Archive for February, 2015

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

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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.)