Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A Trip To London

As today dawned, I wasn't relishing the thought of going into London to deliver my painting to the Mall Gallery for the DSWF WAY exhibition. I'm a bit claustrophobic you see. I don't like crowds, noise, pollution, concrete jungles. I love the slow pace of life that East Suffolk offers. Fresh air, wide open spaces, peace and quiet. I mean, I start to get stressed out heading into Aldeburgh so London and I, we're never going to get on.

I've not been on a train for at least twelve years and wouldn't mind it being another twelve really. So it was with great trepidation and very little enthusiasm that I parked my van outside Saxmundham station and, hefting my big box containing my generously bubble-wrapped and precious painting, made my way out onto the platform.

The train arrived on time, I found a seat and settled down for the two hour journey. I say settled down, as there was no space to stow my big box I had to wedge it in front of me and assume a kind of torturous yoga position. Trains have changed a lot since I last went on one. You can't open the bloody windows for a start! I'm average sized but could only just fit into my seat. There's just about enough leg room to suit Ronnie Corbett (when he were a lad). On the plus side, the toilet cubicle worked well. It's so small, you're wedged in so tightly that keeping your balance is no problem while watering the horse. I reversed out carefully but still managed to trip over some elderly blokes walking stick. It was stuffy in that train and I was relieved when we arrived at Liverpool Street for the next leg of my journey.

The first tube train that came was quite full and before I could squeeze on with my big box I was shoved out of contention by hoards of fast moving people each with a paper cup of coffee in one hand (why does every one have to walk about with a drink?) and various items of seriously complex looking pieces of technology in the other. I waited for the next one which thankfully had a bit more space in it and after the one change, arrived safely at Charing Cross.

Emerging from the station it was a warm day and the sun had heated up the concrete so that Trafalgar Square felt like the inside of a chimenea as I trudged across carrying my by now, slightly scuffed and battered big box. I seemed to be attracting a lot of pigeons, perhaps they thought I was carrying a jumbo box of chips (sorry.... fries).

I came alongside a man carrying a much smaller box than mine but the tell tale bits of bubble wrap protruding from it confirmed he was a fellow artist also making his way to the Mall Gallery. It turned out to be John Good and we made our way to the hand-in area together.

The only thing the man behind the hand-in counter said to me was to "Remove all packaging and take it away with you". Too right mate I thought. You're not getting your hands on my big box. By now I had developed a strangely symbiotic relationship with it, in fact there was by now an impression of one corner of it on my chest.

So job done, about turn and head off back towards Trafalgar Square. As I picked my way through the now slightly disappointed looking pigeons who could obviously tell that my big box was now empty, The National Gallery building caught my attention and on the spur of the moment I went in. I've never been before and I'm unlikely to go again so decided I could spare an hour to see how it should be done. I was amazed at the sheer scale of some of the paintings. The images I've seen of Stubbs's Whistlejacket have never really impressed me but to see it in all of it's 10 foot tall glory is something else. I could have spent all day studying the details of the Canaletto's but the star for me was Turner. Again I think you have to see them in all of their original glory to fully appreciate them. I've never been much of a fan of Constable but it was nice to see the well known masterpieces in the flesh. But train times didn't allow me to stay too long (Saxmundham isn't particularly well served with trains) so reluctantly I left to get some lunch before the return journey.

I went for a Sub. Stupidly I just asked for a BLT. Now in Leiston I would probably then be asked about the weather, perhaps what my plans for the day were while my BLT was being prepared. Here I was bombarded with questions from a very nice but not very fluently English speaking lady. Which bread? want it hot or cold? ( bacon, cold salad I think). Want sauce? Want gherkins in the salad? want cheese? want it both sides? ratatatat....on and on she went until I'd forgotten what I'd ordered in the first place. But it was very good and once finished, my big box and I made our way to the tube station.

Safely back at Liverpool Street, sadly only to find I'd just missed my train! I had to wait an hour and three quarters for the next one so went for a pint in the nearest Wetherspoons. Ah! at last, somewhere I felt a bit more at home. Several pints of Ruddles later we boarded the Saxmundham train my big box and I, assumed the position and set off back. I shared my journey home with a little 2 year old boy called Steven who was plonked onto the seat next to me by his stressed out Mum who had to contend with her little daughter and another baby in a pram. "You don't mind mate do you?" . "Not at all" I said. Me and Steven got on really well and I told him all about my trip but (rather rudely I thought) by Chelmsford he was fast asleep.

Man! I was glad to get back into my van at the station and drive home. I was shattered but took Murphy out for a romp to get some fresh air before settling down for the evening.

Well, reading back confirms I'm turning in to Victor Meldrew, although if you've read this far you're pretty sad yourself!

Got to do it all again on Monday (but without the box) for the preview evening. I'm actually really looking forward to that though.


Tina Ashton said...

Wonderful read Pete! I now have it confirmed that you MUST write a book!! I could relate to so much of what you said from similar trips I have experienced to the big city with various exhibition paintings. However, you have once again managed to write about this trip in such an interesting and funny way, well done! Tina.

Jo said...

I really enjoyed reading this post Pete. I'm a bit like you, don't like the crowds etc. We went into Manchester the other week and it was quite an experience. What I do like doing thought is people watching and there were plenty to see.

You live in a lovely part of the country very flat compared to Debyshire where I live. We have some friends who live in Holton near Halesworth and we visit four or five times a year and I can never get over how quiet the roads are. Aldeburgh is one of my favourite places down there.

Peter Williams said...

Hi Jo, yes I agree about the people watching. I think the pace of life here does suck you in a bit and it comes as quite a shock to return to 'civilization'.

Tina, you may feature in the next one!

Anonymous said...

Very entertaining Pete, you should be writing a column for the local paper or something :o)
Good luck with your entry.

Anonymous said...

Very well written and amusing , I feel as though I belong here in East Suffolk, not East London. It appears your trip was well worth the effort though. I will be at Aldeburgh for your exhibition.