Dressed like a polar explorer, I successfully negotiated the ticket barrier at New Street station with the QR code on my phone, hopped on my connecting train, worked out how to take a selfie, downloaded a Pre-Raphaelite Society podcast, plugged in my ear phones, sat back and alighted at Coventry station half-an-hour later where Nikki was waiting.
Thursday, 19 January 2023
Keep Joy Alive, Live Life! Finding Frida
This was the scene that greeted me when I drew back the curtains on Wednesday morning. I'm not keen on snow at the best of times never mind when I'd got an exciting day out planned. The side roads were treacherous and, after a couple of near misses, Jon got me to the station on time to catch the Birmingham-bound train.
Despite Coventry being less than 30 miles from Walsall, the weather was a world away with dazzling sunshine and not a hint of the dreaded white stuff (although it was still bastard freezing!)
It had been a while since I'd last seen Nikki and after a catch-up over pots of peppermint tea in the hip cafe, Bean & Leaf, we strolled around, lapping up compliments on the way we were dressed by random strangers.
St John the Baptist's church was erected in 1344 from money given by Queen Isabella, wife of Edward II, whom had been exiled from public life by her son Edward III. By 1590 the church had stopped being used for worship, and over the next 140 years, it was used for a variety of purposes, including a stable, a market hall, and a cloth dyers workshop. Most famously, it was used as a prison during the Civil War, when Scottish Royalist soldiers captured after the Battle of Preston in 1648 were incarcerated here.
Coventry was a Parliamentarian town, and the inhabitants shunned the Royalist Scots. This shunning of the prisoners is one theory for the origins of the phrase 'sent to Coventry', a fascinating fact told to me by an elderly chap who stopped and struck up a conversation. In 1734, it was once more made a place of worship and restored in 1875 by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the architect behind London's St Pancras Station and Mumbai University.
The Town Wall Tavern, a traditional British pub, apparently popular with actors appearing at the Belgrave Theatre opposite.
This mural on the wall of the Belgrade Theatre celebrates Ira Aldridge, who became the establishment's manager in 1828, the first black person to ever run a British theatre.
The Reel Store, the building which once housed the print reels from the neighbouring offices of the Coventry Telegraph was our next destination, as it was hosting the immersive exhibition, the Life and Work of Frida Kahlo.
Artist. Icon. Rebel. Frida Kahlo was one of the most significant artists of the 20th Century, known for her vivid artwork, iconic style and extraordinary life. Based on her diary, this award-winning, multi sensory, immersive exhibition tells Kahlo’s story in her own words.
I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.
I drank because I wanted to drown my sorrows, but now the damned things have learned to swim.
Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.
What I wanted to express very clearly and intensely was that the reason these people wanted to invent and imagine heroes and gods is pure fear. Fear of life and fear of death.
Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it is true that I am here, and I'm just as strange as you.
I am my own muse. I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to better.
I hope the exit is joyful. And I hope never to return.
Take a lover that looks at you like maybe you're a Bourbon biscuit.
You deserve the best, the very best, because you are one of the few people in this lousy world who are honest to themselves, and that is the only thing that really counts.
Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light. Tragedy is the most ridiculous thing.
I paint flowers so they will not die.
The most important part of the body is the brain. Of my face I like my eyebrows and eyes.
They thought I was a surrealist, but I wasn't. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.
At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.
Keep joy alive, live life!
What an experience! We left feeling uplifted and inspired (and a little bit giddy from the interactive light show). The exhibition runs until 29th January, if you're within easy travelling distance to Coventry go now!
Lunch was a chilli cheese paratha and a masala chai in Mychai, the food was delicious when it finally arrived!
We ambled down Mediaeval Spon Street and had a pint of IPA in a cosy 15th century pub, the Old Windmill, before Nikki walked me back to Coventry station where the train to Birmingham New Street was waiting to take me home.
Thanks for a fabulous day, Nikki! See you for another adventure soon...
This morning I awoke to another wintery scene, pulled on all the layers and walked down to the baths for a half-mile swim....
And treated ourselves to another bargain Spoons breakfast....guacamole, pica de gallo and rocket served on a toasted muffin (unlimited coffee included) - £4.95.
My next trip? It involves tracking down what looks like my dream bar.....
See you on the other side.
PS All these photos brought to you via my new phone, ain't technology ace?