December 9, 2016

7.00 am: To London. The comforting smell of the early morning’s new bread was drawn out of the bakeries by the cool air and onto the streets of the town. On departure, the train carriage was punctuated by only a few still sleepy travellers. I had an Advent talk, and a list of next week’s ‘to dos’, to prepare:

At Newtown, a bevy of shoppers bound for Shrewsbury boarded. Track problems around Wolverhampton delayed my arrival at Birmingham New Street by ten minutes. Mercifully, the London Euston train was on the next platform. I had a reservation at a table around which three middle-aged men talked about pubs, booze, football, tribute bands, and their children’s drunken escapades and wedding plans.

I arrived five minutes before schedule and took-in a Christmas lunch sandwich at Pret A Manger. A treat. A young man at my table on the concourse remonstrated with a credit card provider on his mobile phone. So much of life is lived so publicly these days. The recorded voice at Euston station, when announcing a departure, clearly says ’’tis ready to leave’. She has done for many years. Very Shakespearean. 12.50 pm: I took the tube train to Green Park, where I’d meet my elder son (who’s now a Londoner):

Once my we’d found one another, S. and I headed off for Tate Britain to see the Paul Nash exhibition. I wondered why the Tate had decided to hold this now. The flocks of birds in the pre-First World War drawings (many of which could have passed for prints) were curiously prophetic of the squadrons of German fighters and bombers that would loom above Britain in the Second World War. Nash, in my estimation, was always at his best when he had some cause other than art only to prosecute. Which is why the war work was his greatest achievement.

There was a party of very competent school children sitting in front of works and making drawings from them. The exercise enabled them to understand the processes by which Nash had composed, constructed, and delineated objects. You see more in someone else’s work when you remake it for yourself. The natural eye is very lazy. You can look; but to see (genuinely and rich ), the eyes must be trained. It’s rather like treating another artist’s work as though it was a musical score, and playing it on your own instrument.

We took time to look around the general collection afterwards, giggling like schoolgirls at its absurdities:

I was drawn to one of Robyn Denny’s hard edged paintings, which I’d first come across in a catalogue of his work, back in 1978. It had a significant impact on the first canvases that I produced, when undertaking my Foundation Studies.

Like pilgrims, we paid our dues at Denmark Street – one of the centres of my cultural cosmological multiverse. I tantalised myself with a 1958 Gibson ES335 guitar (coming in at £35k) and a Gibson Les Paul Recording guitar (a snip at £1,400). Oh hum! On, then, via a Chinese supermarket in Chinatown, to a Singaporean restaurant at Swiss Cottage. Excellent and authentic food, served astonishingly quickly. Stuffed!:

Our journey’s final leg was to my son’s accommodation, further up the Jubilee Line. A rich day in so many directions at once.

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