Sunday, 26 April 2009

An Outing To London

Despite the fact that I work in London, i don't often get to see very much of it as I am dashing about to meetings and appointments. So yesterday was a real treat as I got to spend some quality time in the capital.

I started off at the Barbican where I saw the exhibition about the architect and designer Le Corbusier. I first went to the Barbican 13 years ago where I saw an exhibition of the photographer Don McCullin's work. I love the building, such a striking piece of design from the 1960's but very easy to get lost in.

I really enjoyed the exhibition but I found it a little bit too much for someone who does not know a huge amount about Le Corbusier. What I did enjoy was the bits of film that he made showing his vision and gave you a glimpse at what his early life in Paris may have been like. I was surprised about what I did know and how much of the furniture I recognised. I also enjoyed more his earlier work, which was more simple and had a youthful promise to it. Some of his later work seemed to be very grand and I couldn't identify with this quite as much. Le Corbusier was a very intelligent young man working on his first house at just 18 years old and his inspiration to the world of architecture and design continues through to today.

After lunch I visited Persephone books which I have been waiting to go to for sometime.

I first heard about Persephone books from my good friend over at Cuppa Tea and Cake and a few weeks ago I was given one, 'A Very Great Profession' by Nicola Beauman, as a present. I love the idea behind Persephone, it was set up to publish books by and about women that were not readily available from other publishers. What makes them extra special is that each is printed with a plain grey cover, but inside is a wonderfully bright end-paper that has been chosen to match the book.

I was in there for sometime as I couldn't decide which book to choose. After much deliberating I settled on 'The Wise Virgins' by Leonard Woolf. He wrote it around the time that he was marrying Virginia Woolf in 1912-1913 and as I am up to 1908 in my Virginia Woolf read (see my other blog here) I thought I might be a good book to read as a break from Virginia Woolf.

Luckily I had my book bag with me so was able to get it home without it getting scuffed in my bag. All in all a rather fun day out

Wednesday, 15 April 2009


On Tuesday 14th April I went to see Handel’s Messiah at Westminster Abbey. The performance marked the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death and poignantly it was performed in the place in which he is buried.

It is the first time that I have seen the work performed in it’s entirety. I took part in a Messiah workshop last year with the choral society that I sing with. We spent the day rehearsing the piece and then performed it to an audience of friends and family in the evening. It was great fun and also my first attempt at a solo. Singing is something that I have always done, but only started doing it again recently after a break of five years.

My Great-Grandmother sang all her life, right into her 70’s and my Grandfather also sang and played the organ for many years. I have programmes of Messiah concerts that my Great-Grandmother took part in dating back to 1917 so it is exciting for me to watch or take part in something that she took part in over 80 years ago.

Westminster Abbey is a wonderful place to have a concert, the sound just carries right up into the roof. I haven’t been there since I was a child so we took the opportunity to have a wander round in the interval. I am amazed at how a the abbey was ever built. It is huge and the craftsmanship that would have gone into it, and the time it would have taken is amazing!

The choir sounded superb with really beautiful treble voices and the soloists were really good too. I particularly enjoyed the Tenor soloist, Paul Agnew. He had a very clear voice and his articulation and expressions really added to the atmosphere of the evening. He is going to be performing at Covent Garden this year in Acis and Galatea. At my last concert with the choral society we sang a couple of pieces from Acis and Galatea so I would like to see it being sung professionally and would also love to hear Paul Agnew sing again.

My mum asked me to bring my score with me so that she could follow the piece. It is interesting how differently people hear music and I think she got more out of the piece by following the score rather than being a passive listener. We have decided to try to attend the Messiah sing along at the Albert Hall in November. Whilst some people think that Messiah should not be performed on a larger scale, we both think that singing the Hallelujah chorus in the Albert Hall with several hundred other people would be quite an experience!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Dunwich - March 2009

A couple of weeks ago I made my annual trip to Dunwich for fish and chips at The Flora Tea rooms and a walk on the beach. Over the years mine and another family have met there on Mothering Sunday, but this year the numbers were somewhat depleted so it was just me and my mum.

Dunwich, or what is left of it as most of it has fallen into the sea, is typical of the Suffolk Coastline. A vast expanse of heath meets the shoreline at a dune of pebbles that cascade down towards the sea. We had great fun rummaging amongst the pebbles to look for hag stones which can be hung up together to keep witches away. If you are lucky, or spend a large amount of time looking, you can find pieces of amber mixed in amongst the stones.

We started off by having lunch at the tea rooms. It is a simple wooden shack and it serves large plates of fish and chips with pots of tea all on old fashioned green ceramic plates. In the very British tradition of “if the sun is shining make the most of it” we sat outside even though the air was a little nippy.

After lunch we walked off our chips braving it over the dunes and into the wind. There is something very simple about Dunwich, next to the tea rooms are a few boats and dotted up the coast might be a few people fishing or walking, but other than that it is really empty.

Aside from the chips and the beautiful scenery the thing I enjoy about going to Dunwich is stopping at Westleton, the village before Dunwich, and visiting the second hand book shop. Set in a Methodist church, this is one of those quirky little finds. The books are piled up in bookcases or boxes, but all are labelled by type. A door out to the back office has a sign that says “Hit can with stick for attention” and sure enough if you do this the proprietor will come out and answer your questions and even offer you a cup of tea or coffee. I picked up a couple of 1940’s penguin classics to add to my ever-growing collection…