Quilts and Other Stuff from Frances

Day 27 – Monday, May 21st

Saying Goodbye to Jenny & Jimmy… obviously they were dressed for Georgia weather!!!

St. Paul’s Cathedral

My favorite pastime….waiting for trains!!

The door into Mark & Mike’s home.

We had an early start this morning, as Jenny and Jimmy had to be at the bus stop by 6:15. We waved goodbye to them and then ran back to our house to pack for our next outing…..another trip to London. Michael was speaking at Kew on Tuesday, and the head of the research at Kew and his partner invited us to stay with them on Monday night, so we went up a day early. Michael spent the day meeting with scientists at Kew while I hopped on a train and headed into London for another day of play!!!

I started out at St. Paul’s Cathedral and greatly enjoyed my time there. Unfortunately, you could not take photos inside, so I took copious notes to help me remember what I saw. I entered through one of the back areas and started my tour in the Crypt area in the basement. One of the first monuments that I saw was to Winston Churchill and the second to Lawrence of Arabia (two of Michael’s favorite historical characters). Also in this area, I found a wonderful bronze memorial to the Special Correspondents in Soudan in 1883 thru 1885. What captured my eye was a wonderful area on the plaque that had a beautiful design with fern leaves. I wished that I could have done a rubbing of it, but instead tried to draw it to help me remember. I passed one open door that was apparently a robing room for the chaplains. It was very interesting to see the colorful and ornate robes that they wear for different occasions. I also passed the Choir Practice Room and saw a memorial to one of their former choir members who had died on September 11th.

I went into the main part of the cathedral and sat for several minutes just looking at the dome above me and all of the mosaics and statues around me. Some of the mosaic pieces looked as if they had light shining through them, but I heard a tour guide say that they are simply placed at an angle (rather than flat) so that the lights bounce off of them and give the appearance of stained glass.

The dome at St. Paul’s is the second largest in the world, with the first being at St. Peter’s in Rome. It is actually designed as a dome within a dome which gives it greater stability. I could see people walking around on one of the upper levels of the dome so I wandered around until I discovered how they got up there. It is 163 steps up to the first level which is called the Whispering Gallery. You can stand on one side of the dome and whisper into the wall and the people on the opposite side can hear you. I didn’t have anyone to whisper to, but it was fun to listen to others talking all around me. It was also interesting to look into the arches that you could see from the floor and to find that the alcoves contained all sorts of lighting equipment. Quite a mixture of old and new. The view of the cathedral floor was magnificent and I enjoyed the patterns made by the tiles and also by the chairs that were placed there for worship.

While walking up this first set of winding stairs, it was interesting to see the tops of the lower domes. There was a plaque beside one of the domes indicating that a bomb had crashed through it in 1940 and destroyed the altar below.

I then climbed 119 more steps to the “Stone Gallery” which is the first of the walkways around the outside of the dome. Of course, it was raining when I got out there, so I didn’t spend much time looking, but instead found the next set of 152 steps that took me to the narrow walkway almost at the top of the dome (called the “Golden Gallery”). The view of the London skyline was less than inspiring. I expected to see cathedrals or interesting buildings, but there wasn’t much of that. I did enjoy taking a photo of a Japanese couple with the city in the background of the photo….they were so appreciative and kept bowing and saying thank you.

The trip down was fun because of the construction of the stairs. They were steep, stone, narrow (I could barely go down without turning sideways), and short. I started out (by accident) leaning backwards but found it impossible to go down the steps in that manner, so I moved to leaning forward and that worked much better. The stairs would wind clockwise first and then the next set would go counter clockwise. I kept having to move my bag from left to right so that I could grip the handrails better. Every so often there were tiny windows cut into the 3 foot thick walls. The opening was quite large on the stairs, but angled back to a slit about 3 inches wide and 12 inches long. The ceilings were really low in some places….one spot even had black and yellow foam bumpers on the ridges to keep you from hurting your head.

When I got back into the main chamber, I realized that they were about to start a service so I decided to stay for it. It was very moving to worship and take communion in this beautiful cathedral…..not an experience that I will soon forget!!!!

As I left the cathedral, I was starving and saw a small café called “Pauls” so I decided to eat there. It was raining really hard and there was no room to sit inside, so I decided to get my food to go, however, as I was leaving I saw a table and chair under one of the big outside umbrellas so I ate out there instead. I had a wonderful individual Quiche Lorraine and a dessert called Millefeuille, which is a type of Vanilla Slice (which I LOVED in Australia). It had a thin flaky crust, a 1 inch thick layer of dark chocolate custard, more layers of puff pastry crust and topped with a thin layer of chocolate glaze. It was MAGNIFICENT!!!!!!!

After lunch I walked along the “Millenium Walkway” across the Thames River to the Tate Museum of Modern Art (Brits call it the “Tate Modern”). There was a wonderful display called “States of Flux” that explored many different areas of art (Amber, I needed you with me!!!). The first gallery that I walked into was a study of “Cubism, Futurism and Vorticism”, and the first paintings that I saw were Picasso’s. I really like much of his work, probably because I sometimes see quilts in them. There were one or two abstract pieces that I liked….again because they reminded me of quilts. The first was “Abstract Composition” by Jessica Dismorr and the second was called “Bursting Shell” by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson. I also enjoyed “Windows Open Simultaneously” by Robert Delannay. I want to look all of these up and see if I can find information on the internet about them.

The next gallery was “Abstract” art and contained 7 or 8 works by Gerhard Richter. I didn’t think that I really liked abstract work, but his stuff was wonderful.

In the next gallery, there was another full size “The Kiss” by Rodin. Apparently there are 3 full size versions of this sculpture. I have now seen two of them and need to find out where the third one is (we think that it is in Copenhagen). I enjoyed Rodin’s quote about this piece. He called it “a large sculpted knick-knack following the usual formula”!!!! I also enjoyed several pieces by Henri Matisse.

The next gallery contained pieces from “The Machine Eye”….ie the camera. My favorite pieces were by Dorothea Lange who did a photo documentary of the Great Depression.

In the “Pop” Gallery I saw work by Andy Warhol including one of his “Marilyn” series and also his “Two Elvis” print. It also contained a giant 3-way plug suspended from the ceiling….am not sure what that was all about.

They had an area devoted to Steve McQueen…. not the actor!!! He is a British film maker who uses innovative techniques to make his films. The one that was presented was called “Drumroll”. It was made by fitting an oil drum with cameras which were rolled through the streets of Manhattan with circular images relaying the journey along its route. The film was shown on a long wall with three circular scenes being shown at the same time. These were what the cameras were seeing from both sides as well as straight on. It took a few minutes to get used to the rolling, but was very interesting to watch once you figured out what was going on.

I enjoyed seeing prints from Deiter Roth who is a German artist who studies the “possibilities of perception”. There was one set of prints that were all based on the same postcard of the Piccadilly Circus area. It was interesting to see the different ways that he interpreted the same scene.

The “Optical Illusion” area included Kinetic Art which uses magnets to keep items in perpetual motion. In one area of this section there was a room that was painted completely black with white pinstripes. It had various shapes painted on the walls and ceiling with the stripes going in different directions. It was not an easy room to stand in for long!!!

I moved through the “Minimalism” gallery pretty quickly……after all, there wasn’t much to look at!! The same with the “Surrealism and Beyond”……it was surrealistic and it was beyond me!!!

There were two other exhibits that I really enjoyed. The first was a room lighted with floodlights and a bunch of latticework screens hung from the ceilings. Only 5 people could go in at a time, but it was a lot of fun to walk thru the screens and watch the emerging light and shadows.

The last of my favorites was a nature movie….sort of!!! Someone had taken some sort of food and cut it into thin round disks which had been painted with bright shiny colors. The disks had been placed in an ant bed and then they had filmed the ants picking up these disks and moving them. The color and glitter of the disks made for interesting patterns and an interesting movie.

I caught my trains back to Kew which took over an hour. The reason for the length of the trip was that one of the lines had been closed due to some “incident”….never did hear what had happened.

We took the bus to the home of Mark Chase and Mike Fay. Their house is approximately100 years old and they are in the process of renovating it. It had a gorgeous stain glass entry way and a fantastic back garden of flowers. Of course, since they are both at Kew Gardens, you would expect that. We had a wonderful dinner at their home, along with 4 other scientists.

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