Tourist’s London, a craftsman’s choice

So here’s the brief, two days in London with my 15 year old son Ollie during half term, a mix of educational and fun stuff, seeing the sights of London without breaking the bank. We started a bit off the beaten tourist track unless it is the Beatles fans tour. No1 Saville Row home of Gieves and Hawkes. Saville Row is internationally known for fine tailoring, it was only last year that I found out just how much of the work is actually done by highly skilled craftspeople in the basement workshops on the Row itself, I took photos on my last visit here.  This trip though was different here’s Ollie outside.

And this is the reason we were there. I had been invited to the Jubilee Ball of the Royal Warrant Holders and the dress code was “white tie”.  Needless to say like most craftspeople I don’t keep full formal dinner dress in the wardrobe but thankfully HCA Patron Mark Henderson is chairman of Gieves and Hawkes and offered to loan me what I needed. Here I am being fitted out by John Blanco head of the bespoke department.

 It was quite an experience, one day I do hope I will be able to go back to be fitted with a suite of my own.

We didn’t visit the workshops this time but I did just take this snap of the shoemaking workshop in the showroom of Carre Ducker 

 Whilst Gieves and Hawkes tailors were making some adjustments to my outfit we popped over the road for lunch at Fortnum and Masons. This is indulgent but it is affordable indulgence and highly recommended. If you just do a main course it is less than £15 a head and yet it feels really special. Ollie had slow roast belly pork, I had pigeon salad, can’t remember the fancy names for both but it was all drizzled with this and topped with that as they do these days.

then off for a walk around and sight seeing, walking is the cheapest and often most rewarding way to see the sights in London.

 My favourite walk is along the southbank from Tate Modern past the globe to Southwark cathedral and the shard. Entrance to Tate Modern, for those that don’t know it, this was a power station converted into a modern art gallery. It opened in 2000 and is now the most visited modern art gallery in the world.

My favourite piece of the day a Brancusi with a Hepworth to the rear right, my two favourite sculptors.

and I loved this one by Guiseppe Penone made in 1980, I had only recently become aware of his work and was amazed to see he has basically been doing the same thing for 30 years, still good though.

This is his current work
A good Henry Moore

 Another reason to go to Tate Modern is that the view from the top floor restaurant is probably the best free view in London, skip the queues and fees of the London eye.

back down to ground level this is the infamous Millennium bridge with St Paul’s in the background. 

It was dark by the time we got to the Shard so here is a photo I took last year whilst they were still building it, I am a fan. We popped along to the cheap theatre tickets office at Liecester Square and got Ollie tix for a show whilst I was at my ball, we both had a great night.

One of the things Ollie wanted to do in London was run and jump on an old fashioned London routemaster bus, I guess I had not realised how rare these have become but I knew I see them around the Strand so we went to Trafalgar square  and as soon as we arrived we spotted one heading toward the Strand, we ran and jumped on as it pulled up at the red lights.

I was equally excited to see and ride on the new routemaster, a piece of functional sculpture designed by Thomas Heatherwick who did the Olympic torch sculpture. I don’t think many of these have been built yet but we spotted a couple and managed to get on one.

The interior is great, sort of a bit retro and a bit like the inside of an airplane it just works. The jump on and off platform at the back means it has to have a conductor as well as a driver but the platform has a door that can close at off peak times for single person use. I loved it.

Last stop British Museum

There is so much there to be inspired and wowed by, incredible Egyptian sculpture carved from granite with copper tools, how did they do that? Every time I go I find new favourite things. This sad picture has a lot of meaning for me, it reminds me of medieval illustrations of beggars, when folk have no more possessions in the world all that is left is a bowl.

These jugs from 2500BC I thought were stunning, I had been in several restaurants and coffee shops over the previous 48 hours and seen a good few dysfunctional 21st century vessels which did not pour well. The problem is often that they pour when half full but if filled right up they dribble. This upright spout design gets over that issue, I bet they pour beautifully.

and another favourite piece, I am sure Picasso would approve of this one.

I always wait in London to 7pm when you get the first cheap train home and the money I save on tickets is more than enough to buy a curry at Diwana on Drummond Street a belly full of great food for less than £10.

2 Responses to Tourist’s London, a craftsman’s choice

  1. Tim November 5, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    By a spooky coincidence, those jugs are from the exact place and time period of my own archaeological speciality – Early and Middle Bronze Age from Crete and the Cycladic islands. There really is nothing like handling them for yourself and, looking closely, seeing the fingerprints of the craftsmen/women who made them left behind in the slip, particularly around the handles and spouts. Whilst extremely practical, they were 'mass' produced in the same way wooden bowls are, and thus carry the same marks of the maker. 5000 years later and we have not changed too much – aesthetics & functionality… and fingerprints! Incidentally, the shape is normally assumed to be derived from (now lost) jugs made from dried gourds. Take a gourd, cut away a spout and voila, you have an exact resemblance. Indeed, the very early example that have these spouts have a rounded bottom just like gourds, and are decorated beautifully in red and cream (it's called Ayios Onouphrios ware, check it out!). It's an interesting example of a skeuomorph.

  2. Robin Wood November 5, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    Thanks for that useful info Tim, I just did a google image search and found lots of beautiful jugs.