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On a whim


We went to London – as you do! We were casting about for a fun expedition for the weekend and when we discovered that the National had a new exhibition – Corot to Monet – and a free one to boot we were decided.

Trafalgar Square was even busier than usual. One of these days I will get to see just the square and the lions and the column but the last few times there’s been a show or an exhibition to watch. Saturday was the World Free Running Championships on a stage in the square so as we sat on the steps and ate our picnic (all hail the arrival of a Paul at Marylebone) and watched Diversity practice their routine for the evening as all around us the free runners practiced handstands and flips and that trick where they run up the wall and flip over. Free running is just another name for parkour and the spins and tumbles those guys can pull off are quite jawdropping.

We also got to play with the latest ‘art installation’ – the Fourth Plinth. I love the concept of putting the British public on a plinth, 24/7 and happily we arrived in the middle of one of the most entertaining ‘statues’, Jes with Plinth Bingo (you can watch it here)
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He had helpers in the crowd handing out bingo cards and pens and whenever anyone got a house, he used this ingenious method of handing out the prizes.
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It’s a fishing pole, with a little box on the end – Blue Peter eat your heart out.

Each of the plinthers spends an hour ‘up top’ and then the cherry picker comes to change them over. The next plinther was a lady supporting Help for Heroes and we caught a glimpse later of a chap with a tent, camping stool, small table and bottle of wine who had settled in for a great view of the Free Running.
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The exhibition at the National was everything I hoped it would be – usually in an exhibition I’ll find a handful of paintings that really strike a chord and then I’ll spend the rest of my time sitting and soaking them in. My taste in art is for the landscapes (preferably with a bit of water in them) and the impressionists so it was no surprise that I loved almost everything in Corot to Monet and I just wished we could have spent longer. It didn’t hurt that they had included my most favourite Turner (the Evening Star) which can never be as good in print as it is in person, and a wonderful new discovery, Eugene Boudin, whose beach scenes from Trouville are a great delight to me and will continue to be, as the prints are going up on the wall as soon as I can find the right sort of frame!

Needless to say, I came home with the exhibition book and it is a lovely thing to look through for colour and inspiration. It struck me as we wandered around the familiar galleries on Saturday afternoon that H and I never go to London now without popping into the National, even if we’ve planned a trip to another gallery as well, and this from a boy who looked remarkable reluctant about it the first time we went – I reminded him as he stood drinking in the new Monet (more waterlilies, I loved it, H wasn’t so sold) and he had the grace to look a little sheepish!

Trips to London are also incomplete without a trip to H’s personal variation on a yarn shop – Cass Art in Islington so we nipped out of the centre and hiked back laden with parcels (Note to spouse: yarn takes up a lot less room than canvases, and it’s lighter!) All weary feet were forgotten when we made it to St Paul’s, just in time for evensong.

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I used to sing choral evensong once a week and so many of the settings are wonderfully familiar but there’s a world of difference between the intimacy of a little college chapel and the choral resonance of the acoustics of that cathedral. The music sent shivers down my spine; you can practically feel it, spiralling out of the choir stalls and hovering under the dome, rippling out to the congregation until the very last drop has diffused. Solace in its purest form.

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And on a perfect summer’s evening, we finished the day with a stroll along the South Bank in the sunshine.
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We saw the mimes,the headless, August 222
the temporary outdoor lido, the pavement artists, and then as we came towards the Hungerford foot bridge we saw this:
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The trees have spots
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And I have absolutely no idea why – I think it’s hilarious though.

Time then to stare up into the spokes of the wheel and watch it move oh so slowly,

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to see the Houses of Parliament disappear into the gathering gloom, with the setting sun burnishing Big Ben,
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and to head for home.