A day in London – what can be seen:

Last week we had a day ‘out’. My husband and I decided to see some things we had been wanting to see for a while plus we had booked tickets to the theatre AND to a concert.

So the two things we had wanted to see were situated very close together near Goodge Street Tube Station. Just opposite is Heal’s. The famous store. That specialises in design and craft work. As it was hosting a craft market of modern craft workers and I wanted to go and see just what was on offer and also what the prices were.  This proved to be very instructive as someone was selling hand-knitted hats with a pompom – in a bag – at £75 each! I couldn’t believe this and immediately decided I needed to add some pompoms onto the hats I knit for charity as clearly they will be more worthwhile – but £75 of more worthwhile I am not sure….

Just round the corner from there is the Building Centre- http://www.buildingcentre.co.uk/. Where they had an 3D model of London showing the new tube lines and also posters and other interesting items discussing how London was being developed and where the new ‘towns’ within London were to be built.

Whilst interesting as both these exhibitions were, neither took too long to visit so there was plenty of time to go to an afternoon performance at the theatre. At the Hampstead Theatre was a play called Hello Goodbye. Now this was really a ‘duvet day’ play – a RomCom with amusing and quite sharp wit.

The play by Peter Souter (his first) and directed by Tamara Harvey starred Shaun Evans and Miranda Raison with Bathsheba Piepe playing in the second half plus a substitute for Luke Neal. Shaun will be familiar to many TV watchers of crime drama as the Young Morse  in the series where we get the prequels to Morse the grizzled detective – and plays him  very well too. In fact it was somewhat surprising when he took off his shirt to see just how toned his muscles were and that he actually had a six-pack considering how weedy he looked in his baggy clothes! But I guess all actors needed to show some muscle these days. So Shaun did very well on stage and played the geek well. His co-star Miranda did her very best with the script but it did, initially, leave her looking very unlikeable and shrill. She did better as the play progressed, but overall, in our theatre group discussion, we felt that the playwright had not done a great job with her lines. And we didn’t give the play more than 3 stars. We also were not that impressed with the direction and found that seeing it on a large apron stage left a number of people unable to see vital parts of the stage, including one member of our group who was behind a pillar and had to move her seat.

So that was the afternoon spent reasonably agreeably but the play did leave us somewhat unsettled.

We found the evening entertainment much more satisfying.

We went to the church of St Andrew, Holborn for a concert (http://standrewholborn.org.uk/).

St Andrew Holborn has been a site of worship for at least 1000 years but when the Crypt was excavated in 2001 Roman remains were found so the site could have been in use for much longer still. It is situated between the City and the West End, and St Andrew’s first appears in written records in AD 951 as a church on top of the hill above the river Fleet. The river Fleet being the river most associated with the press of course ie Fleet Street. But is now very hidden indeed. The Fleet flows from Hampstead Heath starting with 2 springs on either side of Parliament Hill going down to the Thames, joining it at Blackfriars Bridge. In Roman times it had an estuary at Blackfriars and even a tide mill and the word is derived from the Anglo-Saxon for estuary. Now it is a sewer! The Hampstead and Highgate Ponds come from the Fleet and the river flows down through what is now called Kings Cross but was originally Battle Bridge where Queen Boudicca fought the Romans in 60AD. There is of course a legend hat says Boudicca is buried under Kings Cross station – platform 10 to be precise. You can trace an amount of the old river’s course through the wells it fed, of which some still remain as wall remnants eg the Chalybeate Well in Hampstead. The Fleet also provided the water for the Bagnigge Wells spa of 1760 which was located on Kings Cross Road.  In Farringdon Lane you can see another well through a window which used to belong to St Mary’s Nunnery. If you stand in front of the Coach and Horses pub on Ray Street  you can sometimes hear the river through a grating as it flows beneath. For more on London’s Lost Rivers do take a look at the book by Paul Talling.

If you want to read more about the River Fleet as a river rather than a sewer  as it now is and as Micelle Obama saw it, then look at the page http://lndn.blogspot.co.uk/2005_08_01_lndn_archive.html where Diamond Geezer ( a Cockner rhyming slang name) gives a really detailed history and description of the river from which I have snipped the following map of the river’s route.

fleet

The concert was given by the Londinium choir (http://www.londinium-voices.org.uk/) and compromised ne short work and then the Rachmaninoff Vespers (All-Night Vigil) performed in the ancient Church Slavonic chant. It was Rachmaninoff’s last major work before leaving Russia and also represents both the final flowering and greatest achievement of the Russian Orthodox (Church) tradition before its suppression after the October Revolution. Rachmaninoff’s work was preceded by Knut Nystedt’s haunting O Crux, performed in memory of its composer whose hundredth birthday would have fallen in 2015 had he lived.

This performance we gave 5 stars. Luckily we didn’t have to sit all through the night for the Vespers as we were just given the movements 1-15 although it could have taken 3-4 hours if sang in its entirety.

Note that the Londonium choir was some 40 people singing in harmonies without instrument and was truly heavenly.

 

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