same barb place, different barb times


On Good Friday we went to the Barbican, we left Leyton's shores and headed for the City, the sun shone brightly, a strange phenomenon for an English Bank Holiday.  The roads were clear of traffic as we cruised along by Vicki Park we would have opened the sun-roof but Timu hasn`t got one. We drove  along over the pot-holes in Worship Street  (some of them have been  there  so  long that they are marked in the A-Z) so severe are  they,  that  there  is  a  special warning sign which tells people  with  loose  teeth  to  keep their mouths closed for 200 yards.    We  approached  the Barbican along Chiswell St only to find  our  route  was detoured  (we had come so close, what could we  do?  )  I needn`t have worried, Karen`s razor-sharp mind had assessed  the  situation, it was risky but.... with reckless but calculated  abandon  we drove past the road-works THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD   Luckily there were no witnesses.

We  parked  Timu  and  headed  for the Art gallery, my heart was filled  with  trepidation  as  this  was  our first visit to the Barbican  gallery  since  I  nearly  ran  Douglas  Hurd  over on Remembrance  Sunday  (allegedly).   At this point I must make it clear  that  wheelchair-users have their vision set on the floor up  to  waist  height,  so  I didn`t see him, `onest yer `onner!  Anyway  this  problem  was  to  rear  its ugly head again, I was concentrating  on  the floor trying not to fall off the pavement when  Karen said  “Did you see that man with the bird on his shoulder?” Now even I would  have  noticed  Long  John  Silver.  It turned out to be a young  bloke  carrying  a  bird of  prey, a harrier hawk called Megan.

“Are you giving a show?” says we


“No she’s been working, I bring her up here when hired and she flies about to scare the pigeons away”

We  had  a  long  chat with him but when he asked if I wanted to stroke  Megan  in  true  News  of  the World fashion we made our excuses and left.

We then went on to play the lift game.  The guide telling you on which floor your destination is hasn`t been updated but the lift controls have.  It’s lots of fun. Because of this new feature we got out on the wrong floor to find a folk music concert in full swing, this music was to be heard throughout the complex...  great stuff…

We finally made it to the correct floor  (I`m still not quite sure which it was but and....c`est la vie). At this point  Karen suggested a visit to the Barbican`s conservatory,it was on this floor, she had  nice memories of  it from a previous visit  with her Mum and Dad. It was a real strange feeling  a quiet, tranquil spot in a large building in the heart of London.,. The only sounds were  flowing water and the call of  blackbirds , apparently a male and a female  had somehow found their way in and built a nest,  the gardener said they wouldn`t hurt the  plants, so they are now awaiting the flutter of tiny  wings. Would they be a flock of Barbi`s?

Anyway we left the conservatory and so at last to the gallery to see their  British Impressionism exhibition, it was really good  and included the original painting of  the infamous DEAD FISH  print.. I feel that I should explain, the painting shows a fish sale on a turn of the century Cornish beach , I bought a print  of the picture in 1981 and wanted to put it up at home,

Ughh I don`t like that with all those dead fish” says Mum. 

I still think its great, but the original is a million times better so it was worth going  just for that one.


After this we still had over an hour until theatre time so where better than the Lakeside cafe. This is another feature of the complex (I feel I’m now beginning to sound like a Barbican  promotion)  so we sat out in the  sun drinking coffee and eating cake (a major  feature of  our busy lives) and generally saving the world. One day I will tell you about the mysterious gold figures. It was getting closer to theatre time so we went back inside, watched John Kirkpatrick for a couple of numbers, played the lift game again and eventually arrived at the theatre.                          

Now the theatre is wondrous to behold, a bar, nice snacks but most of all Losley ice cream (oh ye lovers of ice cream please note this is to die for).  We then took our place in one of the boxes especially for people with mobility difficulties, got out our Pick`n`mix  (specially  blended at F.W. Woolworth Bakers Arms purveyors of  sweetmeats and other luxury requisites ) and got ready to watch Twelfth Night, I had studied this for my O level. 

After the play back into the lift (no problems this time for Karen had mastered the insidious lift game ) and apart from nearly reversing into John Kirkpatrick`s drummers`s kit it was an uneventful journey home. Even the pot-holes in Worship St couldn’t take the shine off a great day.

Rafe  St John  Fitzedmund

Fine art & film critic