Tag Archives: London

A Visit to the Tate Modern Art Gallery

What constitutes art for you?
Do you prefer the Old Masters or the New Pretenders?

A Visit to the Tate Modern Art Gallery - The Last Krystallos - What is Art to you...

Just last week we visited the Tate Modern Art Gallery in London. I’d very much have liked to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum too, but time was a factor, and when we found ourselves on the South Bank the Tate was right there. I thoroughly enjoyed the visit, though hubby didn’t make it past the first floor of exhibits. He disappeared outside to enjoy the sunshine and the Thames instead, leaving my daughters and me to peruse the gallery.

Magdalena Abakanowicz

Magdalena Abakanowicz. I loved the organic nature of this exhibit. Sacks and material sewn into pebbles. It took up a huge room and I wanted to walk in amid them, be part of them, like walking on a beach…

Now, art is subjective, that’s for sure. I lean toward the classics from Michelangelo and Da Vinci, to the Italian Renaissance and the Impressionists. I very much revel in Degas, Botticelli, Raphael, Rembrandt, Waterhouse (one of my most favourite artists, I adore Ophelia), Monet, Renoir, Turner, Van Gogh (I love his night sky!)and many more, but as we move to Picasso, and the modernists, though I loved his blue period and early work, his Cubism starts to lose me. Mondrian and similar artists don’t do much for me, but I do appreciate their value as art and to the eternally progressing world of art. On another note, though, Salvador Dali is a wonder, and his paintings are totally me!

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter. A group of paintings, each over six feet across. I loved the colours and ambience of water in my mind.

What do you call art?

A fascinating question. My art teacher at school was obsessed by Henry Moore’s sculptures and being a classicist myself I lost interest as she constantly bombarded us with Moore, as an adult I’ve grown into his work, but as a teen he didn’t interest me.

Al Weiei

Al Weiei. The first exhibit in the centre of the entrance level. A tree made up of many trees, bolted together. Organic yet industrial…

So, in London we wandered the Tate, and Caitlin and I shared much conversation. Cait’s about to start her art A-levels and the gallery offered a great look at what constituted modern art. 

Edward Ruscha - Music from the Balconies

Edward Ruscha – Music from the Balconies. Another inspiring piece in the Tate.

How is a huge, yellow, scalene triangle hung on the wall a piece of art? It doesn’t appear to take a lot of talent or even time to create a large piece in yellow. Vince and Cait asked how it was art. It wasn’t something that appealed to me, not my thing at all, but it is art. I didn’t take a picture of it and I can’t find a link, but you can imagine it. And, there it is – imagination – that’s the answer. Vince stared at it, and that was when he pretty much gave up and went outside to enjoy the sun instead, and I caught the irony. I said it was about imagination, about how the piece made you feel, and what you saw. There was no explanation for this piece. But to me it was sunshine, or lemons – I could taste lemons just looking at the colour, or happiness, or a sail of a yacht – or whatever you saw or felt. 

Behold - Sheela Gowda

Sheela Gowda – Behold. Weirdly fascinating and labout intensive.

There were pieces that didn’t get me, though I appreciated the work that went into them. One room was full of what looked like wool, set up across the ceiling and room like huge spider webs, but it was in actual fact, black human hair, donated by local Indian Temples, and woven together, and if you looked closely you could see the plaits and weaves that artist had spent hundreds of hours on, incredibly labour intensive. Sheela Gowda‘s piece showed vulnerability and control but it was weirdly wonderfully odd!

Some modern art, I’ll never understand. Some of it just exists to poke fun at or rebel against classical art, or against politics, or ethics etc, but some is really beautiful despite having a very different form to classical art. I like to analyse, and if the artist can show me what they were thinking when they made it, then I’ll welcome it as art. The exhibits that frustrated me most were those where the artists said there was no thought process, no meaning, then I struggle to see it as art. Art needs meaning to be art to me!

Another exhibit, I didn’t photograph was African and looked politically charged, but the artist had no explanation or reason behind it, and that’s when you lose me. I like things to have meaning.

David Alfaro Siquerios - Cosmos and Disaster

David Alfaro Siquerios – Cosmos and Disaster. I loved this piece and could have gazed at its despair and pain for a long time.

I totally loved David Alfaro Siquerios – Cosmos and Disaster. It was about the Spanish Civil War, but spoke about the sadness and futility of war, any war, to me. I loved the raw quality and the depiction of barbed wire across the paint. It spoke of desolation.

Hamed Abdalla - Defeat

Hamed Abdalla – Defeat. Fascinating in its mixed media and silver aluminium and burnt tar.

I also loved Hamed Abdalla – Defeat. The mixed media, and the subject pulled me in. silver leaf aluminium and burning with a blow torch, the photo doesn’t do it justice, but it truly made me feel defeat, loss and abandonment.

Matta - Black Virtue Triptych

Matta – Black Virtue Triptych. I only photographed the central canvas of the triptych as it was the one that spoke to me. Read what you want into that!

I tend to go for the dark side in art, and that also showed in the art that fascinated me, they were the pieces that made me stop and consider.

Tsuyashi Maekawa - Two Junctions

Tsuyashi Maekawa – Two Junctions. Another fascinating mixed media piece that kept my attention.

The Tate, however, offered some art that I did not understand, did not like, or just wasn’t my thing, but it also offered a lot of works that inspired me, thrilled me and fascinated me. Some I loved and some I slipped right into. I’ve peppered my favourites amongst this post.

Art is anything to me that is expression, emotion, surreal, classic, beautiful, strange – anything that is emotive or expressive…

What do you think? What constitutes art to you?

And which do you prefer, classic or modern,
or do you love to appreciate all art?

From Two Extremes – Wild Camping to City Break

Wild Camping on Dartmoor and a Weekend in London
– you couldn’t find two more extreme activities
and we did both in one week!

From Two Extremes - Wild Camping to City Break - The Last Krystallos

Firstly, let’s explain the term wild camping: in the UK you are only legally allowed to camp out and pitch a tent on a camp site, unless you have permission from the land owner first. However, there are exceptions. Scotland, for the most part, allows wild camping (except in one or two regions) and Dartmoor. Do your research before you decide where to go. Dartmoor has a great website and forums are excellent for advice and help. Wild camping allows you to pitch your tent (only small tents) wherever you wish and as long as you abide the laws of the countryside and you only stay up to two nights you’re good.
Also on Dartmoor be sure to check out the Military Firing Range times…you don’t want to get caught in the middle of an exercise!

So, we took two 2man tents and (far too much) gear in rucksacks and off we went.


Dartmoor tors, Dartmoor pony, sheep © Lisa Shambrook

We parked in a free car park in Belstone, just to the north of Dartmoor, and hiked up onto the tors. Now, we were beginners. I don’t even like camping! I abhor organised camps and dislike being tied to one place, or to other people…so this was an experiment. We thought of reaching Yes Tor, but we quickly realised we were carrying too much and weren’t as fit as we could be! Instead of miles of hiking we ended up at either Winter Tor or Irishman’s Wall. Being beginners we had no OS map, just a print out from the web…

Still, it was stunningly beautiful and we were off the beaten track and out in the wild!


Pitching and taking down tents © Lisa Shambrook

We pitched and explored and set up a small camp. We had lots of fun, played games, talked a lot, learned more about each other, and had food.

So, a couple of things: We took a disposable BBQ – don’t bother. Wind, did no one mention the wind! We ended up using a gas camp stove instead for the most part, and find something as lightweight as you can! Think of food that either doesn’t need cooking, or is easy, soups etc and keep it simple. Baked beans in the morning, at dawn, on a camping stove was lovely! (And remember everything you take up there has to be brought back down – take all your rubbish home again) We carried a 4 litre bottle of water, just in case – we didn’t need it and it was extra unnecessary weight.


View from tent, sunrise, family selfie, Dartmoor pony © Lisa Shambrook

There’s not a lot of privacy so choose your site well, you’ll need rocks or bushes to do your business behind. (And take a trowel if you need to) It really is back to basics! Don’t be shy…though the sheep up there are!

Sleeping. We took self-inflating mats to place our sleeping bags on, and for me that worked. I was worried my back wouldn’t hold out, but I took preventative pills and was careful. And I would just use a hoody or jacket for a pillow. Remember to take warm clothes, socks in particular! Even in a sleeping bag you can get cold.


Vince and Lisa © Lisa Shambrook

Hubby didn’t sleep. Hubby has decided he’s never camping again! But he did take a look at the stars and stared in wonder at the clarity and beauty up there in the night sky!

I didn’t sleep much myself, half hour stops and starts, but that may have been due to hubby’s discomfort. Anyway, at 5am we called it quits and got up to see in the dawn. We’d watched the sunset the night before and now as the clock moved to 6am the new sun peeped over the misty horizon and graced us with its presence. It was mighty cold up there, sitting on the rocks wrapped in sleeping bags, watching the sunrise, but spectacular, and a sight not to be missed.


Main: Sunrise on Dartmoor, moors, and bottom left: sunset, bottom right: sunrise © Lisa Shambrook

After breakfast we packed up and trekked back a much easier way. We were greeted in Belstone village by a herd of gorgeous Dartmoor ponies, and tired but happy, we made it to the car and I drove home, letting hubby catch up on sleep!

Two days later and we were catching the 2am coach to London…to experience the other end of the spectrum!

We stayed in Travelodge in Covent Garden, which was very good in comparison to some Travelodge’s we’ve been to. We slept well, on lovely beds, hubby mentioned the comfort more than once…


Street Art, Captain Jack Sparrow, bubbles, living statue, Covent Garden © Lisa Shambrook

We ate out at Zizzi in Covent Garden too, absolutely gorgeous Italian fare, pizza and carbonara, and desserts to die for.

We’d spent our first day at the Science Museum, and had our first experience of IMAXWow! The Red Arrows simulator was cool, the others not quite as much, but we had fun.


Les Miserables Queens Theatre © Lisa Shambrook

We saw our very first West End show, drinking in every moment of Les Miserables at Queens Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue. It was amazing and we’d happily watch it all over again! We know the show well, from the film, the DVD’s of anniversary shows, the soundtrack – everything. I had the original soundtrack when I was a teen and had always longed to go and see it live, and now I have! I can’t praise it enough.


Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, The London Dungeons, Lion Brewery Lambeth Lion on Westminster Bridge, Tube © Lisa Shambrook

The next day took us to Westminster and all the touristy stuff. The obligatory Big Ben and Houses of Parliament pictures, and then The London Dungeons. I hadn’t expected much from the dungeons, most attractions these days are over-priced and we hadn’t been able to use our Tesco vouchers to pay for entry – plan ahead – The Dungeons can be covered with Tesco vouchers but they need to post your tickets to you. The Dungeons blew us away with a great show and fun history – think Horrible Histories and you’re right there. Another attraction we highly recommend!


The Tate Modern Art © Lisa Shambrook

We wandered the Southbank, and ended up at the Tate Modern, which I’d always wanted to visit too. Now, I have a lovely husband – he’s not interested in modern art at all – but he patiently walked round the gallery, then waited out on the Thames in the sun, while we finished. That’s love.


The London Underground and maps © Lisa Shambrook

London is busy. The tube is busy, the buses are busy, the pavements and parks are busy. There are people everywhere. I’m not a people person. But I did love the atmosphere, the street artists, the energy, the excitement, and my daughters drank it all in!

I might also have had a slightly obsessive interest in walking down streets found on the Monopoly board… We ate in Bow street, and we went to Leicester Square…

So, thus, we experienced both extremes in a matter of days…

My conclusion, if I pitch the stark, lonely, beauty of Dartmoor against the busy, social, bright lights of London, the countryside wins for me. I’m always going to be a country-girl, despite having been born and raised in vibrant Brighton! However, I’ve now spent more of my life in the country than the city and it suits me.  

So, what about you?

Are you a lover of the natural countryside or
do you adore the city and its bright lights?

Harry Potter Studio Tour – Entering a World of Magic

When you enter a world of Magic – you become part of it!

harry-potter-studio-tour-july-2015-titleThat’s what happened when we visited the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour London. We discovered a place of wonder and became part of a legend…and fervently wished we’d enrolled at Hogwarts

Dumbledore's Study, Chess piece, Aragog  Chamber of Secrets,Creature books, Knight Bus, Ministry of Magic and Potions Room © Lisa Shambrook

Dumbledore’s Study, Chess piece, Aragog, Chamber of Secrets, Creature books, Knight Bus, Ministry of Magic and Potions Room © Lisa Shambrook

Potions Room © Lisa Shambrook

Potions Room © Lisa Shambrook

Day trips these days are expensive, anything from dungeons, to theme parks, to zoos etc, they cost a small fortune and if I’m paying over £100 I want value for money. The Studio Tour is not cheap, I balked when I first saw how much it would cost, but as we’re all such huge Harry Potter fans, I relented.

I’m glad I did. I, and my family, came away feeling uplifted, fascinated, full of wonder and truly happy having experienced the sets and stories that filled the day.

Dumbledore's Study and Hogwarts Display © Lisa Shambrook

Dumbledore’s Study and Hogwarts Display © Lisa Shambrook

Under the stairs... © Lisa Shambrook

Under the stairs… © Lisa Shambrook

The excitement starts as soon as you walk inside, the cast members pictures grace the walls and the car from The Chamber of Secrets hangs in the entrance…you’re there! You queue and pass Harry’s room beneath the stairs, and then the experience begins…

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

I’m not going to tell you what happens next, you need to go and see for yourself, but enjoy the pictures and know that it’s all ten times better in the flesh!

Last bit of advice: book early, choose a time that suits and take your time as you wander. Make sure you have time to see everything and watch the information clips that accompany most sets. (We booked late and got a 5.30pm tour, we weren’t rushed, but we could have spent much longer there!)

Discover the magic that is Harry Potter!

Potions Room and Ollivanders in Diagon Alley © Lisa Shambrook

Potions Room and Ollivanders in Diagon Alley © Lisa Shambrook

Lisa and Bekah and wands (Fleur Delacour's and Hermione Granger's) © Lisa Shambrook

Lisa and Bekah and wands (Fleur Delacour’s and Hermione Granger’s) © Lisa Shambrook

Excited with House Ties: Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw. On the Hogwarts Express and afterwards at the exit, happy! © Lisa Shambrook

Excited with House Ties: Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw. On the Hogwarts Express and afterwards at the exit, happy! © Lisa Shambrook

And I can’t leave you without a hint of what you see in the final room…photographs cannot do it justice…

Hogwarts © Lisa Shambrook

Hogwarts © Lisa Shambrook

Lastly, we watched all of the movies, all eight of them (because re-reading the books would’ve taken a little longer) before we went…and, to be honest, when we got home, we wanted to watch them all over again!

What would you have wanted to see most from the Harry Potter world of magic?

Blues Buster: The Fog

This week’s prompt for The Tsuruoka Files Blues-Buster is Judas Priest’s The Ripper. I took inspiration from the London fog and came up with this…dead on the word limit!

Photo by Lisa Shambrook (please do not use without permission)
Nobody expected the fog. It rolled in overnight and as Kit stared out the window she smiled. Only faint halos from the white gas lights could be seen, like will-o-the-wisps lost in urban alleys. She backed away from stark oblivion, her skin taut and cold in the early morning air, and slid back into bed beside Tay. He grumbled in his sleep and Kit ran her finger down his exposed spine. He tensed, his whole body suddenly alert, and she giggled. 
“Don’t do that!” he admonished sharply as he relaxed and rolled over. 
She responded by curling her legs around his torso and placing her lips firmly on his. 
“Okay, you can do that…again…” he said as he pulled away then drew her close for a more intimate kiss. 
She gave herself for a few sweet moments, sharing passion as if they were sharing their last minutes together, before reluctantly pushing him away. He watched, sated, as she rolled out of bed and pulled on her underpants then drew her jeans over her long legs. 
“Come back, just for a few more minutes…” he urged. 
She shook her head and pulled her sweater down over her body and stood. “C’mon Tay, it’s perfect out there today, and there won’t be much time, it could change any moment!”
Tay grumbled again, but pushed the covers away and got out of bed. She grinned, and threw his shirt at him. “Get dressed!”
Kit shivered as they stepped out of the apartment and into the gloomy world. She reached for Tay’s gloved hand and gripped it tight. “Don’t let go,” he warned.
“I should be the one telling you that!” She rose on her toes and kissed his stubbled cheek. 
Whispers of frost coiled within the fog and she shivered again. Holding hands they moved along the wall and waited at the corner. 
Kit listened. Her hearing was perfect, and in this low visibility hearing was the greatest weapon they had. 
The city was quiet, almost silent. 
The birds never sang anymore, and the only birds they ever saw were ghostly corvids, and they sat lonely and lost atop the gas lamps, like black shadows in the mist. They never sang.
 Kit squeezed Tay’s hand and they moved, heading into the labyrinth of alleys. Glancing down, Kit could barely see her feet. She pulled her soft leather jacket tight amid the cold, white fog. They were prepared, and ready.
Their familiarity with the dank corridors kept them on track and they ran silently through the streets. 
“Almost there,” whispered Tay, as they came to an abrupt halt. 
Kit listened, and Tay’s nostrils flared. 
“I can smell the river,” he murmured. “I can smell…”
“Don’t!” Kit placed a finger over his lips and she strained to hear. “It’s quiet, but I can hear them…we’re not alone.”
They stood with their backs against the once imposing, now dilapidated, Savoy, disguised only by the blinding fog. Kit reached into her jacket removing her hunting knife from its leather sheath. She noted the narrow trident dagger strapped to her boot, and felt the comfort of her combat knife snug against her thigh. Tay stood beside her similarly armed, with his kukri held close.
They moved stealthily forward, until reaching the embankment. On the river’s edge, they stood, back to back…ready.
Tay squeezed Kit’s hand and then let go. 
Sweat sparkled in the fog and they waited for their scent to betray them.
The water was still, stagnant and foul, but Kit listened as its tiny lapping waves grew and the tendrils emerged. Like snakes tentatively searching, tendrils peered through the fog and curled before their faces. 
“Now!” Kit’s battle cry rang through the fog. “The Kraken wakes, but so do we!” 
The swish of knives swung through the air, sweeping through tentacled flesh and ripping jellied arms and limbs from the leviathans.
From the Thames came explosions of water as creatures from the deep surfaced and climbed out onto the promenade, but alongside Kit and Tay, all along the embankment, came shouts of battle and wrath, and from the fog emerged a force so large and enraged that bloody battle to the end was the only possibility…
(700 words)