My 4th London weekend
Set in a rather posh part of town, okay its very posh aka Knightsbridge, the Royal Albert Hall is a lovely building in tribute to some long dead bit of royalty. But in contrast to the Royal Opera House it conveys a feeling wrapped in an atmosphere of British essence of normality, packed full with a love of music. And so it was upon my first visit to building amidst the 2 month long series of proms, number 37 that I swivelled my chair to gaze over the Prommers, those who stand for a sliver of the seating price having perhaps queued for upwards of 1,300 tickets designated for non cushioned attendance. As it was not packed by ay any means many stretched out upon the floor. The musical programmes was varied and entertaining. (prom #37 Waltons Partita, Webern’s Pascaglia and Brahms 4th the latter being the only piece I had heard before but all equally enjoyed
The Royal Academy (London is tough on those seeking venues of a Republican hue) is that semi egalitarian semi democratic, majority elite where a bunch of Artists in the club or guild or Union depending on perspective invite British artists to submit works of art and approx. 10% approx. get to be displayed and cannot help but wonder how much gets displayed in bed in order to get displayed on the walls. The selection process by reported accounts is flawed and artists who have financially made it judging who to admit has the hint of non fairplay to it. The rooms are delightfully bright and the displays of artistic exhibits conversation prompting in the main and pleasing in the minority. The bijoux garden areas surrounded by 4 high storey buildings a pleasant respite from how did that get in here to how did the gem survive the architects pen in a city noted for the price per square foot. Your two feet will probably fit with a shape of 1 foot square but your hips and shoulders will probably not. Ordering 2 glasses of prosecco for my friend & I and asking of snacks, offered bowl of almonds and waiter says I will bring them over, shot the bill up into levels (I have just returned from a meal of afghan spag bol for /£6.50 at nearby Perseplois) I decided to skip contemplation . £23. The absence of pence from bills is a warning.
I had by this weekend been to the Royal Opera House to see 3 very different shows, Obsidian tea plus 2 other dance/ballet, Verdi’s Il Trovatore and the Bolshoi’s Taming of the Shrew, without misogyny. The Bolshoi will not be back in London next year touring Paris, Scandinavia, New York and Japan and as it was my birthday week and as there was only 1 seat left for sale and none for Swan Lake, it seemed only fair to join the reverse-paupers in the stalls for Le Corsair (The Pirate) and their last night in town or indeed the UK. Critics may debate the finer points of Ballet but they bring an expertise to costumes that is superlative. The most humble of parts and judging by only 2 performances are attired in the most delightfully coloured, tailored and role appropriate costumes. As tho the Ballet and having only seen UK groups before before Obsidian tear, the Bolshoi bring a lightness of touch, a glide and a gracefulness, an energy and excitement enhancing sense. They are true Masters and Mistresses of their art form. I’m glad I paid the asking price of £135 but I leave my friends assured that my next three shows at the ROH in total cost £12 less than that single price. Yes, Im back up the top dusting the ceiling but still savouring the beauty of what art is available so frequently here.
The options on Sunday based upon why not go on the river was to go up river somewhere nice or downstream to Greenwich. Those of you familiar with the way of rivers and as limited by there being only one will understand the great choice of 2. Greenwich won and we headed off in the non touristy but tourist filled commuter boat. The Cutty Sark waved its sails and gosh it is small, the village was jammed with tourists. The former naval building designed to assist the recovery of sailors of the British navy from injury and ailment so vast in scale they could probably accommodate the entire naval staff now. It was and is a symbolic tribute of physical and perhaps psychological benefit to those who had served to expand and maintain the empire at its height. Up the hill to see the folk queue to be pictured on the meridian line and learn about Harrisson’s clocks (Dava Sobel’s Longitude purchased) provided a technical guru expertise counterbalance to the physical ardours of those who recovered at the base of the hill. Atop the hill allowed those Londoners to update their clocks daily. And all that in the last 2 centuries.