Christmas Holidays (in the UK),

December 2010




And so we found ourselves back in London, or Bromley South, to be exact, as New Year approached, after our trip up north to Old Trafford, Manchester, on Boxing day, to see Manchester United, as well as two nights in the Peak District of Derbyshire including a walk in the snow and visits to the villages of Eyam and Bakewell. On Thursday, 30th December, my brother Gordon, his daughter Michelle and granddaughter Micaela elected to stretch our legs and venture into the capital. I had hoped that we could get into a show on the West End however, we had left it too late in terms of acquiring tickets for Warhorse and so the next option was a museum or art gallery. After a period of indecision whilst travelling in on the train to Victoria, during which I couldn't decide between the Natural History Museum or Tate Modern, I eventually opted for the latter. From Waterloo Tube we crossed the Thames and strolled down the South Bank. Tate Modern is a modern art gallery located in London, England. It is Britain's national gallery of international modern art and forms part of the Tate group (together with Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives and Tate Online. It is the most-visited modern art gallery in the world, with around 4.7 million visitors per year. It is based in the former Bankside Power Station, in the Bankside area of Central London.

The galleries are housed in the former Bankside Power Station, which was originally designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect of Battersea Power Station, and built in two stages between 1947 and 1963. The power station closed in 1981. The collections in Tate Modern consist of works of international modern and contemporary art dating from 1900 onwards. Though the gallery was playing host to a Gauguin exhibition, so popular that guided tours were completely sold out, there was enough on the remaining levels of the building to while away the afternoon hours and titillate our interest, ranging from the artistic brilliance of Joan Miró and Salvador Dali to some more ludicrous pieces that pass as works of art, merely serving to amuse rather than impress. Collection exhibitions are to be found on levels 3 and 5, major temporary exhibitions of level 4 (such as the one featuring Gauguin). Level 1, the Turbine Hall, which once housed the electricity generators of the old power station, is five storeys tall with 3,400 square metres of floor space. It is used to display large specially-commissioned works by contemporary artists between October and March each year, as a sponsored exhibition.


London's Tate Modern Gallery








Walking the South Bank in view of St Pauls, London










The Tate Modern, London and some of the collection exhibits.


The afternoon passed rapidly though by the time we left Tate Modern, it was still light, though the skies were grey. We crossed the Millennium Bridge towards St Pauls and found a Cafe Rouge near the Cathedral and proceeded to order dinner. With several nearby tube stations closed for renovation, we made our way down to Cannon Street on the Circle/Central lines. On Friday afternoon, New Year's Eve to be exact, I drove down to Westerham in Kent, near the North Downs and just south of the M25, for a walk with Tammy, a friend of mine. Tammy had taken me through my paces on walks around Downe and Shipbourne just prior to my trip to Patagonia in March, 2010.

Westerham is recorded as early as the 9th century, and was mentioned in the Domesday Book in a Norman form, Oistreham.. Ham is Old English for a village or homestead, and so Westerham means a westerly homestead. There is evidence that the area around Westerham has been settled for thousands of years: finds such as a Celtic fortification (c 2000 BC) and a Roman road are close by, along with the remains of a Roman encampment just past the ruins a of tower south of the town at the summit of Tower Woods. Close to Westerham lies Chartwell Manor, the home purchased by Sir Winston Churchill in 1922, which, apart from his time at 10 downing Street, was his home for the rest of his life. There is a statue of Sir Winston Churchill on the village green at Westerham. The circular walk Tammy had planned took us across mostly muddy pastures and pathways, passing Chartwell en route. A welcome drink near the fireplace in a pub just off the green rounded off the day appropriately.


St Pauls via the Millennium Bridge and dinner at Cafe Rouge


So what do you think of the exhibits at Tate Modern, Gordon?





Crossing the Millennium Bridge to St Pauls.


In the evening on New Year's day the family headed off to a movie house at Greenwich, though we split into separate pairs, my brother and I choosing The Way Back, a drama film about a group of prisoners who escape from a Siberian Gulag during World War II. The film is loosely based on a book titled The Long Walk by Slawomir Rawicz, depicting his alleged escape from a Siberian gulag and subsequent 4,000-mile walk to freedom in India. Incredibly popular, it sold over 500,000 copies and is credited with inspiring many explorers. In 2006, the book was effectively debunked. The BBC unearthed records (including some written by Rawicz himself) that showed that, rather than having escaped from the Gulag, in fact in 1942 he had been released by the USSR. Despite the apparent inaccuracies, we found the film hugely enjoyable.

Sadly, all things come to an end and on Sunday, 2nd January, I made my way back to my home in Hertfordshire, though not before we all went out for lunch at the Woodman Pub, a South-African run pub serving such well-known specialities as Bobotie, Durban Bunny Chow, Potjies and Homemade Boerewors, to celebrate my brother's birthday.


A walk around Westerham



A walk from Westerham. Winston Churchill's statue and French Street, near Hosey Common, Kent.

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Christmas Holidays (in the UK)

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Links to other websites:

Tate Modern - website

Gauguin @ Tate Modern - webpage

Cafe Rouge St Pauls - webpage

Chartwell Manor - webpage

The Way Back - movie trailer

The Woodman Ide Hill Pub - website