good to see, as the portrait was compared and contrasted to the ‘Portrait of a Venetian Woman’ (1560), with attention drawn to the background of the later portrait, comparing it to the white on the sleeves of the earlier painting.
Portrait of Greta Moll (check the background)
Portrait of a Venetian Woman (check the sleeves)
A quick walk round the Tate Modern with some excellent and perhaps not such excellent artwork…
Challenging (I think)
Next a visit to the Shard with a stop in Hutong (entered via the Shangri La hotel). Amazing views, particularly from the award-winning loos (with a view). Then onto the viewing gallery at the top with spectacular views all round.
Top of the Shard
Thence to the National Gallery and the Veronese exhibition. Not a particularly well known artist, perhaps, but magnificent pictures, use of colour and conflation of unexpected subjects (Christ and his apostles and the noble families of Venice paying for the pictures for example). Finally to the excellent talk on the two artists, who have often been referred to as ‘two of the great colourists of all time’. Bravo to Xavier F. Salomon and Nicholas Cullinan for an excellent lecture to round off the day.
Veronese – Magnificence in Renaissance Venice
A quick trip to London with Milly to check out the ‘Mind Maps: Stories from Psychology’ exhibition at the Science Museum. Our first visit there but certainly not the last – and a smug feeling as we walked past the massive queues for the Natural History Museum before going straight into the Science Museum. Nice to buy Milly a legal drink, albeit rather laced with sugar and blue colour. Happy 18th!
A quick stop-off before the work of the day
The work of the day
Alcoholic blue sugar at the Hard Rock
Science museum – out of this world
We visited the brilliant da Vinci exhibition at the National Gallery in November, as part of Bryony’s coming of age. The colours of the paintings were vibrant and exquisite – hard to imagine they are 500 years old. The walk through the gallery to the copy of the last supper (itself about the same age) unfortunately temporarily put some of the other pictures into the shade.
We then revisited Hard Rock Cafe (via a wonderful Routemaster) with B suitably embarrassed by a loud rendition of Happy Birthday. A walk through Hyde Park’s White Christmas (with a quick break for Boris bikes) led to an equally full Harrods and a dash for the train home. Still not sure how they can sell appartments at One Hyde Park for the price they do.
The Lady with the ermine - on a bag!
Ready to go into the exhibition
Many thanks to everyone that came and supported the barn dance and barbershop 50th birthday party on 15 October. It was wonderful to see so many family and friends and, thanks to the generosity of people attending, we managed to raise £430 on the night to help with our work in Uganda. This will go towards helping defer any unexpected costs so that Dodie can continue to guarantee that 100% of all money that is raised for Uganda will go directly to good causes.
Take your partner by the hand
Dosado your partner
Not over-rehearsed, this one...