It was a day that had been planned with military precision, to encompass several birthday gift experiences, a family lunch and an exhibition.... not to mention ticking off several sixty x sixty experiences. Then as the day loomed near it seemed like it might not happen at all. A family crisis knocked us all out of kilter and looked like it might put paid to any days out. I'm not going to be cloak and dagger about it, youngest son's mental health has hit a crisis point and he requires pretty much round the clock care at the moment, but that is all I need to say. There's not going to be a quick fix. But contingency plans were put into place and we were looking forward to our day out. Then less than 24 hours beforehand we received a call to say our RIB (rigid inflatable boat) experience on the Thames had been cancelled as there were only the two of us booked on. We were outraged and complained but to no avail so instead did a little bit of re-jigging of the schedule and arrived outside Blackfriar's underground station at 11 am for a "Shakespeare in the City" tour. Except no one else was there. After we eventually tracked down contact details for the company we were told the guide waited until 11.05 and then left without us, but we're not convinced, especially as we were immediately offered a replacement tour another day.
So that left two hours to kill until lunchtime. We headed into the city and thought it would be fun to spend the time in St.Paul's cathedral. That was until we discovered it was £18 each to get in, unless of course we were going in to worship. I tell you, by now I was quite ready to go in and pray if it meant being somewhere warm, but instead we went down into the cafe, drank coffee and read our books for an hour.
It was then time to brace the cold again (by now feeling slightly grateful that there was no speed boat trip) and walk up the road to the church of St. Mary Le Bow, home of the famous Bow Bells where we were meeting my eldest son Ben and his fiancee in the Cafe Below. It was lovely to see them both and the lunch was fabulous so the day was starting to look up!
After lunch we popped into the church which has been rebuilt twice, originally after the Great Fire of London in 1666 and then again after being destroyed by a German bomb in the Blitz... and what's more, it was totally free!
The stained glass was stunning.
After looking around the church we made our way to the Royal Academy where we had tickets booked for the Charles I King and Collector exhibition. Charles I had amassed an extraordinary art collection in his lifetime yet after his execution it was sold off and scattered around Europe. This exhibition brings back together over 100 works of Art from his original collection - paintings, drawings, sculpture and tapestries from artists such as Rubens, Titian, Holbein and Van Dyke. I was tired, it was crowded and I was not as impressed as I thought I might be. However I loved some of the large portraits of the Royal family and those of the King on horseback as well as some beautiful drawings.
But best of all I loved this Rembrandt of the Artist's Mother. It's difficult to convey in a reproduction just how exquisite this painting is in the flesh. The handling of the elderly woman's skin is so beautiful and luminous. I stood in front of it for a long time and kept coming back for another look.
Because we had brought our visit to the RA forward due to the cancelled boat trip we were able to fit in a second exhibition "From Life" which looked at a variety of work from the past and present where artists work from life models. It was a small yet fascinating exhibition and included a couple of fun and rather surreal virtual reality exhibits in which we could partake.
Then after a quick sandwich it was off to Covent garden for our last experience - a gin tasting at Mr. Foggs Gin Parlour, where we got a potted history of gin and a chance to taste some different varieties. So although the day got off to a bad start it finished well!
And so back home where life continues to be a bit of a challenge, so I'm grateful for the odd day out even if it doesn't always go according to plan.