Friday, July 30, 2010


It's the second-to-last day of my time in the UK.
I slept in a little bit, got up, got ready and headed out the door. I walked over to the Queen's Walk, along the South bank of the Thames, then followed it down a ways. I passed the National Theatre, passed Gabriel's Wharf, and kept walking until I reached the Oxo Tower.
It's now a neat shopping centre/art gallery, but it was originally built for the Oxo company, who wanted to build it in the shape of "Oxo," but was refused under advertisement laws. So instead they built the windows of the tower to spell "Oxo." The company has since gone out of business, but the tower is still there, along with the rest of the building, and it's a local landmark nowadays. I'd heard about the shops, but hadn't really looked around there until today. I enjoyed wandering around and seeing what was there. Only half the stores were open at about 10:00, but it was still an interesting people-watching experience.
Then I continued on my way a bit further down the bank to the Tate Modern. You can see some of the Tate Modern online through an interactive map--in the museum (I testdrove it on a touchscreen) it will let you look at every single artwork that's there, but apparently when you use the same feature on a standard computer outside of the museum it will only show you shots of public areas, not the art. It will still show you which room a certain artist's work is in, but it won't let you actually see the piece. However, if you go to the general Tate collections (not just the Modern, but the others are included), it will let you search by title or artist, and then not only do you get to see what is currently on exhibit, but also you can get a good peek at works by the same artist (if that is what you searched by) that are not currently on display. I liked this, because this time around there was only one Rothko on display, but there are 13 you can look at on the website. That's a win/win to me! My picks of the Modern Tate: an early Alexander Calder mobile from 1932, as well as his Antennae with Red and Blue Dots mobile from 1960. The Rothko I mentioned earlier, Picasso's Bowl of Fruit, Violin and Bottle, Fernand Leger's vividly-colored Still Life with a Beer Mug, Albert Gleizes'  Portrait of Jacques Nayral, which I think has only recently been placed in the gallery, because the website doesn't have anything on its display but I saw it there today. Also, Jacques Mahe de la Villegle's JazzmenMimmo Rotella's  With a Smile (online image unavailable), Andy Warhol's Skulls and
Cow Wallpaper (imagine this one picture times a thousand, covering the walls of an entire gallery room!), Bridget Riley's Fall and To a Summer's Day.
I enjoyed the Tate Modern for the most part (as you can see), but there are some types of Modern art that just plain bother me. While I discovered that I like some Cubism, and some other forms of modern art that traditionalists or purists may scoff at, there was several pieces of art I would have loved to seen marched out the door. The one that bothered me the most today was a film of a woman who covered herself in blood and then "writhed" in feathers (I actually didn't stick around for the feathers, I snubbed it and went on to the next room). Analyzing my reactions to the different types of art provided an interesting thought path as I wandered around the galleries. I think that almost everyone likes classical art because it tends to uplift nature and whatever it depicts, while modern art seems to prefer to delve into what's under the skin and in the mind. When it's done well, modern art (to me at least) prompts whimsy and creativity; displays the beauty of colors, abstract concepts, or forgotten bits of things; stimulates thoughts about the subconscious and the true natures of things and people; or helps thought on other subjects flow. When it's the kind of modern art that I don't like, it tends to be something that's just desperate for attention/recognition, or glorifying in twisting traditions just because, or reveling in the disgusting grittyness of fallen nature. I don't really know too much about art, so if I'm wrong just tell me so, but that's how my mind ran this morning.
Anyway, I not only got lost in the good pieces of art and in my thoughts, at one point I actually did get lost in the gallery and had a hard time finding my way back out! When you've been walking in circles through each room of the gallery to look along the walls, it's much too easy to get turned around. After walking through a few extra doorways, I eventually found the one that led back out to the main hallway, and from there to the outside world again.
By this time it was almost lunch, and I was beginning to get a bit hungry. I had the idea, though, of seeing if I could find a particular eating place. Way back, on the 1st of July, when I was on my first flight, I had asked the stewardess a question, she had looked something up for me about my flight connection, and then she noticed that the flight I was connecting to would be going to London. Melissa (that, if I remember correctly, was her name) was then friendly enough that she recommended a great fish and chips place that she always visits when in London, and drew me a little map of how to get there. Later on, I was looking around in one of my guidebooks (this one was Frommer's London Free & Dirt Cheap) and saw something about the same place, which happened to be relatively nearby. However, I did not always have the combination of available time and willpower to go hunt down Masters Super Fish, so it was only today, when it was somewhat on my way back, that I finally got to go find it. And find it I did! I had a marvelous lunch. I think I was the only non-British person there. I ordered the cod filet, and was surprised (it's been a while since I was in a restaurant) with a basket of bread and three freshly-boiled prawns. When I say fresh, I mean they still had eyes! I tried to nonchalantly peel them, but I did feel somewhat panicked when I got what I think were eggs stuck to my fingers. Thank goodness for napkins. My food arrived quicker than I had expected it to, and was absolutely delicious. The best fish and chips I have ever had. They were evidently somewhat used to some Americans eating there, because they provided me with good-sized bowls of tartar sauce and ketchup, but I actually like to eat my fish with vinegar and my chips (fries) with lemon. Although today it was such a large amount of ketchup provided I felt obliged to use a little, and laughed quietly to myself, thinking how my youngest sibling would react to the bowl of ketchup--he would grab a spoon and eat it all up. I thought it was rather fitting that it was my second-to-last lunch in the UK, because my last lunch in the US had been with my family at Hyman's Seafood Restaurant in Charleston (which is my favorite place to eat in Charleston). It was almost a coming-full-circle kind of thing.
Tonight is the program-wide Research Symposium. I'm not quite sure what I think of that, because on the one hand I'm curious to see what different people have been researching, and on the other hand I've heard it will be several hours long.
Tomorrow is The Last Day. I'll be in here in the morning, doing the online Final Exam and touching up the blog a bit, but then before 1:00 I have to turn in my card that gives me access to the computer room. I will be spending most of the day packing, with one excursion out to the National Gallery for a viewing of "Last Holiday." This is not the cute romantic comedy starring Queen Latifah (which I enjoy), but a Janus film which I have not seen before from the '50s starring Alec Guinness. I think it was what inspired the more recent film, though, because the main characters' names are way too similar otherwise (Alec Guiness plays George Bird, QL plays Georgia Bird). My friends were rather amused at how excited I am about this--what can I say? I like old films, I like the National Gallery and I like it when neat activities only cost £4. The rest of the day will be spent packing, and then I will make sure I go to bed early tomorrow night.
Sunday morning I will get up bright and early, take care of the last few details and leave for the airport at 6 AM. My flight out of Heathrow leaves around 10, I land in Dallas and hang around there for a bit, then take one last flight from Dallas to Charleston, arriving there at around 10 PM South Carolina time. This might not seem like such a big day until you consider the time difference. I will be leaving for the airport at 1 AM South Carolina time, and arriving at 10 PM South Carolina time. I think I'm going to take a nap at some point, don't you?
In all probability I might not post again until I am back home in South Carolina. Keep checking after Sunday, though, because I will be uploading my pictures from the trip.
It's been a great experience blogging for you; I hope you have enjoyed reading.
Images are from Wikipedia

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