During an officially-sanctioned period of recreation, part of the schedule of a work-related trip, I wanted to explore Ambleside. Naturally, it was raining, which attenuated any small desire I had to climb the hills. I had thought of going to the Armitt Museum, where I’d enjoyed the exhibition about Royal College of Art students being evacuated to the area during the Second World War, a few years ago. However, the current show was about Beatrix Potter, which was a little less appealing. I decided to explore Lake Windermere a little and took the Green Cruise launch, the “Queen of the Lake”. We passed by a castle, where the family sailing with me descended and a couple of people boarded.
At the next calling point, Brockhole, I got off and walked towards the Lake District Visitors’ Centre. Other than the view of the gardens and the house itself,
the main thing I noticed as I approached was the sound of people whirring down the zipwire, in the woods. There was a small exhibition, though the main focus seemed to be on “family activities”, mitigated a little by the climatic inclemency. In past epochs I might have gorged on fudge and/or Kendal Mint Cake, but of course such things are now Verboten. Mainly.
A little frustrated, I wandered around outside, making sure I’d seen all of the gardens indicated on the map, when I spotted a sign for a “bird hide”. Mindful of the precedent of Bill Oddie, and wondering exactly what this would be, I followed more arrow signs to a small hut which enjoined quietness upon those who entered. There was no-one else there, so I could spend as much time as I liked, enjoying the spectacle of the birds in the clearing festooned with feeders. The first lesson was not to make noise when opening the windows, because a slight creak sent the birds flying off to their hiding places in the trees. I liked the way that the birds’ persistence and eagerness would cause the feeders to rotate, creating a nutritional carousel, and they appeared to compete even though there were enough feeding points for all. There were identification aids posted inside the hide, though I mainly just took in the strange and rather pleasing mixture of quiet and intermittent activity.
The next day, after the work had finished, I took the train to Manchester, having sought the advice of people who Know About These Things that I could “break” my journey like this, and take a somewhat indirect route back to that London, over several days. Two tables of people in my carriage had broken through passenger reserve and already had nicknames for each other: Prosecco Man and Scones Man. One of the young women was told that she would make a good tram driver, while the older table tried to explain to the others about racist TV in the seventies:
YouTube love thy neighbour.
We have to accept that verbing now, I think.
I had 90 minutes free before the rendezvous with my local host, so I alighted at Oxford Road and entered Cornerhouse to see what was on. Unfortunately, they were in between exhibitions. Hmmph. At least I bought a couple of magazines (Jackdaw and The Modernist). With the Whitworth still closed (and a little too far away), I walked up to what will always be for me the City Art Gallery. Downstairs there was a display of jewellery by Bernhard Schobinger: The Rings of Saturn. This was quite a traditional show, with the old-school glass cases, contrasting with the attempted iconoclasm of the pieces themselves, which I must admit I found rather facile, albeit intermittently witty. Much better was the exhibition upstairs – Sculptural Forms – A Century of Experiment. Whenever I’m passing through TCR station, which is quite often, I try to savour the Eduardo Paolozzi mosaics, marooned as they are in such a morose environment, and I liked his contribution to this show, as I did pieces by Toby Paterson, Victor Pasmore, Michael Challenger, Ron Arad and Cecil Stephenson. There was a tribute to Alan Turing, that included an artist’s idea of a circuit board, which was endearingly naive. An excellent idea to show some of the pieces from the Whitworth collection while it’s being refurbished and extended.
The show attracting most of the publicity was up a level – Ryan Gander’s Make every show like it’s your last. Unaware that I’d have this opportunity, I’d seen an episode of the normally wretched Culture Show (every time I see it I lament the loss of the Late Show, even if I was one of the super-served 250,000 who watched it every night…) about him, which consisted of edge-free encomiums, for the most part. It struck me that he has a lot of clever slogans, which make for good blurbs, but the art to which the slogans and blurbs refer is mostly rather insubstantial. I confess I did smirk to see a computer case fan with red LED illumination inside one of his “useless machines”, while I actively liked the chess pieces based on industrial design, nestled in the Design gallery.
The next day, during my journey from Manchester to London, via Sheffield, there was quite an extended conversation between a man who must at most have been in his early twenties and a middle-aged woman. He wanted to go to the school in Croydon that “Jessie J and Amy Winehouse” went to. His backup plan was “celebrity journalism”.
My vocabulary is very good. I do actually use very good words, and a lot of them I learned from famous people. It was in the Lady Gaga music video. She sounds so smart in that video.
When we arrived at St. Pancras, a man asked me to confirm that it was the quiet coach. He hadn’t realised…