Thursday 18 October 2012

The Heart of Things

For this ex-Londoner, most trips to the capital are a sore trial. For my best beloved, raised in Co Donegal, they are full of delight and excitement. Yesterday we had a special reason to go up – an exhibition of paintings by a former student of mine. But first we went to the Science Museum. That's the stuff of half-term memories from my childhood, with buttons to push and levers to pull and all sorts of exciting consequences. More than 50 years on, Stevenson's Rocket is still in pride of place, to remind us now of how quickly the economic viability of the canals was threatened by the railways. However, we found ourselves spending most time in the sections on the history of medicine and space travel. In both cases, it was intriguing to note that exhibits which must feel like ancient history to visiting schoolchildren had been part of our own experience.

The capsule from the Apollo 10 mission round the moon was there. I still remember sitting in Heathrow a few months later, listening to the moon landing happening. The second exhibit to strike us was a mock-up of a 1980 open-heart operation. My best beloved had been specially trained to scrub for these as theatre nurse when they first started doing them on children in Edinburgh.

From the museum, we caught the tube to the Monument. My mum used to talk about it, but I can't remember us visiting as a child. I only realised today that it is Wren's monument to the Great Fire of London, with long inscriptions in Latin to describe both the fire and the reconstruction. It has recently been restored, and it's an extraordinary sight, soaring up into the sky between far more modern edifices.

So finally we walked from there to the Menier Gallery on Southwark Street for a private evening viewing of "The Heart of Things". It was a great joy to see Sarah Kelly-Paine again. Her website describes some of the inspiration she gets from her life in France, and it was fascinating to compare her current work with the painting that has hung on our lounge wall since she was a student of mine in the mid-90s.

(Pictures courtesy of Sarah's website)

Another wonderful day, well worth the penalty of getting home half an hour after midnight.


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