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Monday, November 01, 2010

Day Trip To London- Part 2

We had brought rolls and crisps and drink in Asda. We have learned from experience that if you have a snack, or indeed, any kind of food in London it's going to cost the proverbial arm and a leg. So, before we entered the Tate we sat on some benches, conveniently placed nearby, and ate our rolls, or at least, half of them. Then we went into the building. This was opened by H.M. Queen ten years ago, and was converted from it's former use as a power station which supplied the London Underground.

We'd seen an item on The Culture Show on BBC 2 the other week about the installation by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, called "Sunflower Seeds" which is in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. We walked through the main entrance and saw a crowd gathered around one end of the massive space that is the Turbine Hall, and an area that was sectioned off. Carol thought, because the presenter of the television show had stood on the sunflower seeds, that we would be able to also, but it would appear that was not the case.  This is how it is described on the Tate Modern website:

'Sunflower Seeds is made up of millions of small works, each apparently identical, but actually unique. However realistic they may seem, these life-sized sunflower seed husks are in fact intricately hand-crafted in porcelain. 

Each seed has been individually sculpted and painted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen. Far from being industrially produced, they are the effort of hundreds of skilled hands. Poured into the interior of the Turbine Hall’s vast industrial space, the 100 million seeds form a seemingly infinite landscape.'

Like a great deal of art, and particularly modern, it is open to interpretation, and this particular piece is no different. You don't get any idea of the scale of it, from seeing it on television, so it was quite interesting to see it for real. I'm also interested to see, and hear, how people react to bits of art, which makes visiting somewhere like the tate so interesting.

We had to go up to the various floors via escalator, and it is quite a good way up to the top of the galleries. You could see down into the Turbine Hall, but, the truth be told, I didn't really like it because it was so high up. I do prefer to keep my feet firmly on the ground.

We spent quite a long time walking through the galleries and looking at the artwork. We spent some time on a digital display doing a quiz on various art movements and individual artists, and we got a fairly good score. We began to come down on the escalators and went in one of the shops which had a really good selection of things to buy and then we left Tate Modern and decided to then go to Covent Garden.

If you want to visit the website here is the link: www.tate.org.uk

We got on the Underground at the nearest station which was over on the opposite side of the Thames and we had to cross over on Southwark Bridge and caught a    train at Mansion House as far as Leicester Square and then walked the rest of the way to Covent Garden.

It was really crowded in the Piazza, where the old flower, fruit and vegetable markets were. I have never seen it so busy. As we walked through the Piazza we saw quite a few street performers and large crowds gathering to watch, one was a tightrope walker who had taken  a young boy out of the audience and was attempting to get him to throw a hat at him as he stood on the wire which was set up in the portico of St Paul's church (incidentally, not the Wren St Paul's. If you know either "My Fair Lady" or the George Bernard Shaw play "Pygmalion", on which it is based,  you will no doubt know that this was the setting for the opening scene of that play when Professor Higgins first meets Eliza Doolittle.)

We wandered about the market, looking at the stalls. There was a lot of really good quality things for sale, such as pottery, some nice candles set in really nice wooden containers and things like scarves, a great place to come to for some extra-special Christmas presents.

We had tea in a central restaurant area, and it was nice by this time to just sit down as we'd spent a lot of time walking. We went into a branch of Accessorize, as Carol wanted to have a browse. As we walked in, a member of staff barged into the shop and ran into Carol. It was really a shock to think that a member of staff could be so rude. She had no apology. We could easily have been secret shoppers or even management of the company for all she knew. We left the shop and then went into Pollock's Toyshop. I've been there before, but I'm not sure whether they have another branch in London, because I was certain that it was on far more floors. I love model theatres and puppets and it was great to look at what they had for sale, although we didn't buy anything.

As it was by now getting late we decided to start to make our way back to Euston Station to catch our train home.

The platform at   Leicester Square was really busy and we eventually got on board an Underground train and soon got to Euston. We couldn't leave immediately and the only train we could get home was one that terminated one station before Milton Keynes, at Bletchley, but we decided to take it and to get a taxi home from there, rather than waiting for a train on to Milton Keynes. As we didn't have the car waiting at Milton Keynes there was no urgency to get back to the car.

By the time we got home we were really tired, but our day out in London had been well worth it.
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