Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Tate and the Tower

By Claire and Chuck
Chuck and I went our separate ways today, he to the Tower of London and I to the Tate Modern. There was an exhibit I wanted to see, Voyeurism, Surveillance & the Camera and I have already seen the Tower.

The subject of cameras and voyeurism hits home with me since I sometimes feel that I could be intruding with my camera. In fact, there are some photos I have not put on the blog because it just seem like an invasion of privacy. I took one shot in Vienna of an old guy slumped over a railing holding a beer, asleep. It was shocking and amusing at the same time so I took the picture but later decided not to post it.

The exhibit was well done and it was a good day to be inside since the rain is here now. I enjoyed the hidden camera in a shoe and another in a cane--The Unseen Photographer. Celebrity and the Public Gaze was another interesting display. I had to laugh at the one of Jack Nicholson brandishing a golf club at a photographer. I think I would have a hard time with the constant attack of the press. Liz Taylor and Richard Burton making out in bathing suits back in 1962 was also interesting. I could only take so much of Voyeurism and Desire. In fact, I felt like a voyeur just looking at the photos. It was an unnerving record of life on the outskirts of society. Witnessing Violence included the usual assassination photos of John F. Kennedy. This section showed the human drive to witness and document violent events, including murders and suicides. The exhibit finished up with Surveillance, the most disturbing part of the show. Techniques of surveillance are closely linked to developments in photographic technology--from the earliest aerial photographs to satellite pictures. In the twenty-first century, cameras on street corners, in ships and public buildings silently record our every move, while web-based tools such as Google Earth adapt satellite technology to ensure that there is no escape from the camera's all-seeing eye. The exhibit was certainly thought provoking.

Shoe with hidden camera

I took a walk down the Thames Path, checking out the Globe Theatre, the City of London and the Tower Bridge. I particularly enjoyed this busker and gave him a pound for his efforts.

Thames path

The Globe Theatre was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613. A second Globe Theatre was built on the same site by June 1614 and closed in 1642.

A modern reconstruction of the Globe, named "Shakespeare's Globe", opened in 1997. It is approximately 230 meters (750 ft) from the site of the original theatre. In 1970, American actor and director Sam Wanamaker founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust and the International Shakespeare Globe Centre with the objective of building a faithful recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe close to its original Bankside, Southwark location. It took him 20 years, but he succeeded!

Today's Shakespeare's Globe Theatre--he was one of the actors and a 12.5% shareholder of the original.

More of the Thames Path

Tower Bridge

This skyscraper in London's main financial district is affectionately (or not) referred to as The Gherkin. Due to the building's somewhat phallic appearance, other inventive names have also been used for the building, including the Erotic gherkin, the Towering Innuendo, and the Crystal Phallus.

City Hall, designed by Norman Foster who also designed the similar Reichstag in Berlin that we toured.

We met for tea back at our favorite crypt then decided to head back to Homer to relax before dinner with our friends Katie and Derek who we met in Finikoundas, Greece.

Katie and Derek have lived in London for 4 years so they know their way around. We met at the Old Street Station then walked to a Vietnamese restaurant that they really like, first stopping off to pick up some beer. The restaurant not only allows you to bring your own, they even brought us glasses and an opener. The food was fantastic (we let K & D do all the ordering) and we had a great time catching up. They just sold their camper and are heading to Las Vegas and New York and on to Fiji before settling down back in Australia. We will miss them so much but they might visit California. We sure hope so.

While we were at the restaurant, a woman at the table across from us fell down. Then several chairs were knocked down as the evening went on. Very odd. I got up to go to the bathroom and didn't realize there was a step up through the doorway. Down I went, hard. It appears that I have sprained my ankle. It was hard getting home and it swelled up pretty fast. Chuck stopped at a pub and was able to get a bag of ice, which helped. This morning it is somewhat better but I don't think I'm going to be running around much. Chuck went off to find an Ace bandage but it's a Sunday on a holiday weekend. This is one of those situations where I wish it had been my wrist rather than my ankle. We still have so much to see! No luck with the ACE bandage and the only open pharmacy is an hour away by train, tube and bus. We're taking a much needed rest today and I've got my foot elevated. By Tuesday I may be able to find an Ace bandage when we get to Oxford. This is one of the challenges of being in a foreign city and not knowing where to go.


I was amazed to see that the Tower of London is not a simple tower in the same way, say, that the Big Ben Clock Tower is: It is an entire fortress and castle, covering many acres of ground; it has also been a luxurious royal home. When I exited the Tube, I looked around for it and finally realized my error—I was thinking too small.

As I walked down the hill toward the Tower, I saw an enactment of military maneuvers on the front lawn by a group in period dress. Suddenly, I was shocked by a loud fusillade of rifle fire. This reminded me of the vivid dramatizations encountered on our visit to Henry VIII’s palace at Hampton Court.

William the Conqueror began construction on the Tower shortly after his victory of 1066. So, it is about 1000 years old; but, there have been numerous additions and modifications over the intervening years. Several banks of scaffolding showed that renovations continue, striving to remain true to the original styles.

The tourism highlights of the day, for me, were: The Crown Jewels, Henry VIII’s armour and Sir Walter Raleigh’s prison rooms.

As you wind your way through the waiting line to visit the jewels, you are presented with, first, a colour film of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. This was surprisingly and powerfully touching to me: I recall having watched this event, as a child, on black and white television. Second, you can watch a presentation of the various royal Coronation Regalia and the precious gems they contain; so, when you get to the display items you can move right along—there is even a level escalator for one section! There is Jewelled Sword of Offering; in addition, there are the Swords of Spiritual Justice, Temporal Justice, and the Sword of Mercy; there are several elegant crowns: The Royal Crown cannot leave the country; so, when the Monarch travels, a separate crown must be used or created for the event.

Claire had prepared me for the armour exhibit; but, it was still a pleasant surprise to actually see and compare the items. There is a display of Henry VIII’s armour as worn on horseback at age 25—even the horse is partially armoured. Then there is the suit of armour he wore at middle age—which is MUCH larger and had a protective codpiece that probably indicates delusions of grandeur on his part. Analysis of suits of armour made for Henry and reunited for the first time since the Tudor era proves that the king was 6ft 1in — well above average even today. As a young man he had a sportsman’s physique, with a waist measuring about 32in and a 39in chest. By his late forties, his waist had drifted to nearer 48in and in his final years he appears to have been carrying a 52in waist and 53in chest.

Eighteen year-old Henry after his coronation in 1509.

Classic image of Henry VIII in middle age

Henry at 25

Henry's mature armour

Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned in luxury in the Tower for a period of time, along with his wife and children. The study is set up as it was in that time, and even displays the first volume of his projected multi-volume series of The Historie of the World that was composed here—it was never completed, as he was beheaded.

Interestingly, the Bloody Tower was not nearly as much of a fatal attraction as I had supposed: There were far fewer tortures and deaths recorded here than I had expected. There was an interactive exhibit that provided some background on the famous deaths of the two young princes—usually attributed to Richard III. But, there are two other candidates described, and you are given the chance to vote for your suspect.

As I found the site of Anne Boleyn’s execution, one of the Yeoman Warders was nearing the end of his tour and I decided to hear him out, to see what I had missed. He was very knowledgeable and entertaining; I gave him bonus points for saying that if your cell phone went off in the Chapel then you would die—local restaurants should take heed. The Chapel tour was interesting; but, I was even more fascinated by his account of the life and qualifications for office. There are 25 Warder (Beefeater) families that live on the Tower premises; they are part of the Queen’s Guard, in addition to having responsibilities to the public. You are required to have 22 years prior experience in Her Majesty’s service and you must have attained the military rank of Sergeant Major, to apply for any open position there.

At this point, I left for my meeting with Claire to enjoy our first Tea Time, at the Crypt Café in the cellar of St. Martin-In-The-Fields Church.

For a long time my course was a course of vanity. I have been a seafaring man, a soldier, and a courtier, and in the temptation of the least of these there is enough to overthrow a good mind and a good man. So I take my leave of you all, making my peace with God. ~ Sir Walter Raleigh

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