Wednesday, 18 February 2009

On the Buses: a Ramble Through London

I've just returned from a weekend in London. I travelled down with my son and daughter, D and A, for an old friend's birthday. We stayed with two other old friends in Walthamstow. We arrived late on Friday night and, as usual, I got lost as soon as I left the motorway. We spent the best part of an hour hopping from backstreet to backstreet, phoning up for directions before we finally arrived – at about 2am.
On Saturday, after a lazy morning spent consuming our friends' breakfast cereals and bread loaf, as well as perusing the vast map of the world on their kitchen wall (everyone should have one), we all went for a walk around Central London. We began with the City, wandering the streets and admiring the architecture: principally, the Gherkin and Lloyds TSB building. We discovered St Ethelburga's, a “centre for reconciliation and peace” with its tent, designed as a space for interfaith dialogue. It got us talking about religion - not for the first time! I won't go into exactly what we were saying. Suffice to say, when I got back and checked out my bloglist I found an amusing post on totalfeckineedjit's blog, about the atheist poster campaign that ran on London buses. Inspired by our discussions (and the aforesaid blog), I felt moved to start a virtual bus poster campaign of my own. The aim is to be thought provoking, rather than to promote any particular point of view. These two should do, for a start:

We left St Ethelburga's, and our way down, past St Paul's, to the river. Everyone has seen the famous photo taken of it during the Blitz and I can never look at that building without imagining it surrounded by smoke and ruined buildings. We crossed the Millennium Bridge to the South Bank, where we dropped in on The Globe and the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. The latter is currently taken up with Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster's installation, TH.2058. We were asked to imagine a time, fifty years into the future when, due to climate change, Londoners were driven to take shelter from the incessant rain in the Turbine Hall along with various works of modern art. I like to speak up for modern art, literature and music on this blog, but in this case I'm hard pressed. It is worth going to see, though – on account of the works of art supposedly sheltering in the Hall. There is a huge model of a frankly awesome piece, Flamingo, by Alexander Calder and another of a captivating Henry Moore, Sheep Piece, which, as well as being, well, sheeplike, took me straight back to the gritstone outcrops of Yorkshire, with their strangely-curved nooks and crannies. One reason, perhaps, why the installation as a whole falls so flat is that it incorporates these classic works of art which remind the viewer so forcefully of what art can do.

We had a birthday party to go to, so we left the rest of Tate Modern for another time. We made our way back across the river by the Hungerford Bridge (noisy with buskers) and, after a mad sprint, caught the 73 bus to Seven Sisters. This was a “bendy bus”. We occupied the central, bendy section, with its moving floor and concertina-like walls. We discovered how pleasant it was to lean against the contracting and expanding walls as the bus went round corners: it was incredibly relaxing, like lying on some expensive massage machine. (Is there a safety issue here? If there is, I didn't see any warning signs). The bus was very crowded, so we soon had to move along to make room for other people. It was highly amusing to see just how many people had discovered -and seemed to take surreptitious pleasure in- the bendy walls...


Totalfeckineejit said...

Thanks for the link Dominic, glad to see you've had ago at the virtual bus slogans, it's a cool gadget alright.Sounds like you had agood weekend in London.We saw Tate modern for the first time on holiday last summer-couldn't believe how BIG it is.Talking of big I would love to see all 53ft(!!) of that flamingo thing in the (metal?) flesh,it's an incredible looking piece and puts me in mind of those things from 'war of the worlds'

Dominic Rivron said...

Flamingo is indeed incredible. The massive model in the Turbine Hall was built of what felt like wooden board, but you wouldn't realise unless you tapped it. The original, I assume, would be steel.

Sepiru Chris said...

Hi Dominic,

I had never seen that picture of St. Paul's from the Second World War. Go figure. It held me in wonder.

And I am quite curious about Flamingo, curse that pond's breadth, and the pat of dirt in the other direction.

Penultimately, thanks for finally getting me over to visit Totalfeckineejit. What a great site.

Finally, I like your virtual bus campaign!


Poet in Residence said...

Dominic, Hope you enjoyed your morning run. I've answered the riddle of the haiku wishbone to your post on PiR.
I avoid London like the plague. Last year I stayed overnight in a strange 'must be haunted' pub opposite St Albans Cathedral. That's as near as I like to get.
I don't have a map of the world on the wall but I have an electronic globus that lights up.
I can remember seeing a map of the world with Antarctic at the top. A good idea.
The bus slogans are kind of Nietzche!


would be my slogan, if I was ever asked for one.

The Weaver of Grass said...

As guilty pleasures go I would say that one is fairly harmless.

Dominic Rivron said...

Chris: You're right - TFE's is quite a blog (and the music's good too). You can make your own bus slogans here. (Yes, OK, so I'm a bit of a Star Trek fan...)

PiR: What you say about the Antarctica map is interesting. Most conventional projections give a politically distorted view, emphasizing the West and putting the UK in the centre of things - they make Greenland look weirdly huge, too. Like the slogan (see link above).

WG: Harmless, yes, though sadly (unless you're a cyclist), the bendy busses are being phased out.