A moving tribute

Last week I went to see Tom Piper speak at the V&A Museum. Tom is a British theatre designer who has collaborated with the likes of Sam Mendes, Kevin Spacey, Michael Boyd and the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company). His talk covered a range of his theatrical projects and it was fascinating to hear how he has approached the transformation of theatrical spaces as well as different iterations of the same play for different directors.

However for the majority of us attending, he is most well-known for the ‘poppies project’.

In 2014, 888,246 ceramic poppies were planted in the moat surrounding the Tower of London to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Britain’s involvement in World War I.

A collaboration between Tom and Derby-based ceramic artist Paul Cummins (who originally approached the Tower of London about filling the moat with his ceramic blooms), the poppies were planted by 21,000 volunteers between July and November to create the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation. After the event, the poppies were packed into commemorative boxes and sold for £25 each with the proceeds going to the six affiliated charities: SSAFA, The Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes, Coming Home, Combat Stress and Cobseo.

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The presentation box for the ceramic poppies.

Tom shared how the project came about, the meeting of minds and synergy of different talents between he and Paul, the logistical challenges of the installation (there was a point where they ran out of poppies) and how unexpected the public response was.

What I didn’t know was that two of the features from the installation – Weeping Window and Wave – have gone on to have a life of their own. Since their departure from the Tower, there have been a further seven installations with Weeping Window finishing its 2016 run at Caernarfon Castle in North Wales in November.

(Please excuse the quality of the images peeps – I was taking them from Tom’s slideshow!)

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Tom talks about the roadshow of Weeping Window (pictured) and Wave that continues around the UK.

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Ceramic poppies in situ

 

Weeping Window will visit four new locations in 2017 with Wave scheduled to be installed at a further two so if you are planning to be out and about – and you are interested – you can find out where here. From what I can see, the locations chosen are free to visit but all suggest booking so that the number of people to be accommodated can be managed.

I didn’t get to see the installation when it was at the Tower of London but I was absolutely astounded at the impact it had. Nightly news stories charted the progress in filling the moat, the visits by a whole range of dignitaries and the mounting public hysteria – with closures at nearby tube stations due to over-crowding – as the installation neared its completion and eventual dismantling.

I love that this installation continues to be so accessible. It feels a lot like street art to me – usually a combination of a ‘surprise’ appearance and a powerful statement – but on an entirely different scale and I am wondering whether I can manage a visit to any of the locations touted for next year.

War inflicts terrible losses on individuals, families, communities and society-at-large but in spite of it all, life does go on and I am so pleased that this moving tribute has been resuscitated again and again, and continues to honour those who give so much for their country.

A skip in my step

So the great Chicky Adventure is done and my sibling partner in crime has arrived back on the other side of the world (and is working through her jet lag by all accounts).

It was such an amazing two weeks – firstly for the unadulterated ‘just us’ time, secondly for the opportunity for me to introduce her to this amazing city I call home, and thirdly for our shared pilgrimage to Amsterdam, Dad’s childhood home, and the delicacies we enjoyed in memory of our Oma and Opa.

I’ve been meaning to pick up the blogging ‘pencil’ again over the last few days but I have felt so full of everything we did that I haven’t known where to start. The anticipation of Lil Chicky’s first trip here. The pride in the sharing of my new hometown and experiencing its fabulous-ness through her ‘new’ eyes. The privilege of helping her celebrate her 40th birthday. The sheer intensity of spending 2 weeks – 24/7 – together for the first time since…well forever.

All underpinned by a lifetime of sisterly memories, the effortless and uncomplicated recall of funny stories, childhood scrapes and sibling rivalry, and squillions of photos…

…including a few selfies.

DAY 2: Fab Finchley – looking for coffee in the pouring rain. 

DAY 3: Can’t go to London without visiting the Queen. 

DAY 4: Hamers do ‘the henge’ (squeezed between visits to Salisbury and Bath). Technically not a selfie thanks to a kind Aussie chap on the tour, but close enough.

There’s a small selfie gap here while we undertook birthday celebrations (part one – The Mousetrap and dinner in Covent Garden – and two – Pret-a-Portea at The Berkeley)…

DAY 5: Fashionista food at the Berkeley

…Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, Globe Theatre and a visit to Carnaby Street.

DAY 6: Yes, we bought these. Because we had to get out of the rain. And the Irregular Choice shop was just there. Really.

Then we went to Amsterdam…

DAY 9: Arriving at Amsterdam’s Central Station about 2 minutes before torrential rain…

Waiting for our first poffertjes (teeny tiny pancakes served with butter and icing sugar and eaten with a toothpick) of the pigrimage trip in Dam Square.

(More on Amsterdam in a later post).

After 4 days, we returned to London, hired a car and drove first to Silverstone and then to Donington Circuits to tick a few things off Lil Chicky’s motorsport bucket list. Looks like Day 13 was a lucky one…

The Winners’ Podium at Silverstone – cheesy but had to be done.

We decided to take Day 14 easy with a visit to the Museum of London after the ‘wild storm‘ had abated…and when Day 15 dawned bright and blue-skied (if a little chilly), there was just one thing left to do…

DAY 15: It endeth on The Eye – our last sibling selfie of the trip.

Full of our time together and tired from our two weeks of tourist-ing, we said our emotional good-byes at Heathrow last Tuesday. After I’d waved until she’d disappeared behind the security barrier, I made the long trip home to Gidday HQ. It’s still my warm and cosy haven but a little quieter. And yellow banner of the Money Shop, which became our welcoming ‘nearly home’ beacon as we turned into my street each night, has now taken on a new and poignant significance. Another memory, meaningless to anyone else but enough to inspire a skip in my step…

…one that only Lil Chicky will understand.

Departures…

After a 10 day sojourn, Mum flew out to Dubai last night on the final leg of her February 2012 odyssey. It’s quiet here this afternoon at Gidday HQ but I have lots of things to be getting on with before it’s back to work tomorrow.

All up it’s been a busy 10 days with some ‘must dos’ not done as we traded off a few excursions for a little chill out time at home. I’ll post about some of the specific things we did over the next week or so – that’ll be more posts of the ‘Armchair‘ variety coming up for you – but in summary we shopped, played tourist, ate, drank and were generally slightly hysterical very merry.

Day 1 started gently for my erstwhile traveller, recovering from 2 weeks amidst the hurly burly of Egypt with a sleep in, a short stroll around my local park and a coffee stop or two before heading into The Tower of London in the evening for the Ceremony of the Keys.

The Ceremony of the Keys has been occurring every night at the Tower for the last 700 years and is the ritual of securing the Tower and the Crown Jewels for the night. From arrival at the West Gate at 9.30pm to departure at approximately 10.15pm, every moment was filled with a sense of both occasion and history as the Yeoman Warder led the group down to stand at Traitor’s Gate and watch the ceremony.

After explaining the ceremony itself, he left us to watch in silence as he joined his fellow warders in the ritual locking of the two outer gates, the steady march towards Traitor’s Gate right through to the proclamation that the Tower had been secured and the haunting notes of the bugler’s Last Post. This is definitely one of London’s hidden gems and even better, it is free but you need to send off a request form a couple of months in advance. You can click here to go to the website and check it out for yourself.

Saturday we were off to High Tea at The Connaught in Mayfair with A-down-the-hill to enjoy a significantly posher version of our previous Champers and Cupcakes escapades…

Champers gets our afternoon off to a fab start
There were also scones (they were scrum-diddly-umptious) and we got to choose three jams between us – my fave was the Apple & Quince!

Mum and I took ourselves off to see The Artist afterwards which meant a much needed 25 minute waddle along Oxford Street…

Oxford Circus
Selfridges
Get your five a day at the junction of Oxford and Duke Streets

Sunday was clear and crisp so we headed off to Greenwich. This will be featured as an Armchair post so more about our day later on. Suffice to say we managed to get our hands on something quite old…

We did a spot of shopping on Monday then decided on a ‘rest day’ before heading off to Dublin on Wednesday for 4 days. This little trip warrants a couple of dedicated posts but for now, I’ll leave you with a highlights package…

The Boyne Valley, about 45 minutes drive north of Dublin, has 40 passage tombs in all shapes, sizes and states of preservation…
…and we visited Newgrange Passage Tomb which predates the pyramids.
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I poured (and drank) the perfect pint at The Guinness Storehouse (and have a certificate to prove it)…
…while Irish history came to life for me at Kilmainham Jail.
I was delighted to find a ‘host of golden daffodils’ in Merrion Square…
…whilst visiting the Famine memorial by the Liffey River was quite moving.

We managed to cram a lot into our four days and came back to Gidday HQ on Saturday night absolutely exhuasted. Then departure day had arrived, all too soon it seemed, with much packing and sorting going on before heading back out to Heathrow again and hugging Mum goodbye.

As I walked away from the Departure Gate, I felt the familiar tearing of my heart between the love of family on the other side of the world and the connection of my soul with London. And I wondered at what it was in me that led me here so very far away, and where I might end up next.