Saturday, April 21, 2012

Camdentown with Orit, Dan and Petra

Those of you who know me well, know that I am not a very good shopper. Indeed, I am really bad at it. That is, too many minutes in a store and I become positively claustrophic.   

Orit, on the other hand, really loves to shop. So does Petra. 

strolling the streets in Camdentown

Well... there was really only one way to take care of that: Camdentown!   I could follow Orit and Petra into the shops, and then retreat to the sidewalks after a few minutes in a shop, and could entertain myself outside watching the crowds and people.  Dan seemed to share the same orientation as me, so things were ideal.  It was a nice day, and the street were not yet uncomfortably full of people. Perfect!

almost like a museum!

Early on, we made a shocking discovery:  it is not just that Orit and Petra both like shopping, they like shopping for shoes.  That made things easy, since we saw some of the funkiest shoes and shoe shops around.  Even I was lured into some of the stores to gaze with wonder at the shoes!

And to go with shoes, a woman needs a hat, doesn't she?
doesn't every woman need a hat?
Well.... maybe not.  But there were so many things to see  Scarves, silversmiths, hemp clothes, earrings made from pressed flower petals, amazing leather bags, rings, felt coats.... and much more.

I will say the wierdest consumer commodity of the day (for me) was something i think of as the "Doggie Bag".... it was a purse in the shape of a dog... but it was made of hair.  Or rather, of hair extensions.  Human hair extensions.  OK.  So... one could do a whole analysis there, but i guess it is enough for me to say that I admire the ingenuity of creative artistic spirit.  I don't really wonder why someone would MAKE such an object, but I wonder who would want to buy one.  On the other hand, i am sure some friends out there will remind me of the rabbit fur sweater I bought at the second hand store, the one with rabbit all around the top, and some wierd armpit jewellry attached.  I couldn't help myself: it was so wierd I had to have it.  somehow, I didn't feel the same about the doggie bag.  :-)

will it be the ring or the beads?
We finally broke for lunch, giving us time to restore our spirits before heading back into the market for round 2 (and letting Dan sneak back to the hotel for a quick nap, and to get his bags packed for the trip hom the next morning).

Round 2 was also a great success, with everyone (including ME?!) coming away with some object-d'art (or was it rather 'object-de-desire'?).  I can't believe I managed to spend that long shopping!  I must be growing up!

Soul Sister (spending the day with Tina Turner!)

Tina as "Aunty"

So, I got three tickets for a new musical, "Soul Sister"

Last night, I told Duncan we would going to a musical biopic, inspired by the life of Ike andTina Turner.  He seemed less than pleased, and he told me it would be boring, since he had never heard of them.

Tina as the Acid-Queen
"WHAT?!"  said I, singing a few measures of  "We Don't Need Another Hero", and then chanting "two men enter, one man leaves!" to remind him that Tina Turner played Auntie in Mad Max: Thunderdome,  

He looked at me blankly.  

 Nor did it help when I told him she was the Acid-Queen in "Tommy: The Rock Opera". 

He gave me the same blank look.

Well... I guess 1975 was a bit before his time, and i guess the song does belong to the genre of 'psychedelic rock', and I guess some might say it is a bit age-inappropriate,..... but come off it!  I mean, my dad took ME to go see it when I was 12 years old, and there was no lasting damage!  (well... hmmm... lets change the topic) ...

Since anxioust to win the "Mother-of-the-year" award, I told him that, boring or not, he had to come anyways.  It would be educational.  After all, it would deal with racism, segregation, pre-marital sex, marriage, drug use, domestic violence, abortion, suicide attempts, ... oh yes... and it would have Bhuddism and end happily!  :-)  

I also let him watch a couple of youtube clips of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue doing "Proud Mary" back in 1971.  Thought he might as well know a few lines of her signature song before heading off to the show!  Tina and the Ikettes do their things was amazing (especially after about 3 minutes, when they break out of 'easy' and into 'rough').  Just for fun, check out this link to watch her doing the song in 2009 (when she was 70 years old).

waiting for the train to Hackney...again
 "Soul Sister" was playing at the Hackney Empire (where we went to see "Britain's Got Bhangra" months and months ago). We remembered the way there, so headed off to Camdentown to catch the Overground to Hackney, wondering if we could get photos at the same places we took them last time. It seemed pretty much like last time, but Duncan's hair was longer.

Again we agreed that overground is WAY quieter than the underground... a pleasure to ride on it!  We also saw the funniest ad for Otrivin.  I took a  photo but it turned out blurry.  Ged Carrol (check out the link here) got a great shot of it up on the web.

It took us a while to get that it was an ad, since the tube and bus stop names here in london are so weird anyways!  I mean, seriously: East Ham, Barking, Cockfosters, Nagshead, Tooting Bec, Clitterhouse Road...

The sqaure in front of the Hackney Town Hall
 Well... the ad kept us entertained all the way to Hackney Central.

It was a lovely day here in London.  The sky was still covered with clouds, but bit patches of blue were beginning to break through.

That palm tree (or, as Duncan called it, the giant pineapple) was casting a distinct shadow!

And the side of the Theatre was fun.... though looking up at the sign below, I kept having the image of the words moving away from me, with the words "Strikes Back" at the bottom (just looked too much like the intro to the Star Wars movies)

The Marquee at the Hackney Empire

And the show itself?  Fun. As ever, it is interesting to she how the biopic part of it gets set up, which songs they work in, and how it gets staged. 

They had projected what looked like pages from a graphic novel (aka 'comicbook') on the back screen, and the various boxes often contained video clips of various events, so you were tracking the political and social climate of the time, as you were listening to the music (ie. rosa parks, martin luther king, JFK, vietnam, malcolm X, etc.). 

We got to hear music (and see the clothes) from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.  And when they sang "Proud Mary", Duncan reached over to poke me in the ribs (since it was the same intro to the version we saw on youtube). 

I gotta say, the woman who played Tina had a killer voice, and had the "Tina-ism" (the moves) nailed. 

She must have watched the videos a billion times.  It was great fun to watch.  ... and to listen! 

whose milkshake is it?
After it was over, we took the bus down to Oxford Circus, and headed off to Duncan's restaurant of choice (Byron's... the only restaurant he has found that carries A&W rootbeer) for a "proper burger" and a milkshake... the old fashioned kind.

We managed to get a game of "Big 2" in while waiting for our food (I have taken to travelling with a deck of playing cards, just in case).  Duncan whipped our butts!   The two of the boys finshed their own delicious milkshakes off in now time, and then were struggling to see who would be able to finish off mine.  Guess who won?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Finchley U14s Rugby Tournament at Bournemouth

Over the holiday break, the Finchley Rugby Club were to be playing in a seriously big Rugby Tournament:  132 teams of U14 players!

Steve went along as one of the parent/supervisors. They loaded the boys and parents onto the bus, and headed off on their roadtrip to Bournemouth (England's largest coastal resort towns)

Resort town!? For rugby?

I was suspicious that it was going to be no work and all play!

steve's idea of a chalet...

My suspicions were heightened when Steve told me they were staying in a chalet!

Now... for those of us who grew up in the rockies, the word chalet evokes a particular kind of structure... one with a fireplace and maybe a loft. 

The British idea of a chalet
In british terms, 'chalet' has a slightly different meaning.
It appears to be another name for 'caravan' or maybe 'mobile housing structure'...hundreds of them in a row.

Uh... not quite like staying in the chalets at Lake Louise or Jasper, sitting around a warm fireplace roasting marshmallows. 

Still, he reports, a good time was had by all! (at least by all the parents who got beds, rather than being relegated to the mini couch or floor!)

I did ask for details, but he said "What happens in Bournemouth, stays in Bournemouth!"  :-)

I was a bit worried that they had been living the 'fast life', but he told me such a life would have been impossible:  there were distinct speed limits imposed.  He showed me this photo as proof!  

How do you come up with this kind of speed limit?!   Not "10", not "9", but something somewhere in between?   Or did the planners (mis)spend too many weekends mis-spent watching Mickey Rourke and Kim Bassigner in their 1980s classic film, "Nine 1/2 Weeks?"  

Certainly there was rain, and I couldn't help but feel a bit sorry for the poor bedraggled looking parents/coaches on the side of the field. 

... and yet... they boys just kept on playing!

In spite of arriving home with a cold (steve) and a pulled hamstring (alex), all went well. 

Alex also came home with the Finchley plaque for the "man of the tour" and a rubgy ball signed by all the players on his team.  Nice!

Below is the report on the match posted to the Teamer site by the coach, Aiden.

posted Tue 17-Apr-2012 11:05 PM BST by Aiden Norris

Firstly I’d like to thank the tour players whose behaviour on the tour was impeccable, which is a credit to both them and their parents. Secondly I’d like to thank everyone involved in the tour from the work Ali did arranging it, to the parents who came on the tour and inherited various roles and responsibilities from ‘chalet leads’ to parents who gave up ‘drinking rights’ to stay dry in case of emergencies. It was the help and assistance of everyone involved that made the tour a fun time for the lads.

Bournemouth Festival:  As we had to register at 08:30 and it was over an hour from the park, the lads got at early call at 06:30 to get ready for the day ahead. At 07:15 we were ready to leave the lads all looking very smart dressed up all wearing white shirts/Finchley ties etc. The weather was showing signs of being really nice with a blue wrong we were.

We arrived got registered and the black skies started to show signs of what was in store. The first game kicked off v Oadby Wyggestonian. Al scored an early individual try but we soon started to realise the standard of rugby at the tournament was probably some of best we had experienced. We ended up losing the 1st game 5-20.

At this stage the heavens opened and the coaches/players/kit and everything outside was drenched. We lost the next game v Old Northamptonians 0-20 with one player for them scoring all 4 tries.
We then had a long break before our next game v Cowbridge - the reigning champions. No matter how much the coaches were trying to keep the lads warm, with wet kit and a cold wind they were beginning to freeze. We Lost 5-35. Highlight of the game was Saxton's champagne moment, with a grubber kick through the backs following up with a great take to go over for a fantastic try.

Our last game of the day was versus the hosts Bournemouth. We realised very early on in the game that they weren’t the most gracious of hosts with a few late tackles and off the ball incidents which led to our tour manager giving their number 10 ‘a jolly good telling off’. We only just lost 5-10 with a great performance from some very tired weary players and a great try from Jack. Some well earned showers, dry clothes and burgers and chips at this stage put some smiles back on their faces (photo’s are on teamer of them all dressed smartly in Bournemouth clubhouse) 

That evening we went out for a great meal at the Sunray and the coaches presented the following tour trophies: 
Players player – Saxton Stout
Coaches player ‘runner up’ – George Beckman
Coaches Player – Eytan Merkier
Tour Player – Alex Carter (Also awarded a signed Rugby Ball from all the tour players as a parting gift), Burleigh Travel Tourist Trophy at Weymouth RFC 

The next day wasn’t such an early start and we were all packed up and ready to go at 09:30 for a 10:00 start at Weymouth Rugby Club. The weather was glorious and when we got there by the looks of the ground, Weymouth had completely missed the rains of yesterday.  This didn’t bode well with the team as unfortunately every member appeared to be suffering from some sort of injury.  
With the amount of injuries being declared we were just able to get a bare 15 on to the pitch against Cheshunt. You could see every step taken on the hard ground a painful one. We Lost 0-15 and the lads were already hurting and weary.

It took Matt to take the bull by the horns and give the lads a ‘Churchill-like’ talking to after the match. “I don’t care if you only play 5 mins......just get on and do one thing during the game and do it well, be it a tackle, catch, run whatever”

We then played Oadby Wyggestonian and lost 5-32. The score not reflecting the hard fought match brought on by Matts rousing speech and another great try by Jack. We now had players removing tracksuit tops/bottoms forgetting their injuries and asking the coach to go on to the pitch.

Our last match v Weymouth kicked off and Finchley had now regained their fighting spirit. It was a very close game only losing in the last couple of minutes 15-17. We earned a bonus point with Jack scoring one try and Al coming on and scoring two and we nearly clinched the game with a determined drive from George at the end dragging half the Weymouth team down the pitch towards to the try line with the referee blowing for full time with Finchley 10 yards short of it.

We were awarded a win v Chepstow as they had pulled out of the tournament after the previous days Rugby. Obviously they don’t have a coach that can inspire a very weary set of players or they don’t have a team of players that will play their hearts out even when the chips are down. The coaches couldn’t have been more proud of their players who gave their hearts all weekend. Well done lads!

For we are Finchley
and we will beat you ... nearly
for nearly is as close as we can get

At the Tate Britain with Petra

The Dome in the Tate Britain
This weekend, Petra and I took a trip to the Tate Britain: 9 months in London, and I had still not been there!   Yet another beautiful building to explore!

We had an hour before the "Highlights Tour" was to begin, so we decided to swing around to take a look at the "Focus" areas. It was a bit of a surprise... each 'focus' was just one room. Each room was exactly what it said: a "focus".... a collection of perhaps a dozen or two dozen paintings, with a theme linking them.

First, we checked out a room of Don McCullin photographs. He was a war photographer, working in mostly black and white.   I wasn't familiar with the guy, but can say that some of his photos (particularly the ones in the book on him that was in the museum shop) were just painfully haunting to look at.  For this room, they chose NOT to display the war photographs, but produced groupings from different parts of his work: berlin after the war, fields, miners, streetpeople. The photos were really striking.  nbsp;  Here is a review of the exhibit.

From there, it was off to "Atlantic Britain", for a series of paintings that looked 'simple', but which all had some relationship to tales of Empire and Colonialism. So, for example, who would have thought that the painting of a woman plucking a turkey was a commentary on the US/Britain revolutionary war?! (you can click here to see the 14 paintings that were in the room).

And then, another step backwards in time to spend some time with Reubens and Britain - 14 works related to the Banqueting House ceiling at Whitehall.  I didn't know anything about the Banqueting House ceiling, but now feel like I want to spend time with it!

We finally wandered back to the meeting point for the "highlights tour".  For the first time ever, Petra and I grabbed one of those folding chairs to carry around with us.  HEAVEN!!!!   Given the fact that I am very tall, i am generally torn between my desire to see the paintings up close, and my awareness of the fact that people can't see over me... with the chair, i could scramble right close, and people could still see over me (and my feet and back were happier!)

We had a fabulous guide, and fell in love with the paintings she showed us.  We saw Queen Elizabeth by Nicholard Hilliard, getting a lesson on sumptuary laws (who was allowed to where what kinds of jewels and colours) as well as on how to read the codes in the painting, including the many leves of meaning in the rose she is holding and the phoenix she is wearing. 

It was fun comparing the queen with the painting just two to the right, Gheeraerts "Portrait of an Unknown Lady".  We learned that the unknown woman was pregnant and covered in pearls, that pearls were the sign of St Margaret of Antioch, patron saint of pregnant women, and that people generally were painted WITHOUT smiling.  That the unknown woman is smiling marks this as belonging to a genre of pregancy painting: images captured before nobel women gave birth, so that the family could remember the woman if she died giving birth (thus the smile...yikes).

We then hung out with William Powell Frith's painting, Derby Day.  The painting is a riot... full of hundreds of people wandering around at the Derby. Of course, you can see almost not a single horse: it is a study in people, and people organized by physiognomy (the science of studying people by their skulls). The people are grouped into 'criminal life', 'entertainers and the impoverished' and 'artistocrats'.

Check out the link to get a close up look at parts of this painting (which was a sensation when it was first displayed).

In particular, look at the foreheads!   I learned that 'high brow' and 'low brow' indeed were linked to the notion that artistocratic folks actually did have higher brows, and criminal had the reverse.  I feel so validated!   I also suspected that our monstrously high family foerheads were the sign of our greatness!!!!
Ophelia... drifting past the willows

We then headed off to the pre-Raphaelites, to check out Mallais's "Ophelia".  It was fun listening to the story of the model (Lizzie Siddlell) posing for the painting by laying fully clothed in a tub of water.  I can imagine better ways to earn my living. The guide told us that this was the first Ophelia shown in the process of drowning... the previous practice had been to show Hamlet's girlfriend walking towards the water.  The challenge was that a drowned woman was code for fallen woman (the option left to you if you were pregnant or disowned by your family).  Mallais was, the guide told us, perhaps making some additional commentary in this painting.
Echo Lake (as opposed to Echo Beach?)
 I am not sure what the commentary was in Peter Doig's "Echo Lake", but I am sure there is one in there!   The painting is based on a still shot from the movie "Friday the 13th"....and given a childhood steeped in the genre of the B-grade Horror Flick, this only made it more compelling for me!  :-)

We spent a few moments with Michael Craig-Martin's "An Oak Tree" (which looks not at all like an oak tree, but rather like a clear glass of water sitting on a clear glass shelf of water attached to a wall way above your head).  The text that accompanies the water is actually pretty funny to read.  ... and maybe it also raises questions about faith and belief.  Certainly, the piece is a pretty clear instance of 'conceptual art'.  :-) 
Hanging out with "No Woman, No Cry" (Chris Ofili)

 But Petra and I agree that our favourite piece was "No Woman, No Cry" by Chris Ofili. It is a tribute to murdered London teenager Stephen Lawerence, whose picture can be seen in the tear drops.

The title is a reference to a Bob Marley song of the same name (click here if you want to hear Marley live in 1979). 

It is a mixed media piece, and the closer you get, the more layered (and beautiful it is:  drawing, ink, paint, glitter, photos, etc).
us caught in an 'artful' moment of contemplation

After the tour was over, we spent some time contemplating a piece of contemporary art in the corner, making good use of the stools we had carried with us.  After all, if a glass of water on a shelf can be art worthy of contemplation, then why not a concave mirror that flips the image of gazer back upside down? 

From there, we spent some time browsing the bookshelves in the gallery store.  We were in no hurry to leave, as we could hear the rain absolutely pounding down on the glass roof above us.  It was a good excuse to linger, but I had to keep reminding myself that I arrived in London with only 2 suitcases full to sustain me for a year, and that I would be going home with the same 2 suitcases.... so touch the books, and look at them, but don't buy!!!! (that was a hard one). 
 And so, we headed back out of the museum, and onto the streets of London, where the storm had finally broken, leaving us with the promise of a dry (and maybe even warmer?) evening in London.

the sky after the rainfall

Friday, April 13, 2012

Green Onions?

one little green onion, ready for chopping?
 A few days ago, at the end of a day of exploring the town, Dan and Orit came over to the house bearing gifts!  ... A chocolate coconut cake (kosher for passover!) and a big bunch of green onions.  

I was a bit surprised at the onions, since Orit really hates them.  Well... maybe it goes beyond hatred... i always thought she was exaggerating about her dislike of onions until that one fateful evening in Battlecreek, Michigan, when I invited her over for dinner, and served my very favourite soup in the world, "West African Peanut Soup" (you can find it in the Sundays at Moosewood vegetarian cookbook).  It does take a full two cups of chopped onion... but the soup is blended, so you cannot find the smallest piece of onion to let you know they are there. 

Sure enough, I was right!  She loved the soup (as I knew she would), even asking for a second bowl.  It was only an hour later, when she was crippled with inexplicable stomach pains, that I confessed my sin.  Ah well....a bit of time bent over the toilet, and she was right as rain.  (and has subsequently forgiven me).  On the positive side of things, she no longer has to tell people she doesn't like onions; now she can truthfully say "Onions make me sick"

So... i was surprised at the big bunch of green onions.  .... until Dan told me they were daffodils.  Ah!  OK....  though they seemed a bit disappointing as far as blooms go. Still, I followed his instructions to snip off the bottoms and put them in some water. 
Dan's happy dance at the daffodils

Apparently Dan shared a few of my concerns about the thin blooms, and so you can only imagine his delight when he arrived back at our house the following night to find the onions had begun to transform themselves.  I only caught the tail end of Dan's happy dance of delight. 

And the miracle just kept going.  By this morning, the onions had been transformed into a glorious burst of springtime.  The whole kitchen is fragrant with the scent. 

the onions, two days later...


I am going to pick up another bunch of 'onions' once this bunch fades....

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tate Modern and Southwark Theatre with Orit and Dan

Orit and Dan are in town this week!  (he via Ann Arbor, she via Israel).  Yesterday, I spent the morning at home working while they explored St. Paul's, and then went to join them in the Tate Modern.  When I finally got there, it looked like they were getting close to 'the end' of a happy time with modern art.  :-)  

I do agree that there are only so many hours one can spend in a museum before one hits the space of overload.  My own goal is generally to come away with 2 (or maximum 3) things that I find interesting.  So, here are my picks from the time spent on the 5th floor of the Tate, in the "Arte Povera and Anti-Form" section (all about art where artists from the 60s were exploring the idea of energy, and the process of making things).

Peone, "Tree of 12 feet"

First, I loved "Tree of 12 meters" by Giuseppe Peone.  I know they just look like two dead trees, but you have to get up closer. 

He has taken two industrial pieces of timber, and then he had taken a chisel, and followed the knots in the wood, carving away the various rings to reveal 'the tree' that is actually still in the centre of the log. 

closeup view of the 12 foot tree...

You can get a better view of it in the close up shot.  Indeed, close up, you really can tell that he has carved anything away.  it just looks like a tree that has been stripped of its bark.

I liked it when Dan pointed out that one of the two trees seems to be 'upside down' (that is, the artist left the uncarved portion of the log near the upper branches rather than near the base of the trunk). 

me, altering my relation to the art...

My second pick was Carl Andre's "Steel Zinc Plain".  Basically, it is a set of silver and black squares laid in a checker board pattern in the middle of the gallery.  According to the artist notes, it "represents a territory or a space as much as an object. By placing it on the floor rather than on a plinth and allowing it to be walked across, Andre alters the viewer's relations to the work of art."   

It was quite fun standing beside it, watching people walk around it, and then sticking my foot on and off the metal plates as people passed: you know... seeing which people are or are not quite ready to be altered by the art (and am still trying to sort out whether the experience has left me transformed, or was merely a transitory bump!) 

Orit pretending to be a piece of modern art...

It was about this time that I realized Orit was ready to go. 

I got the hint when I saw her sitting against the wall, posing as her very own work of art.

That was a signal that it was time to head to the coffee shop up on the 7th floor! 

We spent some time up there chatting, looking across towards St. Paul's, and watching people stroll to and from the south bank along the Millenium Bridge, and the clouds similarly wanders across the horizon.

View of the Thames from the Tate Modern

sitting in the 'foyer' of the vaults before the show

After that, it was off for an early dinner, and then to the theatre!   We all know my weakness for musical theatre, but Orit is made of sterner stuff.  There was no convincing her to try for some moments of levity and song:  things with happy endings seem to bore her.

So instead, we went to see "Black Battles with Dogs" at the Southwark Theatre.

the vaults at the Southwark Playhouse

I really do love this theatre.  (Alex and I went there last month to see their production of "Shivered".)

The theatre operates in the vaults below platform 1 of the London Bridge Railstation.  So you are not only in these arches brick vault spaces, you can also hear a rumble as trains go by from time to time.  It is totally atmospheric, and really contributes to the sense of being in some other space.

And the play?  It was perfect! (no happy endings!)  :-) You can click here for a short interview with the director, and a glance at the cast and the space.  All in all, a perfect day....


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Day one of London with Sophie

It has been easter break here in London, but has so far been an easter holiday of separate travels: Steve and Duncan headed off on a 3 day trip to Alton Towers Theme Park and Water Park.  I am hanging out here with my Michigan friends!  Sophie (who arrived earlier this week), and with Orit and Dan (who arrive tomorrow) and Petra (who arrives Friday). Alex has the gift of hanging out around the house, working out at the club, and hanging out online with his friends at night.  a perfect world.
As for Sophie and I?  While waiting for Orit, Dan and Petra? Two days of adventure on our own.

The first day we went to the National Gallery for the 11:30 taster tour:  6 fabulous paintings! (Jacopo di Cione's "The Coronoation of the Virgin with Adoring Saints"; Leonardo da Vinci's "Virgin of the Rocks"; Titan's "The Death of Acteon"; Reuben's painting of his own estate in the morning light; Hogarth's "Marriage a la Mode"; and Degas, "Combing the Hair").  It is always interesting to see what they choose to show on that taster tour... i have been on it several times, but have never been shown the same painting twice!  Hmmm.... maybe the fact that they have 2300 paintings makes that less than surprising.  :-) [he did tell us that the queen has 'more' paintings than the national gallery, but that the ones she has are 'not as good'.  hahaha]

Gentileschi, "Finding of Moses"
After the taster tour, we ran down the hall to get a seat for the 1pm "Draw and Learn" class.  Arta and I did this once before and it is just so much fun!   There are comfortable (director style) folding chairs for the first 40 to get there.  You have a short lesson on a particular painting, and then are given a drawing task. 

This time, the painting was Gentileschi's "Finding of Moses".  (you can click on the link to read more about the painting, or to take a virtual tour... which would give you a sense of how very large this painting actually is!

my contribution to the world of beauty...

The artist-guide gave us papers and pencils, along with old slide frames... only with no photos in the centre

The goal was for us to hold the frame out like a little window, and find a small part of the painting (hands, feet, heads).  
Sophie's elegant artistic interpretation

We were to then use the frame to first draw a small window shaped box, and then to try and draw the small part of the painting that would fit in the frame (when our arms were fully extended).   She told us we could connect the boxes later, if we wanted... 
Sophie's work of art!

Now, neither Sophie nor I claim to be great artists, but we had a great time sitting there trying to draw.... and laughing at hand that ended up looking like ducks, and things like that!  You know... realizing that we drew the same parts of the painting, but that neither resembled the other (nor the painting itself for that matter!) 

However,... we were both happy, and may end up getting our works of art framed... as a way of marking our brief excursion to the world of the artist!  :-)

so... we left the world of art, and headed off to Marylebone Street to spend an hour or so browsing in Sophie's favourite bookstore, then had a relaxing meal at le Pain Quotidien, and then rushed back to the Southbank to spend a couple of hours with two standup comedians named Shave and Dave ("The Umbilical Brothers") doing an insanely funny "mime" show (which reminded me of the Arete Mime Troup guys that I used to go to with my siblings.... anyone remember "The Apology... by Gainsborough!").... check out the first 3.5 minutes of this link to see a bit of them.

There you go.... day one of London with Sophie!



Duncan and Steve take a trip to Alton Towers

Next weekend, Dad and Alex get to go to Bournemouth for a big rugby tournament (140 teams in the same age group). So... this weekend, dad and me took a trip to Alton Towers.

The worst part of the whole weekend was having to get up at 5 in the morning to make it to the train.

it looks like a castle, but...

Alton Towers is supposed to be the biggest theme park in England, but when we got there, this is what it looked like.


A stupid castle?!

But then you get to the other side....and it huge! 

view from the mono-rail

It is a real mansion or something, and they turned it into a theme park. 

So you have all the old buildings, and old trees, and lots of grounds to walk around. 

how is THIS for a roller coaster?

But there are also amazing rides, and rollercoasters, and waterparks for indoors and outdoors (in case it is cold or rainy) and videogame arcades and restaurants and other stuff. 

going UP the waterslide

For example, there is a tube slide in the indoor waterpark that shoots you UP the slide instead of just letting you slip down.  it is also covered by a net so you don't go flying right out of the slide!  You can also go two at a time with the tubes, so that is fun!

getting a pint of slurpee in a tube cup

 My mom will make me tell more stories about it later, but for now, here are some of the pictures dad took.

hang on!



who did they build this for?!

going up the flume....

...and coming down!