In any event, we have more or less firm plans to go to Berlin for a few days at the end of August/early September. My original thought was to use an LSE LLM reunion taking place in Berlin as an excuse to go to Berlin--and it is an excuse because I don't even know most of the people who responded and said they are going, save for two. At least they were people that I regularly saw and talked to. So SX is coming along, which works out great for her because she asked me, before we met for lunch, whether I wanted to go to Berlin for a weekend of debauchery and fun. Exciting! Can't wait.
I was meant to do two viewings after lunch, but just as I was about to head off to the first viewing (a room with a balcony in Canada Water), the landlord texted me to say that the room was taken. Ugh! So I had coffee somewhere in Shoreditch, read a bit, then took the Tube to Latimer Road where I viewed a room in Oxford Gardens.
The only two things that attracted me to the property were 1) it's literally five minutes by foot to Westway Tennis Centre where I used to play (INDOORS!) when I lived in Edgware Road; and 2) the room had an adjacent bathroom outside which the landlord said could be just for me.
Alas, I did not like the location, and I found the room way too small. It was certainly smaller than all the rooms I've lived in in Cambridge, and I just didn't want to pay 850 a month for a small room in a boring residential area that has a Tube station with a typical English pub just next to it. Not to mention: there will be two couples living in the house. TWO! I don't even want to live with one couple, let alone two! That also led me to wonder: why do couples rent a room in a flatshare instead of getting their own place? They must be really young and in the early stages of their careers if they haven't (or think they haven't) the money to rent their own place. I know for sure that if I were in a committed relationship--and it has to be committed for me to want to live together, which I've never really found appealing pre-marriage--I wouldn't want to share a house with other people.
But hey, that's a moot point, for it's been forever since I was last in a committed relationship, so no such problem will arise anytime soon.
Anyway. After the viewing, I took the Tube to Charing Cross to do what I'd primarily gone to London to do: visit the Monet & Architecture special exhibition at the National Gallery. Perhaps it was because it was the last day, for there were so many people in the rather small gallery space. I was surprised; I didn't think that a paid exhibition would be so crowded. Granted, it was only 20 pounds, but 20 pounds was enough to deter silly people like John from going, so I wasn't expecting a crowd.
The annoying crowd aside, and like I told John, the 20 pounds was such a good deal. It was a proper exhibition, not one of those 'here are some shitty sketches that the artist did when he was still developing his talent' type of exhibitions that purport to chart the artist's growth and maturity of his craft. It exhibited famous paintings from galleries all around the world: the sunset over Waterloo bridge, for instance; the Houses of Parliament at sunset, from the Kunsthaus in Zurich (which, by the way, I have been to); his Rouen cathedral paintings from Cardiff. There were also less well-known ones but still breath-taking, such as (perhaps) his Venice paintings. Looking at his hazy, dreamy rendering of the Doge Palace, or the Santa Maria della Salute almost merging into the Grand Canal made me really happy that I'd visited Venice before going to the exhibition. Having been to the places that he'd drawn makes his genius, and the beauty of his art, even more palpable and astonishing for me.
I don't know what it is about Monet that I admire and love so much. Of all the Impressionists, I have been consistently drawn to his work. Is it because he painted my favourite part of my favourite city in a manner that both obscures and illuminates the ephemeral beauty of London, and the steadfast beauty of the Houses of Parliament? He eschews the details, zooms in on a fleeting impression of how the Houses appear in a certain weather condition, at a certain time: sunset, a stormy sky, sunrise. His blazing reds and oranges, a more muted pink, and a silvery white. I stood for a long time in front of the Houses of Parliament under a stormy sky, and marvelled at how he captured the reflected beams of light that broke through the dark clouds in the Thames, represented by a series of nonchalant-appearing brush strokes of silver and white. It has an evocative quality that I can't quite place my finger on. It is the rare sort of beauty--pure beauty--that reminds me of the joyous and triumphant side of life. Beauty for its own sake; art for art's sake; not everything has to be scrutinisable, capable of surviving a rational inquiry, to be worthwhile.
I have been especially drawn to his Waterlilies series the past few years. During my 2016 trip to Paris (almost two years since I was last in Paris! Mon Dieu !), I could have died of happiness, wept a river of tears worthy of the Seine, when I visited the Musée de l'Orangerie. The Waterlilies, these vast canvases, the beauty, the beauty, the beauty. How often does one find onself moved to near-tears when standing in front of an artistic masterpiece? I don't think I have ever felt like crying when looking at other paintings that I appreciate. Not even seeing the despondency and hopelessess in the desolate palette of various dark browns of van Gogh's final paintings had that effect on me, and neither did appreciating Marc Chagall's whimsical painting of a newly-wed couple seated on a flying horse.
A few years ago, when I'd first started appreciating art, I'd thought that I liked Alfred Sisley. Now, there is a very strong case to be made that Claude Monet is my favourite painter. I have to go to Giverny before I leave Europe, whenevr that may be.
Anyway. I got back to Cambridge at 8pm and met Ivan for a drink. I'm glad that I decided not to be lame and bail because jetlag/fatigue, for I hadn't seen him in a long time and it was nice catching up.
Random thought: I really like French things. I want to go to France again. French is such an aurally pleasing language. I wish I could speak it!