WIW: grey turtleneck, jeans.
WRW: grey suit (The Wedding Suit), lavender shirt, reversible bow tie, faux diamond cufflinks (The Wedding Cufflinks).
Up at 6. Had breakfast at Pret a Manger - - Richard had porridge and coffee, I had a ham, bacon, cheese, and cheese croissant and a grape juice and elderberry soda, all of which was delicious. We dashed back to the room, picked up Richard’s stuff, and got on the tube to go to World Travel Market. This is why Richard was in London - - it’s a yearly convention, where people in the travel business network with each other. He was going to be at the show Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I took him there Monday morning so I could see the show and help him set up.
There were swarms of people going to the ExCel Center, a convention center in East London. We ran into Tom Travers and some other people from the Beacon Hotel on our way in - - it was Tom who got us the comps to the Johnny Halliday concert in October. I told Tom that World Travel Market had all the charm of an airport, and he said, “An international airport!” We saw Richard’s friend Lucille, whose hair looked gorgeous. Richard said her travel plans revolve around where and when she’s having her hair blown out. I met Kevin Streit, whose wife I met in Vegas a couple years ago. I met some other people I don’t remember, all of whom love Richard and were thrilled to see him and excited to meet his husband. Aw! We had a nice chat with our friend Barbara Friedman, who I’ve met many times and was at the wedding. I think the first time we met was when we went to see Liza’s show on Broadway. And we ran into Juan, who we met on the plane, and had all the great stories about Mrs. H. I helped Richard set up his booth and he hustled me out of there so he could do some work and not spend all day introducing me to people.
I got back on the train and found my way to Tate Britain. It was a longish walk (twenty minutes) from the tube station, but a beautiful sunny crisp day. I have to say that finding my way around London is much easier now than it was on my last visit, because I’ve lived in New York for the ten years in between! One of the things I love most about London is the museums are free. The Tate Britain was having a special exhibition (meaning that cost money) of Pre-Raphaelite art, and I know next to nothing about it, so I figured why not. It was amazing, a really fascinating show that had me thinking about lots of other artists: the flatness and use of decorative patterns made me think of Klimt, the hyper-realistic depiction of nature made me think of Andrew Wyeth, the luminous use of oil paint made me think of Salvador Dali, and the occasional campy use of historical/mythological narrative made me think of Charles Busch.
The most memorable painting was Ford Madox Brown’s “Take your Son, Sir!”.
The card at the museum said that the baby is the artist’s son, who died, which is probably part of the reason the painting is unfinished.
I breezed through an assembly of pieces from their permanent collection, “A Walk Through the 20th Century”. The Tate Britain is all British art, so that made it a little flat - - this show seemed to be made of people I’d never heard of doing things other people had done first, and better (faux Picasso, faux Pollack, etc). Is that uncharitable?
I walked back to Lambeth Bridge and across it, to go to Tate Modern. It was almost 1 PM so I was thinking about lunch. I found what looked like a typical London working class joint, an order-at-the-counter kind of place. I got the Cornish pasty with beans and chips - - that’s ground beef and potatoes in phyllo dough, with baked beans and French fries on the side. May I remind you that I’m on vacation. It was just what I thought it would be, and I was supremely satisfied. I started reading *Slaughterhouse Five*, which I thought I’d be reading on this trip. This was the only time I read it! Great book, but I just didn’t have the time to read. Anyway, I tried to prop up the book with the ketchup bottle and the salt shaker, or something equally inventive/less precarious, but it never really worked. This sort of thing is easier in New York. But I realized that this is a meal that I can eat with one hand, so I ate with my right hand and held my book open with my left. Was that story worth telling?
I got a little lost trying to find the Lambeth North tube station - - let’s not say “lost”, let’s say “mislaid”. But I doubt I lost much time, I think I just took a route parallel to the one I was planning on taking. But I got where I was going, took my two trains and walked to the Tate Modern. And they’re so considerate - - they have orange lampposts leading you to the museum. I went to the Tate Modern on my last visit to London, it’s one of my favorite museums anywhere. It’s just fun. It’s laid out in an interesting way and you can just wander around and look at things, without any real plan. It’s funny - - even just a few hours later, writing in my journal, I had a stronger memory of the works I saw at Tate Britain, but I had a better time at Tate Modern.
Here's a picture of the entrance to the Tate Modern, and a view from the cafeteria at the Tate Modern (does anyone know what building that is, with the dome?):
I stopped at Whole Foods on my way back to the hotel and bought some oranges. The clerk was kind enough to help me with my change. I had a light dinner in the hotel room - - an apple, an orange, a cup of tea, and one of the cupcakes from the Anthonys’ brunch. A read an interview with Ben Affleck in some English newspaper, he was promoting *Argo*, which I decided I want to see while I’m in London.
WIW 2: dark grey suit, lavender shirt (The Wedding Shirt), purple and turquoise polka dot tie (the tie Joanna Coles called “gooooh-juss”).
I thought since I was going to opening night of a new production at English National Opera, it was going to be gala and I should dress up. I thought I might feel a little underdressed just wearing a suit, I was expecting to see some gowns and tuxes there. Turns out I was the best dressed person in the joint! Well yeah, this is the second-tier company of London, and I wasn’t in the most expensive seats, but I was in the second-most expensive seats, and people, come on! Everyone was dressed like they were going to the hardware store. I’m more gala when I go to work.
I was getting a little snide looking through the program before the show and reading the bios - - the lead singers had sung lots of roles at English National Opera, also sung at Opera North, Scottish Opera, English Touring Opera. “Hm,” said I. “Major international career.” But they were all fantastic! The lead baritone, Roland Wood, had one of the most gorgeous voices I’ve ever heard. Magnificent colorful voice, just poured out of him, and such delicious English. ENO just started using supertitles, and I’m glad they had them, but I didn’t always need them, especially when the baritone was singing. Fascinating opera, reminded me of *Parsifal* in the sense that it was about the ritual and not about the drama. Beautiful staging - - it hadn’t been fully staged in London since the Covent Garden premiere in 1951 (I think some of the members of the audience had been there).
Do you know the word “faggle”? This is a word that Kathy the Mezzo and I invented at our first visit to Lyric Opera of Chicago, interestingly enough seeing an ENO production, Handel’s *Xerxes*, starring Ann Murray, who had a supporting role in *The Pilgrim’s Progress*. We had a fun time watching the audience during the intermission, and noticed quite a few clusters of gay men.
ME: What would you call a group of gay men?
K THE M: A gaggle?
ME: A gaggle of fags?
BOTH: A faggle!
So I saw me a faggle at the opera that night, during the intermission. I walked past them, and they noticed me. Sure, I was the best-dressed person there, but still, it was a good feeling.
I took the tube home from Covent Garden, it was a quick trip. Richard was almost asleep when I got there - - he had a good day at WTM. I told him about my day, and we went to sleep.