Monday, July 13, 2009

Breakfast Rambles - Monday

Today was my first full day in London after a week in Ireland at the Willie Clancy Festival in Miltown Malbay. (All of those posts are accessible by clicking the Topic Label "Willie Week 2009" in the blue box on the left.) My friend Maurene had an ambitious sightseeing itinerary planned. Much of what we were to see on my 3-day visit fell under the category of "old." For example, yesterday we went to The Oriental Club and Rules, both dating back to the early 1800s. The first items on today's agenda, however, were more recent additions to the historic city of London.

After a cup of tea and a shower, Maurene and I were out and about by 9 AM. Our first stop was an office/apartment complex called Cutler Gardens at 3-11 Devonshire Square. Despite its picturesque name, the original buildings that comprised Cutler Gardens were warehouses belonging to the East India Company, later used by the St. Katherine's Dock Company and the Port of London Authority. From 1978-1982 the warehouses were remodeled for use by the Standard Life Assurance Company. In 1990, a sculpture by Denys Mitchell was installed in the courtyard. The Cnihtengild, a bronze and glass sculpture of a knight on horseback, has a modern style which nevertheless succeeds in invoking all the drama and force of the days of King Arthur. The plaque below the sculpture reads as follows:

King Edgar (959–75) granted this derelict land to thirteen knights, on condition that they each perform three duels, one on land, one below ground, one on the water. These feats having been achieved, the King gave the knights, or Cnihtengild, certain rights over a piece of land ‘from Aldgate to the place where the bars are now, toward the east, on both sides of the lane, and extended it toward the gate now known as Bishopsgate in the north, to the house of William the Priest… and to the south to the Thames as far as a horseman riding into the river at low tide can throw a lance.’

This sculpture by Denys Mitchell, commissioned by the Standard Life Assurance Company, commemorates the Cnihtengild and was unveiled by the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, Sir Alexander Graham G.B.E. D.C.L. on 21st November 1990.

And here's a fact about The Cnihtengild that so far has escaped mention on the internet: the statue MOVES. The position of the horse's head, the rider's head, and the rider's lance change on the hour.

(To make the pictures larger, double click the first one.
Then, on the Picasa Web site, click on Slideshow.)

Moving on, our next stop was the entrance to the Liverpool Street Station of the London Underground to see another sculpture, the Kindertransport Memorial, by Frank Meisler, completed in 2006. The sculpture depicts Jewish refugee children rescued from the Nazis. The UK admitted about 10,000 children between December 1938 and August 1939. Sent unaccompanied and placed in foster homes, most of these children never saw their families again. The Liverpool Street Station was chosen as the site for the sculpture because it is where the children disembarked from the Harwich boat train.

A quote at the base of the statue says:
"Whosoever rescues a single soul is credited as though they had saved the whole world." (Talmud, Baba Batra 11a.)

Our breakfast destination was The Barbican Estate where Maurene's friend Val lives. Before the Barbican was built, hardly anyone lived in that part of the city because it had been destroyed by heavy bombing in World War II. The Barbican, which opened in 1969, brought 4000 residents and many other people who come to attend events in the Barbican Centre, the largest performing arts center in Europe.

The Barbican complex is architecturally significant. Built by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, one of the most important modernist architectural firms in Britain, The Barbican is an example of the Brutalist style. The entire complex is elevated from street level, and the landscaped grounds are quiet and beautiful. Once inside, you lose the bustle of London and enter a quieter world of nature and art. There are three large towers and 13 terraced 7-story buildings. Val's living room offers a lovely view of the large reflecting pool called "the lake" in which grow water lilies and other types of vegetation.

(To make the pictures larger, double click the first one.
Then, on the Picasa Web site, click on Slideshow.)

Val served us a breakfast of freshly baked croissants and berries with coffee, tea, and juice. She was a gracious hostess, and it would have been easy to linger for hours chatting and taking pictures. However, our sightseeing agenda beckoned, so before too long Maurene and I bid a fond farewell to the Val and the Barbican.

Maurene and Val

© 2009, Linda Mason Hood
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