New York City London Blog —Through Sept.29

Highgate Cemetery: what do George Eliot, Karl Marx, Corin Redgrave, Ralph Richardson have in common? They’e all buried in Highgate Cemetery. It’s a wild, magical forest filled with topsy-turvy tombstones and prowling cats. An employee, a lone woman we heard then saw cutting off dead branches, told us that being buried at Highgate costs between ten thousand pounds and one hundred thousand pounds. People requested being buried near Karl Marx. if there’s a spot and if you can afford it, it’s yours. What supreme irony.

 

Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery

Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery

 

Headstones of (rich) socialists behind Marx’s headstone.

Headstones of (rich) socialists behind Marx’s headstone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a perfect day, 72 degrees and breezy, we walked from the Sevenoaks bus stop down a foot path to the pen meadows and finally arrived at Knole. Wikipedia quotes the National Trust’s claim that at one time it was a calendar house: 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and seven courtyards. Part of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando was set at Knole. I vaguely remember the book was about an English ice age and a main character who changes sex. We strolled through the deer park before heading into town and to fish & chips. For supper we acclimated ourselves for the trip home to NYC and went to Burger & Shake. I had a divine, liquid dessert called Ovaltine and made with the following ingredients: tequila, coconut, rum and caramel. Weight Watches is welcomed to the recipe.

We arrived in Cambridge to find to our horror that we could not walk along the Cam. So, ever resourceful, we were sculled down the Cam to a spot where we climbed out of the boat, not with grace but without incident, and went to the Fitzwilliam Museum.

A part time sculler, full time philosophy student at Cambridge University

A part time sculler, full time philosophy student at Cambridge University

Pelicans in Greenwich, England? We saw a street sign, humped pelican crossing. Hum…pelicans would be strange but humped pelicans? We asked an Englishman to explain the term. Amidst lots of laughs, he explained that humped pelican crossing meant a bumpy  crossing with traffic lights operated by pedestrians. Mr. Wikipedia gave the following explanation: pelican from pe(destrian) li(ght) con(trolled), altered to conform with the bird’s name. Like so many inscrutable things, the term was invented in the 1960s.
If you like an old fashioned night in the theatre and as a child you enjoyed Punch and Judy, The Play that Goes Wrong is for you. The man to my left at the Duchess Theatre laughed wholeheartedly, delighted at every prat fall, collapsing ceiling, doors smacking people in the face etc. The timing was flawless. Silly fun.

I had to get the Globe out of my system. The Globe is the umbrella term for the recreated theatres from Shakespeare’s time situated along the Thames’ embankment. From St. Paul’s we walked a few blocks to the Thames and crossed on the Millennium Bridge as the sun was setting. I had bought the tickets for The Two Gentlemen of Verona online in NYC. Next time, if there is a next time, I’ll wait until I can go to the theatre. We sat on benches in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. For the most part I stared at mechanical devices and modern day rock equipment in a space that was supposed to be an authentic reproduction of a Shakespearean theatre. Shakespeare’s words and cadence were the least important part of the production.

Back to NYC…

New York City London Blog — Sept.24 – Sept. 30

The days continue to be  warm, autumnal and heavenly. The British Museum was packed. What did I expect in the Elgin Marbles Room? Has the controversy between the British and the Greeks been settled? I guess both countries have more pressing matters to address. One is leaving the EU and the other might be kicked out. I tiptoed around Brexit for about five minutes before asking English friends what they thought of it. An unmitigated disaster was the way they phrased it. They licked their EU wounds as I licked our U. S. political wounds.

Elgin Marbles The British Museum

Elgin Marbles
The British Museum

 

 Magic Carpet Edward Ardizzone


Magic Carpet
Edward Ardizzone

 

 

Tate Modern is featuring a big exhibit of Georgia O’Keeffe. I appreciated the photos of Ansel Adams, an O’Keeffe buddy and O’Keeffe’s sketches. The Tate Modern building was originally an industrial plant.This is reflected rather heavy handedly in the names of the various galleries: the Boiler House, the Switch House, Turbine Hall. The building could be a business corporation anywhere in the world.

 

Edward Ardizzone is one of my favorite illustrators.The House of Illustration, tucked behind St Pancras Station (“All aboard for Hogwarts!), is having a delightful exhibit of his work and life.

St. Pancras Station where Harry Potter took the train to Hogwarts

St. Pancras Station where Harry Potter took the train to Hogwarts

 

 

 

Somerset House on the Themes is as beautiful as ever and contains the lovely Courtauld Gallery. Look at the luscious Renaissance to 20th Century pictures or glance out the window at beautiful Somerset House. There’s a charming cafe not to be missed.

I had remembered the Wigmore Hall as being grander than it is today. Now, it’s threadbare but the acoustics are great and the concert of young musicians singing and playing harp, piano and violin gave one great hope for music’s future..

New York City London Blog —Sept.16 – Sept. 25

I flew to the U. K. on Virgin Air. Is there any better service? Disclosure: I flew Business Class. The only reason I’m fessing up is so I can describe the gorgeous layout of Upper Class. That’s Virgin Air’s name for paying a great deal of money to fly for seven hours max plied with attentive, fawning service. When you enter the plane, the First Classers (Me!) are directed to go left and the rest, you poor sods, are directed to the right to sit on folding chairs and eat food you’ve bought from a stand in JFK. The first thing I saw was a bar, lined with lovely cocktails. The lighting was very nightclub. I was escorted to my seat. Virgin Air has individual alcoves. Each resembles an ironing board between two barriers. Lots of gadgets to turn on and off – a TV in one wall/barrier. Lots of gadgets to raise and lower the ironing board. Is Madame chilly? A sparkling white duvet was tucked around me. as I was offered a glass of champagne. After dinner – a little pate, a smidgen of duck, a tiny bouquet of perfectly cooked french green beens – I lay back on a fluffy pillow, the duvet around me, sipping chamomile tea and eating shortbread cookies, trying to sleep but always conscious that I had to stay awake or the plane would crash.

I’m staying at The Penn Club. It’s named after William Penn and is run by the Quakers. It could be straight out of a Barbara Pym 1950’s social comedy novel. It’s quiet, bookish, there’s the click of crockery, tea reigns. There’s one TV in the whole place and a daily assortment of English newspapers. I’ve noticed that we Americans, within the hotel’s confines, speak our version of an English accent. Maybe it’s the water.

London, like NYC, had been hot and humid. It’s now autumn, perfect walking weather. I got my bearings circling around Russell Square and then tried out the Oyster card, comparable to our metro cards, and took one of the big red buses to the Royal Academy. There’s a David Hockney exhibit. Across the way is Fortnum and Mason. I was last in it many years ago when it could have been a stage set for Peter Pan. It was gentle, lovely in a China dish way, and deserted. Has that changed. It’s vibrant, enticing and filled with wonderful packages that proclaim Englishness.

Off to the British Museum…

New York City Blog — Sept. 5 – Sept. 11

I like to walk up the Guggenheim’s spiral rotunda, turn around and walk down. The current Moholy-Nagy: Future Present exhibit is a stunner. Moholy-Nagy was born in Hungary at the end of the nineteenth century. He embraced the new technical developments of his times. Aluminum and plexiglass shimmer in his later, American works. Moholy-Nagy sculpted, painted and experimented with photography and film. The Guggenheim is a perfect venue for his work. The sky was the limit for him. Half way up or down the ramp is a charming key hole shaped door. It’s the entrance to a small, beautiful library with Frank Lloyd Wright like chairs and free standing book stands, a cozy nook packed with books and tech equipment about Moholy-Nagy.

Moholy- M aluminum art exhibited at the Guggenheim

Moholy- Nagy aluminum art exhibited at the Guggenheim

Moholy-Nagy at the Guggenheim

Moholy-Nagy at the Guggenheim

 

 

 

 

 

 
On Thursday I ventured to Morristown, N. J. to attend a Johnny Mathis concert. Isn’t he dead? several friends asked. Not at all. At eighty, the elegant, gentlemanly Mathis is still belting out Henry Mancini’s standards: “Moon River”, “The Days of Wine and Roses”, but the songs I savor are “Wonderful, Wonderful”, “It’s not for Me to Say” and “99 Miles to L. A.”. One of our party mentioned that Mathis had received operatic training. It certainly shows. And another thing. Mr. Mathis practices the old fashioned virtue of punctuality. The concert was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Guess what – It did.

City Center is like a beehive. Entrance to the main site is on 55th Street but studios associated with the theatre are found within a two block radius. Mac Twining was performancing in Walkaround Time by Merce Cunningham. The Cunningham Foundation studio is on 56th Street. You take the ornate elevator to the fifth floor, enter a vast and empty studio and are engulfed by the NYC thrill of the new and the young venerating the old and venerable. In NYC terms, 1968, the year Cunningham created Walkaround Time is venerable. It was a delightful three quarters of an hour.