I was a student of the ‘sixties’. Living in London, and when not enjoying drug fueled orgies, I acquired numerous strategies for free entertainment to eek out my grant of £10 per week. You didn’t get a lot of orgies on that. Cycling up to Hampstead Heath for sunny picnics, playing football in Hyde Park on Sunday mornings, free theatre tickets from the nurses home, BBC performances when they needed an audience, folk clubs enjoyed over a long solitary cup of coffee, Kew Gardens, British Museum. You get the idea.
Close to where I lived was Portman Square which hosted The Courtauld Collection [of textile fame] another free facility. Maybe I had to show my university pass but I don’t remember. Often I would come along here and immerse myself in their intimate world of art. A few rooms depicting some of the world’s masterpieces. Medieval religious works, Rubens, Gainsborough, Degas, Pissaro, Monet, Manet, Cézanne, Gauguin, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Seurat, Van Gogh, Matisse, Dufy, Sickert, Mûnter. What a list. Those images have stayed in my brain all these years so it was time to refresh them. The Courtauld is now housed in the imposing Somerset House and has become a major attraction, attracting a considerable entrance fee. But all those mental pictures are still here although they have been diluted by more recent, equally brilliant, acquisitions. The atmosphere is not as personal but the rooms hosting the galleries are elegant in themselves, giving that quintessential English experience. A magnificent spiral staircase connects them, I used the lift.
The pictures below are only some of the ones I remembered, as you will see this is an amazing collection. Thank you Mr. Courtauld. How many do you recognise?
Outside in the square ice skaters were enjoying an early Xmas. Waterloo Bridge gave a view of the city with all the new high rise buildings and St. Paul’s tucked away. the bustle of Waterloo station brought me back to reality.
Whilst visiting Mel and Pat in Surrey we also crammed in Wisley Gardens, Mercedes Benz test track and showcase building, an exhibition of Turner’s art of the Thames Valley at Woking Lightbox, Asian street food, Polesden Lacy house and gardens, beer and curry at the opening of a new restaurant and a French Bistro. The weather was beautiful, blue skies and sunshine. The colours Autumnal. ***
On the way back to Euston I visited The Agra in Whitfield Street to prolong the nostalgia. This family-owned restaurant was established in 1954 and was reputedly the first establishment in Britain to install a tandoori oven. As students we would visit for the Tandoori Chicken and Naan Bread. The decoration and toilets have changed little over the years. The food however remains good quality ‘curry house’ Perfect before boarding the Pendolino.