Ai Weiwei @ The Royal Academy

I was very privileged to go to a private viewing of the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the RA in London a few days ago. I have never been to see a major exhibition without another hundred or so other people crammed into the space trying to get a good look at the art, so it was amazing to be able to wander about with only a handful of others and take my time learning about this extraordinary man and his art.

I make no claim to being knowledgeable about art, so won’t attempt to write down my thoughts on the exhibition. The Royal Academy say this though

With typical boldness, the chosen works explore a multitude of challenging themes, drawing on his own experience to comment on creative freedom, censorship and human rights, as well as examining contemporary Chinese art and society.

I took some snaps on my iphone to whet your appetite and I highly recommend a visit. The Royal Academy itself is a thing of great beauty and whenever I visit places like that in London, I am reminded how extremely lucky I am to live where I do, with such history and architecture and culture available to me.

I was walking down Piccadilly once in my early 30s, going to a business meeting and I bumped into my parents ~ it was a surprise to the 3 of us and I was reminded of it on Saturday. A lovely memory and a lovely evening out with Mr Bee.

Ai Weiwei entrance to the exhibition

Ai Weiwei stools

Ai Weiwei porcelain crabs

Ai Weiwei Coca Cola vaseAi Weiwei vases

Ai Weiwei in prison

Ai Weiwei chandelier

The most powerful piece, in my view, is his memorial to the 5000 children who died in the Sichuan earthquake. I could not do it justice with my little camera, but I urge you to go and see it.

This description from the Royal Academy website explains it beautifully, but you need to see it to understand its power:

The largest gallery at the RA will houseStraight, Ai Weiwei’s poignant response to the Sichuan earthquake of 2008. Poorly built schools in the Sichuan province – held up by steel rods which twisted and mangled in the quake – were devastated, leaving thousands of students dead. These rods (which Ai had labourers straighten by hand) make up the 90-ton floor-based sculpture, that is laid out in broken undulations recalling fault lines.

A couple of the little signs in the Royal Academy itself also took my eye:

No Smoking sign @ RASign @ RAsign @ RA

Info on the exhibition can be found here.

Annie Bee x

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Sight Jogging ~ Wait … What?

I read a headline in the paper the other day which said Sight Jogging, but I read it because I thought it said SLIGHT jogging, which is something I do exceptionally well. Whilst I do sometimes call what I do ‘running’, the reality is that it is merely jogging, and (it gets worse) I mix it up with power walking. Anyway, I digress.

So there is this thing called Sight Jogging – like Sight Seeing, but with your running shoes on and presumably with little scope for taking pictures with the flash off inside an ancient church. When I started looking into this new phenomenon (from what I can see, it started in 2014) it struck me it might actually be an elaborate April Fools’. But there are reviews for it on TripAdvisor, so it must be true.

Sight Jogging Vienna

There are Sight Jogging tours in a number of European cities – Brussels, Rome, Dublin, Venice, Prague and Berlin for starters. London of course offers it too. One company is London jogging tours; one of their routes is along the Thames from Tower Hill to the Houses of Parliament, which is about 7km and sounds rather jolly. It says it is perfect for ‘gentle joggers’ and/or ‘recreational joggers’. So what does that mean? Would it suit me, a slight jogger? They say that if the tour is aimed at gentle joggers, there are plenty of stops whereas the other group runs at a more steady pace.  I guess there is just one way to find out.

sight jogging stuttgart

I am not averse to exercising on holiday although some days walking from the sun lounger to the beach bar and back again is more than ample. However, if this is something which appeals to you, it looks like it is also available outside Europe as well – Australia, South Africa, Singapore, Scandinavia and Russia have joined the fun. Eventually, you may be able to sight run the globe. Have a look here to see where in the world it is happening.

As one of the websites helpfully says, “don’t forget to pack your running shoes”. Might be an idea to leave the selfie stick at home though. Jogging along sightseeing with one of those could take someone’s eye out.

If you want to see my thoughts on fartlekking (or interval training as it is more boringly called) please see Fartlekking Post 1 and Fartlekking Post 2.

Have a super weekend.

Annie Bee x

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Surprising Finds #4 ~ The New River

I can’t honestly remember what prompted me to look into this subject further, but I have had great fun recently learning about what is called the New River.

New River collage

Strangely, it is neither a river, nor is it new; it is in fact a man-made construction which has supplied London with fresh drinking water for nigh on 400 years.

When Queen Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) was on the throne, London’s population reached about 180,000. Although watered by the Thames, the city had, since medieval times, been troubled by the amount of pollution which was ending up in the river and the consequent health problems. In 1388, the first statute relating to public health in England was passed by Parliament:

……. So much dung and filth of the garbage and entrails as well as of beasts killed, as of other corruptions, be cast and put in ditches, rivers and other waters…… that the air there is greatly corrupt and infest and many maladies and other intolerable diseases do daily happen…..

Various plans were made to provide the city with clean water, but it wasn’t until 1606 that a Parliamentary Act granted the Corporation of London the power to make a “New River for bringing water to London from Chadwell and Amwell in Hertfordshire”.

Although the distance from Hertford to Islington (in North London) is only 24 miles, the actual course of the New River was nearly 40 miles when it was built. Over its course, there was a gentle gradient to promote the flow of water – which averaged 5.5 inches (8cm/km) per mile. The impressive feat of engineering was completed in 1613 when a formal ceremony took place at the Round Pond in Islington; this is sited near the present New River Head, just below Sadler’s Wells Theatre.This was the original termination point but it currently ends somewhere in Stoke Newington.

The New River remains an essential part of London’s water supply, carrying up to 220 megalitres (48 million gallons) daily for treatment; this represents some 8 per cent of London’s daily water consumption.

Importantly, it comes with a path and I intend to walk the length of it this coming autumn/winter. Hopefully with Mr Bee to keep me company.

Since 1992, Thames Water has worked with local people and partners to create a 45 km [28 mile] long-distance footpath that follows the course of the New River, linking the inner city to the open countryside. The route follows, wherever possible, the historic water channel, as well as some straightened and piped sections between the New River`s starting point near Hertford to its original end in Islington. The route is waymarked throughout its length and all signs display the Path logo ~ Thames Water

There is a good book called “Exploring the New River” by Michael Essex-Lopresti ( buy the book from Amazon ) and also a very helpful leaflet issued by Thames Water which has detailed maps and suggested walks (Thames Water leaflet ). Wikipedia has an entry on it too: wiki info.

Funnily enough we used to live in Highbury and spent many an afternoon walking a very small section of the walk in Canonbury, making sure the baby Bees didn’t fall in! At that time I had no idea this artificial waterway existed. Now I live in Hertfordshire, so there is no excuse not to have a go at walking its length. I have no doubt there are some very pretty pubs along the way which will make the task that bit easier.

New River Walk Canonbury

I will let you know how I get on.

Annie Bee x

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