I was meeting friends for lunch in London today, but the rest of the day was my own. To be fair most of my friends were supposed to actually be working today, I’m sure it’s possible that a civil servant could actually get rather busy on a Monday after a holiday… It just seems rather unlikely.
New development in sympathy with the old
My first stop is what I think is the best museum in the world. The collection is first class, and there are good reasons of that. The British Museum has piles of stuff borrowed from around the world by the all-powerfull British Empire.
The place is packed with such high quality items from all over the world, pretty much all was “liberated” in the same way a $10 note occasionally goes missing from my wallet left on the kitchen counter in the same week a 9 year old mysteriously gets $10 from her grandmother to spend on herself.
The tussle with the Greeks over the Elgin Marbles is well documented, but they are in London and possession is 9/10ths of the law as they say. The Museum has been clear that they are in London to stay. The argument is ongoing and ultimately I believe they are in the right place for them and will stay in London for the foreseeable future.
In ’97 Lord Wyatt said in the House of Lords “My Lords, is the Minister aware that it would be dangerous to return the marbles to Athens because they were under attack by Turkish and Greek fire in the Parthenon when they were rescued? And the volatile Greeks might easily start hurling bombs around again?” Who ever said the British aristocracy was out of touch with reality? As I said this was 1997.
A quick stop at the Rosetta stone (found by Napoleons army, taken as a spoil of war by the British in Egypt), followed with half an hour catching the highlights of the Egyptian rooms before a quick lap of possibly the finest indoor space in the city, the stunning Great Court and out into the sun and Bloomsbury at lunch time.
Next destination is most of the way across central London to meet friends for lunch at the original Hard Rock Café. The bar downstairs is rarely full for weekday lunch times, they have a full menu, it’s close to the toilets and the staff know how to pour drinks.
One of my oldest friends, Adrian, works in the financial sector in the London, he was already there and deeply into pint number 2. It’s good to see that despite the bail out and turmoil the city tradition of long liquid lunches is still alive and kicking. I’ve known Adrian since I was 13 or 14, he’s now a father of two and looking far worse for wear than I am. It’s not often I can make that claim of my peers.
A few minutes later Steve shows up, first words were “Pint of Stella please” followed by a greeting. Clearly his priorities have not changed since we shared a house (along with 16 others) in college. The man who once set himself on fire when he forgot to extinguish the flames on his drink before slamming it back, is now in a senior position in a nuclear power station.
Most of the time Steve is one of the smartest people I know, however mix in a little alcohol and when he says “hold my beer and watch this” take a few steps back, it’s probably going to be good. I’m sure his naked Christmas tin foil walk is still talked about in hushed tones in the SU. The man is awesome.
Quick greetings and then he starts harassing the poor kiwi behind the bar, being from Wales Steve has heard many fine sheep shagging jokes and enjoys the feeling of giving rather than receiving for once. It’s rather scary how quickly we revert back to type and forget the whole grown up thing.
With his usually timing, 20 minutes late, the final lunch guest Clive shows, another college friend and we’ve not seen each other since then. He spent a couple of years living in Perth being a beach bum, a couple of years in Connecticut and is now living in Hampstead and is a respectable civil servant.
Over the next hour and a bit the pints flow, we make fun of each other and do a lot of catching up. Swap war stores argue football and reminisce about the time Steve ended up wandering around campus drunk with nothing but tin foil covering his dignity.
Adrian drags himself to the tube, I won’t say how much he had to drink before heading back to work, but unless he has the hidden superpower “instant sober” he spent the afternoon fast asleep in his office.
However Steve and I are heading to the Tate Modern, in addition to their regular (and rather spectacular) collection they have a Gauguin exhibition going on. The other pair have to return to their real life jobs, I don’t have to worry about that job thing for another couple of days yet.
As the tube is running a limited service today we ended up walking from Waterloo to the Tate Modern. It’s about 20 minutes along the Thames. London was quieter than I expected today, OK I stayed away from Oxford Street and the shopping, but there were not that many people wandering around.
Gauguin is an early 20th century French artist (post-impressionist, but I’m not sure what that really means) who traveled the world and created some wonderful pieces. The exhibition is as comprehensive as it is impressive, it has many great pieces and well worth the effort.
We got lost here for a few hours. I spent a portion of that time staring at my favorite piece in the Tate Modern collection, “Wham!”, but could happily spend all day here. Every time I visit I find a new artist whose work I like – Today was Georges Braque, a cubist who worked with Picasso. I’m sure many people are tutting and mumbling about how well known he is and that I am a total philistine that I’ve only just heard of his work, but that’s how it is.
The book shop at the Tate Modern is wonderful, so well stoked and I could spend a small fortune in there. I walked out with a couple of design books. I love great design and are so many beautiful books here.
Soon enough we had to go out separate ways, Steve headed back to the midlands while I walked back to the train along the river front. Even on a bitterly cold December evening, this is a great city.