A Quintessenitally British Day Out

Being in London for the fourth time has been lovely… it has given me the option of doing as much or as little as I choose and I don’t feel the pressure to run around like a headless chook, playing tourist and trying to cram it all in – and there is a LOT to cram in if you want to see even half of what London has to offer. 

I wasn’t initially intending to, but on walking past the British Museum today, I saw there was a special exhibition on that piqued my interest – A Rothchild’s Rennaissance, the Waddlestone Bequest, so I had to pop in.  The Waddlestone Bequest is a collection of approximately 300 exceptionally beautiful and some iimportant objectfs from the medieval and Renaissance periods, as well as numberous 19thC copies.  The items were left to the Musuem in 1898 by Baron Ferdinand Rothschild and there were many items of Renaissance jewellery that I felt were worth popping in to have a look at.  Waddlestone, btw, is/was the family manor in Buckinghamshire, and apparently is a particularaly beautiful house.  I can just imagine old Ferdinand sitting on this enormous collection in his favourite library or smoking room, congratulating himself on having amassed such an impressive collection of objets d’art.  πŸ™‚   

I collect nail polish, travel pins and dust bunnies.   πŸ˜› 

Anyway, there were some extraordinary pieces on display – some very fine and typically Renaissance items of jewellery (large gold, enamel and pearl pendants etc), some limoge enamel pieces, majolica ceramicware, some match lock and wheel lock longarms, a gorgeous medieval helmet and various reliquary items and plate etc.  It was well worth stopping in to have a look at these beauifully preserved decorative arts objects.  Just lovely.  The catalogue for this exhibition is avilable on the Book Depository if anyone is interested – GBP24.00, big heavy book full of lovely photos and delivered right to your door… if you’re guessing I didn’t buy a copy at the museum, you’re spot on! 

   

  

  

 And of course once one is in the British Museum, it is hard to just walk on out again.  So I whipped around and said, ‘hello’ to my old friends the Lewisham chessmen, the Sutton Hoo exhibit, the horology room, the Rosetta Stone and the winged bull from Ashurnasirpal.

   
    
 
Time got away from me a little and I had to run to make my afternoon tea date with KPeth down at the Brumus Bar on Haymarket.  We had decided we would got for afternoon tea or high tea somewhere nice while in London – it’s just the done thing you know – and were tossing around options on where we should go, when my friend Stephola recommended The Brumus Bar at Sulfolk Place.  Never heard of it, but Stephola’s very posh friends had remarked that it was ‘just as good as Claridge’s afternoon tea’, so with this high praise in mind, we made a booking.  And were not disappointed… our afternoon tea was delightful.  We had a lovely corner table which allowed for engaging in one of my favourite past times – people watching – and a fabulously English waiter who was extremely attentive and kept offering us more food, though we were struggling to get through the very beautifully plated items already offered.  Was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours – a glass of champagne, fancy delicate nibblies, nice tea and good company.  10/10 – would definitely go again.  πŸ™‚ 

  After that I did a bit of tourist shopping – ie: bought a decent sized coffee mug to take on the ship, as I had intended to pack an old one I was happy to throw away, but in my rush to fit so many Tim Tams in my suitcase, I had completely forgotten to do so.  It is probably the one thing I do not like about the cruise lines – melamine coffee mugs everywhere except the main dining rooms.  So if you want a decent cup of tea, you need to order room service or go to the dining rooms.  I’m much happier to make one in the buffet and take it back to the room and not bother the staff.   Anyway, bought a touristy London mug (sans sparkly paint, sorry KPeth – just not my thing!), which may or may not make it home.  And then headed back to the B&B for a few hours before continuing my Quintessentially British Day Out with a show – The Book of Mormon.

Okay – have probably stretched the truth a bit on that one.  But I didn’t want to see Billy Elliot or Kinky Boots or *insert Random Shakespeare Play* to round out my Big Day O’British Stuff.  I thought I’d give The Book of Mormon a crack – which was a bit of an odd choice for me given I am not a South Park fan and generally have a less than favourable reaction to that sort of humour.  But I went in with an open mind and was not disappointed.  The show was fantastic.  Just hilarious, irreverent, surprising, unique and down right funny.

   

  


Written by Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, the story ‘The Book of Mormon’, follows two mismatched Mormon missionaries who, upon graduation from Missionary School, are are sent to fucking Uganda of all places to spread their religion and try and baptise locals. As you might expect, when they arrive, things are not exactly what they expect and much of what they encountered definitely wasn’t in the brochure.  It was extremely earthy and frog-fucking funny.  If it comes to Australia, and I assume it eventually will, we shall all have to line up and go see it.  Brilliant.  And while it heavily pokes fun at the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints – a lot of it could just as easily apply to any organised religion.  I laughed out loud so much my cheeks were hurting.

Great way to finish my evening, even though it did’t fit into my Quintessenitally British Day Out.  πŸ™‚ 

I’m in London Still…

Had a bit of a late start this morning.  The workmen outside my window mightn’t want to let me sleep in, but they can not force me to leave my bed before I am ready to face the day!  πŸ˜‰ 

For a day that started out without much on the agenda, I somehow seemed to alter that considerably and did my fair share of wandering around aimlessly – well, not aimlessly per se… just wandering.  And often in the wrong direction!  I’ve not been here for many years and occasionally seem to lose my bearings entirely, most evidenced by today getting out a Tube station and not once, but twice!, turning the wrong way and attempting to follow my predetermined directions.  Took me forever to find the Beretta Gallery – which in all fairness if they had on their website as being on the Corner of St James and Jereym Streets, I might have found much more quickly… hell not even a copper standing around Picadilly could point me in the right direction.

Anyway, as you see – The Beretta Gallery was my first stop for the morning.  I had decided I’d try my luck at finding some screws for my 87 Target, seeing they are terrible pain in the arse to purchase at home, and an extremely tedious and BYO sort of pain in the arse if you decide to import them.  It took me a while to find the place (looking at the wrong street named St James, because of course everything over that way has St James written on it!).

   

  
  

  The one on the right please! 

  

  

  

  

  

 What a cool shop though.  Three stories of very British shooting accoutrement – everything the fashionable hunter could be needing this season from fabulous argyle socks and blazers, to lovely engraved shotguns, thermos flasks, collapsable shot glasses and the obigatory cufflinks, tie pins and mugs shaped like shotgun shells.   The lady serving at the main counter sent me up to the third floor when I mentioned I was after a part for my Beretta – I should have been more specific.

Upon gaining entrance to the Gun Room, I asked about the weight screw to my Beretta 87 and he looked at me blankly and said “Is that a pistol, madam?”, to which I replied in the affimrative that it was indeed a sports target pistol, and he stated “I am sorry madam, we do not have any pistols in England.”  *blank stare from me*  “What?  None at all?”  And so ensued a discussion about how there are no competitive pistol target shooters in the entire country and that in order to shoot pistols, one had to go to Jersey where they are a law unto themselvse and pistols are available under very strict conditions.  THE POLICE HERE STILL DON’T CARRY!  I forgot about that – thought things might have changed with the times, but rather glad to find they haven’t.

Anyway had a good look around, had a lovely chat with most of the staff here, they were all delightfullly helpful, and lusted after a shotgun that I had seen at the Brisbane Shot Show last weekend (seriously? was it only last weekend?) and then head off out to play a bit of tourist around Picadilly and Trafalga Square – some things do never change, nothing looked different here.

After a late, quick and very ordinary bento box lunch (dammit but if Japan hasn’t destroyed sushi for me forever!), I head back towards Leicester Square to meet up with KPeth for our afternoon’s entertainment – Tim Minchin’s interpretation of Matilda which has been running at the Cambridge Theatre for about three years now.  I had wanted to see it in New York last year, but knew after dragging Mr K to an opera at the MET, I’d be pushing my luck.  It was a delighful show – I would highly recommend fans of the book, the movie, Tim Minchin fans and teachers and parents all go see it… yes, I know that is a sweepingn demographic, but there is a lot of appeal in this incredibly creative interpretation of the story.  The lovely little girl playing Matilda was delightful, she was confident and sung beautiful and had such an expressive range for someone so young.  And the Trunchpool was FANTASTIC…. just brilliant, so much Tim Minchin in this character and the actor’s portrayal of it.  I am gald to see it is currently auditioning and is going to have a run in Australia, people at home are going to fall in love with it.

   
   
After such a delightful show KPeth and I popped across the street to a quaint little pub called the Crown to kill a bit of time before our respective dinner dates.  Had a pint of cider and discussed our impending travels to Norway, Iceland and back to Canada.  Absolutely can’t wait to set sail – with a bit of luck, we will see the Northern Lights too, which would just be the icing on the cake.

After that I made my way to Cosmoba – a fabulous Italian restaurant recommend by Stephola in the Russell Square/Holbourn area – via a wrong turn out of the tube station yet again!  I am all turned around at the moment, twice today I have stuck off walking about a kilometer and a half in the wrong direction only to disheartenedly discover I should have gone right instead of left on coming out of the Tube!  It’s very strange not having been here for so long – many things look so familiar and yet entirely different at the same time… so I think I am on the right track and then discovering – err… not so much.  πŸ™‚    Cosmoba was quite a lovely little Italian place and I had a delightful meal with the MusicMan.  We discussed politics, travel, food, relationships, you name it – it feels like we’ve been friends for years… a very odd and yet lovely feeling.  After dinner we stopped by the Princess Louise for a pint – chosen by the MusicMan for it’s fabulous historical cred as a gin palace and it’s amazing decorative arts interior.  Such an amazing little pub.  I forgot to take some photos so had to find some as it is difficult to desribe.  The establishment is a labyrinth of etched glass and dark timber with high solid bars and tempting beverages on tap, the design motifs scattered throughout the decor keep the eye busy, and there are pommegranates, acorns, oak leaves, and greek inspirted cornice and roses and ribbons and so much to look at… it’s busy and a little overwhelming, but somehow cosy and wonderful – I think I have just found my favourite London drinking establishment.  

     
 After such a lovely night out, it was just a quick walk back to Covent Garden whereupon I collaposed in an exhausted heap – so much for an easy day of wandering about.  πŸ™‚ 

Richard III at the Folger Theatre

We went to see Richard III performed at the Folger Shakespeare Library/Theatre this evening. I had read that it was an amazing little gothic theatre that regularly did Shakespeare and was largely run by dedicated enthusiasts and volunteers (much like the Bard on the Beach in Vancouver) but when I looked it up at home, the production was set to finish on March 9th, just before our arrival. Fortunately for us it was enormously popular and was extended, so we were able to get tickets.

Richard III is probably my favourite of the History Plays. Richard is a quintessential psychopath, wheedling and pleasing where he must, and showing his detached Machiavellian side primarily only to the audience. Richard in this performance was played by Drew Cortese and he was as menacing, two-faced and evil as only Richard III can be. I dare say he is far more handsome a Richard than most are used to, but he did well to convey the complexities of the character who charms the audience with his pure wickedness before encouraging us to delight in his downfall. Awesome Richard in my book.
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Here he is depicted wooing the Lady Anne, after having openly admitted responsibility for the deaths of her husband and her father, and then he skilfully turns to the audience and revels in his conquest ‘was ever a woman in this humour/mood wooed’ (sorry the exact line escapes me). She falls far too easily for my liking, but she always did!
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The costuming for the play is a unique blend of leather and Goth, feathers and Steampunk, kevlar and jackbooted military, and uptight Edwardian! Quite the eclectic mixture of aesthetics, but it worked quite well bringing each character to life in a renew visual context.
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I really loved the interesting stage assembly. Apparently the Folger theatre is usually set out in a traditional setting, stage at the front, seating in the stalls below the stage, but for this production, a specially designed raised stage had been installed for to create an inn yard feel and was played in the round. It had a very supernatural feel, and was part David Copperfield with smoke, lights and misdirection, and characters being killed off and falling into their graves in the stage making the intimate audience complicit in their murders, only to see these figures rise ghost-like later as they taunted Richard for his misdeeds.
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It was a very enjoyable rendition, and beautifully executed. I would thoroughly recommend anyone to go see it, but for the fact that its season has now closed. No doubt, other performances held at the Folger are equally creative and worth checking out.