". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Tomb of the Unknown Urinator - London, Kensington Gardens

The Tomb of the Unknown Urinator, Kensington Gardens

Cognitive dissonance: here, the UK Guardian is here, there, now the New York Times is there. This reverse of here and there perception when in Europe has always brain-knocked me. Brain knocking kicked in again in the afternoon with the addition of chronology as viewed from here vs there -- i.e. from my own life history over there that was connected to here.
We gallivanted all afternoon in the chilly wind, ending up in Kensington Gardens. Ye condition was making my left leg hurt pretty badly, and we had a bit of a walk yet to reach home base. El V picked a place called Taylor Walker Pub in the  Paddington Station area to rest and recoup. Though without that horrid sport TV, it had other signatures of a franchise operation, so I was skeptical.  Yes, Taylor Walker's got about 116 operations, mostly in and around London. It's Paddington Station site, however, is located in a building that clearly has been in that location since at least the mid-1800's. They have really good beer; el V's choice for us both (I was knackered by then, lots of pain, stupid) was a draft from their "World Beer"
menu, out of the Czech Republic -- the name of which did not register. They also have at least one real sweetheart of a waitperson, named Sam, who tipped el V to his choice, based on what he said I liked. It  turns out that once upon a time Taylor Walker was a major brewery in England, and for a long time.

While I'm attempting to assimilate this information, I'm still thinking of turned around here - there.  Taylor Walker's choice of music is all English, hits from the 60's 70's 80's and probably the 90's too -- you will recognize all the cuts, no matter what your age. Sting's ode to stalkertude, "Every Breath You Take," played during our initial appraisal of the menus. Then "Sympathy for the Devil," and so on. It messed with my mind to be hearing such English music in such an English place, where these songs were probably  played when they were brand new, and Usians like me (well, maybe not -- hippies!) were eating sandwiches and drinking beer were listening because -- you know -- Paddington Station -- and even when it wasn't a Taylor Walker, it was still probably a place selling food and drink because -- it's by Paddington Station -- and before there were recordings, radios, juke boxes, PA's, whatever, there was probably music, made by the patrons, and probably a piano was on the premises, because -- right there, by Paddington Station, with people coming and going at all hours every day and night, and people working all over the place, day and night.

As well, the style of the building --  The more you travel the more you see wherever you go, at least when comes to European and U.S. style of building, that there are local flourishes and so on, but much of period public architecture is similar all through Europe and North America, and down in the South Americas, you see the continuance of both the Arab - Spanish styles and particularly the Spanish Imperial baroque everywhere.

This was comforting in a way, as I have on occasion bemoaned how river walks and ocean side piers, parks like the High Line and Hudson River Park and Battery Park, and so on look so much alike wherever you go.  The styles above and down to NYC's Battery Park are found along the river in Lisbon, which was the first time I noticed this  You also see the style on San Antonio's River Walk. So I see that the building in which this Taylor Walker pub is located could almost be found in Habana Vieja -- that winder stair to a second floor -- but in Havana -- or New Orleans -- it would be built around a courtyard, and have a balcony overlooking the courtyard.  Still, the bar in all three places would have the pressed tin ceilings, at least in the main bar, have interior fan windows and arches, with various separator - privacy partial partitions.  The Taylor Walker pub has an old enameled porcelain tile fireplace -- that you won't see in Havana, but you might (though the tiles would be different) in New Orleans because a fire in winter is most welcome. So it's OK, the period style trend for public spaces being the same all over during periods has been going on a long time. Duh.  It's in residences that you see more local style differences maybe?  Thinking of that Terraces and Places and Crescents ubiquity here -- though not in NYC, this style of residence is in Italian cities from that era, and in Paris too, but they're called by different words.

Then over the speakers came the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'" with Stevie Winwood, lead vocal. My brain then collapsed into mush. Host had a great deal to do with introducing Stevie Winwood to the U.S. music scene. absolute mush.  Here there, Now then, it's all the same. Arrrrrrrrggh!

It's impossble, you know, not to be aware of history with every footstep you take in London.  Even what is totally contemporary in thought, action and material expression has history.  And I KNOW an enormous amount of this history  generally, though obviously not down to the granular levels.  We entered Kensington Gardens through the Marlborough Gate. I crowed to el V,  "I know who the Duke of Marlborough is -- he was the guy who married Susan Hampshire!"*  Queen Anne, whose residence Kensington Palace was, was very close to the Duke of Marlborough's wife, Sarah, from the time of their girlhood. When Anne assumed the throne in her own right she showered the Churchills with benefits and honors,  titles and money (though eventually she fell out with the strong-willed and very interfering busy Sarah -- Sarah's own daughter even fell out with her.) To be fair though, the Duke of Marlborough spent much of Queen Anne's reign abroad, fighting valiantly in the the War of the Spanish Succession.  He was so successful that Queen Anne made him her Captain-General.

Whew -- and that was just at the entrance into Kensington Gardens. You see what I mean?  We hadn't even stepped through yet. The church for which the part we're staying in until Thursday is named, St. Mary's Church (though not the same building), was where John Donne preached his FIRST sermon.  Sarah Siddons is buried in the cemetery. This means something to me, it really does, so much so I'm overwhelmed.

It also means a lot to me that all around where we are living is filled with women wearing headscarves.  I know who the might be, and how and why they got here, and are, some English citizens, some maybe on the road to becoming citizens, some maybe not, by their own choice even, all raising their families. They are as much a part of the history of this city now as Sarah Churchill. If they themselves did not, they surely have relatives who do live in other cities whose history is as deep, layered and complicated as London's.  So, there are those connections too, going east this time, not west as with me - that Here and that There, that Now and that Then.

The Serpentine Gallery, where Las Vidas Perfectas will be performed Friday at 6 PM is in the Kensington Gardens too. So we stopped by to say hi to the staff.  That was a big hit of contemporary air.

Though I wasn't interested in the Peter Pan statue, I did want to see Princess Diana's Memorial.  El V indulged me. The Fountain is very pretty.  And looked at from some perspectives, contours of the fountain look as though they are in the pattern of a heart.


* This is a joke.  The only time the Duke of Marlborough married Susan Hampshire was in the BBC series, The Churchills. Though if John Churchill had met Susan Hampshire instead of Sarah Jennings, he may well have married her instead -- there is no one more delightful than Susan Hampshire.


Foxessa said...

I was asked on Elsewhere One, "And do you know the French song about the Duke of Marlborough?"

Do you mean the burlesque lament that expressed overwhelming joy that he had died on the battlefield of Malplaquet (1709) -- a decisive battle in the War of the Spanish Succession? And which, as Twain would say, the rumor of his death was much exaggerated?

If that's the one you mean, it had a long life in France and elsewhere, with many twists and turns, including the probably apocryphal report that Bonaparte hummed it on his way to Russian disaster,

El V has done a lot of work on the War of the Spanish Succession in connection with the history of New Orleans. He loves this war for some reason! I filled him in on Marlborough along the way -- not that I'm expert, by any means, but I've a fondness for Queen Anne.

She married a Danish Prince, she's virtually unknown in the U.S., despite what is known as Queen Anne's War in North America, a colonial sidebar to the War of the Spanish Succession, and because, despite the exhausted continuance of the wars of religion in England, which took the form of clandestine support among some branches of the old Catholic aristocracy at home and abroad, and also, now, persecution of Protestent dissenters by Anglicans (Whigs and Tories), and because despite the pressures put upon her by her Stuart heritage, she staunchly flew her Protestant colors. She was subject of more than one plot to be assassinated and replaced with another Stuart, a Catholic one, her half brother, James Francis Edward Stuart. Nevertheless, there's a sense of sunnyness about her reign, a lightness fabrics, colors, and furniture, and in literature too -- the silver age, the age of satire and neo-classicism, the age of coffee houses -- The Rape of the Lock, which actually deals with these matters!

Foxessa said...

El V said last night, "I was dubious about the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain but it's a beautiful use of public space."

Traveling as much as he's done, including South America, he's seen a lot of public space memorials.

It's so large that we weren't able to get a photo that shows it as you would need to see it, not with the camera we have with us anyway, or from an position we would be allowed to photograph it from. We might have been able to get a better representation if were at the top of a tree.