To Covent Garden, in search of a purveyor of diaries. ’You have arrived!’, the usually helpful lady on Google Maps announced. ‘But where’s the shop? I still can’t find the shop!’, I protested. (She was not open to interrogation.) It’s a lesson in life: you can be that close, but still lost. I asked a flesh and blood someone-in-the-know to direct me. The shop was closed until 10 am. I took to a local watering hole in the meantime, and caught up on mail. Then on to the London Graphic Centre. This, essentially, is a pharmacy for those addicted to making art. (Which, as habits go, is one of the best to have.)
I met my elder son at Leicester Square before dragging him (he doesn’t take much coaxing) to one of the centres of the known universe: Denmark Street. This place has been the ruin of many a young man. Here, habitually, I behave like a little boy at a sweet shop – nose pressed against the window, sighing, and looking longingly.
We took lunch at Old Chang Kee nearby. There my son could indulge the Asian element of his genetic makeup. I ordered a Nasi Lemak (or Nasal Lexmark, as my spell check would have it).
Afterwards, we took to the highway of culture and headed for Tate Modern. Said son has Tate membership, so his old man can get into exhibitions with him for free. We saw the Anni Albers exhibition.
My head was buzzing. She’d trained at the Bauhaus; Paul Klee had been one of her tutors. The genius of the Bauhaus was in teaching art and craft together, in close proximity. This, now, feels like a very radical pedagogical approach. Her designs for pictorial weaving were undifferentiated from the compositional approaches deployed by some of the best abstract painters at the time. She produced useful fine art, rather than merely fine art. I warmed to her enthusiasm for textual sources, and the Peruvian notion of an image as a surrogate text, in the absence of a literate culture. I need to return to Alber’s work. We’ve have other things in common too.
As the sun set, we walked towards Tower Bridge across the shore of the Thames, which was littered with bricks becoming pebbles. We took sustenance in a watering hole on the north side of the river.
Later, my son introduced me to the London Mithraeum. I saw the initial excavation begin, years ago, when the land was being cleared prior to the erection of the Bloomberg building. The museum has had a good deal of money poured into it. It deploys lighting, sound, and interactive technologies extremely well. The ‘immersive experience’ was both impressive and memorable: intelligent, restrained, and purposeful.
On, then, to Oxford Circus where said son scoped Oxford shoes. As 6.30 pm approached, we headed for The Palladium and an evening with King Crimson. I’d not been inside the theatre since my parents had taken me there when I was 9 years old.
I’ve been ‘into’ their music since I was 16 years old. Tonight, my life passed before my ears. All periods of the band’s history since 1969 were covered. They’d not performed better, in my experience. The playing was loud, heavy, tight, expansive, and risk-laden. Constraining the outputs of eight members within the confines of a stereo PA system proved challenging. Either a broader lateral sound field or a surround-sound system would have helped to separate out their respective contributions.
After the gig, my son and I slipped into a burger bar next to the theatre. We were hungry and tired. But we’d had a blast.