Action packed visit to London

As you will know if you read my blog August: a time to relax, Robin and I went to London at the end of last week, really to sing Evensong with the Lewes Singers at Westminster Abbey.

We went on Thursday, early enough to book into our hotel before going the the Royal Academy to see the David Hockney exhibition The arrival of spring which was stunning. Using his iPad he did 400 pictures in a few months documenting the arrival of spring ‘painting’ trees and landscape. The colours were really vibrant and Robin in particular was very moved by them. I liked the idea of using the iPad in order to create immediate images rather in the manner of the Impressionists. There are 100 of these on display.

In the evening we wandered the streets of Westminster, just around Westminster Cathedral, where a lot of the buildings are striped brickwork like the Cathedral itself.

Luckily we happened on a very enticing Italian restaurant where we had a very nice dinner, which I ended with a plate of Italian cheeses.

We were having breakfast the next morning when I spotted a coach outside with BYJU on it. Being a cricket fan, I had wondered what these four letters on the Indian cricket team clothing meant and had looked it up recently (BYJU is an Indian online education programme). Soon I put 2 & 2 together – we were staying in an Indian owned and run hotel, and quickly spotted some of the Indian team getting on the coach. We were staying in the same hotel as the Indian team! I couldn’t resist taking a photo or two.

I’m sorry, but I haven’t identified either of these two.

After that we went on a walk. Robin and I are trying to get to see all the churches in the City of London. Apparently there are 46 for just 9,400 inhabitants – ratio of one church to 204 people. First we discovered St Bartholomew the Great which is tucked away close to Smithfield Market. This church, I discovered, has a fine musical history and today a professional choir sing two services each Sunday, the Director of Music being Rupert Gough who also runs the very fine Chapel Choir at Royal Holloway College, London. We also found St Bartholomew the less, but it was closed. We love the way in the City, very old and historic buildings, both Churches and often pubs, are cheek by jowl with tall imposing modern glass office blocks which I find very exciting to look at too.

Lastly, we headed towards the Barbican Estate and Arts centre. You have probably been to the Barbican concert hall or theatre, and like me, you most probably arrive just in time for the event and worry about getting lost in the Barbican complex – which is very complex indeed! It was lovely arriving relaxed with no deadline. I know it’s all ‘Brutalist’ architecture, built in concrete which can stain in an ugly way, but this is Grade II listed, and the massive pond/lake in the centre is surrounded by flats all with lovely window boxes looking amazing. It all felt well bedded in and very tranquil.

Right in the middle of all this was our destination, St Giles, Cripplegate (what wonderful place names there are in London).

As we went into the church, we were welcomed, but asked to keep quiet as there was an orchestra rehearsing. Almost immediately I recognised several of the players, and realised it was the Academy of Ancient Music (one of the worlds top Period-instrument orchestras) rehearsing for a short of tour of Spain, leaving that evening. So we sat down and enjoyed Handel’s Water Music being rehearsed. It was the first time they had met in 17 months! Weren’t we lucky.

Well I’ve gone on long enough, so I’ll save reporting on the Lewes Singers at Westminster Abbey till next time.


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