Walking under the Thames

Today being Tuesday meant it was Exhibition Day for me. I had decided that seeing as I went to see Veronese then Hamilton, it was only right that I went to see a contemporary artist for my final week. I’m glad I did.

Martin Creed is a British artist born in 1968. While born in Wakefield, he lived in Scotland from the age of three until he moved to London to study art in 1986. He won the Turner prize in 2001 and moved to Italy. These days he lives and works between London and Italy. He won the Turner prize for a massive neon sign across the top of the Tate Gallery. You can see it here.

A lot of people (including my wife) would not consider most (if not all) of Creed’s work as actually being art. I, on the other hand, found him very witty (he had me laughing out loud at some pieces), clever, confusing and original. Naturally there were pieces I didn’t like but, on the whole, I enjoyed the exhibition a lot.

I have been trying to work out what my favourite piece was but I haven’t been able to whittle it down further than two…so, here they are:

Work No 1092
This is a huge neon sign spelling out the word MOTHERS. The word sits on a massive steel frame and revolves on a central pivot. It felt like it was just inches from the top of my head but it must have been higher than that. Still, it was quite intriguing.

Work No 360 – Half the air in a given space
This comprised a big room almost full of big white inflated balloons. Having read and agreed to the personal health and safety laminate, you enter the room and make your way around it. You have to shuffle and sort of push the balloons out of the way as you get more and more surrounded by them. It was extraordinary and so much fun! I felt like a kid in one of those playpens full of plastic balls. Now I know why Tom loved them so much.

There were so many other pieces that tickled me, baffled me or just made me gaze in wonder. I love being tested like I was today. With Veronese, it’s easy to see why I love his work; with Creed, it’s not so easy to explain. But surely, in part, isn’t that what art is?

Leaving the exhibition, I walked across the river via Westminster Bridge. I’d heard there is a plaque on it and wanted to photograph it – the iron for the bridge was made at Thames Ironworks.


Well, I can safely say, if there is a plaque, it’s not on the east side. I guess I’ll have to walk on the other side some other time. I didn’t have time today because I was off to the National Gallery to buy Mirinda a nice cover for her new Kindle. Sadly, that didn’t work out because they didn’t have any. But I didn’t have enough time to worry about that, I had to get up to Leicester Square and the Spanish Guitar Shop to buy Mirinda a set of guitar strings. Sadly, when I eventually found it hidden between a pub and a pizza restaurant, it seemed to have closed down.

But I didn’t have enough time to worry about that because I had to high tail it back over to Canary Wharf to buy lunch for Mirinda (and Sarah who was helping her slave over a really important document) and to be there for when the boiler chap arrived. As it was, I arrived about five minutes before he did. And, happily, we don’t need a new boiler. We thought we did because it sounds like a jet taking off when it heats up and it sometimes drops black stuff. However, that is all normal for the make and type of boiler. Jason (the boiler guy) said we can always get a new one if we wanted because the existing one wouldn’t get serviced because it contravenes a new rule added since the boiler was installed. Anyway, I’m just happy we don’t have to change the existing one right away.

After lunch, I left Mirinda and Sarah to return to their document and headed over to Greenwich. For ages I’ve been meaning to visit the Royal Naval College so, given I had a free afternoon, decided I’d do it today.

The Royal Naval College started life as the Royal Hospital for Seaman, designed by Christopher Wren in the 17th century. The two sites I saw today were the Painted Hall and the Chapel. I also walked along Ripley’s Passage, quite by accident and just in time but that’s not really a site, as such.

The Painted Hall is amazing. Imagine a massive room with a very high ceiling, covered in allegorical imagery. As Mirinda said, after seeing my photos, it looks more European than British. I was reminded of the Giant’s Hall in Innsbruck where Marie Antoinette once skipped.


It was all painted by Sir James Thornhill between 1708 and 1727 and was originally intended as a dining room. This didn’t last long when they quickly realised what a brilliant tourist attraction it was.

The ceiling and back wall are just covered with lots and lots of figures. Fortunately, the guide book I bought, includes keys to who all the images belong to. For instance…


…in this section, the two in the round frame are Queen Anne and Prince George of Denmark. The woman flashing her breast is Concord Conjugal (odd name, odder goddess) while behind her is Piety and the bearded chap on the right is Neptune. Holding the left hand side of the frame is Heroic Virtue (or Hercules), above him is Liberality and that’s Victory’s arm resting on the top.

It’s all like that. Quite simply, amazing.

Then, after walking downstairs, lured by the most brilliant model ship I’ve ever seen, I wandered down a passage which turned out to be the atmospheric Ripley Tunnel. It was added to Wren’s design by Thomas Ripley in order to provide access between buildings without the annoyance of having to go outside. It runs between the Painted Hall and the Chapel.

As I emerged from the Ripley Tunnel, an old little man suddenly appeared on a high step of a spiral staircase.

Are you alone?” He asked mysteriously.
Err…yes…” I answered.
Good. Come on then. In you go. I’m locking up the tunnel now.” He almost shoved me through a small door into the ante room leading to the beautiful chapel.

Now I’ve been in an awful lot of churches and I’ve found a lot of serenity in some of them but nothing has ever been quite so serene as this chapel. It is bright, it feels welcoming, the walls exude warmth…everything you’d want a chapel to be but never is.

It was completed in 1789 and built by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart and William Newton. I’m not sure how they did it but I’m glad they did.

Part of the chapel ceiling
Part of the chapel ceiling

Following an amble along the Thames Path, I ended up at the entrance to the tunnel underneath it. Opened in 1902, it is designated a public highway and so must be open 24 hours a day. It is also part of the national cycle route although bike riders are supposed to dismount and walk their bikes through – there are big painted signs every few yards saying as much.

Surely that's not a cyclist riding through the tunnel?
Surely that’s not a cyclist riding through the tunnel?

As I walked through the tunnel, I was passed by at least a dozen cyclists and not one of them had bothered dismounting. Maybe illiteracy is a bit rampant on the Isle of Dogs. Anyway, it was a wonderfully weird way to cross the river. It is also the cheapest…being free.

On the other side, I had a bit of a wander before stopping off in the oddly named Pepper Saint Ontiod pub for a lovely pint. And then back to the flat. A splendid day.

Oh, and before I forget…it was Earth Day today.

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1 Response to Walking under the Thames

  1. flip100 says:

    Even though you told us about this blog we still enjoyed reading it again.
    love mum and dad xx

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