Monday 6 December 2004

Playing Catch-up

Wow, long time without an update! Let's see if I can get you all caught up. =)

 We've been fairly artsy, taking in both the permenant collections at the Tate Modern and the Raphael exhibit at the National Gallery. The Tate Modern is a pretty cool museum that uses their space very well, and even presents the building (an old power station) as a work of modern art. In fact, I think the way they use the space is my favorite part of the museum itself. Modern art is very much of a love it/hate it affair with me, and most of the Body and Motion exhibits unfortunately fell into the latter category. Their political work, including a really great collection of 1930s and 40s Propaganda posters, was phenominal. I find that I enjoy modern art when it has something to 'say' or present a new angle on a familiar subject (some of their portraits do this very well), rather than simply trying to shock the viewer into submission.

Going to the other extreme, the Raphael exhibit was really interesting. Not only did they present his works, but also the works of his tutors/masters as a way of showing his development as an artist. We got tickets through my employer, so we got to enjoy the works at our leisure, rather than being rushed through on the timed system in place for the others. Lovely, really. It's hard to think of any of the Great Artists as ever being students, but seeing his work in this way gives Raphael so much more depth as a painter and his works so much more context than simply another "Madonna with Child". So that was really neat to explore. The exhibit stopped right before the painting of the Sistine Chapel, and so now Rome has moved up a bit on my priority of places to see. As an interesting aside, one of the local community colleges offers a 3 month course on London museums. You spend three Saturdays on an individual museum, complete with field trips to give the viewer a better concept of the museum's history (rather than the history it houses) and development, an overview of the collections, as well as some general art theory. So that sounds like a lot of fun as well as filling in some gaps in my artistic education. Visual art has never been one of my foci, so what better time to correct it? The classes are pretty reasonable too and should be within our budget. Which reminds me, I need to start looking into getting registered. . .

The next weekend Stephen and I overslept the ramble we were going on and decided to take the weekend easy and just hit one major sight, this time the National Maritime Museum. We weren't as impressed with this museum as we have been with others, unfortunately. Not that they didn't have some awesome stuff, but just that it was presented primarily for people of an age in the single digits. The Aberdeen Maritime Museum (see my post from the Scotland trip) is substantially better if for no other reason than it presents the exhibits in all age friendly ways with as much or little depth as you want. I like museums that let the artifacts or art to speak for themselves and doesn't over do it with fancy sound effects (every room had a different series of sounds playing), funky lighting or weird themed cases, like the entire room that made everything look like it was buried in snow. Neat idea, made it hard to see the objects though. Most of the museum was under renovation, so hopefully that means they're redoing a lot of the upstairs exhibits. But, hey, it's free, and you can't really complain about that. Though I've noticed this tendency in a lot of London Museums to try to make the exhibits more funky by displaying them in unique ways or in non-traditional casings. Odd that. The Museum of London tends to do this, and quite successfully in a number of ways.

Stephen and I did a belated Thanksgiving dinner on Friday (the 25th). He did all of the cooking and it turned out marvelously! My darling husband is turning into quite the cook! We had a small turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and a cranberry chutney (in lieu of sauce) that was particularly yummy. We had just enough leftovers to fill all our remaining tupperware containers and keep us fed through the next week.

On Saturday, we awoke to a fairly loud *SNAP*, followed by much squeaking. . .that didn't stop. Yes, we caught another mouse, only the trap didn't kill it and the rest of the Saturday was spent trying to find a way to humanely deal with it and clean-up the blood off the carpet before it made either of us ill. Stephen again saved the day by finding a box for him (so he would be contained) and then we tag teamed the reception people until they got the maintenance people to come round and collect the by-this-point very frightened animal. We then left for our ramble with promises from the front desk that our carpet would be taken care of by the time we got back.

This ramble was one of the older club's "Saturday Strolls", which take place in the London city limits and explore the 'common' areas of some of the old townships, now consumed by the metropolis. The really cool thing is that all of the HUGE parks in London are what used to be common grazing/garden areas for the older townships that surrounded the walled city. As London expanded, these common areas were maintained as parks, legally forbidding development (other recreation equipment) upon them. So we spent the day walking from one to the other and talking with the old folks ;). It was really nice, but I really prefer the out-of-town walks better. Still, good to go on once and it only took the afternoon rather than the whole day, which gave us time to deal with our mousey problem.

This past weekend, our friend Andy from OU came to visit and we saw St. Paul's Cathedral, which was incredible. They were saying their noon service (it's an Anglican church), which lent the already beautiful space a touch of sincere piety that every great church should possess. They are in the middle of rennovations in time for it's (get this) 300th anniversary in October 2008, and that's only for the current building mind you. There has been some kind of church on that site for nearly 1000 years. Amazing really. Even without the touch-ups, it's still an incredible building with wonderful spiritual energy.

On Sunday, we hit a series of East London Markets, including the Columbia Road market where we got our Christmas Tree!! It's really cute, about 7 inches tall including the pot. We decided to get one that would still grow and start our tradition. Evidently this particular species is quite a slow grower and one of the best kinds to use for bonsai. Perfect for what we're looking for! The flower market itself was a really lively experience too. With the different vendors shouting out for clients' attention selling just about every kind of flora available. Really, really neat. Felt just like something out of a movie. Once we have a bigger place, I know where I'm going to be getting the flowers for our garden! The rest of Sunday was spent just meandering through the city, we hit the British museum for a bit (especially their Parthenon collection--all of the friezes were removed before it's destruction in the 1600s).

Then caught a showing of The COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED), a humorous overview of all of the plays of Shakespeare. And it was HYSTERICALLY funny. Stephen caught more of the jokes than I did, but it was so well done that it has made me even more curious about some of the different works. The highlight for me was the overview of the Histories as an American football game. SOOOOO FUNNY!

This week is looking pretty quiet, though we're planning on getting the rest of our Christmas shopping done this weekend. For the first time in my life I will be done with the holiday shopping more than a few hours before Christmas begins. Being overseas definitely forces one to be more organized, that's for sure!