We are spending today in town and making a leisurely start. For breakfast we went to Stiles’ Bakery in Chapel Market and then around the back of Sainsbury’s in Tolpuddle Street to catch the 274.
So far it’s a warm and sunny day but because of the uncertain British weather, you need to be prepared for all eventualities. When we go out for the day I take a rain jacket in my bag and wear or carry two jackets, a light one and a thicker one. By wearing one or the other, or both, or neither, I have four levels of warmth.
The bus became quite crowded as the journey went on. It almost emptied when we reached Regent’s Park Zoo – parents taking the kids out for the day – then filled up again as it continued. We disembarked before it became crowded again and walked along Prince Albert Road, following the edge of Regent’s Park.
I was intrigued by this builder who was wearing a tall headdress or turban. The colour made a nice contrast with the pale shades of his clothes. I’ll bet his has to mind his head, as I do, when entering low doorways.
Along here are tall apartment blocks. I imagine they are luxurious inside and cost a mint to rent or buy. I often wonder what it’s like to live in them: is it noisy or are all the neighbours well behaved? I doubt I’ll ever have the chance of finding out.
The road leads to John John’s Wood, today a rather posh area of London but once well outside its boundaries. In the 13th century, it was owned by the Knights Templar but when that order was dissolved it fell into the hands of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, the Knights Hospitallers, from whom it takes its name. The present church was built in 1814.
Next to the church is a pleasant garden or small park whose name, St John’s Wood Church Grounds, betrays its origins as the churchyard. It in fact predates the church itself having been bought to serve as a burial ground in 1807 though both church and burial ground were both consecrated together in 1814.
Another famous institution, one that sets cricket enthusiasts’ hearts a-flutter with excitement, is just across the road: Lord’s Cricket Ground. Owned by Marylebone Cricket Club, this is in fact the third cricket ground founded by Thomas Lord, from whom it takes it name (nothing to do with aristocratic wielders of cricket bats).
Being about as interested in cricket as in watching paint dry, I was happy to take a bus up Finchley Road to this interesting place. (The paint here was at least already dry.) It is called the Camden Arts Centre, which perfectly describes its role and activities.
The building was originally a public library, designed by Arnold S. Tayler, and opened in 1897. It remained a library until 1964 when its materials and activities were transferred to the new library in Swiss Cottage. A year later it re-opened as the Hampstead Arts Centre and in 1967 changed its name to the present one. In 1971, Camden Council transferred responsibility for the centre to three separate organizations though how that works I cannot imagine. The good news is that from what I saw on our visit, it does work.
Although you are not allowed to photograph the art works in the exhibitions (the Centre does not own them, after all), you can photograph the building. You do not have to sign a form; they trust you and suggest you ask the “invigilators” in the different rooms in case of doubt – a grown-up attitude of which I heartily approve. Other galleries might like to take note.
I cannot show you any art works and, in any case, there was not much that appealed to me. Perhaps I don’t “get” modern art or perhaps it really is inflated vacuous nonsense as I suspect. The prettiest object we came across was this spiral staircase.
Was this once the library manager’s office? Or a storeroom for valuable books? Next time I visit the Camden Arts Centre, I’ll ask and see whether anyone knows.
From the Camden Arts Centre we went down the Finchley Road to the O2 Centre and had lunch at the Zizzi restaurant there.
I used to like the water-spray decorations on the escalators and the large and beautiful aquarium but these have gone, though there are two smaller aquariums. Photographing the fish was quite difficult because of the distorting effect of the water and glass.
Tigger wanted to go to see Freud’s House and Museum in Maresfield Gardens, so thither we went. We found we had struck lucky: admission was free today.
The Freud family fled here in 1938. Though Freud himself died the following year, 1939, it remained their home until daughter Anna Freud died in 1982. The house was Freud’s home and his study and housed his collection of antiquities and other interesting articles. We were not allowed to take photographs.
If you are interested in (or obsessed by) Freud, a visit to a house where he lived and which still contains the furnishings and objects that he used is no doubt a great pleasure. Personally, I find it of limited interest though I did like the design of the house itself.
After visiting Freud’s house, we caught a bus to Hampstead and went to Burgh House where we had tea and cake in the little cafe there. Burgh House is itself worth visiting. It is a museum of local history and a centre for arts and cultural activities.
Afterwards we made our way up Flask Walk, the quaintly named sloping street, lined with trees and shrubs, that leads up to Hampstead High Street.
The pedestrian foot path beside the The Flask is what most people think of as Flask Walk though, as we have seen, the Walk is in fact a much longer road than that. We passed through and took a bus home, thus completing our outing.