A two hour holiday in London

London Travel Blog

 › entry 53 of 55 › view all entries

Today I had a meeting, and after it was over, I needed to wait until the off peak trains before I went home.  As the meeting was in London, near Borough Station, I thought I would walk along Bankside and by the time I got to Charing Cross, it would be time to go home.  The meeting ended a little too late to such home anyway – the office would be locked by the time I got back to Swindon.  


There are no photos for this entry, because my phone battery ran out; I am going to have to try extra hard with the descriptions.  I apologise if this doesn’t quite work. 


Walking out of the meeting, I said goodbye to my colleagues and turned towards the river.  The sun must just have been setting, as the light was starting to fade.  The yellow brick buildings of the Peabody trust flats did not look golden in the fading light, which is a shame because that would have been a lovely metaphor.  They looked quite Dickensian, actually, but in a good way.  They looked like the sort of place that the starving urchin might have ended up when the improbably kind old gentleman took him in about two thirds of the way through the book.  The yellow faded to greyish as I crossed under railway bridges and found my way to the Tate Modern.


The Tate Modern seen from the river is iconic.  From the back, it just looms.  Its bulk is more apparent, the grim, windowless walls hulking above you.  The general feeling of being loomed at was in now way helped by the fact they were digging up the pathways and finding the front door was a bit of a trek.  


For me, the main reason to keep visiting the Tate Modern is the installation space in the old turbine hall.  I never have the faintest idea why it is art.  Over the years, I have seen buildings made of plaster casts of boxes, giant five story high slides, a large crack, and a great big red fog horn thing.  They are always fascinating to me.  not because of the art, so much – I have no idea why giant five story slides were art – but to watch the people walking through the installations, read what the artist thought they were doing, and think about what I would have guessed they were about if not for the signs.  


Right now, the big installation is a large black box.  It looks like a shipping container for a giant world.  You approach it from the back, looming, gunmetal grey and gloomily raised on scaffolding.  When I was there the gallery was quiet, and the oppressive mass of the great grey structure made the silence feel deliberate.  


I walked up the ramp into the cavernous sculpture, and into the pitch blackness inside.  The sculpture is titled “How it is” and is about, oh, I gave up trying to work out what the artist said it was about.  How it is, I guess.  But it was a very, very dark giant box.  The walls were lined with black velvet and there was no light inside.  It was unnerving to walk into the dark like that, especially as there were other people in there that you just couldn’t see.  I held my hand out in front of me, just as a point of reference – the faint light from the entrance caught on my ring and meant that however useless, I had some point of reference.  I was surprised how quickly I reached the back wall.  I turned.  And suddenly, everything was very bright and clear.  The silhouettes of new explorers were clear in the grey light from the gallery outside.  My hand was clear.  My path was clear.  I could stride out as easily as I had walked into the street earlier.  And the strangest thing was that even if I turned back into the darkness, the clarity and confidence was still there.  


There is probably something very symbolic to be said about the need to look back when going forward, light in the darkness, and points of reference.  I will refrain – lets just say it was pretty cool.


After a brief wander round the surrealist part of the gallery (“poetry and dream” – some Bacon, some Picasso, some Miro, and a giant Bueys structure that I have never, ever understood) I went back out onto the river.  By now, the dark had got to the deep blue stage and the birds were singing, clear underneath the roar of the jets coming into London City.


I wanted to stay on the river, listening to the jazz from a busker drifting into the night.  But there was a diversion on the Thames Path and I was almost at the OXO tower before the path rejoined the river.  It was magical.  Dozens of little lights lit the buildings, blue and white and shining.  I stopped for a while whilst an events team took pictures of some children in a giant snowglobe, apparently advertising Sky HD.  Sky HD – you were blocking the path.  I realise it doesn’t get any higher density than being a solid snowglobe in the middle of the path, but the only way round would have meant about a ten minute detour.  It was a little irritating once you got past the cute factor – a little like most Christmas films, in fact, so I guess it was appropriate!


At the South Bank Centre, there was a Christmas Market.  This was an unexpected bonus, as I had some odds and ends to pick up.  I bought some tree ornaments and looked at the pretty jewellery, wooden toys and bizarre scarves, decided that nobody I knew needed a hat shaped like an upside down flower with petals and a woolly stalk (who buys those things?) and went to buy some poffertjes.  Apparently they are German and not Dutch – it said so on the sign.  I will now duck whilst the German and Dutch readership fight it out over ownership of miniature puffy pancakes with chocolate sauce…


At last, I crossed the Hungerford Footbridge, with the puddles soaking into my boots, and got on the tube at Charing Cross Station.  Although my little holiday in London had lasted, oh, about two hours, it had done me the world of good.


Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
photo by: ulysses