Southwark Cathedral, London SE1

 

Wooden effigy of Unknown Knight
Reputedly the oldest wooden effigy in Britain

 

Literally a few steps away from the hustle of Borough Market is the calm oasis of Southwark Cathedral. It is a wonderful mixture of old and new. It contains a wooden effigy of a knight from the 13th Century, reputedly the oldest in Britain and its Northern cloister was opened in 2001 by Nelson Mandela.

Shakespeare

There are monuments and memorials from many time periods in between. There is a stained glass window and bas-relief dedicated to Shakespeare, his brother Edmund is buried here. The Cathedral is on the South Bank of the Thames where many of the theatres used to be in Shakespeare’s time.

 

Tomb of Thomas Gower
Tomb of Thomas Gower

 

There are tombs of quite different types, from the multi-coloured wooden one of the poet, Thomas Gower, a contemporary of Chaucer, to the more austere and eerie one of Thomas Cure, a 16th Century parliamentarian.

 

Thomas Cure
Tomb of Thomas Cure

 

There are memorials to those who lost their lives in both the first and second world wars, victims of the Marchioness sinking in 1986 and Isabella Gilmore, the first deaconess of Southwark. There are also monuments to both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

Deaconess memorial

While you are here don’t forget to look at the fixtures and fittings in the building. The black marble font and outrageously ornate wooden cover, at the nave of the church is one highlight, the eagle lectern, near the altar is another.

Lectern

Added to all this is the architectural splendour of the Cathedral. There are details here from a whole range of different engineering periods. The vaulted ceilings in the main church are beautiful, but the marble bricked ceilings in the naves are equally so.

Sculpture
Walk through the church into the garden and you can sit in verdant peace, with the noise of the market in the background. There are a couple of unusual sculptures here, but the flowers are beautiful. An often overlooked gem in the heart of tourist London, just the place to dip in to, if you feel the need to step out of the boisterous city for a quiet break.

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Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, Duke of York’s Theatre

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Six catholic schoolgirls in uniform arrive on stage to sing a hymn, Mendelssohn’s “Lift Thine Eyes”. They have angelic voices, it is beautiful. After the song they begin to talk, the language is sinful and the subjects are carnal. The juxtaposition is funny and moving.

This play is the story of their day trip to Edinburgh to sing in a choir competition. Over the course of this twenty four hours they meet various characters from the places they visit. These characters are played by the girls themselves and this combined with the strong accents and dialect made following the action hard work in places. However, the script is witty and coarse and the singing is fantastic, especially the classical pieces and hymns. Many of the rock songs are Electric Light Orchestra covers.

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is a well observed play. It is insightful, in that it makes us aware of the difference between the world that their convent schooling is preparing them for and the actual world that they will inhabit when they leave. This play makes you question how qualified ecclesiastic schools are at preparing children for a life in a secular society.

An entertaining and thought provoking show, with a very talented cast. I am sure we shall hear of many of these actors again.

Angels In America, National Theatre, Southbank, London.

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Angels in America is operatic in its scale. It has huge universal themes, it takes on religion, politics and the future of the planet. At its core though, are three individual small stories that investigate the meaning of love and abandonment. It can be at times; grandiose, bombastic, histrionic and at others; tender, bitchy or warm. The show is set in 1985 New York at the start of the AIDS crisis, with Ronald Reagan just having been elected for his second term.

It is an awe inspiringly big production. The set is amazing. There are not many theatres in the world with stages large enough to contain the more expansive pieces, but there are also intimate scenes set in small a room or around a single hospital bed. I will be surprised if Ian MacNeil does not win an award for his set design. The direction is very clever, the angel is astonishingly large, when it arrives, yet the scene involving a small puppetry diorama is equally compelling.

The cast is astounding and their performances are excellent. Every single person in the production is at the top of their game, so it almost seems unfair to pick out favourites but…. Andrew Garfield is a revelation, I’d only seen him as Spider-Man before, and this is quite different! Nathan Stewart-Jarrett is fab-u-lous (three full syllables) as Belize, he is given some of the best lines in the show, and he delivers them well.  Nathan Lane plays Roy Cohn and manages to make him cruel, contemptible and charismatic.

This show is a marathon at over seven and a half hours for both parts, but it passes surprisingly quickly. I did not feel the time going at all. I commend its ambition, I admire its uncompromising stance and I revere its wonderful production values. Angels in America one-off theatrical experience.

Cementerio de la Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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La Recoleta Cemetery is one of most amazing things to see, in one of the largest and most beautiful cities on the world.  This cemetery occupies 14 acres of the most desirable real estate in a very fashionable area of downtown Buenos Aires. This cemetery is packed with streets of mausoleums honouring the great, the good and the dead of this fine city.

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There are over 6000 monuments here, in the shape of chapels, pyramids, Greek temples. There are hundreds of statues, pillars, columns all commemorating in death, the achievements during the life of its inhabitants.

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These shrines vary hugely in design, in shape and in beauty but the combined effect of seeing them all together is contemplative; mementos of a life now past.

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Buenos Aires is a busy vibrant city and Cementerio de la Recoleta is a lovely step away from that bustle into a more introspective place, a welcome contrast and a place to gather your thoughts and fortify you, before continuing your adventures in the city.

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The stained glass windows in the tombs, vaults and burial chambers are particularly striking and I loved the way it was possible to collect their reflection in the windows, looking in.

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Pictures courtesy of Michael Jolly.

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The Café in the Crypt, St-Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London

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If you are near Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, St Martins Lane or the National Gallery, there is a lovely little hidden café underneath the St Martin-in-the-Fields church.

You enter by going downstairs in a circular glass structure in the wide alley just to the North of the church.

Once you are downstairs you will be in a large atmospheric crypt with beautiful arched vaulted ceilings. The acoustics are great, even when it is full you can hear your party’s conversation without difficulty.

The floor is flagged with large stones and some very old gravestones. There are busts of famous ancient Londoners  dotted throughout, in hidden alcoves.

It serves very good food; soup made on the premises, nice hot dishes that change from day to day, lovely cakes and biscuits and it is licensed, if you fancy a glass of wine with your lunch.

There is a good choice for vegetarians too.

If you a looking for somewhere that is right in the centre of tourist London that, perhaps, most tourists might miss, then this is just the place.

A real hidden gem!

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The picture above is of the entrance, in case you miss it. It has Jazz evenings on Wednesdays. Oh and the church that it is beneath, St Martin-in-the-Fields, is not to shabby either!

Reflected in glory

Yesterday we visited the Recoleta Cemetery where for 200 years the great and the good of Buenos Aires have competed to build the most ornate mausoleums in stone and marble.

I loved the way that with a little care it’s possible to capture a brief vignette of the architecture and stained glass reflected in the glass of doorways used by relatives to visit their ancestors.

These are my favourite photos of the day.

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