Monday, September 19, 2011

Open House weekend, Saturday 17th September

The morning was a write-off as usual. Are we the only couple who find it impossible to get out of bed before 10 am? I hope not. There were several things as options to do today and we tried to formulate a plan once we were in a state to actually get out of the flat. It was about 1:30 by this point and I realised that if we left immediately, we could be at Tower Bridge by 2 pm, just in time to see the participants of The Great River Race go by beneath us. Knowing the tube lines are often disrupted, I quickly checked and yep, the District line was off. So much for being able to get to Tower Hill; we changed tack. Instead, we decided to try to get to an Open House weekend building. The Bank of England was already on my list, and close by, so we headed there. We figured there'd be a queue and were prepared to wait for an hour. We got there and the queue was ridiculous. As we debated about whether to join it, and Stephen went to investigate just how long it really was, some attendant announced that the queue was closed. It was about 1:45 and last entrance was 4, meaning the queue was over two hours long. We would have said 'Sod that' anyway, even if we had been given the option! Next year I must be more organised and actually book somewhere we want to go. That, or do the impossible - get up early on a weekend.


So far, our plans weren't going very well - thwarted in the Race, and now our attempts to join in on Open House had met a similar fate. But wait! We weren't that far from Monument, and hence London Bridge. We didn't have time to get to Tower Bridge, but we could get to London Bridge to watch the boats. For those that don't know what the Great River Race is (another one from 1000 Things to do in London) it's a race up the Thames (21 miles) from the Docklands to Ham House in Richmond. A few hundred boats take part and apparently they range from those who are having a bit of a laugh, to serious competitors. There's meant to be fancy dress, silly stunts and the like. But I doubt that anyone really knows about it. The famous Oxford and Cambridge boat race only has two crews and yet it dwarfs this one in its popularity. According to the website it has become the biggest and most prestigious event of its kind in Europe, having started in 1988 at less than a quarter of the size it is now. I thought it sounded like fun.


We got to London Bridge and it was pretty empty. You could just about spot some of the boats coming up to Tower Bridge. There were people looking out over the Thames but it was hard to tell if they were there to watch the race, or just your average tourist looking at the view. Even as the row boats came up to London Bridge, it was still hard to tell who was there on purpose and who had merely stumbled across the event. We watched several boats go by, the first one stomping ahead of the nearest competitors, and with only two rowers! There was someone else on board as well, looking a bit like a mascot at the front. Probably a small child but it could equally have been a monkey from what I could tell from my vantage point. We watched a few more boats go under and then we were tempted away by Borough market being so close. It was windy and the Thames seemed choppy and we had much admiration for the boats competitors. The problem was, that because there were so few spectators, there wasn't much atmosphere. Unlike the actual marathon, where you can go and cheer whether you know anyone or not, this one didn't have quite the same festive feel to it. We had also timed it badly I think. While there may have been rowers in fancy dress, or boats of unusual size or shape, they were probably participants who weren't taking it too seriously and would no doubt have been somewhere at the back of the race. We'd got there too early to see them, and didn't really want to hang around and wait. I felt a little guilty about that - I do like to do things on my list properly after all - but after we'd ended up under a bridge, eating a snack at Borough Market, and the heavens opened, I knew we'd made the right choice. Yes, I'm a fair weather fan.


What with this annoying but totally expected change in weather, we thought something indoors would be in order. One of the other potential things for us to do was go see what was going on at the V & A for London Design Festival so we headed there. We wandered around in the Sculpture and Asia departments where there were several installations in honour of the festival that blended in with the pieces around them. What I liked most was the reproduction of the bust of Lady Belhaven with a new fancy hat, and the new woven entrance.

Sculpture at V & A Museum

The highlight of the visit was going to the Power of Making exhibition. There was a queue (isn't there always) but somehow we didn't have to wait too long to get in there. There were some weird and wonderful things to see - a sculpture made out of sugar, and some gloves with the owner's fingerprints on the outside stand out, as well as the giant King Kong situated outside. It is fascinating what people can make and fashion out of all sorts of things nowadays. I would highly recommend this exhibition.





We finished off our day out in London by seeing a film. Odeon have an offer on at the moment giving 40% off tickets, meaning you can get tickets for a decent prices for once, and I was also able to get a free large popcorn by being an O2 customer. I've never had such a cheap cinema visit. We saw The Skin I Live in, which was a horrendous movie. An excellent, intriguing movie to watch, but what happens in it is horrendous. I don't think I've stopped thinking about it since I saw it. I read a review (in the Independent I believe) which says it gets under your skin, and it does. I keep thinking about all the implications of what happen. All the adverts say there is a twist. I wouldn't describe it as such, as it is revealed pretty early in the movie and I had guessed at it even earlier than that. It's not a single twist to be untwisted in one moment just before the end, more the gradual untying of a plait - it is easy to guess it and as things move on you become more and more convinced until it is confirmed. But the twist isn't the point of the movie, its about digesting what happens, the motivations behind it and the effects. As most movies are I suppose. Still, I don't think I'd better reveal it.


The Great River Race: http://www.greatriverrace.co.uk/
Open House weekend: http://www.londonopenhouse.org/
Power of Making: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/p/power-of-making/
London Design Festival: http://www.londondesignfestival.com/project/ldf-va

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I work as an editor in educational publishing by day, and then spend most of my spare time discovering interesting things to do in London, and taking people there with my own Meetup.