Picture This *
No, I haven't been slobbing around the house all week, drinking alcohol and watching football on the box. Well, okay, Boxing Day did consist of slopping around the house all day watching football, except in the afternoon when I slobbed around the pub for two hours watching Liverpool easily beat Newcastle.
But, as for the following two days ...
Suggested to 'er indoors that we should go out for a walk, the "we" being just us two as there was no way of persuading the boy of the benefits of a brisk walk in the freezing cold as he had a friend round and was quite happy playing one of his numerous new playstation games. Anyway, off to Rotherhithe, where our river walk began. Rotherhithe down by the Thames is a very different place from the one I encountered when I moved down here in 1988 and an extremely interesting one. No longer the rundown and disused dockyards and factories, now it is all luxury apartments and marinas, with a long stretch of bars and nice-looking restaurants the nearer one gets to Tower Bridge. But, wait, I'm getting on too fast, cos first we pass this and take in this excellent view, which is next to this superb landmark pub. Back in the old days, I spent many a time sitting on the wall outside this pub - well, with this view, who wouldn't?
I have to say at this point that it's bloody freezing on this walk, with a biting wind adding to the cold and I'm regretting not having put on a hat, gloves or, even, a jumper.
So bounding on we go and eventually end up here, which is just below London Bridge. Never been in here before and I'll probably never be in here again - as 'er indoors commented, it's a bit like a hotel bar, lifeless and soulless. Anyway, they serve bevvy. On getting the drinks in and taking our seats I take off my jacket - note, jacket, not coat - and she realises why I've been complaining of the cold as I only have a short-sleeved shirt on. After a couple of pints, we leave. 'er indoors takes stage right and on to home as she's had enough excercise for the day, I go stage left and carry on with the walk along the Thames. First I pass the Golden Hinde and am reminded of the day, 25th January 1998, when two of our friends were married on board. I remember the precise date cos, as any Scot will tell you, that's Burns Night and, that being the date, there was a Burns theme to the celebrations. My contribution was in giving the Address to the Haggis, during which the bride's son jeered me for being, in his words, "a Jock cunt", but everyone else seemed to enjoy it. Oh, and he got into a fight with his other brother later on, so, no, of course he didn't bring shame to his mother's big day. I also remember that date because it was on this day that my then employers took a decision which established a dispute between them and us and which resulted in me and my colleagues going on strike for six weeks. This also gives me an opportunity to have a pop at the Socialist Workers Party as they point-blank refused to print our strike bulletin - wankers! But I should also praise Militant (and this is not something I usually do) for they took no time in agreeing to print anything we wanted them to print. I suppose it's the difference between middle-class people playing politics and an organisation which at least had some base in working-class communities, even if I would hardly say I was ever a supporter of the Sheridan, Nellist, et al.
Anyway, back to my walk, and on and on I go past Blackfriars Bridge, past the Tate and the South Bank and past Waterloo Bridge and Westminster Bridge and take in this view, my favourite scene in the world and eventually decide to cross the river at Lambeth Bridge and move into town. I head on up Whitehall, buy a newspaper and retire to a pub for a couple of pints and think: "what a nice walk that was!" And then it was on to home to watch the darts on the box, after which is a late-night watching Ricky Gervais on Politics - particularly liked his description of the beret-wearing students on his philosophy course taking the marxism classes.
Got up late yesterday and decided to have a day of cultural enlightenment. "Do you want to come to the Tate Modern and the National Portrait Gallery with me?" I ask. "No," is the response.
So off I go to the former and note straight away that the place is packed - and the amount of foreign accents around suggests that every tourist in London has come to the Tate Modern today.
I must say from the off that art doesn't excite me in the way, for instance, that music, film or literature can excite me and that probably stems from ignorance and an inability to construct ideas about what certain artistic creations are saying to me and the world around me. But at least I gave it a go and walked round most of the galleries and rooms. I am always impressed with the works of Picasso, probably because I know that this was an artist who had definite views about what art should be used for - i.e. to change the world for the better. And there was something about the Rothko works which I found fascinating, while the familiar Warhol stuff I enjoy also, with the Jackie Kennedy piece and the full-size double image of Elvis shooting from the hip in particular looking amazing. But it was on entering the room titled "Revolution" which I found most interesting, featuring as it does some wonderful propaganda material from the Soviet Union in the period just after the 1917 uprising. This was art which would appear on lamp-posts and factory notice boards, on the streets and town halls, accessible to all the people and for all the people. Yes, I liked this stuff.
Then it was over the Millenium Bridge and a walk along the north bank of the Thames and eventually on to the National Portrait Gallery and, like I did at the Tate, side-stepping the "suggested donation" box in favour of believing that my taxes already contribute to the upkeep of such institutions.
Headed first for the exhibition for the Photographic Portrait Prize and found it extremely interesting containing as it does some of the most beautiful photographs I've ever seen. I then went on to see the Cornel Lucas portraits of some of the most famous actors of the 40s, 50s and 60s. Okay, maybe it would be difficult to take a bad pic of the likes of Bogart, Monroe, de Haviland, et al, but Lucas' works are a delight indeed.
Walking into the Heads of Government room, I was both shocked and disgusted - well, you would be if met with this lot filling the walls in front of you, wouldn't you?
I had really wanted to see this one, but I believe that no decision has yet been made on when or how it is going to be hung, so I'll need to keep my eyes and ears peeled for an announcement.
Then it was couple of pints and off home to watch the unbelievably one-sided Merseyside derby match and to hear the welcome news that Millwall picked up a point from the on-form Watford, ignoring the description here of it being a "dire spectacle".
Today? Today is definitely take-it-easy day and I'm about to check out if any old decent film is on, so that's all from me folks, see ya later.
Oh, forgot to say, the soundtrack to all this walking around London lark have been the stunning Cole's Corner by Richard Hawley and the Magic Numbers, both of which have been downloaded over the past week.