Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Last week marked my first trip in '06 to see the Old Bill, as well as the Young Lucy and Pete and others. The weather has been good enough and on the weekend, I'd managed to get out for a few late drinks in the great outdoors of Gent with the Reinmeester and the ice cream man, who works in Reinhard's street. We had a couple of free tickets for cocktails, but I found that Tequila, even when mixed with other stuff, still brought back memories. We did not overdo it.

Monday morning, Gent time, saw a 6am start in time to catch Ye Olde Eurostar from Brussel-Zuid. It's more expensive, but more betterer than flying to Heathrow and tubing it back into town. Lucy and Pete live on a dock in the southeast part of London, and after a bit of messing about (Lucy had supplied me with a map of England to find it) I even located their flat. It's a nice little spot, even if the nearby suburbs are a bit of a black hole.

Amazingly, this is London (chez Lucy 'n Pete).
© Jeff Jones

What's the time?

After a bit of unwinding time, Lucy and I headed off to Greenwich, home of the Cutty Sark, Prime Meridian, observatory, maritime museum, park, and at least one deer. It's another one of these London oases that are quite surprising given the surroundings. The Cutty Sark is a decent sized tea clipper and looked interesting, but because we were too cheap to spend the five quid, we didn't go on deck. Instead, we walked up past the Trinity College of Music, where a band of wind and brass instruments were doing their best to clear the building of rats.

Skirting around the heavenly sound of an out of control brass band, we strolled into the Painted Hall, where Lord Nelson lay for three days after his backbone had shot through and he'd been kissed by Hardy. My knowledge of history is approximately equivalent to the skill level of the euphonium players we had just passed. The hall is impressive, even if it was basically only built for the navy to have dinner in. All the columns and ornaments are painted onto the flat walls, and there's a huge trompe l'oeil on the roof depicting Peace and Liberty and the defeat of those filthy French (Louis XIV I think). Every home needs one of these, I reckon.

Just across from the Painted Hall was a chapel, which is one of the most ornately decorated building interiors I've ever seen. Even surpassing my recently repainted flat, which has two shades of blue. It's got a shiny organ too.

The Cutty Sark in nearby Greenwich.
© Jeff Jones

Me trying to keep the cacophony of the nearby Trinity College of Music out of my head.
© Jeff Jones

The Painted Hall, where navy types had their dinner.
© Jeff Jones

Then it was time for some good ol' English hospitality in the form of a sandwich from the Regatta café. And a fine specimen of English cuisine it was too, with the bread aged in the fridge until the right degree of dryness was reached, and Lucy's espresso being sprayed all over the outside of the cup and saucer by an adept hand. You wouldn't get away with that in Belgium or Oz, but when it comes to food, the English do mediocrity down to a 'T'.

Now fortified, we wandered up to the observatory, which affords a fine view of London. There were plenty of schoolkids attempting to run up ahead of us, while complaining about having to lose weight. Lucy filled me in on the latest plans to improve hot school lunches, which have been too crap for too long. Kids shouldn't be enormous.

The observatory at Greenwich is also home of the Prime Meridian, which is where the world's longitude and time is measured from. Pretty cool, eh? So of course I set my watch to GMT + 1 (= Jeff's Mean Time?) and it came in very handy for keeping appointments. The octagon room in the observatory is cool too, and there's a telescope through which you can see Pluto. We checked out all the measuring instruments and learned about the first naval clocks and it was all very interesting. I even bought a stress ball (for my wrist) from the observatory shop. Been looking for one of those for ages. Then we saw a deer and a squirrel in the park while we heard that Japan had scored the first goal against Australia.

Standing on the Prime Meridian, with one foot in each hemisphere. Well, depending on your frame of reference.
© Jeff Jones

A varrah fierce squirrel!.
© Jeff Jones

Come back McGonagall, all is forgiven

We couldn't tarry though, as we had to get up to Norf London for a poetry reading in the evening. That's a moderately epic tube ride, but we bumped into Pete at Highgate and then proceeded to look for the pub. We were armed with the name of the pub (The Flask) and a map, but that was it. We didn't actually know which street it was on. But after some more walking to build up a hard earned thirst, we did manage to locate Ye Olde Pubbe. And a very fine one it was too, especially on a warm day. A nice leafy courtyard and a wooden themed interior with lots of small rooms, but all the windows had been opened to create that open feel. A few pints of Staropramen and a hamburger, and we were set for anything.

Lucy's work friend Lesley was one of those reading, and she'd managed to round up a bit of an audience. It was the first time I've been to one of these, and it was a very informal affair. There were three poets and poetesses at first, but it grew to six by the end. Each would take turns reading their compositions. Most of it was surprisingly good, although there was one slightly serious woman who was all style and no substance, I thought. When she first launched into her poem the words "William McGonagall" flashed across my mind without warning, and I nearly cracked up. And it appeared that I wasn't the only one, as Lucy and Carolyn were trying to look at the ground too. Ooooooooohhhh dear.

I did enjoy most of the rest of the poems though, and there was a hilarious one read by someone called Simon right at the end that had us all going. It was based on a true story of an incongruous relationship that led to a bit of a disaster when he met the family. There was also a Danish ex-newsreader whose poem about her previous job was one I could very much relate too.

By this stage, Mandy had shown up with Dazza and a few of her friends, all celebrating because they had one a wad of cash on the Aussie-Japan match. Four of them had put five pounds each on Australia beating Japan 3-1...That was the result, so they wound up with 460 pounds! People should take Aussies seriously from time to time, especially when there is sport involved :-)

All in all, a good night and we didn't get too tanked on Staropramen.

Lesley prepares to read (she was good and we didn't laugh).
© Jeff Jones

Dazza (L) shows Mandy and friend how to make a hand occarina. The Aussies were on fire after beating Japan 3-1 and winning a lot of pounds sterling.
© Jeff Jones

The V&A

Tuesday's plan was to sleep in, which was accomplished without too much difficulty, and then to visit a couple of museums in town. Pete had the day off too, so we were three. We got the fast boat to Savoy - a far more pleasant way of getting into town - and wandered up to the V&A (Victoria and Albert museum), passing the grand hotel where cousin Essie had her recent wedding reception. From the outside, the V&A is an impressive building in itself, and the cool thing is that it's free. There's a stack of things to see inside, and even doing one floor is almost overload.

We started with a coffee and a piece of Precambrian date loaf and lemon poppyseed cake from the museum café. I was relieved to find that that food standard between Greenwich and Kensington hadn't changed by even one degree. Staleness rules!

After a small Modernism gallery, we visited a vast hall full of silverware, then an even vaster hall full of sculpture repros. Trajan's column, Michelangelo's David, part of the facade of an old Spanish cathedral, and plenty of other religious stonework and artefacts dominated this huge hall. There must have been quite a bit of work in just reproducing all this stuff.

That was followed by corridors full of wrought iron from Germany and England, then a cool little musical instrument exhibition. Dad missed this when he was here last, but he'll definitely have to check it out. Plenty of old harpsichords, clavichords, harps, upright and forté pianos, bass viols - the full bit.

All that was only one floor of the V&A!

On a collision course for the Tower Bridge.
© Jeff Jones

A hall of silverwave. All mine!.
© Jeff Jones

Trajan's column in two bits in the modestly sized scuplture room. Every home needs one.
© Jeff Jones

Superstar DJ

Of course we had to go around the corner to the natural history museum, where the Chemical Brothers clip for Hey boy, hey girl was filmed. There's a skeleton of a Diplodocus in the entry hall, and a fantastic dinosaur exhib, including a moderately lifelike moving Tyrannosaurus Rex. It's an impressive piece of robotics and there are warning signs that it can scare small children. I don't doubt that.

The blue whale and mammal room was also worth a visit, and I learned a bit more about African and Asiatic elephants and gnus. We were somewhat knackered after that.

The evening was spent visiting cousin Polly and her kiddie Eva, who has come a long way since I seen her last in October. I don't know if she liked the fluffy velociraptor that Lucy gave her, but it'll grow on her, I'm sure. She delighted in creating buildings out of blocks and knocking them down again, and putting bread everywhere. She's pretty good at getting to bed though. We had a noice dinner and headed for home, courtesy of London's mini-cab system, which is about triple the price of a Sydney cab.

It was all over too fast. I need another week.

Hey boy, hey girl...it's a Diplodocus in the Natural History museum.
© Jeff Jones

About to be eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
© Jeff Jones

Eva and Polly (both cousins).
© Jeff Jones

Berchem report (I missed it, alas): Eddy cracked and Guido won. Well done!! But neither Eddy nor Guido were there last weekend, so it was just me and Guy Callens at the end. Also, a report from the "Henk Ballet Classic" will follow next week.

More pics

Flat-proud Lucy.
© Jeff Jones

The low-key organ in the chapel opposite the Painted Hall.
© Jeff Jones

A Harrier outside the maritime museum. These were the coolest planes.
© Jeff Jones

Spot the deer in this pic. I think it was eaten by the squirrel.
© Jeff Jones

Pete 'n Lucy in Highgate, in search of a pub.
© Jeff Jones

The Flask in Highgate. Noice.
© Jeff Jones

Where Essie had her wedding reception. Also noice.
© Jeff Jones

If you go through here, you get to Buck Hice(tm).
© Jeff Jones

The dirty but ornate exterior of the V & A.
© Jeff Jones

A spinet.
© Jeff Jones

Me and a Triceratops that I slew with my bare hands.
© Jeff Jones

Lucy teaches Eva about modern architecture and engineering.
© Jeff Jones

Preparing for a rather fine repast.
© Jeff Jones


Ronny said...

noice... very noice
quite a trippy, dude :-D

Ron said...

A great blog Jeff! You'll enjoy it in years to come.