Well, those Martinis were a prelude to an excellent sleep. As I enter the dining room at The Hyatt for Breakfast, I remember my mother’s words before I left Australia, muttering constant reminders, “Be on your best behavior, sit up straight, make sure your socks don’t have holes in them, and, whatever you do, polish your shoes. If you don’t, you won’t be invited back.” I wanted to tell her this wasn’t some-ones house I was visiting, and future invitations were highly unlikely. Sometimes, just remaining silent is the best course of action when dealing with a concerned parent.
And, here I am sitting in this spaciously appointed dining room in my finest attire. I’ve even managed to place my starched snow white linen napkin neatly on my lap. As I try to dutifully remember all of my mother’s kind words of wisdom, I suddenly remember that it probably isn’t best practice to stir my coffee with my pen, but to use the glowing polished teaspoon that sits next to the cup.
All these instructions and reminders to behave appropriately end up taking up an extraordinary toll on my patience. Neatly cutting the best British bacon, perfectly poached eggs and some of the finest Pork sausages I’ve ever eaten into picture-perfect pieces for consumption is, well, exhausting. I even manage to cut my toast into perfect triangles. Finally, my palaver performance comes to an end.
I’m slowly deciding by the third day of this, that I don’t want to be so very, very rich after all! (Even though I’ve spent most of my life imagining that it might be quite nice to live like this.) And, this business of having to be constantly on my very best behaviour for the rest of my entire life, is quite frankly going to be absolutely tedious, not to mention I think a bit boring as the years roll on!
By now the best thing is to just find my next place to haunt which is the “Handel Museum.” However, before we fast forward to the actual museum, I want to make very clear what the museum is not! I tried getting to this quirky place on my last trip in 2011, but didn’t quite make it.
Now you can imagine my surprise at this next bit while trying to study maps on the last trip to try and find this place. I ask the girl who was also staying with me when we all stayed at a friend’s house, a girl not quite 16. “Do you know the easiest way to get to ‘The Handel Museum’.” To which she replies, “Um, not really Izzy. Actually, I’ve never heard of ‘The Handel Museum’.”
The next sentence actually stops me in my tracks, and I’m left absolutely and completely astounded.
“Izzy. Is there really a museum for handles in London? I didn’t know there was an exhibition or museum for door handles in London.”
“What, are you, on about girl!” was my barked reply. “I’m talking about George Frederic Handel, you know, the composer! You, do know the piece, ‘The Messiah’? Don’t, you? ‘Unto to us a son is born.’ The ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. I start chanting an out of tune, an out of key and out of time start to the Hallelujah, I quickly remember I’m living in the 21st Century and bring up You Tube.
My final parting words are “Handel, GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, he wrote ‘The Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks.’ He is one of the most famous classical music composers to have lived in Great Britain. Seriously, are you being taught absolutely anything at all in school?”
As I stand outside 25 Brook Street London, let us be very, very clear. This is not a museum of, door handles!
This small classic Georgian house has been beautifully restored and looks just as it might have when Handel was in residence. I’m lucky enough to find a small concert is being held, so look through the residence and imagine what must have been going through Handel’s head as he composed some of his most famous works while living here and take my seat in the small concert area.
The concert turns out to be a family day, and parents with their neatly scrubbed offspring sit quietly waiting for the concert to begin. It’s a little less formal than a normal concert and we get to partake in some of the performances as a group.
Between pieces, we receive lectures on the recorders, the flutes and the harpsichord being used. The performers do an outstanding job explaining why different size instruments make the sounds they do and finally we get to partake of our very own group exercise.
We are going to be the wind, the ice, and the rush of rain with our very own percussion instruments. We are given our time, the beat and tune to bash out. All is going very well until I receive a kick from a very small foot! She, squirms, and for a girl of about five scowls fiercely, and whispers, “Stay in time, your mucking us all up! Just pretend if you can’t do it properly.” I stop stamping, clapping, and give up. You’ll never win with a child that size. They look too cute.
As I gaze down on Brook Street, listening to the wind, rain and thunder of triangles, bells, and small miniature drums, playing accompaniment to a piece by Purcell, it’s not lost on me that Jimi Hendrix, one of the most spectacular guitarists of the 20th Century moved into 23 Brook Street next door in the summer of ‘69. I can’t help wondering if Handel just couldn’t help himself and returned to us again for a second visit almost two hundred years later.
Culture taken care of and I find myself falling onto a bit more culture as I topple back out into Mayfair and New Bond Street.
Before me, stands Sotheby’s. The doors are wide open. Should I, shouldn’t I go in. Finally I decided to just go for it. The worst that will happen is being frog marched back out of the place. But my luck continues and I find myself free to wander, and best of all touch the pieces of furniture, Georgian dining room suites, Silver and all the other items on display before going to auction.
Sotheby’s probably don’t want to be the latest and trendiest tourist stop, but realistically if you have the opportunity to visit here you should. A showcase of
great masterpieces, beautiful furniture all on public display, awaiting sale. All of which you can touch, handle and really get close to. If nothing else, what you’re seeing is moving from the hands of one private collector to the next before it is whisked away back to a secret world where only a chosen few will ever get to lay eyes on it.
Wandering around, I only feel left out because I don’t have my very own miniature torch to study the masterpieces of art on display that are being auctioned that week. Everyone is madly shining and staring with earnest studious looks on their faces.
I am feeling some concern though about the guy in his Armani suit chatting on his phone about his financial woes and how difficult he’s finding things. That call ends. He starts the next call, only to start the conversation with, “Yes Lucy, I’m here.” Yes, I’m looking at the miniature Pre-Raphaelite now. Yes, yes ok. If it goes for less than £50,000 pounds I’ll buy it on Friday.” I wonder if I should tap the guy on the shoulder and ask him to swap worlds for the week, because I don’t believe the conversation I’m actually hearing, is the same person.
Finally I find my piece. It’s a miniature statue carved around 1200-1250AD. I’m desperately wanting to take a photo of the miniature structured faces and intricate chiseling.
And never, in my entire life have I seen something so perfectly and beautifully made. I stand there so long, that I’m finally joined by an unknown companion. We chatter on about the beauty of the object, and he finally asks. “Do you think you’ll bid for the item.” I’m a bit stunned by this and for a moment don’t actually know what to say. That said, I find the most serious and earnest face I can muster whilst I slowly and gently utter, “Well, I’m not sure. We’ve just completed a rather large clearance of items in our current collection, and I’m really not sure we’re looking to add to it at this time.” A quick glance to the price card, indicates an estimated starting bid of £940,000. As I turn to leave, my parting words are. “Although, we may consider adding to our collection of Pre-Raphaelites towards the end 2014.” Now, I make a run for it. (I’m very good at doing this when I feel uncomfortable.) I decide this is starting to get messy and I’m getting out of my depth.
I decide that this gentleman really does not need to hear the intimate details of what was actually cleared from my house, which was in fact a lot of cardboard boxes, vacuum cleaner parts, long broken or no longer of any use. Plastic bags, a squidgy bed with broken wires and the eviction of two possums living in the bottom of the empty television box from the garage.
I now have only one mission. I have £9.45 in my purse. The guy at the other end of the room who is supposedly in dire financial hardship has £50,000. He needs to be found, an acquaintance formed, and quickly. Then I just need to lay my hands on another£889, 990.55 by Friday to bid on this statue!
If I’m not back in Australia by January 2014, you can assume I’ve succeeded in my quest.