Tag Archives: London


Three ‘off the radar’ galleries.

My mate Mel always came up to Lancashire in November for a short walking, drinking and eating break. Alas, he is now on kidney dialysis three times a week so it is simpler for me to make the trip down south to visit him and Pat. Trains from the north were delayed by sheep on the line so I jumped on a train to Crewe and picked up an express train from Liverpool to Euston.

Across the road to the Wellcome.

Across the road from Euston is the Wellcome Collection an oasis of calm away from the busy road. This is a fascinating gallery with ever-changing exhibits related to medicine, health and the human condition. Today there was a gallery exploring our experiences of illness and mortality through the diaries of Jo Spence dying of leukaemia, a rather depressing experience. Alongside was a video installation from artist Oreet Ashley again exploring illness and our reactions to it in the digital age. Soft furnishings to recline in whilst watching the challenging films made me feel uncomfortable.

Moving into another gallery was an exploration of how as humans we affect climate change and its effects on the importance of water. One stunning video showed a quick food outlet slowly being submerged with flood water, the result of our planet pollution, with plastic straws and takeaway dishes floating through the screen. You get the idea.

In the same room was a Shonibare Refugee Astronaut, another comment on climate change and the forced immigration that will follow. ” as witty as they are terrifying”

Moving on the next morning we were in the fantastic Lightbox in Woking admiring a collection of paintings from The Scottish Colourists. 

I must admit I’d never come across their works before. S.J. Peploe (1871 – 1935), J.D. Fergusson (1874 – 1961), G.L. Hunter (1877 – 1931) and F.C.B. Cadell (1883 – 1935). A group of painters influenced by Post-Impressionism but moving into Modernism.

Wonderful landscapes, portraitures and vibrant still life. A splendid exhibition.

Still Life. S J Peploe

Villa Gotte Garden.   J D Fergusson.

Ben More from Iona.  F C B Cadell.

Alongside was a contemporary exhibition from the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, all available to purchase.

My favourite.

Outside in the shopping mall was a Christine Charlesworth bronze of the disabled basketball player Ade Adepitan.

Sunday gave us a break as we visited the parkland in Windsor Great Park and Savill Gardens. We strolled around the lake and polo grounds. There was filming taking place in one area so we never saw the totem pole but nearby amidst stately cedar trees was the Cumberland Obelisk, in honour of the Duke of Cumberland [1721 – 1765] of Culloden fame, son of King George II.

The Guards Polo club has 160 playing members and 1000 social members. They play from April to September on Smiths Lawn [an airfield until 1945], that would be worth a visit. There is a bronze statue representing a polo player about to strike.

Another equine statue on our slow perambulation was in memory of Prince Albert.

We concluded our modest circuit of the lawns, Mel was pleased with his two and a half miles walk so I treated them to an expensive coffee in Savill Garden’s cafe.

Monday morning was set aside for a visit to Watts Gallery and Artists Village at Compton on the North Downs. I first came across this whilst walking the North Downs Way with Mel in 2011, [what a difference a few years make] it was closed for restoration then but somehow we enjoyed a cup of tea from them. This little complex of galleries is based on the home and studio of Victorian artist G F Watts and his ceramicist wife, Mary Watts, highlighting their work and offering workshops and other exhibitions. The North Downs Way which Mel and I had traversed follows in parts a pilgrimage route from Winchester to Canterbury and Mary created a Celtic-style cross was in memory of her husband George. The memorial was made from terracotta dug from the surrounding land and was moulded at the Compton Pottery. The cross bears a variation of a Celtic shield-knot, protection from evil spirits or danger.









First port of call was the Watts restored studio up at the Watts house, Limnerslease, where two guides gave us an insight into their methods and ideology. There were numerous artefacts from their time illustrating their artistic skills.

Limnerslease the Watts house with attached studio…


Of particular interest was a reproduction of Mary’s method of communal tile manufacture for the Arts and Crafts Chapel down the hill [visited on the North Downs Way]. Alongside this was a vivid installation from a demolished Military Chapel in Cambridge, rescued just in time, which was meant to uplift the spirits of wounded soldiers.

Back in the main gallery, there is an outstanding space devoted to George Frederic Watts [1817 – 1904]  I am not a big fan of flamboyant Victorian artists but this exhibition won me over. First, his portraits of contemporary notables were striking, then there were several studies of beautiful wistful ladies which served as figures for him in his later grand allegorical canvases displayed in the gallery.

A smaller gallery of his sculptures didn’t really show off the massive plaster cast model for his equestrian statue, Physical Energy, for the best. A bronze cast of this is in Kensington Gardens and a newer cast is to be erected at Compton. More accessible was a plaster statue of Lord Tennyson and his dog, cast for a statue in Lincoln Cathedral.

If that wasn’t enough a temporary exhibition downstairs highlighted paintings by John Frederick Lewis [1804 – 1876] who became famous for his Oriental paintings. Some of his colourful depictions of street life in Cairo, where he lived for several years, could be replicated today. I have wandered through some of his markets. Yet another artist that I knew nothing about until this weekend.

We retreated to their excellent cafe for a rest before a bit of retail therapy in the shop where I was seduced by huge price reductions on many books. There is much more to see here and it will be worth another visit next time I’m ‘down south’.







I couldn’t think of a theme for this post until I was caught up in the transport chaos that is almost the norm down here. [almost as scary as the Hieronymus Bosch painting seen below] After a lovely weekend I was dropped off a few streets away from  Woking station as the traffic came to a stand still. I was going to catch a train up to London Waterloo to begin my journey home but the station was closed as the lines were blocked due to ongoing weekend engineering works. I was pleased with my lateral thinking and quickly had an E-ticket on my phone for the coach to Heathrow to link in to the tube system. OK the bus was an hour late due to the traffic but once on board the driver skilfully navigated the traffic and dropped me off at Terminal 5. Should I go back to Preston or fly off to the Caribbean?


I was down here to see my old friend Mel [a regular walking companion on many of my posts here]  who has had some recent heart surgery and is on kidney dialysis, some people get a bad deal. He was feeling great and looked really well.

I’d arrived at Euston Friday lunchtime, usually I have a break in the British Library but today headed across the road to The Wellcome Collection, ‘the free museum for the incurably curious’.


What a strange but fascinating collection – artificial limbs, paintings, sex aids, obesity, pharmaceutical jars, Charles Darwin’s walking sticks, Napoleon’s toothbrush, Everest medicine chest and much more all collected by Sir Henry Wellcome.

The Garden of Earthly Delights from Hieronymus Bosch.

On at the moment is an exhibition Living with Buildings looking at the relationship between our health and the spaces we live in. Included is a painting by Pissaro, Andreas Gursky’s iconic photo of apartments in Paris, the Paimio chair. There is a separate Global Clinic exhibition looking at a new design for simple and sympathetic installations in emergency situations and remote locations.

Oh and there is a nice cafe and an upside down Gormley statue. Quite a place and one I’ll put on my visit list for trips to Euston.


Whilst Mel was at hospital Saturday morning I visited the Woking Lightbox for an Impressionism Exhibition. This gallery is only small but seems to organise some outstanding displays and this was no exception…

There was a good selection of paintings but I was intrigued by the previously unknown bronze statues. A glorious infants head [Dalou], a simple peasant worker [Dalou] and a brutal figure [Rodin] drew my attention.

Next door was an exhibition of Elisabeth Frink’s works and when you step in the room you are confronted by …

… the gallery lady on duty felt uncomfortable when alone with this figure.

I joined up with Mel’s wife for a street Korean lunch at Shins, I was confused by the menu and smiling staff so I just opted for a tofu Bipimbap – tasty and filling. The Katsu curry looked good as did the glass noodle soup. Waiting at the bus stop was an experience as we were directly below the cranes working on some new sky scrapers almost as scary as Frinks works. These will completely transform the skyline not necessarily for the better according to local opinion, but they may save some fields being built on.

Sunday morning saw us at the RHS Wisley garden, it was clear and sunny but very cold so we headed to the cafe for hot drinks. A walk around the grounds is always selective but we managed to see the vegetable plot, rock gardens, Bowles corner, alpine houses and the Tropical Glasshouse. The autumn colours were still prominent and I found this a relaxing interlude in a busy schedule, I am envious of having this wonderful place on your doorstep and being able to visit regularly and leisurely to see the changing seasons.

I didn’t fly off to the Caribbean but caught the train to Paddington and a bus to Euston. With all the rearrangements and travel this morning I’d not eaten so I ventured into a Nepalese Restaurant in a nearby side street for a late lunch. https://www.great-nepalese.com/eat/  It was actually quite authentic and made me wish I was back in Kathmandu but I ended up in Preston.


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?


CAMPIN. 1425




RUBENS. 1613


MANET. 1863

DEGAS. 1871

MONET. 1873

RENOIR. 1874

MANET. 1881

SEURAT. 1886

VAN GOGH. 1889





DUFY. 1907


MUNTER. 1909

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.