Main purpose: be there for the Tate Modern's first morning open.
I got my One-Day Travelcard from a ticket machine, paying via Switch. I'd expected to have to enter my PIN but didn't. Presumably this is a candidate for biometrics such as a retina scan for the coming era of smartcards.
The train was supposed to be non-stop but had to halt at Welwyn North at 09:53 as someone had pulled the emergency cord. We were off again at 10:04. After a short Northern Line Tube journey I emerged from London Bridge station at
Even though the building only opened 50 minutes before, it already looked fuller than the 2,000 and 4,000 people at the respective events the previous day. I later heard that queueing started at 05:00. My guess is that by 11:00 there were around 10,000 in already. The lifts were full of people, as were most galleries.
|[A striking comparison with the pathetic attendance figures for the Dome. More...]|
It's strange to have a building opened twice by the Queen - in this case in 1962 when it began as an oil-fired power station, lasting until the oil crisis c1974. The Tate intends to make use of the vast underground oil tanks in a future phase of development.
The Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron have done a superb job adapting Giles Gilbert Scott's building.
I went downstairs and then down the wide entrance ramp to the floor of the hall. The bookshop (said to be the largest art bookshop in the world) was full. I took the stairs to floor 3 for the Landscape and Still Life galleries and then went up to floor 4 for the displays there. Half of that floor was a ticket-only temporary exhibition Between a Cinema and a Hard Place. My Art Fund membership entitled me to a reduced price but I'd had enough for the moment. Most of the galleries were full. I planned to return on the 10th June when the Millennium bridge opens.
|[London SE1 has a major feature on Tate Modern, with reviews.]|
One key element of Tate Modern was the decision to display art by themes rather than chronologically by artist or movement. I'm sure the latter approach deters non-specialists from appreciating the works. For me the thematic displays were a triumph, producing far greater levels of interest and surprise and suppressing "gallery fatigue". The juxtaposition works.
The physical spaces were neutral white, with technical details successfully discreet. The plain, unvarnished floorboards also fitted perfectly.
One excellent detail: there are small rest areas adjacent to the galleries extending into and overlooking the turbine hall. In the first one I came across I saw some bored-looking teenagers taking refuge.
Some of the works which particularly stuck in my mind:
|[See London SE1 article.]|
|[See BBC News's Scooter Chic? Push The Other One!. A February 2001 edition of Trouble at the Top revealed that a Hamley's buyer spotted it at a U.S. toy fair and thought it would be a winner.]|
|[See the article on Craven Passage in A guide to the alleys, courts, passages and yards of central London ]|
|[I was last there at the Odeon in 1977 for the first week of Star Wars (Episode 4) via a CUSFS minibus trip. The film showed there for three weeks before coming to the Victoria in Cambridge and we couldn't wait. When we came out from seeing the film, we helped someone in the Square whose car was blocked in by others - it was still a normal Square with a road on the four sides of the central grassy area. We carried his car out of the line of parked cars into the roadway.]|
I was surprised at how the area has changed: the Odeon is an ugly black edifice, there's another giant cinema across from it, the Empire, and just off the Square is a large Warner Village cinema. Most of the shops around there seemed to be various fairly seedy or naff emporia, such as cafes, pubs, slot arcades or video game parlours - that sort of thing (I don't remember any specifically). On the southern side of the central grassy area is the Half Price Ticket Booth. That part of the Square was redeveloped around 1990/1 as an underground power substation.
I noted Wyndham's Theatre is alongside the Tube station entrance as I was thinking
of seeing the comedy Art there, having read good reviews.
|[The LT Museum arranges occasional tours of disused railway facilities - see some examples.]|
I carried on to Holborn where I changed to the Central Line for St Paul's Cathedral. This journey and the previous one were the only Tube journeys of the day on full trains, it being lunchtime.
|[At one station around this point there was a notice comparing use of the lifts with stairs: the latter is equivalent to 15 flights of normal stairs. On a previous trip I experienced this myself at one station - the lifts were out and I had to walk down. Some stations have signs cautioning people against walking up.]|
I turned left (eastwards) and went along various narrow lanes: Distaff Lane, Queen Victoria Street, Huggin Hill, Little Trinity Lane, College Lane, Dowgate Hill, Cannon Street,
Next I rode from Monument station to Tower Hill and the train terminated there. I popped up to the viewing platform for the Tower and then went back into the station. Whilst waiting for a train I saw in the distance an inscription on the tunnel wall saying that part of it was a section of the Roman city wall c200AD.
Then I took a Circle Line train to Baker Steet (arriving 15:15) but I exited from the station the wrong way, arriving on the south side of Marylebone Road, so had to cross to the main station. Next door is the entrance to the refurbished Metropolitan Bar - now a JD Wetherspoon.
Next up was the Head of Steam at Euston (15:55) - at long last.
I caught the 16:03 train back from Kings Cross, arriving at 17:40.
There was a little light rain around 14:20 and 15:10 but it was otherwise dry, with occasional sun.
The ten Tube journeys would have cost £10.50 without my Travelcard, nearly doubling the overall cost.