Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Spotted dick and big wigs

London was hell - not that we didn't have a good time catching up, breakfasting, lunching and taking in an exhibition with old friends, we had a brilliant time with them - but it rained that first day just as we were walking under Admiralty Arch and it continued the rest of the day. 

We'd taken the bus to Trafalgar Square, viewed the newly renovated St. Martins in the Fields, looked at whatever was being set up the Fourth Plinth on the Square and walked across to Admiralty Arch to get to Horse Guards Parade so we could wend our way slowly by Westminster Cathedral, Palace of Westminster to Tate Britain. I don't mind rain, he hates it, but when it is combined with what seems like the whole of the Continent on vacation in London and on the Tube all at once, the rain just made what had been a bright day maddening. 

The photos below are out of order but the Chihuly sculpture marks the spot where we met. Not that I would want you to think we are so egotistical as to think that perhaps they might have .... but right there under that bunch of curls is where the V&A gift/book shop once stood and we happened to be at the museum at the same time. Chihuly had not even been heard of in Europe those days, so the sculpture is merely a coincidence, but a happy one despite my not having any affection for anything that sculptor makes.

A while back I mentioned that we would visit the Whistler Restaurant at the Tate Gallery and so we did - for lunch with all our friends. I cannot tell you that the food is anything to write home about but there is one dish I will explain in a little while. We had lunch there so I could take photos of the Rex Whistler murals for the blog. Photos were not allowed so what you see are illicit images taken by iPhone when the waitstaff had turned the other way. 

It was all a little underwhelming, but I was pleased that finally I had seen the murals in their unfinished, tired state, and it was fun playing the game with the good-natured waiters who clearly knew what I was doing but didn't really try to stop me from photographing.

Spotted Dick is an old English pudding (dessert) that was on the menu and I just had to try it, purely out of nostalgia. The out-of-focus shot below is how it came to table - out of a mold, baked, and in a puddle of custard. I grumbled about it being inauthentic but I finished every bit despite it not resembling the Spotted Dick my grandmother made. 

My grandmother's was made by adding currants to pastry, rolling it up in a pudding cloth so it resembled a long, straight sausage, and then it was steamed for an hour or two. Hers came to table on a platter, palely glistening and studded with spots. Those were the days! Men were men and custard was not creme anglaise!

At the V&A was an exhibition: Baroque, Style in the Age of Magnificence, 1620 -1800. Very good, well curated and reeking not a little of incense. Its easy to forget that this style was nothing more than propaganda for the power of the Church and the autocratic monarchs of Europe in those years. This exhibition, now closed unfortunately, made all the right connections whilst exhibiting all the beauty, tenderness, power and majesty of the imagery used in that propaganda. 

Virgin and Child.

"This sculpture was probably commissioned by a Spanish patron and would have been used for private devotion, perhaps by a recent convert among the native population. Whilst the figure is in a European style, the hidden feet suggest Chinese manufacture. The Chinese saw feet as erotic and therefore inappropriate for a religious sculpture."

The Virgin of Sorrows

"Busts of the sorrowful Virgin were often placed in side chapels of churches as a focus of private devotion, perhaps alongside a similar bust of Christ displaying his wounds. Here, the resigned anguish of the Virgin's expression and the carving of her veil and ringlets (made from twisted wood shavings) are particularly skillful and affecting." 

Charles II

"This portrait bust of Charles II represents the monarch in an heroic pose. The proud turn of the head and the vigorous drapery are inspired by a famous bust of Louis XIV by Gianlorenzo Bernini. A symbol of magnificence and power, Bernini's bust was immediately imitated by other European rulers." 

Now you know why we use the term "bigwigs" to refer to anyone in authority. 

Sunday breakfast was here.

Quotes and last three images here


  1. The V&A is the best place to meet one's love, no? I met mine on a double decker bus on the way to the V&A. Of course, I didn't know it at the time. Thank you for the deliciously illicit photos!

  2. The V&A was the best place, and perhaps still is, to meet someone, however one defined the relationship that ensued! A double-decker - amazing how often one walks backwards, usually unseeing, into the most significant events of our lives.

  3. How right you are, Blue, about the underwhelming quality of
    the Tate Restaurant, where I consumed one of the worst meals in
    all of London. Still, nice to sit there among the early Rex Whistlers.
    In those days, photography was allowed, which provided generous views of every wall.
    Oh~and I quite agree about the Chihully chandelier, too.

  4. Perhaps I should not have been surprised by the unimaginative nature of the food but, other than the spotted dick, I cannot remember a thing I ate. Maybe that is comment enough. I have never been thrilled by Chihuly's stuff.