Follow the life of a recently retired teacher. The bucket lists have been written. How much can be achieved in the next 10 years - from the mundane (baking an edible cake) to the ridiculous (kayaking through the rain forest).
This is it! I've given up work -retired from the rat race and am about to start on a 10 year adventure, doing all those things I've been meaning to do but never had the time to do them. I've offloaded my responsibilities and it is now my time. So follow my adventures and see whether I actually manage anything!
The Magna Carta is probably the most important document in English history. It is 800 years since King John signed the document in 1215. The Magna Carta signalled the birth of English liberty and was the forerunner of the American Bill of Rights in 1791 and the United Nations Charter of June 1945. The City of London was sent a copy of the revised charter in 1297 after it had been confirmed by Parliament on the orders of Edward I, thus giving the document statuary powers. All major cities were given copies of the document. I believe 17 were made but I'm not sure how many have survived. This one on display at the moment in the Guildhall Gallery , London is said to be one of the best as it still has the original seal and the writing is very clear.
Sculpture in the City is a series of installations in public spaces. They are a part of an outreach education programme sponsored by city businesses. In a number of workshops school students have creatively engaged with the sculptures, not only giving the students an opportunity to discover new places in the City of London but also to learn about the value of public art. There are 14 sculptures scattered around the City and I have chosen a selection for you to see. I have included an explanation of the sculpture taken in essence from information boards sited near the sculptures.
Broken Pillar by Shan Hur.
In his sculptures, Hur likes to incorporate found objects, usually relevant to its location. The location here is St Helen's Churchyard. There has been a church on this site since the 13thC and its neighbours nowadays are the Gherkin and other high rise office blocks. The artist encourages the viewer to question the world around them and the objects hidden within.
Charity by Damien Hirst.
This is a 22 foot bronze sculpture based on The Spastic Society's (now called Scope) charity collection box which was commonly found outside local chemists and shops in the 1960s and 1970s. Hirst's version has been vandalised and a number of coins lie on the ground next to the crow bar.
Carson, Emma, Takashi, Zezi, Nia by Tomoaki Suzuki
Japanese artist Tomoaki has moved away from traditional Japanese tradition of woodcarving and has executed these figures in painted bronze which is a first for him. Using his experience of living in London he has created these detailed figures of urban youth at one third their actual size( personally I think this is incorrect as they looked more like one tenth of actual size). Because of their size the artist felt he could focus his attention on the figures in a way that would not be possible on a larger scale.
Organisms of control by Keita Miyazaki
After witnessing the 2011 tragedy Miyazaki wanted to create artworks out of rubble with sculptures pointing to a new beginning. The artist marries traditional Japanese techniques with parts of old car engines to create a new visual universe. This sculpture also includes sound which took a little while for me to realise. (I assumed it was from a nearby coffee shop). The jingles you hear are original compositions inspired by music played in Japanese supermarkets; sounds of Tokyo and London; tunes played in the Tokyo public transport system. Miyazaki wanted to create a geographical connection between London and Japan.
Altar by Kris Martin
This is a metal replica of the multi panelled, 15th C Ghent Altarpiece by Herbert and Jan Van Eyck. Also known as the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb it is located in the Cathedral of St Bavo in Ghent. The artist has only reproduced the frame leaving out the twelve folding panels. Rather than marvelling at the painted religious scene in which flora,fauna and figures are painted with astonishing accuracy and brilliant colours, we are invited to look through an open structure at the real world beyond.
'O my friends, there are no friends' by Sigalit Landau
Laudau states the work is 'a commemoration of the future, when we will be able to slip into these shoes and be part of a community that will create a better history, with more solidarity, more generosity and regeneration'. Real laces, soft and vulnerable link together pairs of bronze shoes.
Rays (London) by Xavier Veilhan
This piece is part of Veilhan's series 'Rays' Other pieces in this series have been installed in Marseille (France), Los Angeles (USA), Murcia (Spain) and Tokyo (Japan). The artwork, frames and questions the views of the City opened up by recent construction activity.
These sculptures are being created by the banks of the River Thames. The sand looks perfect for sculpting. I didn't wait to find out if it was a well known face he was sculpting.
This sculptor was interested in engaging people in a conversation about politics. He was discussing the forthcoming election for leader of the Labour party.
On the other side of The Thames near St Paul's was another sand sculpture. This was a promotion for the latest book by Lonely Planet. They were sculpting famous buildings from around the world. I'm sure I don't need to tell you which ones they chose.
If any of you have been following my 'Above the Underground' challenge on my other blog here you will know that I have completed, the first of the Underground lines I am researching. It became more and more difficult the further from Central London that I travelled as there was less interesting places to discover. It took me a year to complete just that one line so this challenge is going to keep me busy for many years to come.
Although this series of posts is all about the places I find above the Underground, I think it is relevant to mention the people I encounter if they are part of the fabric of the area. I have now started travelling and researching the Central line which takes you from the Essex countryside through the centre of London and out to the West of London. This led to my meeting this gentleman as I was enjoying the serenity of a beautiful country churchyard. My first impressions were of a homeless, down and out whose downfall was probably caused by drink/drugs. However, he engaged in polite conversation, telling me a little bit about the church and asking if I was familiar with this area. He showed a keen interest in my reasons for visiting the church. As I was eager to see a little of Epping Forest, whilst so close, I asked if he could direct me to the nearest main pathway. He offered to show me some of the Forest and if I had time a place called Copped Hall.
I know at this point many of you must be thinking that I would be mad to even consider going off into an unfamiliar, very large forest with a vagrant, about whom, I knew nothing. But, I have always relied on my instincts. If you recall from a previous post I was in a similar situation in Kensal Green cemetery that had me turning on my heels and leaving the cemetery as quickly as possible. I had a good feeling about C and so spent the next four hours in his company.
It turned out that he had been living in the forest for over two years and as we walked deeper into the forest he showed me where he lived. By now he had told me a little about his life. Brought up by a father who was in the Armed forces he moved around a lot as a child. His memories of his father were of a bully who showed no affection towards his children, but he referred to his mother as an angel and obviously adored her until her death a number of years ago. C followed his father into the services and joined the army which he seemed to enjoy as he recounted a number of stories from that part of his life. After leaving the army he became a professional diver working on structures like the Thames Barrier and the oil rigs.
I was curious to know how he had ended up living in a tent in the Forest. He went on to explain that he had Bipolar Disorder which led to the break up of his marriage and ultimately being disowned by his son. He found it more and more difficult to cope. Feeling that life had nothing to offer he took a trip to the Forest with the idea of ending his life. Walking round the Forest on that first day and night he felt calmer than he had ever felt. Sleeping out for a couple of nights led to another couple until he bought himself a tent and sleeping bag and never looked back. He no longer feels the need for medication and feels able to cope with his mental health problems.
He related many instances of the kindness of the local community. C is well known amongst the dog walkers in the Forest who often stop for a chat or leave him items that he might find useful. As he has worked all his life he is in receipt of a pension and is in no need of charity. We returned from our walk to Copped Hall via a main pathway and a number of people stopped to say 'Hello'. He now suffers from arthritis and doesn't know how much longer he will be able to bend down to get in and out of the tent and as a consequence is unsure of his future but I felt the people in the village will give him the support he may need.
I felt richer for having met C and pleased that I didn't reject his offer of guiding me through the Forest. Before saying goodbye I offered to buy him a drink in the pub in the village. He accepted my offer but insisted on paying. He is such a gentleman and a living testament to the saying,'Never judge a book by its cover'.