A cheat plaque

Hello gang. Don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten about finding plaques to tell you all about. The only thing is that once you’ve done all the ones on the way to work, you have to wait til you have enough time to go further afield to find more. And when one keeps going to work and not having a day off….

You see the problem?

But last Friday, Danda and I went to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not (I’ve never been before, crazy!) and apparently I had printed the wrong bit of the ticket so we had to go to an internet cafe nearby and print off the right bit and on the way, we spotted this.

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It’s a blue plaque commemorating that Dr William Hunter’s house and museum was there during the 1700s. He was a leading anatomist and physician and was famous for his studies on bone and cartilage. His big claim to fame was being appointed physician-extraordinary to Queen Charlotte in 1764. When he died, his varied collection went to Scotland and formed the basis for the Hunterian Museum which, in 1807, became Scotland’s first public museum.

So, all in all, a pretty cool guy. Thank you for your contribution, Sir, and for adding an unexpected historical element to my search for an internet cafe.

STATS

TOTAL MILES RUN – 14.4

BLUE PLAQUE COUNT – 26

The Laughing Cavalier and unexpected plaques

On Sunday, Danda and a friend and I decided to have a day out ‘up London’. First we visited the Banqueting House, the only remaining part of Whitehall Palace, which was all but destroyed in numerous fires. Banqueting Hall is noteable firstly, because of it’s stunning huge Rubens’ paintings on the ceiling (they are mind-blowing) and for being the place Charles I was taken right before being beheaded. He was walked up the stairs, through the Banqueting House and then out one of the side windows onto a scaffold that had been built for the occasion. It was so strange thinking that a perfectly healthy man had been walked up here, the same direction in which I was walking, knowing that in a matter of minutes, he would have his head chopped off. Wierd.

As you enter the hall, you see people lying all over beanbags on the floor and wonder what on earth is going on. Then you realise that the only way to take in the magnitude of the Rubens’ ceiling is by getting on the floor and filling your entire vision with it. It’s so amazing. Here’s a picture of the hall, to try and do justice to how amazingly historic and beautiful this place is.

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Next up, lunch then the Wallace Collection. While heading toward Manchester Square, we spotted a blue plaque so I stopped where I was, turned on my running app on my phone and got my run on. It must be the easiest three plaques I’ve ever got! Within 0.1 miles on a day I wasn’t even looking for them, I found John Hughlings Jackson (neurological physician who lived in the 1800s)….

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…Sir Julius Benedict (German composer and conductor)…

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…and Alfred, Lord Milner (British statesman who served as the High Commissioner for Southern Africa and also on Lloyd George’s War Cabinet during the First World War).

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Easy peasy!

Next up, the Wallace Collection blew my mind. The art collection there is amazing.

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Velazquezs that I’ve only read about, huge Titians that I could have spent hours looking at, Van Dycks that were sombre and exquisite. Danda and friend were sat waiting outside while I wandered about, open-mouthed looking at the bronzes and discovering new fascinating artwork and painters. After a visit from Danda to gently hurry me up, I tried looking more quickly around the rest of the main gallery when I came across something that made me stop, unable to move on.

It was the Laughing Cavalier.

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It. Is. Stunning.

Literally. I was stunned.

I don’t know whether it has the same visual impact seeing the photo I took but look at his jacket. Look at the intricacy of the pattern work on that coat. And the way the splits of the material on the arm falls open and shows the folds of the shirt underneath. And that lace cuff and how you can see through it. I can’t even imagine being able to paint like that. I can’t imagine the concentration it takes to complete. I can’t imagine being able to create something so beautiful.

I also love the cavalier’s face. I think he’s terribly handsome (if I was going to have an art crush, it would be on him – and also on Charles I, he’s rather handsome). I just think he looks quite approachable, a little flirty if anything. When I saw him, I found myself grinning back before I realised what I was doing. I then hurriedly checked around and no-one had caught me acting like a wierdo so it was okay.

Forgetting the hurry and Danda and his friend waiting outside, I watched the Laughing Cavalier and basked in wonder at how this amazing piece of artwork had been created. I love how no-one knows who the Laughing Cavalier really is. It means he doesn’t come down to earth with a bang. He doesn’t turn into a real person with a history which might detract from the painting.

Anyway, I’ll stop being all dreamy now!

When I finally left, Danda and his friend had grown bored waiting for me and gone for a wander and found more blue plaques. So I turned on my app, got running and found them. Again, it was ridiculously easy. I only covered 0.2 miles and ticked off another three plaques.

These two were on the same house, eeeeeasy!

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Captain Frederick Marryat was a Royal Navy officer, novelist (pioneer of the earliest sea stories) and inventor of Marryat’s Code, a maritime flag signalling system. Also at this address is George Grossmith Jr, who was a (are you ready for this?) British actor, theatre producer and manager, director, playwright and songwriter, best remembered for his work in and with Edwardian musical comedies. If that wasn’t enough, his father was the songwriter and actor, W. S. Gilbert, of Gilbert and Sullivan.

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Last but not least, the great Simon Bolivar! I’d had no idea he had a London plaque. I also had no idea that his full name was Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios Ponte y Blanco! He was hugely influential in liberating South American countries from Spanish influence and needs little explanation to realise that his success lead to Bolivia being named after him. If you haven’t already heard of him, go Google him. He’s interesting.

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STATS

TOTAL MILES RUN – 14.4

BLUE PLAQUE COUNT – 25

The elusive Arthur Hughes

After a failed trip yesterday morning to find a plaque near London Bridge, I was determined to win the Plaque Game and last night, after attending a work meeting on Kew Green, I decided to find the blue plaque I had missed on my very first plaque run.

Maybe it was because I didn’t actually run to find it, as I was in work clothes and didn’t have running shoes on. Maybe it is because I thought I could fool you guys by just walking there then giving you an excuse. Whatever the reason, the trip was doomed.

I found the correct house alright (I remembered number 22 this time, NOT 23!) whipped out my phone, turned on the camera, got my face in shot with the plaque, took a picture and the whole phone went black. The battery had died and when I got home and plugged it in to charge, I turned it on and saw that the photograph of the plaque had not been saved.

I realised that I would have to make yet another trip to Kew Green (my fourth!) to find Arthur Hughes’ plaque and get evidence of it. After work today, then, I changed into running gear and set off.

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Finally! Success! Who would’ve thought that one little Pre-Raphaelite painter could have caused me so much confusion?!

I am pleased to say that Arthur Hughes is worth it. His two most famous paintings, April Love and Ophelia, are marvelous, the colours vivid and the characters full of emotion. He was born in 1832 and died in the Kew Green house in 1915. He exhibited in the Royal Academy most years since his first painting, Musidora, was shown there when he was 17 years old. He also illustrated, among many others things, some of Keats’ poetry. I salute your talents, Mr Hughes. I just wish you hadn’t taken so long to find.

STATS

TOTAL MILES RUN – 14.1

BLUE PLAQUE COUNT – 19

The hills are my friends

Ok, it’s official-ish. I ran 10k today in a race situation and completed it without either of my legs breaking! Woop!

It wasn’t really a ‘race’, as such. Yes, we all set off from a start point and each had a number and each got a time, etc. But it was splashy and slippery and muddy and didn’t really feel competitive in a proper way. Some parts were just too damn muddy to build any real speed up. I was too busy trying to pull my feet out of the ankle deep mud that was trying to suck my entire body in.

As the crowd headed to the start line, I hung back, as is my way with group runs. That way, I either stay in the same position at the back or I take over a few people. I’m happy at the back. As we got going, I settled into a rhythm quite easily and when I saw the 2k sign, I multiplied how long I’d been going for by five which, coincidentally, was my exact finishing time, to the minute. A few of the people in front of me who had pushed themselves to go fast to start with had now slowed to a walk, tired by their initial efforts. And this is why, I thought, I don’t go fast at the beginning (or ever!).

Feeling comparatively speedy, I overtook the walkers and imagined myself graceful and Baywatch-esque. Until, that is, a tall gentleman who was doing something only one notch up from a walk passed me by and then I acted all cool, like I didn’t even care.

It was a lovely route to run, actually. There is something striking and very attractive about the harsh leafless landscapes of winter. Sometimes, when there was no-one else near by and I was crashing through the outstretched branches of trees on a teeny tiny path, I felt like an explorer in a far-off land and couldn’t help grinning.

As the run-walkers exerted themselves overtaking me, then slowed to a walk and I overtook them, I realised where my advantage in this game lay = in the hills. Because Danny of Project Awesome makes us run hills for 45 minutes every Friday morning and encourages us to go faster and keep running and not walk, I can now deal with hills without too much trouble. I’d approach a downhill and, with the high mud factor, slow down to avoid the possibility of falling. I would hear the run-walkers behind me seeing a chance at easy fast mileage and they’d take me over, hurling themselves down bravely in order to get ahead. Meeting an uphill at the bottom, they would slow to a walk and pant heavily. I would then approach the hill with my Project Awesome head on and overtake them and run it. It got to the point where, nearer the end, I was praying for hills to give me a bit of a lead.

1k from the end, I approached a very steep downhill that a steward was telling me I should “just charge down” because “you’re less likely to fall”. I didn’t doubt it but I still didn’t fancy charging down the mud hill so I dropped onto my bum and slid down to find a fairly wide river at the bottom. I was told again to “charge” across and took his advice this time. The water was freezing and came almost to my knees but, wierdly enough, it was quite refreshing. As I clamboured up the equally muddy incline on the other side to head for the finish line, I didn’t feel tired. My legs felt fine and my body felt fine. I reasoned that, if necessary, I could maybe have done the course again, which made me feel hopeful for the fact that there’s a half marathon in 7 weeks that I’ve been unsure about but maybe it will be ok? Maybe my legs will not break?

As I headed to the finish line, I was handed water and a bag of goodies and, perfectly timed, Danda then arrived on the scene to take a pic, obviously.

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Mission accomplished! (More hills next time, please.)

Primrose Hill – Take 1

Friday is Project Awesome day so at 5.20am, off I headed to Primrose Hill for crazy running around and sit-ups with this fabulous view.

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From this highest point in the park, but with a little more light than this, I ran off in search of Blue Plaque joy. I was not disappointed.

Down to the bottom of the park and just a few houses along, I found my first plaque.

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This is the house where Roger Fenton, photographer, lived. Born in 1819 and educated at Oxford, he originally planned to become a painter and even had work displayed at the Royal Academy. Photography being new on the scene, he decided to dedicate his energies to that instead and in 1854, he went to photograph images of the Crimean War, which he was invited to show Napoleon III and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on his return. He was instrumental in creating the organisation that later became the Royal Photographic Society. Thank you, Sir. You done good.

A little further down the main road, I went looking for another blue plaque and was treated with extras, all next to each other. Hurrah!

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Number 2 – William Roberts, born in 1895, was a war painter in both world wars. He was featured in a magazine dedicated to Vorticism, the only movement in the art world at the time to originate in Britain, although he classed his work as Cubism. He was shown in the Royal Academy and the Tate Gallery and used his surroundings (the house backs onto Regent’s Canal) to inspire the urban scenes in his later work. I have looked at your paintings, Mr. Roberts, and they are wonderful.

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Number 3 – AJP Taylor, historian specialising in 19th and 20th century European diplomacy. During the wars, he often befriended emigre statesmen, which helped him develop the opinions later seen in his political and historic writings. As a broadcaster, he became well known for his television lectures and was involved with (co-editing, editing or authoring) 49 books. Impressive, to say the least.

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Number 4 – the 19th century poet, Arthur Hugh Clough, a native of my own hometown, Liverpool. His plaque is one I wasn’t expecting so it was a nice surprise to discover him. He was assistant to Florence Nightingale and, ironically, died in Florence. After spending time living in London at this address, he travelled round much of Italy, writing poetry during his visits to Rome and Venice.

Anyone seeing similarities? From Liverpool to London to Italy….? Sound like someone you know?

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*please excuse my filthy hand, the 6.30am workout left me muddied, soggy and frozen*

Number 5 – After running the wrong way up the road for a little while (thank GOODNESS I finally learned to take the book out with me!) I found my final plaque, Walter Sickert. Born in Germany, he later came to England and was a pupil and etching assistant to Whistler (as in Whistler’s Mother, you know the one). Despite being an eccentric, his paintings deal with ordinary people and situations and, strangely enough, recent theories have suggested that he was Jack The Ripper (he believed he stayed in a room where Jack the Ripper had once stayed and one of his paintings was entitled ‘Jack The Ripper’s Bedroom’.)

Now that I was done with my blue plaques, I headed off to the station and passed this amazing art deco building that I believe was a cigarette factory once upon a time.

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It’s another one of those places that I had no idea existed and would never have come across if it weren’t for blue plaque searching. There are a ton more plaques in the area and I only ticked off a few today so watch this space, I’ll be back to run some more.

STATS

TOTAL MILES RUN – 11.1

BLUE PLAQUE COUNT – 18

Life lessons from the Blue Plaques

Who was it who said ‘Life is what happens when you’re busy doing something else?’ Today was a prime example of that.

After work, I broke with traditional yet again by running in the afternoon. Cause I’m just crazy that way. I wanted to go to Kew Green to track down the blue plaque for pre-Raphaelite painter, Arthur Hughes, that I had wanted to see on my first run. I had seen another blue plaque and been distracted by taking a Blue Plaque Selfie with it. When I got home and looked in my book, I realised that the plaque I had seen was not the one I had been looking for. Dammit. Shoulda taken the book with me then I would have seen that I was at the wrong one. O well.

When I left work today in my unflattering stretchy running pants, I was determined to right this wrong that the sneaky blue plaque had played on me. I ran to Kew Green and started looking around for house no.23. Along the way, I saw this lovely little pond that I’ve never spotted before.

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I stopped for a moment and thought about how pretty it will look in the summer. As I ran around looking at the houses around the pond, they were all even numbers. I was looking for number 23 so I couldn’t work out what was going on. I crossed the Green to one of the other sides and found the house…..

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You see what my problem is? Where’s the blue plaque!? I looked and looked, up and down the street. Nothing!

Off I ran, a little confused and on the way, came across this fabulous plaque on a house, which is in a whole different category of awesome.

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It’s like the bonus ball of the plaque world! Boom! Score!

When I got home, I decided to try and solve the Kew Green mystery so got my book out and looked up Arthur Hughes and…. he lived at NUMBER 22! 22… not 23…. Ah. Yes. Um. That thing I said earlier about taking the book out with me. I really need to listen to my own brain.

Life lessons the blue plaques taught me today =

1. take the bloody book out with you.

2. if you look around while you run, you might spot some cool stuff, even if you don’t find what you were aiming for.

STATS

TOTAL MILES RUN – 9.78

BLUE PLAQUE COUNT – 13

Sneaky post-workout Blue Plaque run

Good morning everyone! I have very little to report but as every plaque counts, I’m going to blog it anyway. I also covered barely any ground running to this one but here it is.

Alarm went off at 5.20am and I was on a tube by 5.45am heading to Piccadilly for a workout with the Project Awesome gang. With my Blue Plaque book in my hand (as it seems to always be these days!), I knew there must be one close enough to the workout to sneak in somehow. Obviously there was so after 45 minutes of squatting, burpeeing and running stairs, off I ran to find a pub on Panton Street….

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See that circle in the top right corner? Immediately to the left of the railing? Yep, that’s the best I could do unfortunately. My phone apparently cannot zoom when it is in forward-facing mode. Ridiculous. So I couldn’t do any better than that, sorry.

Anyway, the plaque commemorates Tom Cribb (1781 – 1848), a bare knuckle boxer who beat Tom Molyneux (the best American boxer at the time) twice and would often go for up to 76 bouts when fighting. After his retirement from boxing, he ran the pub on which this plaque is fixed, for many years. The pub, simply named Tom Cribb, was not open when I got there so my plan to go in at 7.30am and get smashed in his honour was ruined…..

Never mind. Off to work it is, then.

STATS

TOTAL MILES RUN – 6.76

BLUE PLAQUE COUNT – 13

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