John Random sits on the “Sounding Board” for the Old Royal Naval College. I’m not entirely sure what that means…
…I’m not sure John is entirely sure…
…but one thing it does mean at the moment is that John has the right occasionally to take a guest to tour the Painted Hall Ceiling.
This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the ceiling of the extraordinary painted hall up close and personal, while scaffolding is up as the ceiling is being conserved.
How could I possibly say no when John offered me such a tour?
John went the whole hog, safety-dress-wise, whereas I, on learning that the hard hat was voluntary, declined the offer to wear one of those.
We were part of a small group, led my the intrepid Martina; a young, pint-sized Italian woman who seemed to know an awful lot about the ceiling.
We are very much in the baroque period for the painted hall and ceiling. We are also steeped in the politics of the Glorious Revolution. So William and Mary take centre stage and sectarian symbolism abounds.
To be honest, the detail was a bit much for me, but the awe-inspiring opportunity to see this extraordinary work up close and learn about the conservation project was extremely interesting and memorable.
I would thoroughly recommend a visit while there is still time – still several months at the time of writing this – I suggest you do it sooner rather than later.
It was a sunny winter’s day, so after the tour we strolled a bit and I especially wanted to see the chapel, where I had attended at least one concert in the past.
The chapel looked especially splendid in the sunlight – I hadn’t seen it on such a day before – plus it had clearly been through a clean up and refurb of its own since my last visit, perhaps 25 years ago.
As an aside, John Random seems to specialise in memorable days in Greenwich – my previous visit to the place, 20+ years ago, was with Janie to meet John and Jenny on an unforgettable day – click here or below:
John and I pondered whether any royals had (or would) die on the day of this Painted Hall visit. We decided that, if the worst did happen, we really should abandon any future plans to meet in Greenwich.
Next stop, lunch. John said he’d never tried an eel pie place before, so we chanced our luck in such a traditional place – Goddards – click here. The fact that John doesn’t much like mash and had never tried eel before did not daunt him:
I personally am keen on eel, although usually in the smoked form…
…indeed as soon as I have finished writing this piece I shall sup on smoked eel and salad…
…so let me press on.
John found the eel a bit difficult to navigate, because the stewed eel served alongside the pie has the bone still in. I told John that I seemed to be managing the geography of the eel pieces better than him, which he found a curious turn of phrase.
I was reminded of Charley the Gent’s nerve-wracking encounter with my smoked eel at Lord’s in September 2015 – written up for King Cricket – click here or below...goodness knows what Chas would have made of it if I hadn’t carefully filleted the smoked eel for him:
Anyway, John and I both found the eel pie shop food a little bland – not least the meat in the pie and the parsley sauce – indeed the eel was far and away the tastiest element.
We thought we might enjoy some tea/coffee elsewhere more than we’d enjoy it in the eel pie house, so we went around the corner to Red Door Cafe – a quirky place which was very much to my taste.
The proprietor, William, played a very interesting and eclectic mixture of music, ranging from Leonard Cohen to Arvo Pärt.
Red Door served a very good cup of coffee and also had an intriguing collection of teas…I sampled the white which was very nice. John tried some cake which he said was also very good. I’d certainly go to that cafe again like a shot.
John and I chatted until we realised that hours had gone by in this jovial fashion, but we both really did need to get on and do some other things before the end of the day.
A very memorable and very enjoyable few hours.