Fun in the sun at Somerset House

You may have heard already and it’s true, we are having great weather this year in London and this spring has been the warmest and driest on record. Londoners really know how to make the most of any bit of sunshine and my trip to Somerset House last week gave me the chance to see a perfect example of this. That visit was topped with a trip to the theatre to take in a new play.

Somerset House is an amazing place, dating from 1801 and is most famous to Brits as where all the birth certificates were kept. It was also: the nation’s Stamp Office where every newspaper was stamped before distribution; where the Royal Academy of Arts began; and, the home to various government offices. It still houses government departments but it is more famous for its wonderful courtyard (which was once just a car park!) and fountains, its restaurant, its exhibition and the events in the courtyard. Currently in the courtyard is an amazing exhibition by Ai Weiwei, the famous Chinese artist who was behind the Olympic Birdsnest stadium in Beijing and the Sunflower Seeds exhibition of 100 million pieces in the Tate Modern. Sadly at the moment he is in prison in China but his work speaks out for him. Here we have 12 massive bronze animal heads depicting the traditional Chinese zodiac called Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. This is his first major outdoor exhibition in London and Somerset House’s first outdoor modern sculpture display.

The day I went to see them was very warm and sunny so we could enjoy the heads while families enjoyed themselves running in and out of the fountains. People of all ages couldn’t resist running through the changing fountains and the kids stripped off to their swimmers and there was no stopping them! We however enjoyed a light lunch at Tom’s Kitchen within the main building and remained fully clothed!

Another good reason for visiting Somerset House is the Courtauld art gallery where you can view a wonderful collection ranging from some of the most famous impressionists and post impressionist work – Van Gogh, Manet, Renoir, Degas – and some more modern pieces – Bacon, Hepworth and Nicholson – and many older pieces too – Ruebens and Brueghel. For a mere £4.50 entry to what is termed a small museum, you can treat yourself to a journey through some great art.

 

Photos are: a view of the full courtyard; various shots of the zodiac heads and people playing in the fountains.

This week’s theatre trip was to see Butley at the Duchess Theatre, a piece by set in the world of academia in the 1970s. The undoubted star of the play was Dominic West, playing the once great professor whose decent into drink has lead him to rail against the world and those closest to him. We were treated to a question and answer session with the whole cast afterwards which was great as we were in the front row for this and I was reminded of my close up moment with Dominic West when he was at the Donmar so here’s our photo!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Bye for now,

 

Sue

 

Star struck!

The highlight of last week was a trip to the Donmar Warehouse to see Dominic West, lately of ‘The Wire’, being interviewed. He’s an unassuming and amusing interviewee and the time passed all too quickly. He talked about his career, The Wire and his new play opening in a few weeks – a 16th century Spanish play called ‘Life is a Dream’ which is quite a contrast to 21st century urban Baltimore! Thanks to the intimate nature of the theatre we’d seen him walk past us on the way in and wondered if we might see him leaving. So after a few minutes, when the main crowd had left, Dominic came out and posed for photos. I would never normally do this but he was there and I was there so I asked and you can see the result…… What a lovely man!

We topped the evening off with drinks and dancing at Ronnie Scott’s upstairs bar to recover from all the excitement. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we’d been sitting outside Bar Italia earlier which is opposite Ronnie’s and enjoyed great people watching, Soho really is the place for this.

Yesterday I did part one of a photography course using East End markets as a way of learning more about taking shots of people and busy places to give a stronger impression of the character of somewhere. We wandered around Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane and although my photos weren’t as good as I’d hoped, it was fun and I’m looking forward to part two next week. Brick Lane had some amazing graffiti and here’s one photo that did just about work. It was fun to see the markets on a busy Sunday and we were all tempted by the wonderful food smells and extraordinary bargains- perhaps we will succumb next week.

Had a lovely lunch at Bloody French in Notting Hill – yes it really is called that! We chose the very authentic French Onion Soup and had a good gossip. Notting Hill is packed with high quality and interesting restaurants and I do my very best to work my way through them all!

Bye for now,

Sue

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