Ray, as a member of FOGAG, has invited me to join him on a visit to the Mansion House, residence of Nick Astee, the Lord Mayor of London. Bill, Diane’s 86year-old father, joins us and our party of 12 or so. We start with coffee and biscuits where Ray and I talk to the Lady Mayor and we finish in the vaults ogling millions of pounds worth of gold and silver table ware.
Afterwards, Ray and I went, via the DLR and Overground, to Rotherhithe to lunch at The Mayflower pub. This where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from, first to Southampton, then to Plymouth and eventually to America, in 1620 with Captain Christopher Jones, who returned in 1621, died a year later and was buried in St. Mary’s churchyard nearby. We both have liver and bacon.
Later we wander around the quiet cobbled streets past women sitting outside shop fronts, chatting, and eating their lunch. It is very serene. The Brunel museum is nearby. It is part of the entrance to the world’s first under river tunnel – the Thames between wapping and Rotherhithe. Ray and I, with Thom, Julian, Matthew and Pete studied this at Birkbeck last year. We get talking to the two volunteer curators about the difficulties of getting to see this famous tunnel. I buy a signed copy of Antony Clayton’s ‘Subterranean City”. Later, whilst sitting on the Thames embankment and gazing at the high tide we get chatting to an 83 year-old who tells us he is Tom Ash and has written a book of his memories of the Thames and the Docks and we go back to the Brunel museum and buy that as well. Tom signs our copies for us.
During this week we have had 18 windows replaced by oak-look plastic double-glazed windows. Graham from Windowclinic (who did Danae and Nathan’s sash windows) assures me that they will last 25 years which doesn’t seem as long as the 80 years the present ones have lasted. Still, Graham’s laconic approach won and there will be improvements with better security and heat control. Most of all though I look forward to noise abatement and some amelioration of the rowdy drunken hoon rackets I can hear most nights. Meanwhile, being at home is like being homeless and living from the few things that are still accessible whilst the house is defenestrated and everything is covered in plastic tarpaulins.
Nicolas and Susan have a barn dance in Susan’s school in Godalming to celebrate their 60th birthdays. We are there with Pete and Sue and Ray and Di. For us it is a round trip of 160 miles and the complete circumnavigation of the M25 (junction 21 being closed after we got to the party). Quite an occasion.
Born 18th July 2010 and now 8 weeks old. Jake has blue eyes and a small white spot on his nose; his sister, Pearl, has green eyes and more white around her mouth and nose.
We meet up with Pete and Sue at the Whitechapel Gallery to see the Alice Neel exhibition. Later we stroll up Brick Lane past Princelet Street where Rodinsky lived and to the The Waterpoet for lunch. I had scotch egg to start with followed by belly of pork with crackling.
Alice Neel mostly painted portraits which seem to come alive emotionally. She is sometimes described as a painter whose work examines the psychology of her subject. Her figurative work is at odds with the abstract expressionism that dominated the American art scene during her lifetime.