Monday, January 2nd, London

Steve Martin, Carrie Fisher & beauty and sexiness; what do I want to do today?; Waitrose; down to the Thames past the Chelsea Old Church; across the Albert Bridge to Battersea Park; lunch at the Pear Tree Café; back to Chelsea Old Church; using the app on my smart phone to call a cab back to the hotel; dinner at Garfunkel's; by Tube back to Leicester Square; the New Year's Extravaganza by the Festive Orchestra of London; back to Gloucester Road by Tube; a pint at the Stanhope Arms; snack run to Tesco Express

Best Western the Cromwell



Lately I've been thinking a lot about the negative criticism Steve Martin received for calling Carrie Fisher beautiful, or sexy, or sexy and beautiful after she died, and thinking how could his critics be so stupid as to think that beauty or sexiness is necessarily just physical? I've probably been thinking about it because of all the great performances & concerts I've been to on this trip so far, back in Dublin and here in London.

Mere physical beauty is a lot like a technically proficient musical, vocal or dance performance that is lacking the soul, spirit, and musicality or theatricality that makes the performers and performance come alive and elevates it and them, or is like a performance space where the acoustics somehow don't add anything to the sound vibrations the singer or musician makes instead of a space that enhances it. St Martin in the Fields, for instance, is the second type of hall with amazing acoustics where a single unamplified voice or musical instrument can fill the space.

Carrie Fisher did have physical beauty and sexiness, especially of course when she was younger, but what made her truly beautiful and sexy until her death was who she was as a person, her intelligence, her sense of humor, her grace and strength, her skills and capabilities. She was beautiful and sexy in the same way that many of the women are who have appeared on "Mythbusters" or BBC4's long-running archaeology & history program "Time Team" or the Science Channel's programs "How to build everything" and "Outrageous acts of science" or on many of the home improvement shows on the DIY and HGTV networks–beauty and sexiness not just physically but of the heart, mind and soul as well as the body. So do many of the female musicians and performers I've seen in the last couple of weeks as do many of those I know through my local Renaissance faire, the Florida Renaisance Festival which starts up again in mid-February for its seven week run.

All this is actually relevant to what I did and where I went today, especially where I was and how I spent this evening. Today was a very good and pleasant day, in spite of a couple of minor mistakes and miscalculations on my part.

I fell asleep later than I wanted to last night, and woke up earlier than I had planned this morning, but still felt OK and reasonably well rested. I was going to go downstairs for breakfast, but after I had shaved, showered, and dressed I sat down at my laptop to plan out what I wanted to do today. By the time I really looked at the time again, it was already about 9:30 so I just had one of my Slimfasts instead.

I had my concert at St Martin in the Fields at 7:30 PM. I decided I'd spend the first part of today here in the local area, although several places I would like to visit are closed for the season such as the National Army Museum and the Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park. I thought I'd walk from here down to the Thames and across it and down to Battersea Park, have a wander around the park and find the Peace Pagoda which I've seen from the water at least a couple of times when I've been out on the Thames. Then I planned on walking back to the Chelsea Old Church, which I've wanted to visit each time I've been here in London, and walk up the Thames to Cheyne Walk, the Chelsea Embankment Gardens and the Chelsea Physic Garden before walking over to the South Kensington Tube station to possibly go hat or cap shopping at Laird's and checking out the current selection of walking sticks at James Smith & Sons to see if they had any hand carved ones before walking back to Trafalgar Square for tonight's concert.

My first miscalculation came when I left the hotel. The first place I wanted to go this morning was across the street to the Waitrose. Shortly before I left home for this trip I had to replace the laces on one of my pairs of walking shoes and had put on ones that weren't quite long enough so I hoped I could find some at the Waitrose. I was wearing a sweatshirt and my heaviest vest but had left my camera back here in my room. By the time I got across the street I realized it was quite a bit colder than I had thought it would be–after fifteen years in S Florida I'm not too good at remembering what temperatures below 50 F feel like–and would have to come back and switch to my heavier winter coat and get my camera, of course.

As I had passed the reception desk on the way out I had asked them to let housekeeping know I'd be out of my room so they could clean it when they wanted. I rather surprised the person cleaning my room when I came back after getting the replacement laces.

It was a lovely sunny day but very chilly for me. I kept having to minutely readjust the zipper on my coat, often felt like I should have been wearing another layer under the coat, put on the pair of gloves without fingertips I had with me, and at one point even put down the ear flaps of the cap I was wearing.

This time of year the sun is much lower on the horizon even at noon than it is in July which is when I was here on my two previous trips before so even at 11:30 AM frequently only the top parts of buildings were catching the sunlight, which combined with the bare trees all around often made for what I hope will be very good Winter pictures.

My route to the Thames took me right past the Chelsea Old Church, which I planned on coming back to when it opened at 2 PM. Battersea Park is across and a bit downriver with an entrance on the street running across the Albert Bridge, a very lovely old Victorian bridge. As I was crossing I was amused to note an old poster indicating that all troops of soldiers crossing the bridge should break step and not march in synchrony which of course reminded me of the time the Mythbusters tried to test the myth that soldiers crossing a bridge in step could cause it to vibrate so badly it would collapse but couldn't get their test bridge to do so. (A much later note--when I recently rewatched that very episode I noticed that they actually used a shot of the Albert Bridge with the sign telling solidiers to break step before crossing.)

I really loved Battersea Park and had an excellent and enjoyable wander around it. Today was also a holiday so there were lots of families with kids and people with dogs, most of them off leash. It was about 12:30 or 1 PM by this time and I was getting hungry again so I was delighted when I came across the small and lovely Pear Tree Café somewhere in the center of the park. Since today was a holiday their kitchen was closed although they were doing a huge business in pastries, hot drinks, and luckily for me they were making toasties (a grilled cheese sandwich is a toastie). I had an excellent one with ham and cheese, a small and very good mince pie, and a rhubarb soda which I've had before and is also very good.

It was getting close to 2 PM, when I thought the Chelsea Old Church was going to open, so I found my over to the Thames side of the park and walked along it past the lovely Peace Pagoda, back across the Albert Bridge, along Cheyne Walk back to Chelsea Old Church which I was surprised to see was still closed. This is where another of my miscalculations came in. I had noted that Chelsea Old Church is open from 2-4 PM Tuesday through Thursday–and promptly forgot that today was only Monday.

I walked back along the Thames and the Chelsea Embankment Gardens, and eventually found the Chelsea Physic Garden which I was surprised to see was also closed. For some reason when I had been looking online last night or this morning, I hadn't actually found the web site for the Garden I listed earlier and so hadn't seen the page with the days and time it's open. When I checked it right before I began typing these notes I saw that the Garden is closed from December 24th to January 27th.

Somewhere along here I thought about whether I really wanted to go to James Smith & Sons and Laird's before tonight's concert and have to carry a shopping bag with me until I got back here to my hotel. It wouldn't be a problem if I bought another walking stick at James Smith & Sons because I'd been planning on having them ship it home for me as they did last year, since I already have Chris's cane. Mom's folds and goes in my suitcase. It's a short walk from James Smith & Sons to Laird's and an even shorter walk from Laird's to St Martin in the Fields, which means that it's a short walk from the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery which I'd been thinking of going back to earlier in the morning closer to when they open, over to Laird's, then from Laird's to James Smith & Sons, and from there to the Piccadilly Circus Tube station where I can take the Tube back here to Gloucester Road.

I decided to take a cab from where I was along the Thames over by the Chelsea Physic Garden. I didn't see one coming so I used one of the London cab apps (Gett) on my Samsung smart phone with the local SIM chip and it worked very well, including paying for the ride and a tip using my US Bank of America debit card.

I was back here in my room before 3:30 PM. I decided I had two choices, both involving leaving here about 5:30 for my 7:00 PM concert. I could head directly over to the area near St Martin in the Fields and find somewhere near there for dinner, or I could eat somewhere here in the neighborhood before heading in. I went across the street to the Garfunkel's where I had a good bowl of tomato basil soup and good fried scampi & chips.

It was then about 6:30 and I saw I could still catch the Piccadilly line over to the Leicester Square Tube station and make it to St M in the F with just enough time to use the restroom downstairs in the Café in the Crypt before the house opened upstairs at 7 PM.

This is where my last small miscalculation came in. I was very sure the concert was at 7:30, which is when several of the other concerts at St M in the F I've been to have started. I had just come in and was in the back buying a program when I heard the announcement that the concert was going to start. Sure enough, when I'd taken my seat right before the performers came out I checked my ticket and saw it actually said 7 PM–but although it was closer than I like I was there just in time.

Tonight's concert was the New Year's Extravaganza by the Festive Orchestra of London, several of whose concerts I'd been to when here in London on my first trip last July and again this summer. If they have their own web page, I've never been able to find it. They're a small group with never more than 11 players at their largest tonight, and with nine women and two guys (cello and harpsichord).

This is where how I started today's notes fits in with where I was today and what I did. I especially remembered the director & principal violinist, an excellent musician and younger woman who is quite pretty but when you watch and listen to her play, seeing the emotions and expressions that cross her face, with the way she sways and almost dances in place she is very beautiful and very sexy. The same is true of several of her female colleagues as well. It did occur to me that the same could also probably be said of the guy playing the harpsichord and the guy playing the cello, who holds it between his legs instead of on the stand, but I'm not wired that way.

The ensemble is well known for using period-correct musical instruments. The harpsichord and stringed instruments aren't that much different from their current cousins. The baroque oboe, however, primarily differs from its current version in being made out of wood and not having metal keys.

Tonight's program included many of the same pieces I've heard at other concerts at St M in the F–Handel's "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" from "Solomon" ; Mozart's "Eine kleine nachtmusik"; Pachelbel's "Canon & gigue in D" ; and after the break, the complete "Four Seasons" by Vivaldi ,

There was one piece I don't think I've ever heard before, because I enjoyed it so much I'm sure I'd have recognized it if I'd heard it before–Bach's "Concerto for oboe and violin in C minor" . This might have been my favorite piece of the evening.

The concert ended just about at 9 PM. I made the short walk back up to the Leicester Square Tube station and took the Piccadilly line back here to Gloucester Road. This time the ride on the Tube was much less crowded than it's been since I got here, which was lovely.

It was still early so I stopped for a pint at the Stanhope Arms across from the street from the station. I noticed something interesting while I was there; although the pub's web site shows it's part of the Taylor Walker chain of pubs, the menus were from the Greene King chain instead.

I also stopped off at the Tesco Express for one of their mixed berries cups and some yogurt because I'd eaten dinner so early. I had them while I streamed and watched another episode of "Time Team" on YouTube.

It's now past 1:30 AM, again later than I had planned on staying up.

So what am I going to do tomorrow? I should drop a load of laundry off at the reception desk before 8 AM, since that resumes tomorrow. Then I have the Cinderella panto at the London Palladium tomorrow night, and need to pick my ticket up at the box office not much past 7 PM, so I think I'll leave here around 5 to make sure I can find somewhere nearby for dinner. In the morning, I think I'll go to the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery then the London Transport Museum, make my way over to Laird's and check out their hats and caps, and James Smith & Sons before walking over to the Holborn Tube station to take the Piccadilly line back here for a couple of hours before I have to leave again for the evening's event.

And now I really should get to bed.

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