Rediscovering London

Trip Start Apr 01, 2011
Trip End Jan 19, 2012

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Returning to London we moved into a flat in fancy Pimlico courtesy of Janine's brother Stuart (thanks again Stu!) and really enjoyed staying so close to the centre of London in summertime.

We strolled along the Thames one day, finding ourselves at the Udderbelly festival – a kaleidoscopic combination of performances and display art at Southbank. The main performance space was an inflatable tent in the image of a huge, upside down purple cow.
Inside it, we saw a show called 'Free Run’ – a multi-media production showcasing the skills of 3RUN, a free running team who hold 15 Guinness world records between them. Maybe the kids in Wellington can find a swanky name equivalent to ‘free running’ or ‘parkour’ for the town’s popular youth pastime; ‘jumping off stuff’. In any case, it was a good show and Janine enjoyed seeing the guys with their rippling six packs – her eyes were bugging out of her head by the end.

A partial Hoffman family reunion was had over high tea at the posh Goring Hotel near Buckingham Palace; catching up with Tex & Marie for a (slightly early) celebration of their wedding anniversary and also David Bonnes and his new wife Naomi for a (slightly belated) celebration of their wedding and Dave’s official qualification as a medical doctor. The hotel is certainly trading on the Royal wedding publicity because you can find better high teas around, with better service (and at a more reasonable price, too).

On Saturday the 2nd Janine and Marie enjoyed lunch at Carluccio’s (where Janine used to work) and then a walking tour of Kensington including the palace gardens. Meanwhile, Greg, Tex, Dave and Naomi headed to Northampton for a classic car rally where Tex got a chance to chat with fellow Vauxhall owners.

We also caught up with Janine’s dear friend Jo Bieniawski (also visiting from Australia) and the girls set off on ‘Boris bikes’ for some sightseeing. Janine also spent a day picnicking in Kew Gardens with another great friend, Rachael Booth, and her two boys.

Another memorable London experience was attending a Lou Reed concert at the Hammersmith Apollo. Greg sat transfixed in front of one of the Gods of Rock and Roll while Janine did some colouring in on the iPhone. We also managed to score some half-price front row seats to the musical Wicked, which was good fun.

Following up Janine’s keen interest in social enterprise, we met up with Kenda, a London-based operative of Nest (the social business whose founder we met with in New York) for an enlightening chat. Dermot from The Hub (the sister operation of the communal working space for people interested in Social Business that we also visited in San Francisco) was also kind enough to make time to meet up with us. 

After London we headed south to Guildford, where Janine’s parents live. Geoff arranged for a great lunch with a couple of successful investors, which Greg enjoyed (it was motivating to see how sharp a mind can still be at 80-plus years of age if you work at it).

Geoff also organised a tour of Guildford’s enormous Academy of Contemporary Music (in which both he and Sian are involved). It’s an impressive facility, replete with great rock memorabilia like one of Chad Smith’s drum kits (Smith – of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame – is a supporter of the Academy and visits each time he tours England).

A day at Ascot races was provided courtesy of family friend Noel. We managed a few fun photos as well as a 14/1 winner (which squared us up from some of the slower nags earlier in the day). It’s a pleasant race course with new facilities and allowed us to feel like royalty for a day as we sipped champagne in a corporate box!

In Guildford we also caught Terrence Malick’s latest flick, Tree of Life. It’s certainly something. We recommend it to anyone who’s open to an alternative movie experience (watch the whole two hours and 18 minutes). You might not like it but you won’t be ambivalent!

Next it was off to stay with Rachael Lundy in Notting Hill. Never a calmer bride-to-be walked the earth. Less than two weeks from her wedding day, Rach was in great spirits and loving life (all while being highly organised!). It was wonderful to spend time with her so close to the wedding and, in other pre-wedding activities, we met up with Janine’s brother Anthony – walking up Primrose Hill, around the outskirts of London Zoo and then had afternoon of beers in the sun near Camden Lock.

Rach came to the Barbican with us to see Jazz wunderkind Esperanza Spalding; a double bass virtuoso and impressive scat singer. Her performance was rather avant-garde, beginning by sitting on a comfy sofa on the stage and pouring herself a drink while her backing band played some chamber music (the show’s title was Chamber Music Society – the name of her latest album).

On our last night in London, Janine caught up with her cousin Guy to celebrate his university graduation (with outstanding results – nicely done Guy!). Meanwhile Greg and Rach headed off to see the play Butley – a caustic dark comedy (written in 1971), starring Dominic West who played Detective Jimmy McNulty in The Wire (as a big fan of The Wire, Greg found it strange to hear his genuine posh English accent!).
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