Friday, 24 March 2017

The Freud Museum

20 Maresfield Gardens. NW3 5SX

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Freud Museum is not excessively signed from the Finchley Road, but two blue plaques on the handsome house meant that Linda and I could not miss it when we arrived in good time for its opening time of 12.00 noon. (one plaque is for Sigmund, and one for his daughter Anna, a pioneer of psychoanalysis for children)
The Museum is reasonably priced at under £10.00 and it is worth having your National Trust card with you as NT members only pay half.  We could have had audio guides for a modest sum, but decided not to; and we were fine, because every room has clear labelling and a summary of key information. We were impressed with the high ceilings and bright rooms of this typical Hampstead house.
You begin in the hall, where there are some of Freud's many Classical and Egyptian heads and other small pieces.  We saw a modern artwork, an interpretation of Freud's coat, and an antique etching 'Head of Moses'.  Freud was very interested in Moses, as his book Moses and Monotheism confirms. The hall also had various family pictures.

Next come the study and library. Another modern art work is here, in the form of casts of the many objects on Freud's desk, at two thirds size, and in white. But all the rest is authentic and belonged to him: amazing numbers of books; African and Asian masks and heads; the couch on which his patients lay (and on which he also used to rest in the year he spent here, the last year of his life) His chair was out of the line of sight of his clients, and he used to look across the room at his archeological treasures while they 'free associated'.  This is how his rooms were in Vienna, before he was forced to leave, which was not until the summer of 1938.
It was interesting to learn how this was made possible:  he seems to have thought that, as an atheist and a celebrity, he would be safe, even after the Anschluss.  But rampant racism is not like that. His house was invaded and looted by members of the SA, and then Anna was imprisoned. He was lucky that his distinguished colleague and admirer, Princess Marie Bonaparte, paid a kind of ransom, which released him and his family and possessions, with an 'exit-only' visa. 

(That bit of information was of particular interest to me:  my dear friend Margit, who taught me German and came from the Sudetenland of Czecholovakia in 1939, showed me her exit visa, with the word 'wiederholt' crossed out and replaced by 'einmals' in nasty purple Gestapo ink. Not that Margit came with her desk, books and treasures, though, just her three year old daughter, Marie-Else)

Anyway, then we headed up the stairs to the sunny half landing, where Anna used to sit and sew, with her mother. Sigmund said that the house was cold, this spot must have been pleasant.  It also has her walking boots (Hampstead Heath is just up the road)

On the top landing, there is a family tree, with photographs, and a reminder that Sigmund's grandsons include the artist Lucien Freud and the chef, MP and TV personality, Clement. Sigmund had six children, and only his daughter Anna remained single. We were also taken by rather a good sketch of Freud by Salvador Dali, which you can see here.

In one of the upstairs rooms there was a screen showing various segments of film: an American photographer was able to film the apartment in the Berggasse in Vienna before it was dismantled after 45 years;  there were 'home movies' of the family, with their dogs, with a voice-over by Anna.  Among other things, she explained that Freud's passion for archeology was about 'digging down' through layers to find the truth, just like psychoanalysis.  Throughout the house we had been able to read examples of his work and stories of his patients, like the 'wolf man'.

The other upstairs rooms include Anna's bedroom, with typewriter and desk.  She also used this as a consulting room as did her partner and fellow psychoanalyst Dorothy Burlingham.  There were shelves of Anna's publications, and some of the children's books she used to facilitate communication with her young patients. We saw some colour film of her and Dorothy around the house they bought in Walberswick (and ventured to suppose that they would scarcely be able to afford it now when the village has become 'posh-London-on-sea'). 

There was also a meeting/seminar room and a further room devoted to the current modern art works on display in the house.

Then we went out into the garden, from where we had good views of the back of the house.  The large tent led us to wonder whether the place is licensed for weddings, though we did not inquire.

Although he only lived here for a year, Freud's history and work is well explained and described in this interesting house.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum

The All England Lawn Tennis Club,
Church Road, Wimbledon,
London SW19 5AE.

Thursday March 16 2017

We had, during last week’s trip to the Merton Heritage Museum, picked up a trail/walk leaflet , called the Wimbledon Way which involved a short stroll (2km) through Wimbledon’s heritage to the Lawn Tennis Museum.

As it was a lovely spring day we decided to follow it and I shall take you through the stages very briefly before we went underground into the Museum itself.

The trail starts at the station, which is generously served  by Underground, local and Thameslink services. The Stag which stands outside the station is a reminder of Wimbledon’s woody connections rather than local pub. The roads round the station are very busy with four way traffic and the main shops and services of  Wimbledon including the pretty library, extended since 1887, and nearby Bank Buildings similarly civic and redbrick in that familiar Victorian way. Ely’s the local department store seems to survive, which is quite an achievement.

Leaving some of the bustle behind the trail leads uphill passing large and imposing villas on both sides. Inevitably there was some WW2 bombing and there are more modern infills. Wimbledon High School has been around for nearly 150 years with a range of buildings to match, but what is interesting given how sloped it is is that this was the original site of the All England Croquet & Tennis club.
At the top of the hill we were rather taken with the Toynbee Memorial, which is a water fountain erected in gratitude to Joseph Toynbee  by the working men of Wimbledon . Amongst many campaigns which he supported was to save the common as Earl Spencer was threatening to enclose it.

Wimbledon ‘village’ today is full of expensive and largely independent outlets but originally, judging by the small size of the shops and little cottages, must have been where the working men lived and presumably where the women also went ‘into service’ in the nearby large houses which would have needed plenty of servants to keep them going. You can spot these cottages as you peer down the sides of Church Road which we followed to our destination. Also on the crown of the hill are the now expanded Dog & Fox pub and the very splendid old Fire Station with its very visible clock tower.

Church Road dips and twists downhill affording a good view of the All England Lawn Tennis   Club, which we all know as Wimbledon.
The outside wall has wrought iron inlays depicting groups of period and more modern tennis player silhouettes, which indicates how much the establishment promotes and preserves its heritage, and to some extent its privilege.

There are two possible ways of visiting the site; either you can book a whole guided tour which presumably takes you into the dressing rooms and round the outer courts or, as we opted to do, simply visit the Museum at half the cost – but this does include the opportunity to go into the Centre Court which like Court 1 (currently having a removable roof fitted to be finished by 2019) is only used for the two weeks a year when the Championships take place. Wimbledon is of course the only one of the Grand Slam venues played on grass. The walk underneath the stands is enlivened by wall posters of past winners. Like every great sporting venue since the Colosseum in Rome (and their many other arenas) the circular build with access from below to raked seats is the standard and ideal construction. No lions here, muttered Jo as we peered down a corridor, but we were not encouraged to roam so who knows? (meet by F
red Perry to do this bit) 

Centre Court seats 15,000 people but the All England Lawn Tennis Club only has 500 members – belonging is a similar process to getting membership at Lord’s namely waiting a lifetime for a vacancy to become available unless you are Championship winner… tickets for the June/July championships  are sold via a ballot .

Jo is not a tennis fan but did agree that the Museum was beautifully laid out – it is entirely underground and artificially lit, assuredly for conservation purposes, but again this made photography tricky. It is also circular which makes keeping to a chronology and not missing stuff easy. I on the other hand admire a game which requires so much skill strength and agility (yes I know all sports do) but you are also so self-reliant – there is no-one else to blame for this the most individual and egocentric of sports, and to watch a player rebounding  from a losing position is to watch some-one with huge determination, self-belief and strength of mind. I think the Billie Jean quote, and there are many such from different players is very apt: ‘Tennis is the perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of tranquility’.

Tennis seems to have evolved out of a variety of predecessors including ‘Battledore & Shuttlecock’ real tennis and what the French called ‘Jeu de Paumewhich a bit like Pelota,  was played by hand till some-one thought about a racquet. The French, especially pre-revolution, were leaders in this and the hangover is the number of French words – including Love coming from l’oeuf (an egg). Outdoor tennis was sometimes combined with croquet –  both requiring neatly manicured lawns, and people to maintain them.  Equally equipment to play with  and the leisure to participate – all of which indicates a middle or upper class sport, which it has largely remained.

One of the other attractions for the  Victorians and Edwardians was the fact tennis parties offered opportunities for meeting  the other sex and flirting – think of  John Betjeman’s ‘Joan Hunter Dunn' which epitomises the pre-war image of tennis.
There were championships and competitions before that of course, both All England and International, and we enjoyed the posters previewing the same. Tennis has also always been subject to fashion and style, not only in the clothes but in souvenirs and artefacts and the two Art Deco models are excellent examples of tennis invading the living spaces of the well to do.

The Second World War put a longer break on tennis evolution and here at Wimbledon the car parks were ploughed up for farming, with the championships restarting in 1946. By 1967 professionals and amateurs were playing side by side and nowadays with the intensity of training and travelling it cannot be anything other than a professional sport though local ‘tennis clubs’ still exist.

The history up to this point has been largely documented through some photographs and documents and snippets of real film alongside some reconstructed scenes. The next section, which is far more interactive, looks at the developing technology of the sport – how simple handmade wooden rackets evolved into the highly technical weapons they are today – the same is true of the tennis balls .  As Wimbledon is firmly grassy you do get to play with the ‘covers’, those ground sheets which go on when ‘rain stops play’.   

There are multiple choice questions about the role of the ball boys and girls and even more key – the decisions of the umpire.
Q ‘Do you let players listen to their headphones during the break?’
A. No. They might be getting instructions from their coach.

There is also a machine for testing your reactions to balls coming over the net – we cheated by playing doubles against another visitor who then revealed he had used both hands, and of course we were way too slow..
Round the bend was the section labelled ‘Mainly Whites’ which we originally took to be statement on the (lack of) diversity in tennis but actually refers to the Wimbledon rules that what you wear must be ‘mainly white’. There is the full range of clothes from full length Victorian dresses through the frilly nylon era up to the modern more functional sportswear, and of course there are examples to try on. Note the corset - essential wear!

From here on the museum experience becomes a multi- media one with films running round the top, sound bites from famous players and many examples of signed rackets/ and garments from specific matches or wins…  all this to illustrate how tennis became a celebrity sport complete with autograph hunters in the early days and endorsements as time went on.

Most interesting to me was the hologram of John McEnroe analysing the evolution of tennis play since his day. Somehow the tennis brat of the Seventies and Eighties has become one of the game’s best and most succinct commentators who also knows when to remain silent, and he summarised the strengths and enduring talents of the game’s main players.  I found watching tennis had become a lot less attractive during the Pete Sampras era ( a one-trick gorilla was how I once described him to my children who thought I was being unfair) but has blossomed again since.

Finishing the tour you can gaze at the Championship Cup and for the Ladies – the Plate. The exhibition also includes Kipling’s ‘If’ which is all about ‘holding your nerve’ something that gets played out time and again on the green courts of Wimbledon.

As most of us are unlikely ever to get tickets to see a live match a visit to the museum and almost certainly the tour will enhance your enjoyment and is a must for any tennis fan – of which there are many given the numbers attending today. 

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Merton Heritage Exhibition

2nd Floor Morden Library, Merton Civic Centre, London Road
Morden SM4 5DX

Thursday 9 March 2017

Linda and I like local, borough Museums, but we weren't too optimistic about this one.  We were mistaken.
We met at Morden tube, at the extreme southern end of the Northern Line, and headed too the somewhat Orwellian block which houses the Civic Centre, the Library and, of course, the Heritage bit. Up on the second floor, the Exhibition was mainly panels round the wall, and included many of the ingredients we have come to expect.

There was, for instance, a list of notable Merton residents:  and of course Merton is particularly rich in celebrities: from John Donne, through Horatio Nelson (and his significant other) William Wilberforce and Joseph Bazalgette, to Margaret Rutherford, Richard Briers, and Air Chief Marshall Dowding

There were also photographs of local industrial sites, including the snuff mills where Rutters powdered and packaged tobacco, and Carters Tested Seeds. There was also the film studio of Cricks and Sharp, later Cricks and Martin.  As well as tobacco, textiles were woven (sorry!) into Merton's history, with William Morris and indeed Liberty's producing fabrics here.
There were a couple of cases of objects  connected to the history of the borough including, downstairs, mementoes recording the great days of Wimbledon football club, before its failure to find a space for a new ground forced an unpopular move to Milton Keynes. Some Kings College School magazines and photos were also feaured.

 But what made out visit really exceptional was the exhibition about the Merton (and Heritage Lottery Fund) project, Carved in Stone, which was about Merton's experience of the First World War.

Photographs were not permitted, and the web seems full of plans for the work, rather than reports of the exhibition as a whole,  so you will have to accept our word that it is well worth a visit.  One ingredient is a number of accounts of individual lives, in striking detail. For example, John Henry Dimmer, VC, and the young pilot from the tobacco family, Captain Donald Rutter, RFC, whose plane disappeared in June 1917. There there were a couple of Conscientious Objectors, including one driven out of his mind by the 2 years of forced labour to which he was sentenced, who died in a local mental hospital in 1917. Two Royal Navy men had their stories told, including Stoker Ist Class George Baker who died at Jutland.

Perhaps saddest was the story of the 190th Brigade, the last of the volunteers before conscription was introduced, making Wimbledon's own one of the last Pals Regiments formed. (As I'm sure you know, friends and neighbours were encouraged to join and therefore serve together, thus ensuring more serious devastation in particular communities, particularly in early July 1916 when these new regiments were just about ready for the Battle of the Somme.

A section told us about the hospitals and convalescent homes of the area, and the work of civilians and particularly women in the war effort, and we were pleased to see advertisements for cinema shows, including continuous showings on 4 September 1916 of the great documentary The Battle of the Somme (now available from the Imperial War Museum, by the way) but also other films called The Avenging Conscience and The Fighting Hope.

Across the other side of the second floor was a further exhibition about attempts to achieve peace in the world since everyone hope that they had finished 'the war to end wars'.  Illustrate with recruiting posters, it included celebrity pacifists like Sylvia Pankhurst and Bertrand Russell, and a time line of the various peace unions, associations and agreements which have so signally failed.  Perhaps most interesting was a quotation from Lord Rothermere of the Daily Mail in November 1917: 'We daren't tell the public the truth'; and the artist Paul Nash's statement, 'I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on forever'.

All in all, we were impressed with the work of Merton's researchers and, having expected to pop in and out in no time, spent more than a hour in the exhibition.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

London Transport Museum

Covent Garden Piazza
London WC2E 7BB                                    
Thursday March 2 2017

What took us so long? Those of you who have been following our blog since the ‘bus days’ may well have wondered why we had not come to worship at the wheels of the London Transport Museum’s buses before now – three years into the Museum Project?  Well we were keen to avoid holidays and half-term of which there are quite a few but it needed the final spur of establishing contact with one of the Museum’s curators to bring us across the threshold of the Museum, as opposed to popping into the very excellent shop and Poster gallery. 

One of the Museum’s curators had discovered our blog and thought it worthy of preservation – though of course it lives on ‘in the ether’. The British Library is now the repository of many blogs and websites, both personal and more general, and ours is to be submitting under the heading of transport. We came to meet the curator concerned and she kindly treated us to coffee and the entrance ticket. The Museum is free for children of whom there were a few school parties, and several overseas visitors.

The London Transport Museum is our ideal fusion of buses (and a few trains) and London all brought together in our current project – that of Museums. The Museum is located on the Covent Garden Piazza and moved into the very beautiful iron work Floral Hall after the main fruit and veg markets moved out to Nine Elms. As a result of its previous incarnation there is a very generous ground floor tall enough to accommodate several double deckers and some gallery space round the edges on the levels above.
You access everything passing the buggy ramp which has a background of very large scale maps of underground systems from round the world. As we know Harry Beck, with his skills honed in electric engineering, and designer of the first diagrammatic as opposed to accurate map of the rail system, has proved the inspiration for map makers everywhere, as this introductory display. 

Our contact had reminded us to be alert to the ‘time-travelling’ lift with its voiceover telling us of the reigns of different monarchs with back ground noises to match so our arrival in 1800 London would not be too shocking. The smells are missing of course ( time for Jo to remind us that horses evacuate their bowels up to 12 times a day) so the London that Dickens would have walked round , taking the occasional coach to get out to Kent or East Anglia, would have been both dirty and smelly   in a quite different way from today’s particle pollution.

We noted Thomas Tilling’s   horse drawn omnibus, and its later tram substitutes, used a route pretty much the same as modern day Numbers 12 and 1. The river was at this point a major transport link and I was pleased to see a map with the dates of the various bridges being built as these helped the capital to cohere. Also key was the alternative method of crossing the Thames namely by tunnel – Brunel’s tunnel which we have already visited was never a commercial success but it was key as an idea to inspire railway pioneers.

The top level takes a leisurely but detailed tour through the growth of London which led to the establishment of a more co-ordinated transport system. By 1901 the population had reached over 4.5 million people and those who weren’t walking were still mainly reliant on horses – bearing in mind the numbers of horses needed for the early public transport think of the support systems of water and fodder that would have been needed. I suppose some stables turned into garages…

The arrow system based on the roundel makes it easy enough to follow the time line through the two upper floor galleries.

 The evolution of the buses and trains was in fact quite separate with different and competing companies setting up and running the various lines following on from the ‘Metropolitan’ front runner of which there is an example on this floor. Stepping into this train reminded us of the compartments from which there was no escape until you reached a station – current walk through design being so much safer. The other Underground model is loosely speaking ‘mid-century’ (20th) and thus what I would have ridden regularly before moving to (then) tube free South East London. The exhibit comes complete with wax models suitably clad in Sixties type flares   but lacks both the slightly musty smell and noise. There was far less standing room of course but actually fewer people standing.   

The interplay between the growth of London, the expansion into the suburbs and the extending lines out of the centre are well covered and for me it has always been something of a chicken and egg situation that continues to this day – see later for the Elizabeth Line and even more distant expansion of the Bakerloo line.   
Once on the lower gallery it was quite exhilarating to look over what the Museum probably considers it star exhibits (the Routemaster buses)  but to our delight are also suspended some destination boards from both the rail/underground and bus systems.  There is a whole section devoted to ‘runner blinds’ – surely one of the main attractions in becoming a bus driver way back when was to have the regular opportunity to wind the destination blind at each end of the trip??

Talking of design at this point we slipped into the current special exhibition which is also spread over two floors. Ever since Frank Pick and his design mantras to give an a corporate identity to the network London Transport /TFL has been a leader in design.   The display includes the rejected designs for  bus stops and stands, the range of ticket machines and the  colourful schemes for the different lines. 
Did you know there were rules for designing the moquet – that is the seat fabric?
·         Four colours with one bright
·         A repeat pattern
·         Different colours for different light levels
·         Durability
·         Fire retardant
·         Colours & patterns suited to the vehicle and its use

Font lovers that we are, we paid homage to the Johnston type face updated in the 1970s to  new Johnston, but still clearly recognisable. 
There will be an even ‘lighter’ version for the Elizabeth Line. This section is again well packed with information and samples but in a rather more restricted space. For children there are ample opportunities to design your own station as well. This is an even taller order and far removed from the abstraction of the alphabet. The key issues to be addressed  are how do you want to move people along swiftly but safely? How do you give each station an identity but also know its allegiance to a line?

Finishing the design exhibition was the chance to see the computer generated images of several of the new stations along the Elizabeth Line due to open in 2018.  To date Crossrail (as it had been known hitherto) has rather lived up to its name as the different earthworks along its route have thrown local traffic into cross-making traffic snarl ups. It will open piecemeal from this year, but not completely from Reading across to Abbey Wood or Shenfield until December 2019. The computer generated escalator simulations are rather akin to riding a roller coaster so not recommended for the faint hearted or weak stomached. The stations do look wonderful though and more inspired by the Jubilee rather than nondescript Victoria lines ones.

There is plenty here  to keep children , even those not particularly drawn to buses or trains,  busy.
Sometimes the special exhibitions feature particular artists whose work has been commissioned. There is something like 100 years of wonderful poster art and when only a few are on display make sure you do not miss visiting the upper floor poster shop where you can browse the range and re-visit old favourites. A particular thanks again to the museum and its staff  for a morning that passed happily.