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London: "1st Wife of Saddam Hussein" & Holland Park

London: "1st Wife of Saddam Hussein" & Holland Park

Feb 22nd, 2008, 06:14 AM
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London: "1st Wife of Saddam Hussein" & Holland Park

Though i went out to Kensington High Street mainly to track down and inspect the new Whole Foods Market, just down the road was Holland Park, which albeait one of London's lesser known parks is nevertheless one of its most interesting - especially on the fine sunny 60 degree Feb Sunday i was there.

The park was humming with families and moms with prams out for a stroll. Dozens of folk were playing soccer on the large green near Kensington High Street. The park was alive with an United Nations of ethnicities enjoying the fine weather.

Stumbling thru the park i came face to face with one of London's newest works of art that i had seen showcased on BBC news a few days before - a rather scathing review where the announcer said 'i wonder when they will take the wrapping off?'

And indeed this, no doubt Turner Prize candidate, looks like a statue that is wrapped up by duct tape awaiting unveiling.

Named <Sajida Talfah>, after the first wife of Sadam Hussein, the statue, which is indeed unwrapped despite its appearance, stands in its own little alcove just west of the Dutch Gardens.

The park has lots of other perhaps more appealing things such as a fine Japanese water garden and a host of peacocks strutting their stuff. There is also Holland House, some old Tudor looking brick pile that apparently is currently closed for restoration.

And there is a children's playground that i read is extremely popular with parents and kids and it was of course humming this fine day as well.
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 07:50 AM
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Interesting - I hadn't heard about this before so had a google. I found what seems to be the artist's gallery which contains a couple of references - it seems the sculpture was intended to 'evolve', i.e. degrade. Here's what it looked like originally, plus an interview with the artist about the concepts - http://www.rokebygallery.com/matrix_...p?page_id=1740
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 08:21 AM
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thanks caroline

degrading IMO could only help it.

I enjoyed sitting on a bench in front of the statue and listening to comments as folks walked by it

not real positive reviews i must say

but the best quote i heard had nothing to do with the statue or whatever you call it

it was two old wealthy bags disdaining Gordon Brown and Blair - one had a great line i thought

"Gordon Brown" always looks like he needs a bath"
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 08:26 AM
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What did you think of the Whole Foods store?
emily71 is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 09:12 AM
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For gods sake don't start him off on that again!!!
RM67 is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 09:37 AM
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Kensington High Street and Holland Park is #1 on my list of as yet unvisited London neighborhoods. There are a couple of interesting-sounding museums near here: Leighton House and Linley Sambourne House.
Mimar is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 09:54 AM
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RM67: (we can only hope)
janisj is online now  
Feb 22nd, 2008, 10:02 AM
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emily71

I'm glad you asked about WFM but out of respect for RM and jj and English sensibilities so i have no more to say about it

suffice to say if you put Whole Foods Market in the search box on Fodor's you will see a thread i wrote on this a few days back.
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2008, 06:58 AM
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At the entrance to Holland Park, a narrow sliver of grass that may not obviously lead to a large park - on Kensington High Street, just down the road from WHOLE FOODS MARKET sits the forlorn remains of the Commomwealth Institute - an abomination to many of 50s or 60s London architecture at its very tackiest.

But it's a historic building that i hope gets preserved - if for its atrociousness looks if nothing else.

It formerly hosted displays on British Commonwealth nations but for some reason was closed and the structure's future in this high-rent area remains doubtful. The wrecking ball may win out.
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Feb 23rd, 2008, 07:44 AM
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The domed structure at the top (north) end of the park is the former residence and laboratory of the Astronomer Royal - before the operations carried out there were relocated to Greenwich.

In the years since, it was retitled Observatory House Hotel (37 Hornton Street W8), and its history makes for an interesting night's stay.

Dunno how to book it, however
Robespierre is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2008, 10:46 AM
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I can remember going to the Commonwealth Institute on a school trip many years ago - it was quite an interesting visit (well, compared to the Imperial War Musuem, which necessitated a hasty escape to Top Shop).

The CI had an earthquake machine you could 'ride' on, and film of a shop where all the stuff fell off shelves during an earthquake. I can't remember anything more about it, but know that I quite enjoyed it.

BTW, I have just started to appreciate more 50's/60's architecture - it's especially apparent in motorway footbridges - have a look and see if I'm not right!
RM67 is offline  
Feb 24th, 2008, 11:57 PM
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I didn't know the Commonwealth Institute had closed - what a shame. I remember going down there to see the reappearance of South Africa's flag, and I once went to a theatre/dance/live art performance there. The exhibits were very interesting but I think that not many people knew about it.
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Feb 25th, 2008, 03:57 AM
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Maybe Prince Charles can launch some save the Commonwealth Institute movement or such?

Another relic of the Commonwealth themed stuff is, i believe, the Youth Hostel adjoining Holland House - built i think to commemerate the 1951 or so some celebration of the Commonwealth

The hostel is still there, tucked away out of the park proper.
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 25th, 2008, 04:29 AM
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The CI had an earthquake machine you could 'ride' on, and film of a shop where all the stuff fell off shelves during an earthquake.>>>>>>

I can remeber the earthquake room - all my class fell over.

The only other thing I can remember is the loads of head-dresses and masks.

The CI was one of london's biggest squats for a while.
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Feb 26th, 2008, 06:17 AM
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Why was the Commonwealth Institute closed?

I could see bulldozing this monstrosity, if it weren't a prime example of ghoulish London 50s and 60s tacky architecture perhaps, and building a new structure

but i remember the CI as being kind of like Amsterdam's Troppen Museum, a delightful look at cultures around the world.

Anyway the building, shuttered, still sits on Kensington High Street, just down the road from WHOLE FOODS MARKET, the smash hit emporium of whole foods that has set Londoners chattering.
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 26th, 2008, 06:39 AM
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Why was the Commonwealth Institute closed?>>>

Because it's falling to bits and was dangerous.
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Feb 28th, 2008, 07:15 AM
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CW - under that criteria Buckingham Palace would be shuttered - HM QEII just got 3 million more, supplemental pounds, to fix up the palace, parts of which were falling near the entrance to the portrait gallery

CI - i wonder why it was just shut and not relocated?

kind of an unparalleled thing it seems.

British Museum springs a leak and they close it down?
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 28th, 2008, 07:44 AM
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That horse bolted years ago (and I mean years).

The Foreign Office decided the money for keeeping it open would be better spent on wider educational activities. A lot of the exhibits went back to the countries of origin, and the rest to a successor museum in Bristol:
http://www.empiremuseum.co.uk/

Not everything has to be in London, after all.
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