18 Oct 2014
Previously I would have said The Barbican is not my favourite place in London. Over the years we’ve enjoyed some interesting concerts here, but we’ve never ventured further than the Concert Halls and only at night.
The Barbican complex is an enormous mixed-use estate built between 1965-1976 on a site heavily destroyed in WWII. Mainly residential, it includes the Barbican Arts Centre, a library, a school for girls, the Museum of London, and The Guildhall school of Music and Drama, along with cafe’s, bars and restaurants.
Wandering around the grounds in the daylight, I can’t decide if I like the brutalist architecture. The rough exposed concrete surfaces are softened by hanging gardens and pockets of bright green parklands. The internal courtyard is filled with the sound of waterfalls and fountains. People are hanging out by the pond sipping coffee and chatting, audience members waiting for a lecture to start. The longer we stayed here the more I appreciate it.
Today we’ve come for a Baptisim rehearsal at St Giles’ a medieval church that stands steadfastly in the heart of the estate. This church is a survivor. It’s been through major fires, bombed in the war and repaired. Oliver Cromwell was married here, Thomas Moore’s parents were married here and William Shakespeare attended his nephew’s Baptisim. And tomorrow David will become a Godfather, to Myles, here in these walls that have seen centuries of history.
We had a happy reunion with Rebecca and Eleanor, our friends “It’s been too long!” We met Julian and baby Myles (14mths) for the first time. Myles was all shy smiles and curious eyes, he’s the spitting image of Eleanor. The reverend, tall, kind and with grace walked us through the order of events for tomorrow. I was impressed with how she managed the children and remembered everyone’s names.
Navigating from East London to Richmond in the west proved to be somewhat complicated. After marvelling at the new and improved underground trains, we were subjected to the dreaded ‘planned engineering works.’
“Oh, that’s right” I groaned remembering how chunks of the rail system often shut down for maintenance on weekends. Even being so familiar with the underground network it was an effort to get to Richmond: three tubes and a rail-replacement bus.
The village centre brought memories flooding back of the years we lived in Richmond.
“Look, the bookshop’s gone.”
“Remember picnicking with Sonya in the Green” David said pointing to a row of Oak trees.
Falling into our old footsteps we walked down to the river and followed the tow path past pubs that notoriously flood in high tide, boat hire sheds, the floating restaurant and stopped into the cafe built into an arch under Richmond Bridge. Finding a table under the canopy of oak trees and overlooking the Thames, we chatted and reminisced.
“I smell like an overripe peach!” Lamented David as a swam of midges buzzed about his head. We’d stopped to take a photograph of the River Thames. It was only a few minutes ago I was saying how much I like his new French aftershave. Chuckle.
We were in Richmond to catch up with friends Frankie and Pete, who live in a lovely street off Richmond Hill. It’s been nearly 5 years since we’ve seen them, during which they’ve been married; we had so much to catch up on! Over a bottle of Moët our conversation picked up as if no time had passed. We have much in common and always enjoy their company. After a couple of bottles of bubbles we walked into the village to Chez Lindsay, a French restaurant. It was the perfect combination of great food, wine and company.