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Posts Tagged ‘London’

Well lookee here! I’ve scrounged up a few more photos from travel days that have already been covered in some form or ‘nother on this blog. Plus, I’ve still got another Paris post and all of Italy to chat about, so we haven’t hit the bottom of the travel well yet. Hurrah!

Carvings at Notre Dame, Paris

Don’t it always seem to go / that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone? (Notre Dame, Paris)

Penis Pasta

I might have expected to see this at a store selling Bacholerette Party paraphernalia, but no. This was in a Wimbledon toy store, just a metre or so down the shelf from the plastic baguette and kitchen appliance toy sets. Either For Shame, London... or Bravo, London. I haven’t quite made up my mind.

Paris building

I love Paris' architecture.

Statue, Berlin

The left hand says “I’m modest”, and yet the right hand says... the opposite. (Berlin)

Statue, Berlin

While this dude is all about the confident “look at me!” free-wheeling. (Berlin)

Shoes, Galeries LaFayette

Torture is wandering around the Galeries Lafayette shoe department when you have a bandaged toe and can’t try anything on. Funnily enough, I took a photo of these because they struck me as bad-interesting... but now I think they’re badtastic and I think I might love them. (I do have some brilliant heels from my previous US visit, which I could show y’all at some point if anyone's interested?)

Shoes, Galeries LaFayette

These shoes, however, remain utterly Le Stupid.

Dalloyau macarons, Galeries LaFayette

They really do love macarons in Paris. These were at the Dalloyau counter at the Galeries LaFayette.

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There was a day in London in early February, and it was a good day for Hannahs to enjoy birthdays. 

It started with one Hannah giving the other Hannah the gift of waking up far too early in the morning. After defeating the brutal winds of icy hatred on the Hungerford Bridge, the Hannahs triumphed in their quest to be early-bird-gets-the-rush-Alan-Bennett-play-ticket-worm lasses. 

The early bird can also get a Delicious Oaty Breakfast.

In between the ticket purchasing and the ticket using, the Hannahs filled several pleasurable hours with appropriately-birthday themed adventures: 

Such as exclaiming over cupcake mixes packaged to look like ice cream cones...

Saying hello to our friends and making sure we had enough lolly bags for everyone...

And, most importantly, buying a birthday carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting from the Lola's counter at Selfridges.

Then, the play. 

The Habit of Art

The stage is set... at the National Theatre's Lyttleton Theatre. Did I mention this was the theatre? Theatre.

To be honest, I feel less sure of how to talk about this play, Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art, than I did about The Invention of Love, and yet I enjoyed Bennett’s play a dozen, nay, fifty times more. Thinking back, both plays deal with similar concepts and tensions, including (hopefully) past taboos of homosexual love and desire, the nature of friendship and how it can but may not change over time, and the value of intellectual and artistic pursuits. 

Both also focus and extrapolate on the lives and thoughts of real artists (writers, scholars, musicians), with Bennett’s play a multi-layered construction wherein the (real) actors Richard Griffith and Alex Jennings play actors rehearsing a play in which they play the poet W. H. Auden and the composer Benjamin Britten respectively. 

And yes, I realise my use of the word “play” there outdid my previous use of the word “theatre”, but I feel that this linguistic repetition almost encapsulates the complex and intertwined synchronicity of the play’s (there I go again) many stories. 

And this is where the actors playing the actors who were on stage but not the play-within-the-play's stage sat watching the other actors rehearse their characters' parts, and also where the stage manager, her assistant, and the play's play's author sat. Got that?

Richard Griffiths as Fitz playing W. H. Auden was magnificent at portraying an actor’s insecurities about the likability of his character, while also providing many a laugh through Fitz’ interjections about the other actors, about cake, and about his desire to wear a mask. (Hold out for the mask. It’s brilliant.) 

Alex Jennings created an incredible atmosphere of sadness, longing, tension, and a sense of being lost when inhabiting Benjamin Britten, yet also hammed it up marvelously when switching roles from Britten to one of Auden’s cleaners in order to fill in for an absent actor (at the level of the play being rehearsed… not the play we were watching… oh, I fear I’ve lost you again). 

This woman is one of the best photogramaphers I've ever met. I am certain you'll be seeing her name in National Geographic or another prestigious publication before long. You heard it here first.

The more I try to write about this play the more I find myself tangled up. There’s a rent boy and there’s a biographer, who both meets Auden and somewhat “hovers” as an omniscient presence throughout; there’s Frances de la Tour as the stage manager who magnificently strokes her actors’ egos in a delightfully patronising way; there’s the author of the play-within-the-play who can’t stand how the actors keep getting in the way of his script; and there are hilarious, cringe-worthy speeches from Auden’s furniture, which are all the more entertaining for the smirks of the actors giving them.

I have to give up. I feel like this post is a tangle of yarn that I have no hope of unravelling, yet I must say that this play, with its mix of laughter, longing and sadness, and its glimpses into the creation of music, theatre, writing, and poetry, was very likely the highlight of my London experience.

For that I thank you, H.CarryOn, and wish you another happy birthday, almost one month on. I wish you were here in Belgium to take me on more magical mystery theatre adventures.

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Despite what this blog might suggest, I do actually take part in tourist activities that have nothing to do with grocery stores and food. And seeing as food is currently nothing more to me than bland sustenance (fie on you cold! Fie!), it seems fitting to share some of the museum-related sights that have moved me to… well, that have moved me in some way. 

(You know what else has moved me? You lovely people. Thank you so much for your get-well wishes over the past few days. You have no idea how much your comments have meant to me, for being sick made me feel less like a solo traveller than a lonely traveller. I am now in Berlin, and this afternoon experienced a moment of being able to smell cigarette smoke, without even having to stalk anyone. There may be hope for delicious German cake yet.) 

Now, the art and its paraphernalia!

Mirror case, ivory, Walker Art Gallery

Mirror case, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

I took this photo because I was so excited to see something that wasn’t a religious scene. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with depictions of the life of Christ, and many were fascinating and all that good stuff… It’s just that sometimes a girl likes to see two lovers being serenaded while embracing in a boat, rather than a lot of men hanging around with looks of gravitas upon their bearded faces. 

Walker Art Gallery

Informative card thingamajig describing the painting of "Christ discovered in the temple". Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

Three words: 

Best. Excuse. Ever. 

"Maternal Affection", by Edward Hodges Baily, dated 1837

"Maternal Affection", by Edward Hodges Baily, dated 1837. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

I just love this. I really, really do. Lacking an art history background, I don’t have the words in me to describe this, except to say that it truly shows the bond (“affection”) between parent and child. (Oooh, see what I did there with the PC-replacement of “mother” with “parent”?) 

In fact, let’s look at it again, closer up… 

"Maternal Affection", by Edward Hodges Baily, dated 1837

Aww.

Yep. Now, from the sublime to the ridiculous (in terms of my reaction, not the artist’s work itself…) 

Icons in Transformation artwork, Liverpool Cathedral

An installation from Ludmila Pawlowska's exhibition "Icons in Transformation". Liverpool Cathedral, Liverpool.

I’m not sure what Freud would have made of this particular piece, what with the faces on the …spear… and all, but we could probably (oh, so many jokes I can’t let myself make… well, just one) take a whack at it. 

"Helen of Troy" by Frederick Sandys, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Guys! Guys!

Guess who this is! Guess! *giggles* Oh, I love art and its ability to highlight the diversity of ideals of beauty throughout history. This is Helen of Troy. You know, the face that launched a thousand ships? Super beautiful and all that? 

Dear dear deario, she looks like a petulant teenager who’s just been banned from facebook for, like, omigod, like, two days, omigod worst parents EVER. Frederick Sandys, Mr. Artist Man, I don’t know what you and your Victorian friends would make of Jennifer Garner, or Ginnifer Goodwin, or Emma Lung (when brunette), but methinks you would not find them quite as attractive as I do… 

Whole Foods, Kensington, London

Now this, friends, is my kind of art.

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Glimpses of London, Part Two

I have just realised that none of these photos are demonstratively of London, and are also not “real” tourist shots in any way. Whoops. I could try to throw in a photo of Big Ben… but I’m working between computers and, in all honesty, don’t have the energy to turn on my own laptop, select a photo, transfer it via USB to my friend’s computer, and update this post. Blame the current evil cold attacking my immune system. And then close your eyes and imagine a photo of Big Ben.

The most organised spice cabinet I've ever seen. (And yes, that's a post-it saying "spices". Our absent host in London put post-its on everything. Finding cups has never been easier!)

There's a "right" choice here?

I can deal with toy groceries (particularly if they're organic)...

and, as I'm heading to Paris soon, a fake baguette set is tolerable...

but I draw the line at playing at ironing and boiling a kettle.

This comes out to about $AU8 for a packet of mint slices. Extortion! Shame on you, Selfridges.

Big Ben

Oh, what the hey - I lied.

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For our first full day in London, HCarryOn and I followed the advice of one of my fabulous UVA English professors (whom I caught up with in Charlottesville) and expeditioned ourselves off to the Tower of London.

On the way, we waved hello to Emperor Trajan at the Tower Hill tube stop, who was altogether too busy chatting with pigeons to care about two Hannahs visiting him all the way from Australia. (I did start to take photos of the pigeons, but then I remembered that they were pigeons. So I put my camera away.)

Trajan Statue, Tower Hill

Felicior Augusto, melior Traiano (hurrah for Year 11 Ancient History!)

I have one word for any of you who might, at any point in the future, consider visiting the Tower of London:

Bill.

(And not the True Blood Bill, either.)

Look, I’m sure the other Yeoman Warders who lead the Tower tours are also fun and knowledgeable, but Bill was magnificent.

The Tower of London

Impressive. Foreboding. Cold. But also, the wonderousness of Bill.

How often, for example, do you find a man capable of telling you the effects of a high fibre diet on your digestive system, describing the grotesque details of William Wallace’s execution whilst simultaneously taunting all Scottish people, making fun of the institution of marriage, and yelling at your tour group to move more quickly, all in the space of the tour’s first fifteen minutes and all while making you laugh and love him more than a little bit?

Exactly. And for all Bill’s jocularity, I learnt a lot about the Tower’s history, its moat and the polar bear who lived there (no joke), and the fact that one shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the size of Henry VIII’s codpiece. To explain why, Bill removed his Yeoman Warder hat and demonstrated that while the hat extended quite a way beyond his head, his head didn’t fill up the entirety of the hat. (I think this point was lost on the under-10s in our tour.)

Awww. If only it hadn't contracted cholera and died, on account of its swimming pool being the Tower's lavatory pool. (See? Learning!)

Another favourite moment of the tour was when Bill utilised, with utmost conviction, the shouting experience gleaned from his former days as a senior NCO of the Armed forces (which all Yeoman Warders must have been, along with holding a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal). When some teenage tourists started running amok in the Tower courtyard, he pulled them up with a deep-voiced booming “Pillocks!”

Even in Australia, I would have expected this to be accompanied by a joke or a laughing apology to the tour group, but no. Bill simply used this opportunity to glower and insult all French people, for the boys were, in fact, French.

All in all, Bill, if you ever read this, you made my and HCarryOn’s day, and we would both happily marry you and darn your Yeoman frock. Oh, I’m sorry, your “State dress uniform modelled on military garb”. Of course, we both have a proclivity for grey-haired men (Jed Bartlett, Victor Garber, Barnaby, Bill Nighy, and the dearly departed Graham Cullum, who surely is right now sharing his third pack of smokes of the day with Tolstoy, to name a few), so we’re easy targets.

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Pretty much the scariest-looking bride I've ever seen. Don't her eyes just scream "I got pregnant to make this wedding happen and yes, my bridesmaids are all wearing mustard-yellow spandex"?

Mmm, plane nutrients... Could have been worse, but then again, why do airflight folk insist on serving bread rolls half frozen? Not noms. Not.

Soon you’ll zoom all around the room / All it takes is faith and trust / But the thing that’s a positive must / Is a little bit of pixie dust…

London Eye

To me, these clouds make the London Eye look somewhat like The Ferris Wheel of Doom. As in, once you get on, you never get off, or something along those lines.

It's HCarryOn! Wave! Hi! Also, those hearts in the window are solid chocolate, and enormous. What's more surprising, though, is that I didn't buy a single thing from Hotel Chocolat. O-mazing!

No, I will not shake your cake. How rude.

Hannah is Awesome #49: Okay, so there are three pictures, and three stated categories, right? I'm occasionally logical, so my head matched the pictures to the labels in order, from left to right. It's not entirely ridiculous, then, is it, that I turned to HCarryOn and said "England depicts pregnant women weirdly; it's like they have x-ray babies in their chests, not their wombs"..?

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