Recently in London Category

bridge180.jpgFor years, whenever anyone mentioned the Tate Modern, I'd fall guiltily silent, because it's one of those places that I hadn't been to, and didn't want to admit that I wasn't particularly interested in going either. Despite coming from a family of artists (or perhaps because of it) I've never been that motivated to go and look at art, and particularly not modern art. Then one day a couple of years ago,I was passing by on my bike, and decided to go in. And in an instant, I was a changed person.  I realised that I didn't really know my own tastes at all, because I didn't exercise them much, but when it came to it, I actually liked a lot of modern art after all. And I loved the Tate Modern. It's one of the best venues in London for just hanging out in, meeting people in, dropping in on a Sunday etc. A few pics of my trip yesterday here.

The most exciting moment of that first visit to the gallery back in 2006 was seeing Juan Muñoz's Towards the Corner (1998). It lived and spoke like a piece of music that you could walk around in, and I was transfixed. That being the case, I was thrilled when I heard earlier this year that the Tate were doing a whole exhibition, Juan Muñoz, A Retrospective. I would have rushed down on the day it opened, but a number of other pressures and commitments meant I couldn't. So yesterday, when the sun was out and I realised I had a couple of hours if I dashed down on my bike, off I went. It's amazing. Go and see it.

I was interested to read this about Crossroads Cabinets (1999) "[...]a contemporary ‘cabinet of curiosities’ – the Renaissance idea of bringing together disparate objects, whether relics, works of art, freaks of nature and other oddities into a single collection."  A bit like my blog, I thought, and wished that I called it 'Jonathan's Renaissance Cabinet of Curiosities' instead of 'boring but useful' (especially as it's neither of those particularly, anymore).

I also nipped into the Picabia, Man Ray & Duchamp exhibition, and picked up another wonderful book of Susan Sontag's articles, this one containing a brilliant one on dance called 'The Dancer & The Dance'.  I also became a member, and got in all the exhibitions for free, had lunch on the outside bit of the members room (it was warm) and got 10% off in the bookshop. My kind of Sunday.

"Murder on Swan Lake"

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swanlake_small.jpg the headline in the Wandsworth Borough News, I noticed at the local garage.

Swan Lake usually brings on thoughts of suicide with me (especially in Act II), but it takes all sorts, I guess.

More sundays like these

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crisiswaht.jpgTo the ROH again to work with Ballet Black. It's days like these that I love my job, to the extent that I almost envy myself doing what I do. Imagine being paid to play on a glorious grand piano in a cavernous studio at the Opera House with a studio full of gorgeous dancers doing lovely balletic things to the music that's coming out of the piano.

Imagine, on a bright Sunday morning in February, being able to play music that you've always loved in an almost perfect acoustic, to a discerning but appreciative audience. Imagine drifting along briefly afterwards to the top floor cafteria at the top of the world in Covent Garden, and bumping into David Fielding (left), and a host of other people you know and love (going back over 20 years, in some cases) as well as meeting new people, who will undoubtedly be part of that wonderful constellation of friends & colleagues that sees you through the next 20 years as well.

Imagine cycling back down the Strand and through a demonstration in Trafalgar Square (incidentally, I didn't know what the demonstration was about, but I was staggered to hear a folk song that I have on a very arcane cassette of Albanian folk music that I bought in Zagreb 25 years ago blasting out of a car on the Strand. It all makes sense now I realise that the demo was to do with  Kosovan independence), and up the Mall towards Buckingham Palace on one of the most glorious sunny days of the year so far (see pics).

Imagine being able to stop off at Clapham Junction on the way back, to have coffee with another old friend & colleague, in which work, pleasure & friendship are so mixed up, there are just no lines anywhere.

Not bad for a day's work, I reckon.

Battersea Park in February

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Amongst other things, to Battersea Park this afternoon, for tea & cake. The light was fantastic. A few more pics in my Battersea Park Gallery

Tooting mornings...

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...are particularly spendid at the moment.

Up at 5 a.m. to some minor edits to the 1 & 2 piano scores of The Green Table, which I've been editing on and off for the last 10 years. Nice to think that this will be one of the most user-friendly scores in the repertoire, so much care & thought went into making it work for rehearsals. It's also nice to be able to open a file that you last used in Amsterdam 3 years ago, and find it all works still!

Then to the pool at 7.45. Slightly ahead of myself at 50 lengths this morning, just over a mile. That's Garratt Lane on the left, just before turning into the leisure centre.

And now off to send off some CDs that we finished mixing yesterday, and collect some more scores for yet another book...

From Russia

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To the Royal Academy of Arts to see the From Russia exhibition tonight. (How thoughtful & sensible to have a late night opening.  I wonder which century it will be when GPs finally understand the working lives of others?)

What a strange and rarified world. No-one tells you how to behave when you look at paintings, yet there is quite definitely an etiquette to be observed, as silently forceful as that of the classical music concert. I sensed that you're not supposed to say (as I did) "Oh I like that!"

But sod it, I did like lots of it, and one of my favourite paintings was the portrait of Anna Akhmatova by Nathan Altman, though you really do have to see it for real. I'm not a frequent visitor of galleries, but this exhibition in particular convinced me that reproductions are no substitute. Puni's red violin, for example, is astonishing in real life, bright, fresh, clean and buzzing with life. It looks like nothing much at all on a postcard. For one thing, you can't get immersed in the colour-world of the picture when it's 5x7, but standing in front of it, you have no choice.

Hoover bag news

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Within 12 hours of posting my complaint about the dearth of Hoover bags in Wandsworth, I'd had an email from a choreographer, and another from a systems analyst in Australia. The first just said '...John Lewis', the second was a sympathetic tale of similar suction-woe down under.

I grudgingly considered the journey to John Lewis, but then I remembered a vacuum cleaner repair shop in Webb's Road that seems to have been deposited by aliens from a kinder, more customer-friendly decade. And it's more or less on the way to work. And it was open at 9.00am. And sure enough, the words 'Telios 1700' were hardly off my tongue before the man behind the counter produced the goods.

If only the man who invented USB ports could have advised the vacuum cleaner industry, the world would be a happier place. If you'll forgive the truism, vacuum cleaners suck.

Ballet queen

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What seems like an age ago, but can only have been a couple of months or so, Chris and I were having tea at Morden Park Hall, and ambled into the garden centre. Our eyes fell on a camellia called Ballet Queen, and we felt duty bound to buy one each.

It's a glorious day, and right on cue for a photograph, it seems, Ballet Queen has made her long-awaited blossomy entrance. Tooting & Canary Wharf microclimates notwithstanding, it seems that both Ballet Queens have emerged on the same day: Chris's blog is on exactly the same subject!

The magic Wandle

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The trouble with the London Cycle Network is that you follow a route so far, then find that they ran out of blue signs, so you just have to guess where to go next. Getting back from Wimbledon today, I thought I'd try the LCN route, and then suddenly, all the signs stopped, and I only had half a clue where I was. I turned down a side street, found a park that appeared to have no exit, until I saw a tiny footbridge with no signs on it for anywhere.

And there, all of a sudden, was the River Wandle, something I was beginning to doubt existed, since I've never seen it except in tiny bits where it comes out of hiding, like outside the Savacentre in Colliers Wood. (Colliers Wood, it struck me suddenly, would sound much more romantic in Croatian: Rudarska Dubrava, or German: Bergmannshain)

Click on the pics above for a glimpse of hidden London, somewhere between Tennyson Road & Plough Lane.

Silent Dancers

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dan_saki.jpgTo South Ken for the second time in one afternoon, this time to meet Dan & Kei for sushi, ramen & teriyaki at Saki in Old Brompton Road, which I only discovered last week with Susie Cooper, who should have been there really, as the four of us have done some happy theatre trips together. 

Dan recently made a beautiful short film about dance, and I'm thrilled that he's uploaded it to Youtube. He's got an extraordinary ability to get people to just talk about stuff and be themselves on camera, and this is a prime example. The film's called Silent Dancers (click to see it), which is quite funny if you know him, since Dan is the least silent dancer I've ever met, but then I guess the film's not about him.

I meant to take the picture in flagrante, while all the wonderful sushi and other stuff was so much in evidence that the photo would have just screamed 'this is me and my mates in a Japanese restaurant', but unfortunately I forgot, so all I can offer is this rather beguiling photo of Dan with what looks like a miniature teapot. Behind him, if you could but see it, is a pictorial glossary of all the different types of sushi.

And by the way, today is definitely a day for listening to Madeleine Peyroux, which is what I'm doing now.

London Bridges

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edith_thoughts.jpgThere's something about going over bridges that stirs profound thoughts that don't have time to form clearly,  or rise completely to the surface before the bridge-crossing is over, and that, I think, is why the experience is so potent. 

But sometimes, you cross a bridge to go somewhere, and the somewhere leaves such an impression that you can never cross that bridge without that thought crossing your mind. (Interesting that thoughts should cross your mind.)

And in time, you accumulate many such thoughts, until a view like this from Battersea Bridge acquires, as postmodernists like to say (without meaning this at all), an excess of meaning. So that's what a liminal space is.

Or in other words, thanks  for the coffee, I., it was great to see you again.


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Up the Opera House (twice in one week, my goodness) to see Sylvia. I bought the ticket off a student who couldn't go, so I had a £59 seat right behind the conductor in the front row of the stalls for £20. Delibes is one of my favourite composers, and I love what I know of Sylvia, so it was a great way to spend an evening. What I didn't know about the ballet was that it had two big solos for the alto saxophone. Amazing what you learn.

It's an odd world Ashton & his costume designer have created - the girls have not an inch of flesh showing, all betighted and swathed in wafty skirts like maidens at a victorian picnic, while the boys are pretty much naked apart from mini-skirts and strange cutaway socks. There's enough leaping and turning to leave nothing to the imagination. I'm not complaining, but I've seen less homoerotic floor shows at The Fridge. In fact, it was a cross between Julian Clary's campest Sticky Moments, and the kind of vaudeville campery that you get on the Graham Norton show. I half expected to see punters stick ten-pound notes in the boys' shorts when they were far enough downstage. I shouldn't be unfair - it's ballets like Sylvia that provide the model for that kind of stuff, not the other way round, I guess. Or is it?

I hadn't a clue what was going on or who anyone was, because I forgot to get a programme, but It was all just too silly and gay to matter, frankly. I loved it.
scoffers.jpgIt probably wasn't called Scoffers at the time, but it looks exactly as I remember it. I stumbled across it again recently, almost 20 years after first going there. It was one of those places that you wander into without really knowing where you are because you're walking & talking and  geography is the last thing on your mind.  I thought I'd never find it again, and that even if I did, it wouldn't be there. So here it is, and for you too (you know who you are). And just in case I lose it again, it's at 6, Battersea Rise.

Clapham Junction revisited

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clapham.jpg Some passer by thought I was mad - 'You taking pictures of the tracks?', but as I was hurrying down to Battersea this afternoon to deliver a CD, I caught sight of the view that used to symbolise London for me as a child. The journey from Bournemouth seemed interminable, and you thought you'd never get there. But then you'd begin to see the familiar signs and landmarks that meant you were that close to Waterloo at last. And this one was probably chief among them. Little did I know I'd end up living near there, and cycling past every day.

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