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Published: June 19th 2016
After the portraiture lesson at the Tate, we met Alex, who as a Londoner was wearing a long black woollen coat, and headed into Marylebone for a drink and some dinner. A mild Friday night on the cusp of summer and all the youngsters were out on the town. We dropped in to several pubs that were completely stacked and the floors sticky with beer. Time to move on. We found one where the atmosphere was less frenetic and the range of beers good. A couple of locals played darts in the corner. Are we in England then? Dinner was effectively burgers and chips, but the bill did not reflect that.
Alex hit the gym in the morning, presumably to do some remedial work after the humongous calorific intake the night before.
Went to the Bermondsey Square Farmers market. Brilliant food market with a wide range of global food styles and local flavours. Options included local sausages, smoked salmon, South African meats, Welsh rare bit and others. It was totally stacked but with a great atmosphere. Alex enjoyed a wrap, Catherine had a crab sandwich, and I had the most awesome burger I have ever eaten. Then to one
The John Snow pub
Pilgrimage site for all self-respecting epidemiologists
of the many local beer breweries, this one built inside the arched space under the railway line. Small volume craft beers some of which were a little challenging in terms of sourness and molasses flavours.
Train up to Hampstead and a walk through this historical little village. Atmospheric little lanes and a local church with star-studded church graveyard. Notable was the memorial of one John Harrison, inventor of the clocks that made longtitudinal calculations possible. Big contribution. After some electronic exchanges we met Amy Smith, a long term family friend, and caught up with her active entrepreneurial ventures, over coffee. She joined us in the journey downtown and for a great Greek-style meal. We met Jill there after she had been studying all day in preparation for her finishing exam.
Time was all of a sudden really tight so we had to virtually run to the Globe theatre across perhaps 2km of inner city London. Progress was delayed by the cordonned finish line of a penny farthing bike race!! Turns out we had stumbled across the Penny Farthing World Series. Quaint, but we had more urgent things to do. We raced into the Globe Theatre grounds, just as
the steel gates were being closed. Alex and I love to compete for the honour of making airflights by the tightest possible margin - this arrival will be added to the family annals.
The Globe Theatre performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream was really enjoyable. The classical Shakespearean play had been tweaked just enough to make it more relevant for the topically matters of today (e.g. same-sex marriage) but also had an inbuilt sub-plot of some local theatre back room staff running an amateur production of a Greek tragedy. Very funny and entertaining. We had gallery seats which were excellent but given it was such a mild evening, standing room in front of the stage would also have been great. Ultimately home before midnight. Alex and I shared a chat over a whiskey - for which he has a bit of a taste.
After a bit of a slow start the next day, Jill headed off to study again. We picked up a hire car and headed south west toward Portsmouth. We had set the goal of seeing the Victory and were not disappointed. The day was crystal clear and warm, and so we, and a million Brits,
headed out of the megalopolis and toward the "seaside". Not without some minor sidetracks as we found our way through the maze of country lanes, intermediate and major highways. Into Portsmouth and walked up to the historical dock area, away from the tourist magnet shopping centres. We really only wanted to see Victory and the MaryRose, but it turns out there are many other legitimate attractions that could have occupied us for the whole day. Victory itself was brilliant. The hulk has been well preserved and the story of the ship's most famous commander, Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, told in a straight-forward way. We were impressed by the scale of the ship and the fact that it sailed out to the Battle of Trafalgar with 820 souls on board, only 57 of which survived to tell the tale. Lots of volunteers and a fair bit of public money has made sure this is a stable attraction for some time to come. Just next to the Victory is the warehouse / presentation hall where Henry VIII's MaryRose has been sitting since being lifted from the bottom of the Solent. We narrowly missed seeing the renovated remains of this ship, because the
new facility does not open until later this month. The security presence was surprisingly tight, but frankly, I wouldn't want to challenge some of those Royal Navy guys. Brutal.
On toward Salisbury and Stonehenge. Greg recalled visiting Stonehenge on a bleak winter's morning back in 1979 with friend Tony Treston. Back then one was able to walk among the standing stones within one hundred metres of a road. Now one parks several kilometres away and comes by shuttle bus to view the whole structure from a distance. So some loss in proximity, but this was made up for by better information and clearer interpretations of the stones. Plenty is available for the reader to find, but we really enjoyed seeing the bigger spatial pattern of the henge, as well as burial mounds and other villages that may have coexisted on the Salisbury plain. The weather was again kind to us, and no one managed to injure us with their selfie-sticks. The possibility that people had been building up to this structure for some 3500 years is much more exciting than the old Druid story. Nonetheless I am sure modern Druids will be back in a few weeks time.
The evenings were long, so we stayed in the area for a bit more sight seeing. Stopped in at Barton Stacey for a beer but unfortunately the pub had closed inside its normal hours. We strolled around this charming little village anyway, photographing and sketching. We could imagine a life that incorporated a well-paid job in London, and a country cottage in Barton Stacey. Maybe some sheep and readings from the lending library which here was a London-style telephone box. Headed on to Sutton Scotney and enjoyed a lovely Sunday evening meal in an atmospheric little pub. We didn't actually make it home to West Hampstead until about 2230, and were surprised just how much traffic was still choking the roads at that time.
Kew gardens had always been a priority for us on this trip, even though we are not card-carrying horticulturalists. Again the British Isles turned on a beautifully sunny day for us - one could even say hot. The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew were outstanding. We hooked up with a volunteer guided tour that lasted about 90 mins. In that time we heard a great introduction to the gardens, their collections and their on-going research
work. We had a chance to see the Palmhouse, the Waterlily house, and the Plant Family beds before dropping off to do our own thing. Turns out we stayed on until 1700 and enjoyed every minute. Greg had a chance to sketch the Palmhouse and we really loved the atmosphere of the place. How privileged would one be to live near this. More to do here...until next time.
Final day in London was spent as we both chose. Greg went back to the National Portrait Gallery to polish his portraiture skills; Catherine and Jill went back to Carnaby Road to pick up her new dazzling shoes, and then on to Notting Hill and Portobello to potentially pick up some other bargains. Our final dinner together was at a brilliant little cafe called Bone Daddies - Flesh and Buns
. It is a Japanese themed menu with the offerings deconstructed so as to add other flavours and textures. Catherine, who is not a huge fan of Japanese, was blown away. The buns were the same style as chinese yum cha steamed buns. The fillings were varied and flavoursome, like the fillings from dumplings or sushi. This was a memorable meal. Home
to West Hampstead in preparation for our trip to Berlin. And then a play "The curious incident of the dog in the night time" at the Gielgud Theater. Great production, which we viewed from the 2 person private balconies on either side of the stage.
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