To those who did not receive a Valentine card from me (that would be everyone because I sent not one) I will post a photo that I took at St Pancras Station, London. I had every intention of emailing the photo on the designated day, but life got in the way. Such is life in London. The bronze by sculptor Paul Day is titled THE LOVERS. How cold, unyielding metal can look so hot is indeed the work of a master craftsman. I hope that this couple can keep their clothes on until after they board the train and find a private compartment
One of the most appealing aspects of travel is encountering the unexpected. A couple of days into my visit, my husband wrote again to say that if the YHA London Central was not up to snuff I should move to a hotel. If you are travelling with someone else, a hotel is the way to go, but on your own, a hostel has a lot on-offer. True, I’m sleeping in a four-bunk room and my roommates are in their 20s and 30s, but that is a plus.
My roommates are from Lebanon, Vancouver, Taiwan, Ghana, Brazil… and other far-flung places that I don’t remember. I am smack dab in the middle of the United Nations. Everyone speaks very good English. Someone in my writer’s group mentioned Esperanto the other day. How 60s is that! Esperanto never caught on. I recently read that in another 30 years, English will cross continents as the common language. Bad in terms of hard-liners who cling to national identity, but I’m for any means that will break down the barricades thrown up by tribes at war. (Not that I can think of many countries, including my own, that speak with one voice. )
Nevertheless, it is uplifting to see so many well-travelled juniors sharing stories and finding common ground.
One of my first visits was to the National Portrait Gallery. Specifically, I wanted to catch the gallery’s annual exhibit of shortlisted photos that were in the running for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize. The jury’s choices always leave me scratching my head. I have my favorites, but my favorites are seldom the winners. Apparently, photography-wise I have a lot to learn.
It was surprising to me how many photographers chose to feature family members. I liked all the documentary photos, but I preferred the photos that focused on relationships. The photo chosen to promote this year’s exhibition is of a young, blue-eyed boy dwarfed inside his father’s coat. The portrait, titled ARVI was taken by his father, Sami Parkkinen. Arvi looks as though he has just been sent to the naughty-corner. The coat diminishes the boy and weighs him down. The portrait highlights the boy’s vulnerability and innocence.
Another relationship portrait, this taken by Hayley Bensit, was titled, JAMILA AS HER MUM, OLIVIA. The portrait shows Jamila wearing her mother’s dated clothing. Jamila, who is wearing a wig to approximate the “fro” that her mother wore when she was Jamila’s age, sits embarrassed to be caught wearing her mom’s polyester blouse and conservative skirt. Horrors! Every girl’s nightmare: that of becoming her mother. Shades of My Mother/Myself.
My favorite relationship photo, titled “DAD,” was taken by Kelvin Murray whose father sits slumped in a chair. Dad’s eyes are unfocused. He wears a white dress shirt. His sleeve garters tell the story. Rather than worn high up on the sleeve, the garters are on Dad’s cuffs – signaling a poignant loss of memory.
Mercy! I could write for days. I’ll try to write daily until I get my recent trip to London out of my system. For today, I’ll close with another favorite sculpture. You can find this particular sculpture down on Victoria Embankment. The sculpture by Sir William Goscombe John is known as the Arthur Sullivan Memorial.
Who, I wondered, was Arthur Sullivan… someone in the arts maybe. A bit of research revealed that Sullivan was the famous composer whose name follows Gilbert… Gilbert and Sullivan. Oh… the light dawns… The HMS PINAFORE and PIRATES OF PENZANCE.
On closer look, an inscription from Yoeman of the Guard is carved on the stone: “Is life a boon? If so, it must befall that Death whene’er he calls must call too soon.”
The muse of music weeps. She is distraught with the loss of the man who glorified her. She has thrown herself against the marble marker. Perhaps she has torn her hair. Viewers know for certain that she has rent her clothing and beat her breast. Passion need not limit itself to Valentine’s Day.
Three cheers for THE ARTS!