Friday, July 12, 2013

A day trip to London

Marianne had arranged to meet one of her internet scrap-booking friends, Margarita, who lives in London. We booked our train tickets well in advance to make sure we got a cheap fare and headed off early to Birmingham New Street station.

It's just a five minute walk up to the corner to catch a bus that goes to downtown Birmingham and we managed to get a front row seat on a double-decker. It's quite a view from up there and it's a great way to see a place you don't know.

It was a stopping all stations train down to London, but eventually we got there. We met Margarita and she and Marianne toddled off to do whatever they were going to do. I had London to myself. First I went on a wild goose chase to the outskirts of London to try to find a bloke who knows about how to fix a loudspeaker that I inherited but I could not find his place. So I returned to central London and decided to walk around the Mayfair area. It was a warm muggy afternoon and bare legs seemed to be 'the' style of dress code.

The first classical composer I really got interested in back in 1965 was Handel. There is a small museum in the house where he lived in London. You can see the blue plaque on the wall of the darker building denoting that he lived there.

You might also notice there is another plaque on the wall of the house next door. More about that in a moment.

The museum entrance was down this little lane that had a trendy looking restaurant at the end. It was doing very good business.

Unfortunately, the museum does not allow photography. Handel moved into the house in 1723 and rented it until his death in 1759. Many of his famous works were composed in this house and you can go into the room where he composed and also his bedroom where he probably came up with the tunes.

Handel is still one of my favourite composers and if you are not familiar with his music, try this for the first two minutes and this (start at 5:44). The latter video shows Gavrilov as pianist and the greatest pianist of the second half of the 20th century, Richter, as page turner.

So what about the other blue plaque? The trust somehow got hold of the house next door and as part of the tour you go through a door that did not exist in Handel's day to the room in the next building where Jimi Hendrix lived. There was no warning of this and I was genuinely puzzled by seeing Hendrix memorabilia in a Handel Museum.

The Handel Museum people are wondering what to do with this unusual juxtaposition and I was told a short film was made where Hendrix goes back in time to Handel's day and teaches him the diminished 7th chord. I suspect Handel would have been very intrigued by the music that Hendrix created.

Or you can try this fusion version of the Sarabande that was played (much better) by Gavrilov.

By chance I passed by the church where some of my ancestors were married so I went in.

They stood up there and were married and so I exist today.

I did not need any more stuff cluttering up our house, so I gave this auction house a miss.

Since I am renowned for my ability to make any clothes I wear look bad, I decided to take a stroll down this street.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons I don't stun the masses with my stylish clothes. I'm too cheap.

Needless to say, they weren't rushing out into the street begging me to come inside. They probably averted their eyes and hoped I wouldn't linger and scare off potential customers.

Somebody has to make those handmade suits. They have probably been doing it since they were teen apprentices.

I decided not to go into the Royal Academy. Amsterdam was enough this trip.

However I did stroll down the nearby Burlington Arcade which is filled with expensive shops selling stuff I would never use. I did not see anybody actually buying anything inside any of the shops, but I suppose the shops survive somehow.

The front of the Royal Academy. The thing on the front looks suspiciously like a map of the world that prominently features Australia.

By chance, I walked past the other famous auction house in London.

The windows of Christies. Again, I was not tempted.

Since this is Admiralty Arch, I was now in the touristy area so I decided to get a real dose of the tourist stuff. I see this former office building is to become a hotel.

Although I am usually up on things happening in Britain, I had missed hearing about this monument.

Downing Street. Back in 1974 when I first came to London you could walk down to Number 10.

The crush of tourists was as bad as ever.

It's still there going round and round.

Another monument I had not heard about, the one for the Battle of Britain pilots.

The Thames at high tide.

As I walked across these new additions to the Hungerford Bridge I reflected on whether I liked the London of today more than the London of 1974.

There used to be a pedestrian walkway attached to the other side of the bridge and back in 1974 I often used it to walk across the river to concerts at the Royal Festival Hall. I miss it because it was so industrial yet so practical. The new walkways are much prettier, but they don't really fit in with the old London.

But London is still London. I love going back.

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