Paul Waters and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

It all started with a kind invitation from Blackwatertown Paul Waters on his blogsite that he was willing to take a guest along with him to see the prestigious annual Royal Academy Art Exhibition. This event held in June, July and August is an essential part of the London art calendar.

The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition is the largest open contemporary art exhibition in the world, drawing together a wide range of new and recent work by established, unknown and emerging artists.

The annual exhibition, ‘open to all artists of distinguished merit’ helps to
finance the training of young artists in the RA Schools. This has been held
every year without interruption since 1769 and continues to play a significant
part in raising funds to finance the students. The Royal Academy receives no
public funding so all those who support the Summer Exhibition by submitting
work, visiting it and through purchases contribute to supporting artists of the

Paul is a ‘free’ journo who is  originally from Ireland, but has lived, worked and explored various places including England, Wales, the USA, Poland and South Africa. He is one of those plumy voices that you have heard on BBC and is currently keeping himself busy doing some amazing things like writing speeches for bigwigs, doing
assignments for newspapers and mags and some other important work that I will
describe later.

My interest in the RA show was selfish…my daughter, Nitila was treating her Dad and me to a holiday in London and Hitchin. She loves anything to do with art and music and collects photographs. So I thought that I would treat her to something that would be special and Paul offered me the opportunity.

I was not sure whether Paul would really take us to the show as we were known to each other only through blogs. He had a look at my visage—for me he was an arched bridge that decorated his masthead. He loaded some photos and critique of the exhibition and I decided to pin him down to a ‘date’! With emails exchanged including an SOS sent through my bother Ramana about my whereabouts, I finally fixed Tuesday the 28th. Again we had a few exchanges about a time to rendezvous and finally 11 at Burlington
House, Piccadilly.

We took a train from Hitchin, got off at King’s Cross, took the tube and made our way to Piccadilly armed with the trusted A to Z London. My husband insisted on ccompanying us as he was not convinced about blog friends wanting to take us free to some do. Not a great ‘Art’ person he walked with us a few yards and a banner hung from an upper window in front of the building that we identified Burlington House. There was an old gate and arch through which we passed and entered a courtyard. “He said he would be in jeans and a blue pull over” announced Nitila. She had told him to
look for two Indian women! We looked around with butterflies in our stomach
spotting a courtyard full of blue jeans clad people toing and froing. Frankly I
knew that the old carnation/rose in the buttonhole was a better ID (remember my
knowledge is book based).

And like a Peter Pan, full of beans, this volatile young man with a haversack swung around and cried out across the courtyard, “Padmini” and we had made contact! What a surprise Paul was, so full of life and brimming with enthusiasm. He said a convincing ‘Hi’ and shook hands with my husband who seemed satisfied with the bonafides of our host and took off on his perambulations of London town.

We walked into Burlington House with Paul talking nineteen to the dozen. He had a little booklet for us to check out the paintings, photographs and art exhibited. He took us in a lift to an upper floor and a lovely tour of the rooms giving us a running commentary of the artists, their work and little bits of news and gossip about the show.

What an explosion of colour it was! My mind had been filled with dignified landscapes and watercolours typically British that I had seen in other museums in London. Here was a new and vibrant renaissance that showed a new gen that was in love with colours, bright oranges, reds, blues and works that had such wonderful detailing. There were the pretentious pieces as well but I am no ‘art’ aficionado to comment on the work. There were pieces that I loved, that I liked, that I ignored and some that I totally
frowned or rejected.

Paul smuggled us in to the Friends of the RA tearoom (only one was allowed in but he used his charm and my greyhead). We then sat over a cuppa—tea for me and Nitu and coffee for Paul and found out all about Paul. He teaches soft skills to immigrants—how to attend interviews, dress for it, talk clearly etc. This a group of Bangladeshis, grads and PG’s who are in UK to get jobs. We talked about ‘Brick Lane’ by Monica Ali the area
that Paul was familiar with. He showed us photos of his gorgeous kids, talked
about a at-home dad who went to work at all odd times, the village life and Public School world of his son. He gave us a thumbnail sketch of life in Ireland and how he met his wife there and his choice to stay in the UK. His adventures in Ireland sounded as if we were reading a book about the unrest and strife of that part of the world.

Soon it was time to make our way home. We got a schoolgirl to click some photos. The one image that stayed in my mind of Paul was his picking up an abandoned paper bag right in the middle of the courtyard with its huge statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds, founding member and first president of the Royal Academy, by Alfred Drury RA. Paul searched for a dustbin and discarded the apple and juice carton forgotten by a schoolgirl (plenty visiting the exhibition). We bid Paul goodbye a little sadly as we had
made a good friend.

The rest of the afternoon saw us in an adventure of sorts. There was a sudden cloudburst and we rushed into a little Trattoria for a hot meal—right next to King’s Cross station. When the rain stopped briefly we made a dash for our train. At the entrance to the platform (9A—remember Harry Potter) we were told that there had been a ‘lightning strike’ and all trains in that area were cancelled. Used to such adventures in India we went and sat in the train a little worried about the whereabouts of my husband. Ten minutes later we saw him outside and ran to call him. It was then that we came to know that the thunderclap had sent a fork of ‘lightening’ that affected
the signals. Half an hour later we decided to take anther route and walked of to St Pancras next door, took a train to St Albans and then a taxi to Hitchin costing us a bomb!

All in all it was a great day. I do hope that one day soon we get a chance to play host to Paul and his family. The ‘in-the-flesh’ experience of seeing a cyber friend and his charm and hospitality will remain a wonderful experience that I will cherish always.

Thank you Paul and God Bless You!

About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
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5 Responses to Paul Waters and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

  1. Grannymar says:

    That sounded like a wonderful day. Am I allowed to be a little bit green with envy? I would have loved to meet all of you!


  2. padmum says:

    I enjoy meeting you more regularly on Skype!! God willing we will meet person to person or as the kids say now one on one! Ir was a magical day alright!


  3. Rummuser says:

    I wish that I had been there too.


  4. blackwatertown says:

    Hee hee – it was great. First time I’ve been described as having a plummy voice. My Mum will be pleased.
    There could be no better visitors than you, Padmini and Nitila. I’d be delighted to continue our conversation next time your over, or when I’m over Chennai way – which will be sometime, I hope.


  5. Pingback: Plummy voice is here | Blackwatertown

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