Travels with Dad: August, 1991 (Part 4)

Wednesday, August 21, 1991

Sunny & warm. Heard on the BBC World Service that the conspirators to overthrow Gorbachev were fleeing Russia, so the coup must be almost over. Still no news about Gorbachev; Yeltsin has asked Margaret Thatcher to go to the Crimea to see how he is doing!

Spent most of the day trying to make plane and hotel reservations for Paris. Managed to make hotel reservations near Place Clichy for ?30/night, but the computers are down at Trailfinders [the travel agency Dad & Margaret always used], so we must try again tomorrow. I would love to go to Paris again!

In the evening, drove to the Royal Albert Hall for the Proms. I understand that “proms” used to mean promenades, and that people would stand around in front of the orchestra without chairs. In fact, some people were actually lying on the floor! Others sat by a flower-festooned fountain.

The stage was massed with yellow flowers. We had a lovely box – one of the red-coated attendants had to unlock the door for us! For Dad and me, it was the first time we had been inside Victoria’s memorial to her beloved Albert. It is mostly red & gilt & marble and being circular, quite interesting and imposing. We all enjoyed the Haydn and Brahms but were barely able to tolerate the dissonant Russian songs in between.

Dad and Margaret had smuggled in a bottle of bordeaux for the intermission, rather than pay the exorbitant prices at the bar. I love it that they sneaked it in (without telling me)!

Drove home with the sunroof open through the lit streets. London is so exciting at night.

Had the tail end of the Killawarra cabernet sauvignon with cheese, crackers, and fresh blackberries under the stars in the garden. When we went to bed, Dad said, “Goodnight, princess.”

Thursday, August 22, 1991

Dad & Margaret decided at breakfast that I looked like the girl behind the bar in that famous Manet painting. Very flattering! [I think now it was the way I wore my hair that day and being pre-caffeinated.]

Margaret managed to book a flight for me to Paris. She just called Trailfinders starting at 8:55 am and kept hitting the redial button until they answered. She is nothing if not determined.

Visited the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery. It was tremendously crowded as it had just opened, but is a very beautiful building and the perfect setting for the artworks it houses. I can’t help but feel that this, rather than children, is the immortality I would choose – to have an art gallery carry on one’s name!

I tend to tire quickly of Madonnas and saints [being in Italy for 3 months in 1984 pretty much cured me for life], but I did admire the fact that these paintings had survived 500-700 years. The colors still glowed. It was interesting to see when & how perspective and foreshortening began.

I loved Alessio Badovinetti’s striking Portrait of a Young Lady in Yellow. There were a pair of portraits by Robert Campin, of a lovely young woman and her much older husband. The woman (or girl) seems resigned but calm, as if she understands there is an agreement between her youth and his financial security. Part of that security would be having a husband who could afford to have portraits painted. I wonder if they could have imagined that they would still be admired more than 500 years later?!

Next stop: Paris!

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2 thoughts on “Travels with Dad: August, 1991 (Part 4)

  1. I completely agree with you about Madonnas and saints paintings. I booked through the National Gallery at the speed of sound – too much bloody Italian Renaissance.

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