A mid-day walk, London

This past summer, after the Jubilee, the Queen was everywhere in London. Even street artists paid homage. London, July 2022.

Where does one start in London? Big ben? Westminster? 1649? When Cromwell declared England a Commonwealth and Free state? Later annexing Ireland and Scotland with a single Parliament in Westminster?

The Underground’s a good start. So deep, so deep, that it saved the lives of many a Londoner during the Battle of England.

Let’s go to the “British” (Museum). Pay our respects to the Goddess Hathor. 18th Dynasty, c 1400 BC. 3400 years ago. The antiquities section of “The British” is second only to the Louvre… Second? Er. All right, lest I be accused of Frog bias, at par. (I imagine the museum in Cairo must be all right too. 😉)

The National Gallery. I’ve always loved this Portrait of a Lady by Roger Van der Weyden, c.1460 AD. By coincidence, it was painted at a date the almost mirror image of Hathor (1400 BC). This was a Lady at the court of Burgundy. No make-up then. Just jewels. See the rings on her fingers…

Hop back to Assyria, 728 BC. This is the head of a winged bull at “The British”. At that time, the Hammurabi code of laws was already a thousand years old (c.1750 BC). It was the first code of laws. At least the first that reached us. Imagine: almost 4,000 years since the first written laws. Trying to put a bit of order in the human race… (Still a work in progress I dare say.)

Let’s follow Mr and Mrs Hallett in their “morning walk”, in 1785. AD of course. Gainsborough was one of the most precise English painters. A master of that time. (National Gallery).

Agatha Christie’s “Tuppence” heroin must have filled her tank with petrol here in the “Roaring twenties”. A century ago already. Christie’s first book was published around 1922.

Would you like to ride to Saint-Paul’s in 1800? The bridge was – already – a tad jammed, methinks.

Or you would you rather cross another bridge in 2022?

I wouldn’t mind a chat with Périclès. (British Museum). 495-429 BC. I always had trouble with BC dates. Run backward don’t they? This Gentleman led Athens to victory in the many wars of that time. (What else is new?). He was a major figure of Greek history.

We could have a quick sandwich with Traveller #Umpteen. Or the gentleman with a white beard. (Hi Derrick) 😉

We might visit the house where John Lennon lived in 1968. See the blue plaque? Marylebone I think. 1968? He might have written Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da there. Or Revolution Nº9?

Let’s avoid the traffic in the early 1900’s. (Transportation Museum. Very well put.) I like the gentleman in a top-hat and a tail-coat bravely crossing the street.

We might spend a night in the Underground, in 1940-41 during the Blitz. (Transportation Museum) Remember this Spring, how Ukrainians slept in their own Underground? And the bastard keeps bombing Ukraine now. 🇺🇦

How about watching a Shakespeare play in the rebuilt Globe? The original theatre where Shakespeare put his plays on the stage, was burnt to the ground in the 1600’s. It was rebuilt at the turn of this century. (They did take their bl..dy time didn’t they?)

“When brewers mar their malt with water…

“When slanders do not live in tongues…

“When usurers tell their gold i’ t’ field,

“And bawds and whores do churches build,

“Then shall the realm of Albion

“Come to great confusion…”

(King Lear, act III, sc.2)

Let’s keep on the same side of the River, shall we? Towards Tate Modern, and catch a Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) painting. A great lady of Surrealism, she was born in Lancashire. (“Four thousand holes in Blackburn Lancashire…”) Living in France since the 30’s, she fled the war to become one of the most important Mexican artists of the XXth century.

Now, look carefully at this 1937-1938 self portrait above. This is how we see it today. I suspect the colours have dulled out. The same image gone through automatic colour balance in Photoshop comes out like this:

Self-Portrait, Leonora Carrington, c.1937. Tate modern. (True colours? Dunno)

Leonora Carrington. c. 1940? (Source: Kikipedia)

“Hacia la torre.” Towards the tower, by Remedios Varo, c.1961. Varo was a Mexican Surrealist painter (1908-1963). Well acquainted with Carrington. I love their work. Both of them. (Tate Modern)

The shrimp girl, c. 1740, by Hogarth. Of all the marvelous art at the National Gallery, this portrait always touches me most. Imagine this young girl of twenty, maybe. Nearly three centuries ago, making a living on the streets of London, selling shrimps. Fished in the Thames? Carrying her wares on her head. Charming patrons with a youthful smile. Definitely my favourite…

Thank you for riding Equinoxio-Rail. The only railway across the Channel with no queue before boarding. All aboooooooooooard!

81 thoughts on “A mid-day walk, London

  1. So you crossed the channel, Brian. 🙂 London is a wonderful city, perhaps not immediately as catchy Paris in some ways, but the musea are at least on par. I love the Rogier van der Weyden painting (Rogier is one of my all time favorites) and the Shrimp girl. That one reminds me of the Dutch painter Hals. Cool city walk this was! Tot ziens!

    • Dag Peter. Yes on all. Van der Weyden (and Hals) were geniuses. Both also show how much exchange there used to be between your part of the Continent and England. Both ways.
      And yes, I managed to hop around three of my favourite cities in just one trip…
      Tot ziens.

  2. A lovely tour it is! Such beautiful and historic landmarks and amazing art I will never see in person having missed my chance to travel across the channel years ago. I’m captivated by the photo of Leonora Carrington, one of my favorite surrealist artists. Thank you Brian, I adore strolling the streets of London with you. 🧡

  3. Another wonderful collection you have brought before us! Thank you! 🙂 I do not recall having seen van der Weyden’s work before but can see it merits attention! The other image that struck me was the sepia photo of Picadilly which seems to show two fountains. I knew that the one with Eros had been moved but no idea that there had previously been another.

    • Glad you liked the stroll. Must be interesting for you. And yes, Van der Weyden deserves attention. (Do you cross the channel often?)
      That sepia photo is quite unique. I didn’t notice that detail. Must go back to the picture… Happens to me with old Paris photos, details that have changed…
      Au revoir.

      • I did, very much. I have crossed the water once since the summer of 2019 – a mixture of covid restrictions and old fashioned inertia!
        I enjoy the old streetscapes, both to note the changes but also to see how little really has changed! 😉

      • Only once in three years? Understandable. And I know exactly what you mean. When I go to la FNAC on Avenue des Ternes in Paris, I still remember when it was “Les magasins réunis” in the 60’s…

      • Yes, in fact I have been to Paris more times over the last six or seven years than London. I love both cities but these days find I prefer those more compact cities such as Rennes! 😉

      • I have only vague recollections of Rennes. My grandfather used to live there, but that was a while ago. Later on, Rennes was my train stop before taking the military lorries to St-Aubin-du-Cormier and the 41e Régiment d’Infanterie. Needless to say I spent as little time in Rennes as possible. I imagine it’s been arranged nicely. (Paris is havoc now)

      • It is worth a visit! To me, the marriage of medieval and modern is wonderful.
        I believe that there are still a few military bases around St-Aubin aren’t there? The town itself makes for a pleasant afternoon wandering but probably too dull for a young soldier with money to burn! 😉

      • Need to go back. Not sure about St-Aubin. My regiment was dissolved in the late 90’s when the French thought there would be no more war. 🤣🤣🤣
        And the money? Conscripts got more fags than money then. We had free train rides, back home on leave, but the pay was minimum. 400 Francs in the mid 70’s maybe. Not much. But we were fed, badly, and housed, ditto. 😉

      • Yes, we’re back at war and totally sitting ducks. I disliked military service, but had there been war, we were prepared and I would have gone. One Chirac’s many stupidities was the abolition of military service. It would have helped considerably the integration issue. But that as Kipling said, is another story.

  4. Thank you for the engaging walk around London and the delightful commentary. The Remedios Varo painting is very appealing, although I’m not sure why. It just spoke to me in some way.

  5. How wonderful. Carrington is one of my favorites. Her family was horrible to her. Dreadful people, all of them. Her father was evil. Anyway, she never gave in and continued to fight to be herself, even when they locked her up. She’s such an interesting person. Great post.

    • Wonderful indeed. Even more so since Carrington is also one of Holly’s favourite. What a nice coincidence. And yes, her family tried to lock her up. Then she had to flee France in WWII, but she made a nice life in Mexico and grew to a very great artist. When she died a few years back, a huge expo was organized, displaying her sculptures along one of the largest avenues here. Lasted for weeks. Wonderful stuff. I have to look up whether they have set a museum here of her work… That would be fantastic…
      Take care Gigi.

  6. No queues, I love it. We should invent drive-in trains where you could travel in the comfort of your own car – I just went to a drive-in Covid testing point today and that is just a pleasant way to get tested.

    Your picture of the Queen makes me wonder why some celebrities are liked by all, despite their unfair riches and priviledges? I found her quite sympathetic and assuring, as she was always there. But still, it’s odd. Seems like even critiques of monarchism or English colonialism still liked her.

    • Drive-in trains? That would be interesting. There was talk in the 80’s about mixed passenger/car trains. So you could take the train to, let’s say Marseille, and unload your car there. Save yourself the car trip and have your own car there at hand.
      I wonder about that too. She was the heiress of centuries of privilege and wealth. (So is her xxx son) but she was always smiling, and the product of that many centuries of education. Looked like everybody’s grandmother… (which I don’t think she was…) 😉

      • Well I hope she wasn’t! But yes, well put. The heiress of centuries of priviledge.
        Oh, I think we have that kind of trains, but you have to go sit amongst other people and can’t stay in your car! I can’t believe I just said that – these pandemic times are making me a hermit! 😆

      • TBH I don’t quite see the point of a monarchy – anywhere – nowadays… But then I am a Frog!😉
        I can relate to that. Pandemic hermitage. I am not very keen anymore to go anywhere with too many people. Especially closed spaces. When I go and have lunch at a restaurant I prefer to be on the terrace. ()Which of course is easier here…😉)
        Bon week-end Lumi.

      • But you went to Paris and London? Were they crowded? I guess in Mexico you get crowds. This being such a small town, I’d be shocked to find myself in a metropolis! 😅 And I can’t see the point of monarchy, either. I read somewhere a column about how it sets a bad example for dictators. And I see the point. Royals are in a way monetary dictators whose abuse is accepted with smiles and paparazzi shots, in the sense that tax-paying regular people pay for their lives. ”I deserve your money, because I’m royal. Give it to me! It’s not optional.” I mean, it might inspire an aspiring dictator, right?

      • Yes, Paris and London were crowded. London even more so, I felt.
        Monarchy? Come on the Duke of Cornwall, current King refused to give his land to the farmers who’ve farmed it for centuries. How’s that?

      • Worse than that. It’s the property of the land. Going back to the Normands and the middle ages. Most of the land in the UK belongs to nobility. I believe a good part of the land in London belongs to a Duke. Gloucester maybe? Not sure. The land, not the buildings. I think, not 100% sure the buildings pay a sort of rent to the Duke… Minimal possibly but multiply by dozens of thousands of buildings? (need to research that. read it a long while ago and I would hate to spread “fake” news…

  7. A wonderful walking tour of London. I have visited the British Museum a few times and I am always bowled over by it [I have yet to visit Paris]. I have also visited the rebuilt Globe as well as Shakespeare’s birth house in Stratford-on-Avon. I really enjoyed Stratford and we also visited his mother’s working Victorian farm and his wife’s house.

  8. The photograph by Leonora is nice and the street art of the Queen is special particularly now. And I love the painting and photo of the current spot in London today. So much is the same and so much changes…

  9. It’s the right question, Brian, where do you start in London! I finally spent a few days in London this Xmas after a long absence. Mostly in my old ‘hood around Shoreditch and Islington. It’s been so long since I spent a decent amount of time there that I’d almost forgotten what a great city it can be – and that all the major museums are free!

    • I like London. And I remember you mentioned Islington on a past post of mine. I stayed around there that time.
      And great museums they are. I was particularly pleased to see the National Gallery again. Hadn’t been in ages…

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