Admittedly I came here with no particular project in mind…I thought I’d find a world I didn’t know and was determined to mine it. So this is what I’ve done:
–WALKED around exploring the Boroughs–first Shoreditch, now Hoxton, my neighborhoods, then every day I push out from my bubble–today discovering ANGEL with its winding pedestrian street full of curated shops, gourmet gelato, hand-made leather bags, cozy brick buildings and of course s flower-filled park nearby–london’s amazing this way every few blocks and there’ll be a little garden nestled amidst old Georgian flats or right next to some glass and steel behemoth–there’s simply always a spot of green nearby.
Next I walked all of the “Square Mile” or the actual and original City of London where the Romans first settled after taking the native’s land, where the Lord Mayor resides and from where he or she runs the town. The City has its heraldic image on all borders–rampant griffins drooling with ferocity and holding up a coat of arms asking God’s direction. Here I went to a beautifully sung Choral Eucharist at St Stephen Walbroke, a lovely circular church designed by Sir Christopher Wren whose designs rebuilt London after its devastating fire of 1666. The church stands on the former banks of the river Walbroke that flowed through ancient London and where the cult Temple of the Persian God Mithras held his “mystery” rituals including slaughtering a bull and sharing a communal meal. Mithras was said to have been born from a rock and his cult rivaled Christianity mightily. I was privileged to share a communal meal at the church–synchronicity in action.
The City as the Square Mile is called hosts the financial world of London and any time of day you can be virtually driven to the ground by the hordes of grim faced business men in three piece suits and high polished designer shoes streaming fast and furiously around the Bank tube station right at the core of the City.
Having moved from Shoreditch to Hoxton I’ve got a new walking route –along the St Regents Canal– very lovely narrow stream with riverboats and 19th century hand operated locks along the way. It’s my daily walking site and I love it.
I’ve gone out of town too–to the Orkney islands (see a post below). And to Greenwich to put my legs on both sides of the meridian and to watch the ball of the hour drop. And to Hampstead Heath where I saw some art and rambled in fields overlooking the city.
Took a wonderful vacation from my vacation going to Paris to visit my sweet musician/actor friend Wingy and her boyfriend. I saw a brilliant Bonnard show at the D’Orsay and a fascinating Corbusier show at the Pompidou but in Paris I mainly relaxed, walked around various parts of the city and took a lot of coffees with Wingy.
I also have spent time with one of my oldest friends–Annie whom I’ve known since before my children were born!!! She still lives in the loveliest fairy tale English cottage that I’ve ever seen–rose arbored, many gardens in her large yard–lavender, poppies, calendula, stock and many beds of vegetables her daughter Jen tends to. Inside is filled with paintings, drawings sculpture set in with coral colored walls and a blue and white kitchen full of antique crockery. There’s not a cozier home on the planet and Annie doubles the pleasure by preparing food for the goddesses!!
I walked and walked and walked to the other side of London to the City of Westminster where the Queen lives, and Parliament sits, where the wealthy cavort and the West End plays are performed. Visited Westminster Cathedral and St. Paul’s as well to hear Vespers sung and, on the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, I saw Prince Charles and Camilla coming to services, after which I watched a wild-eyed thespian in period dress act out the Battle’s many events by means of a pile of vegetables–the English enacted by carrots, the French, by onions–all presented in Wellington’s actual home–the Apsley House– on the edge of Hyde Park.
Steeping myself further in history and heritage, I attended two plays about failed kings whose lives ended brutally: Shakespeare’s “Richard II” and Marlowe’s “Edward II” both presented in an 11th century Gothic church–unbelievably impressive with actors declaiming and dying just inches away from the audience! For more culture I bounced back to Ancient Greece for a modern passionate version of Aeschylus ‘ “Orestiae” and attended two glorious choral works–Mozart’s “Requiem” and Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers” presented in St John’s College Chapel in Cambridge…a lovely mythical town full of 23 colleges and a willow and flower banked river wherein I went “punting,” that is, sitting on a boat pushed downstream by a handsome young punter.
Oh of course I’ve been good and gone to the many great museums here especially loving the ancient sculptures in the British Museum and the splendid Shoe exhibit at the Victoria and Albert. I’m looking forward to a night viewing of the McQueen “Savage Beauty” and to seeing the choreographed version of “Carmen” called “The Car Men” and said to be the best show on London by the New York Times !!
Of course I’ve had to party a bit too so I’ve been dancing to house music at the East End Village Underground and at the Bangface Boat Party held on the Thames one hot clear night!! I saw Patti Smith at a Victoria Park concert and attended a fabulous Fashion Forum (see my post about it).
Have taken a class on drawing into sculpture–so inspiring and one on Screenwriting and another on Wood Carving. Next week I’ll be trying out an Abstract Painting class and I’m back to life drawing and loving it
So this is my answer…just what are you doing here, people ask, and I’m kind of embarrassed to admit I’m not working, am just walking and following the scent of anything that might be interesting..and it’s worked out more than well!!
DAZED Fashion Forum–East London
Imagine a 46,000 square foot warehouse–cobblestone entry across from the gardens of the Geffrye Museum–Inside, Roman arched ceilings of brick going the cavernous length of an old factory but lightened with white construction sacks filled with cascading exotic jungle plants, gargantuan white spheres, each glowing magically from within, and white duct tape–a dance of line zigzagging wildly up walls, around light fixtures, across the floors –Fill the space with young designers, stylists, make-up artists, photographers, fashion students from Central St Martin’s, University of the Arts, London College of Fashion…add an amazing generosity of spirit and eager enthusiasm of the staff… And you’ve arrived at Amazon Studios, host of the tres chic, tres avant-garde British fashion magazine DAZED’s first ever Fashion Forum.
A twelve hour extravaganza, the Forum had its serious space where major fashion stars presented panels and interviews all the while with huge magazine spreads projected on the screen backdrop–Diesel Art Director Nicopanda’s Lady Gaga shoots and self-branding logo development, strange make up shots by Isamaya Ffrench –models with taped faces, Lego clustered eyes, childrens’ doodling a on a spread to prevent bullying, runway videos of course, all the while learning live from the masters.
Simultaneously there was a smashingly fun smorgasbord of workshops:
–Claire Barlow, luxe hand-painted leather. designer, painted portraits on the spot, from which came a t-shirt gift for anyone who posed
–Gary Card orchestrated the construction of 7 foot high face masks and hands in cardboard
–Richard Malone led us through creating a formal dress pattern from random biomorphic shapes
–Ryan Lo brought in his opulent tule candy silk knitted and crocheted fabric then led us in a knitting bee
Best best best of all was Rankin’s photo shoots–brilliant lights, a bank of make up stylists, racks of clothes for us–the models of the day– to flaunt on camera. Everyone was welcome to prowl through the studio, to become a face on the cover of DAZED–I was thrilled; my friend was astonished at his transformation in the hands of the amazing photographer Rankin–even people like me, just attendees, were given a shot at a shoot
And then wham its 5 pm, champagne is poured and ready for us all–an endless supply just as espresso and cocoanut water were this morning and afternoon
At last the Talk Stage became a disco–lasers, djs, open bar and digital video spots where scrambled selfies could be sent home–
It was not just the 15£ guests who benefited from so much expertise, from hands-on participation in open workshops and free gifts; but proceeds from the entire event went to Hackney Community College–What an amazing example of fashion giving back, fashion for the people fashion for the Dazed and Confused……
MORE ENGLISH PLACE NAMES and WORDS
It seems like every street, neighborhood or town has a long Wiki entry because England is all about its history in every part of its fabric.
So here are a few places I’ve been:
STOKE NEWINGTON–. New town by the wood (Saxon for woods)
TOTTENHAM HALE from a thousand plus year old name of Tota’s hamlet, Tottenham’s Hale (place of hauling pulling ( goods ) off boats on the river Lea, 15 miles or so north of. London
WALTHAMSTOW–place of welcome/ holy place
STANSTED. MOUNTFICHET–Stony place owned in medieval times by Norman baron Mountfichet
HACKNEY–island of dry land amidst a marsh where the Viking Hakon claimed land
Here are a few wild words I’ve just encountered wandering Wikiworld
And in the process of looking up all these wild place names I came upon a whole new batch of words I’d never heard of. So I looked em up and am sharing some Medieval verbiage with you:
SOCAGE– a tenure of land pay rent yearly
serjeanty tenure as soldier
DEMESNE (pronounced dee main ) from Old French–land of manor
SUENTOEFFLED– part of the manor that’s been sublet.
SUBINFEUDATION–process of subletting a part of the manor
GLEBE–strip of land owned or used by the by the parish church in the Middle Ages
CARUCATE– noun–a unit of land. equal to the amount of land tillable by a team of eight eight in a season =8 oxgangs or 4 virgates
VILLEIN –peasant tenant farmer villain serf
DOOMSDAY. BOOK properly Domesday Book 1086 when William the Conqueror counted all the men and lands in his realm to assure taxation– not really doom or disaster but taxes to some certainly are a doom….
And I thought the English spoke English!! I’m doing a good bit of translation to put morsels in me mouth and to find my way round London Town.
Here’s some British foods:
STEAK and DOOM PIE–one of the most potent of craft ales cooked into a beef stew-like savory pie. PIE over here of course refers to crusty covered stew if any sort from beef to gizzards
PROPER MESS– not a distinguished heap of dirty dishes or a trustifarian’s dorm room…a proper mess is a luscious scramble of whipped cream, fresh berries and crumbled bits of crispy merengue–very yum
SCOTCH EGG–hard boiled egg covered in sausage meat, battered, breadcrumbed, baked and fried…said to either be a poor shepherd’s wife’s solution to her husbands’s lunch on the heath or an 18th century chef from Fortnum and Mason’s invention based on an ancient Indian Mughwai delicacy
TOAD IN A HOLE–sausages cooked into a fluffy batch of Yorkshire Pudding which of course isn’t a pudding at all but a croissant-like pastry baked in roast beef au jus. Said to have been the creation of a Northumberland golf course chef to celebrate the frequent arrival of Natterjack toads
In Edinburgh I had HAGGIS, NEEPS and TATTIES–“neeps” are sweet boiled turnips; “TATTIES” are mashed potatoes and “haggis” you’ve no doubt heard of. Tasting a bit like a nutty meatball, haggis is made of sheep’s “pluck” (heart, liver and lungs), lard, onion, spices and oatmeal boiled for three hours in a sheep’s belly–sort of like a sausage but truly yummier.
Best served with whiskey gravy.
And of course “chips” are French fries; “crisps” are potato chips; “biscuits” are cookies and “jackets” are potatoes stuffed with cheese, tuna, egg salad, pulled pork, any filling you might fancy.
Meanwhile place names are filled with history:
CHEAPSIDE, a street in central London for instance, doesn’t refer to your basic K-Mart. “Cheap” means “market” in Old English and Cheapside is right in the heart of London’s financial district.
It’s no more than a couple of blocks long with cross streets named Wood, Bread and Milk before it changes names to Poultry so obviously it was once a market site. Cow cross Street, not surprisingly, abuts on the slaughterhouse Smithfield Market. What leads to Cheapside is Threadneedle, a name that always makes me chuckle, and it too is about commerce, whether it referred to the three needles on the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Tailors or whether it made crude reference to the ladies of the night who used to sell their wares there. I was astonished to learn, by the way, that there’s a Threadneedle store …..you won’t believe the coincidence–in Issaquah, Washington, USA!
Church names thrill me as well: St James Garlickhythe (from Old English “hythe= wharf); St Ethelburga; St. Botolph without Bishopsgate; All Hallows’ by the Tower; St Andrew by the Wardrobe.
Oxford Circus, Piccadilly (named for the fashionable stiff scallop-edged collars circa 1611) Circus, any circus here is a roundabout–a word no doubt originating in the Roman circus which was a long racetrack stadium wherein chariots careened madly around tight turns at each end, often with bloodcurdling crashes and heaps of dead charioteers, a spectacle that brought hilarious chuckles to the Romans of Londinium.
Somewhat less amusing is the way all wheeled vehicles here careen around circuses and down streets the width of cow paths with the seeming intent of clearing the world of all walking beings. Seriously — double decker buses are the worst, gunning around corners as if out of nowhere and aiming straight at you as you cower on the curb, the red monsters leaving no more than an inch between you and it’s shiny red paint. Bicycles compete for right of way and are as menacing as the black beetle-like taxis. And to encourage bike transport the city has bike lanes everywhere–today just outside the British Museum a young girl was almost killed by a cyclist going about 20 mph between cafe tables–there really is a bike lane right between outdoor chairs and tables on Bedford Avenue. And a girl on a bike ran right into me, literally knocking me flat on my back a block from home yesterday. I bounced a bit but am fine.
But back to language…Trains “call at” a station; a given train is “for” a destination and one gets one’s problems “sorted” like the arrangement of puzzle pieces. Only in London would a reviewer of the Chemical Brothers’ new album describe the music as “twee jangling and grungy fuzz.”
Having managed to take the milk train to Cambridge the other day I was blown away by all the towns we called at so to end this word game I’ll share a few: Whittlesford Parkway; Audley End; Broxbourne; Tottenham Hale; Harlow Mill; Stansted Mountfichet.
Strangest of all is the way Londoners nickname their new buildings: there’s the Gherkin, the Cheese Grater; the Walkie Talkie and the Shard while at Old Street Circus near where I live there’s a couple of monstrosities I called the Twin Hand Grenades and a few glass presences that could be The Waves…but I digress and its late so I’ll post these words and stories for your listening pleasure