And all that jazz

It was rather frosty this morning as I waited on Farnham station for a train that only managed to let me down.

Why I didn't sit down at the station

Bloody engineering works! The trains into Waterloo today were awful. because there was engineering work in the Surbiton area, all trains were being diverted via Barnes. This added about 15 minutes onto the inward trip and about an hour on the way home. And then they decided to change the train times by 10 minutes – fortunately later. Not a good day to be travelling.

Though it wasn’t as bad for us as for the mother and daughter sitting in front of us. And I blame the South West Trains guard who didn’t announce what was happening to the train. People who catch the London train on the weekends know that the train is joined onto a Basingstoke one at Woking and then detached on the way back. And that the Alton part is the last four carriages while Basingstoke is the front four.

At Waterloo, the indicator board says as much. When we arrived at Woking the indicator board said so. Eventually the train announcer said so. The one person who should have (and usually does ad nauseam) was the guard…and he didn’t. Actually, that’s not entirely true.

I went to find him when he’d failed to make an announcement, quite early into the mammoth journey. When I found him skulking away between the carriage joining place – which always reminds me of the space between the worlds – he didn’t make any sense. He jabbered away about the train joining more carriages and becoming a 12 coach train to Alton. Clearly this would be absolutely insane. He didn’t know which part of the train was going where.

It does occur to me that he was, in fact, not the guard but, rather, an alien who had invaded his body but hadn’t manage to link with the guard’s brain enough to understand the intricacies of the South West trains system of weekend shunting.

Anyway, after I’d returned to our seats with the information that the guard had no idea what he was talking about, he made an announcement. Mirinda said he didn’t know what he was talking about and we’d best wait for Woking and check.

And I’ve only just realised I haven’t actually spoken of why we were on the trains today. Stupid one-track mind.

A while ago, Mirinda read about a temporary exhibition of some William Morris stuff at Two Temple Place. Two Temple Place is wholly owned by the Bulldog Trust and is to be used to exhibit small teasers from museums and galleries outside London. Sort of like advertising, the idea being that you see this stuff in the heart of London of something that may be quite close to home. You will then go and see the whole thing. I think it’s a great idea because it means they do the searching for small, obscure places which would otherwise be invisible.

The present exhibition (William Morris: Story, Memory, Myth) has been borrowed from the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow and comprises various examples of his work as well as work he collaborated on with Byrne-Jones and the pre-Raphaelites.

While the exhibit was fabulous, what really excites the senses is the building itself. Built in the 1890’s for Viscount Astor, William Waldorf, it became his London pad for when he didn’t fancy the long journey home to his country estate. It was designed by John Loughborough Pearson, a Gothic revival architect.

Waldorf (of the hotel rather than the salad) was quite keen on literary and mythological characters and stories, so the house includes many examples in the fabric of the building. 12 heads depicting the characters in Ivanhoe, for instance, line the ceiling in one of the upstairs rooms. Around the magnificent central staircase, stand four wooden statues (one looks like Daniel Boone, another like Robinson Crusoe), beautifully carved. On the banister posts are small statues, like this jolly chap.

A very curious cavalier

It is a beautiful building. By just describing, it sounds quite garish and awful but, somehow, the architect managed to make it beautiful rather than gauche. We are definitely going to keep an eye out for future exhibits here.

Outside they have a swinging sign denoting ownership by the Bulldog Trust. He looks rather majestic.

The Sign of the Bulldog

Something we very much like about William Morris and his ilk is their return to the chivalric past, to the romance of knights and fair maidens. The exploration of magic in the fight between good and evil. Everything is tangled in overgrown briar and acanthus, enchanted swords needed to reach the sleeping maiden in the middle.

These general ideas were reproduced in paintings, wallpaper, books, ceramic tiles, anything really. A wonderful tapestry (in five panels) called The Romance of the Rose is a perfect example. It is based on an unfinished medieval French poem, started by Guillaume de Lorris, finished by Jean de Meun in around 1270 and translated by Geoffrey Chaucer into Middle English.

It tells the story of the Lover and his quest for the Rose (symbolically, his beloved). Along the way, the Lover finds a walled garden where he wanders, pausing to see his own reflection in a pool of water he once more sees the Rose. His journey is long and he encounters a lot of statues showing him both virtues and sins. (Like old age, which is, apparently, a really bad sin! On the tapestry it is, anyway.)

The Lover eventually finds the Rose, which he manages to kiss but the Rose is imprisoned by Jealousy in a fortress. However, Reason comes to the fore and the Lover manages to gain admittance to the fortress with the help of that marvellous double act False Appearance and Forced Abstinence. He plucks the Rose and thereby consummates his love.

They’re all a bit like that. Not many laughs but some beautiful art. Byrne-Jones, for instance, was quite keen on fairy tales and there were two lovely sets of ceramic tiles with Cinderella on one and the Beauty and the Beast on the other. We immediately wanted to steal them for our house.

We wandered the entire house before leaving for lunch at the only restaurant within a street of Covent Garden that had a table for two available. We had a lovely Italian meal at Pasta Brown (recommended) before wandering across to Charing Cross Road for the other reason we were in London.

Just before Christmas I received an email asking if I’d like half priced tickets for Chicago at the Garrick Theatre in January or February. How could I possibly say no to that? They were for today so we combined the musical with the William Morris.

Chicago at the Garrick

It was great fun. I managed to see it in Sydney when it first came out in Oz (a long time ago) but I have had the soundtrack for yonks and know all the songs. Of course I’d seen the film. Mirinda, on the other hand, had only heard me singing some of the songs while making dinner…just before closing the doors between us.

Well, Mirinda loved it. The Bob Fosse inspired choreography, the sexiness, the singing, the laughs. It was a great day at the theatre.

We just missed seeing Ugly Betty star America Ferrara as Roxie Hart, but she went home after 8 weeks so we saw Sarah Soetaert instead. According to something I read, America Ferrara had never sung or danced on stage before performing in Chicago starting last November, so I’m really not sure what we missed. Sarah, on the other hand, was fabulous as was Rachel McDowall who played Velma. The two of them together were wonderful. Actually, the whole cast was energised and wonderfully entertaining.

My only criticism would be for the guy playing Billy Flynn (Terence Maynard). I didn’t think he had the essential charm and charisma that the part requires. He was quite capable of singing and dancing but just didn’t exude enough greasy magnetism to really make it work. Naturally this is one of those parts that I would have played before I stopped acting. Even the songs are in my range.

Chicago is one of those wonderful musicals where you just come out onto the street wanting to sing and dance your way home. We tried at the bus stop and then at Waterloo but, eventually, we were ground down by the engineering works referred to earlier.

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One Response to And all that jazz

  1. mum cook says:

    We loved Chicago saw it like you a long time ago but something you can see lots of times. The exhibition sounded good and a great picture of the British Bulldog.
    love mum

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