22 Oct 2014
The Tower moat is awash with red porcelain poppies, glistening in the sunshine. Their colour glowing against the lush green grass. It’s a beautiful sight until I reflected upon their significance: One poppy for every British Military Death during WWI in commemoration of 100 years since the first world war started in 1914.
The installation called ‘Blood Swept Land and Sea of Red’ by ceramic artist Paul Cummins and theatre designer Tom Piper, is a powerful visual commemoration. There are hundreds of thousands of poppies: 888,246. The scale of this war, is staggering.
Their might have been a silver-haired spectator for every poppy here also. I can’t recall ever seeing so many pensioners in London.
After circling the moat we made our way up onto Tower Bridge past Dead Man’s Gate, where the bodies were fished out of the river after the Tower had dispatched them. Today, she’s a good looking bridge with distinctive towers and sweeping suspension supports. We paused and watched life on the choppy, fast-moving river pass by. It’s surprising how wide the River Thames looks from this vantage point. We have been enjoying London so much that we’re getting a little depressed about leaving shortly, so strolling hand in hand over the bridge, we made plans to extend our stay by a few days.
Emerging from the narrow stairs onto the south bank, the difference in architecture is immediate: contemporary and glass, forward thinking and optimistic; opposite the brutal history and ghosts of the Tower of London. I love this about London; its ability to blend contemporary life with its rich and varied history. We enjoyed looking at the new architecture from this vantage point. The Shard is an interesting building; it wouldn’t look out of place set in Mordor with an eye of fire at its pinnacle.
“I’d like to eat at the restaurant at the top, one day” I announced to David.
We continued along the river side path that winds through old cobble stone lanes, past a medieval church, old pubs and a tall ship until we reached the Globe theatre and finally the Tate Modern.
David noticed the hum that used to haunt the main turbine hall was gone.
“It was a dominant sound in an otherwise good space” he recalled. He ran a couple of lectures series here called Creative Sound and they were considering holding a performance in the turbine hall but the hum was too disruptive. “It was at a particular pitch too.”
Starting from the top floor and working down, we spent a few hours ambling through the collection. There was a lovely collection of drawings from a French artist, Louise Bourgeois, in a separate gallery. With a mixture of dreamlike text and simple line drawings, she was able to project clear emotions. I was particularly drawn to a collection of fabric pieces, which the photos don’t do justice.
One particular sculpture made me giggle and think of my Dad. I don’t love all contemporary art as I’ve said previously, for me it’s about pieces that resonate with me for various reasons. However I think Charlotte Posenenske’s sculpture is… ridiculous. It’s a piece of ductwork. My Dad is a retired mechanical engineer who designed air conditioning systems using the very same materials.
After browsing in the Tate bookstore, which has one of the best creative book collections we’ve come across, we had walked up an appetite. Further up stream just past the National Theatre is the British Film institute (BFI) which has a comfortable and cosy restaurant, Benguo bar & kitchen. It’s not widely known outside of London, and is frequented by freelance creatives. In our previous life you’d find David sipping an ale and writing in one of his black notebooks. Today there is a particularly studious atmosphere, in every corner there are people on laptops and iPads writing or meeting. The group of people next to us were discussing a film they’re making.
The food here is an added bonus and very good. David’s crab linguine was served with a mild chilli and white wine sauce. My chicken and honey fig dish was exactly what I was in the mood for. The Kale was salty, buttery and delicious. London is in love with Kale, it seems. It’s on every menu.
“This cheese is really good. It’s minimal. I like minimal, when it’s top quality!” Says my slightly pickled husband.
There is an excellent film store opposite the cafe, and it’s impossible to come to one without the other. I picked up a couple of old classic’s and he picked up a couple of obscure arthouse marvels. Another Bela Tarr film, which I challenged him to watch in a single sitting without falling asleep. Chuckle.
Finally we wandered back out onto the river walk and followed it past the huge structure that is the London Eye. Along the river seagulls cruised past as we climbed up onto Westminster Bridge and then down into the underground station heading for home.
It’s been a huge day; tourists in our old home town.