There are several mandatory stops for me whenever I’m in England. I managed to get to two of them, and added a new stop – the Tate Modern.
I mentioned going to the British Museum with S last week, and I might have gone back, as it is huge (or “yuge” as our new president-elect would say) and I’ve only seen a fraction of it. But this second week, I made my way down to the Tate Britain, to see the J W Turner galleries. I first visited the Tate when I was 17, and staying with my aunt O for a few months. I love Turner’s landscapes and amazing depiction of light and darkness. Also, the fact that so many of his pieces are at the boundary began land and water – beaches, ports, and scenes at sea – locations that always touches an emotional chord in me. Along with Turner, I seek out John Constable, and then visited the room with works of William Blake. On this visit, I was introduced to the work of Henry Moore and other sculptors influenced by him. A very satisfying visit.
Another usual spot for me to go to anyone in on London is Hampstead Heath, a huge (“yuge”) open area of grassy hills and woods and scattered ponds, next to where my aunt lived, and where I lived as an infant. The heath is a wonderful place to walk, especially on a clear day, but, as it worked out, the day I’d set aside for my tramp through the heath ended up being the day I spent at the Tate Modern with my cousin, on his suggestion. I’d never gone to a gallery with T – in fact, I rarely go to any gallery with anyone else. I get slightly anxious about whether the person I’m with will feel rushed or will rush me. Going to the British Museum with S last week was fine, as I felt like we know each other well enough that our place was fairly well-matched, and similarly, going to a gallery with my mother, I feel like I can read her readiness to move on, and don’t feel worried about either of us being rushed. But I had no idea how it would be with T.
I needn’t have worried. Maybe my pace wasn’t good for him, but I felt like we moved through the exhibits easily and i certainly didn’t feel rushed or held back. We saw a new installation of Rauschenbach, an American artist who I have only a very slight familiarity with – the work was amazing! We both enjoyed it immensely. I found it funny how easily T gets into conversation with people (all women, as it happened), whereas I keep to myself. I admire that extrovert talent for starting conversations. I won’t ever be able to do it, but I do admire the skill.
Also a new site for me in London was St Paul’s cathedral, which I’d never been to, and T suggested as our meeting place. I’d always meant to visit there, and will put it on my mental list to visit next time. What a spectacular building! We went in and T, the very lapsed catholic, lit votive candles for his recently deceased friend, and a second (for his mother? Father? I didn’t ask, although I was curious about the ritual. Is a prayer offered? I’ll have to ask my Catholic coworkers when I get home. Here’s one short article on the practice).