One of the most attractive things about London is how it actually is a hundred different villages and towns joined together to make one giant mass. Step between Barnes and Bethnal Green and you have stepped through the looking glass. Any moment now, someone at Cern will discover that the central line is a constant dissector of the space-time continuum.
And so it is that no matter how much time you spend in London it is still possible to stumble upon a hitherto unknown corner with its own distinct character. I had this experience recently when I ventured all the way east to Greenwich to see the Ansel Adams ‘Photography from the mountains to the sea’ exhibition at the National Maritime Museum.
The fact that it was staged in Greenwich originally prevented me from going when it opened in November – it certainly isn’t something you pop into in between shopping on Regents Street and dinner in Shoreditch. However, the journey was worth it for nothing more than the opportunity to witness how ghostly and damn right odd Greenwich is on a weekday in winter.
Stripped of its usual hoards of summer tourists heading for the park near the observatory and with only one solitary busker on an accordion, the place had a similar feeling to a lot of down beat English seaside resorts whose heyday was 1973. The huge buildings around the Old Royal Naval College and the over-hyped Cutty Sark both looked slightly pathetic when standing alone and the way more than half the iron gates were locked so I couldn’t find an easy route out of the surrounds made me wondering if I would ever escape back west.
The weather, I suppose, didn’t help matters. A grey fog had completely descended and the wet mist was the kind that just makes you want to eat Square Pies and buy jumpers. Maybe due to all the constant naval links, Greenwich feels more like it is on the sea than the river. Standing by the water, I imagined fawning and fainting as I awaited my 16th century husband’s boat to return home.
The point though, was the exhibition and that was fantastic. Because it is not staged in the Royal Academy, it’s a good opportunity to see some amazing photography without having to resort to GBH to beat a route through the tourists. It’s also an interesting use of a museum usually devoted to school kids on treasure hunts for Nelson’s arm, as the continual theme of the Adams’s photos on display is water. As the first thought on walking into Greenwich can be NAVY! MILITARY HISTORY! YAWN! I thought this was a clever take on Greenwich history and a good way of syphoning off Tate dwellers uninterested in Trafalgar.
Spending the morning in the Greenwich fog left me slightly unnerved, like living in a black and white TV set. Luckily this didn’t last as long as it could have, as the robotic DLR journey back through another area of London I find quite creepy, Canary Warf, takes far less time than you would expect. Within the next hour we were returning to Technicolor feasting on pastel sorbet and glittery macaroons in Liberty.
Greenwich Mean Time? It was invented on the White Rabbit’s pocket watch.