The Warren

It’s a long time since I’ve walked across the Warren – an area of wild and bleak, grassed over duneland, where it used to be easy to get lost, although now it’s well signposted.

I walked first downriver towards Abermenai:-

Then, I doubled back across the Warren:-

Until it began to get dark:-


St. Dunstan’s, Stepney

I had always assumed that the churchyard of St. Dunstan’s, which I walk through nearly every weekend, was a creation of the post-war, when I thought the tombs would have have been moved to allow for the erection of temporary prefabs. But I have just learned from a tweet by Alice Rawsthorn that I was quite wrong. The churchyard closed for burials in 1854 and the tombs were moved between 1885 and 1887 to allow for landscaping by Fanny Rollo Wilkinson, who, after training at the Crystal Palace School of Landscape Gardening and Practical Horticulture, was appointed honorary landscape gardener of the Metropolitan Parks and Gardens Association, as well as working for the Kyrle Society which brought beauty to the lives of the poor. I will look at it differently in future, as a Victorian amenity rather than a bit of slum clearance.


The end of the line

It was my last day at the RA today: my desk has been cleared and is now no longer my desk (it’s the Secretary’s desk, designed as if for an official in the Indian Empire); there were a small number of people still working as I did a last round to say goodbye; then I handed in my staff pass, rather battered with a photograph showing me younger and fresher faced, as I was eleven years ago. More than a sixth of my life, I thought, as I walked through the courtyard for the last time as a member of staff.

Next stop, Hanover Square.


Staff Christmas Party

One of the things that the RA has always done well is celebrate Christmas (well, of course, now it does everything well). I remember my astonishment when I first arrived to discover that much of the inventiveness and creativity of the staff was devoted to making costumes based on an exhibition From Russia, which at the time hadn’t happened and was under threat of not doing so. I went as a Russian general. This year, the Christmas party doubled as my leaving party and I had the infinite sadness of watching a short, but brilliant film of my doppelgangers everywhere in the RA. No more. My office has been packed up. My intray has been emptied. All that remains is for me to return my outfit to the National Theatre costume store and say farewell.


The Revamp

I was pleased to see that Olly Wainwright listed the changes at the RA amongst his top ten architectural buildings of 2018:-

We’ve had over a million visitors in the seven months since Burlington Gardens opened on May 19th. – not bad for an institution which normally only gets a million visitors in a year as a whole – and over 100,000 to the new Collections Gallery.

I’m also pleased that he acknowledges the symbolic significance of opening up the Royal Academy Schools.¬† ¬†This was always at the heart of David Chipperfield’s idea for the project, based on his belief that American museums needed to encourage an understanding of art as a practice, not just a finished result.


The New Jerusalem Bible

As a footnote to the comments and complaints (my own included) about modern translations of the Bible, I remembered that my father was in some way involved with the New Jerusalem Bible. He was. After retiring from his job with the C of E, he was employed as an editorial consultant to Darton, Longman and Todd, responsible for updating the Jerusalem Bible in line with modern biblical scholarship, basing the translation as far as possible on the original Hebrew. In the summer of 1978, he recruited Dom Henry Wansborough, a monk at Ampleforth, to look over the Letter to the Hebrews and he took over the project as a whole, taking seven years on the project, four hours a day. The problem with the translation seems to have been that it was done for purposes of scholarly study, not reading aloud, concentrating on archaeological accuracy in its use of language, not resonance, clarity and sonority.