Friday, September 30, 2011
Students dressed in matching t-shirts circled around us bubbling with information about registration, banking, student cards, grocery shopping and bus passes. And lots of smiles! While The Heiress sorted out the details I passed some time chatting and laughing with some local transit employees in a double-decker bus (if you stand still for even a minute, I will make friends with you!) It was brought on site as a location for students signing up for the discounted bus pass and what a deal. Regularly priced at 240 GBP it was on offer for 150 GBP. You needed your student card to register which would have meant more waiting for me so The Heiress said that if I had had enough she would take care of it later. "Do it now and I'll pay, do it later and you pay" I said to her. Guess which one she chose...
With my own sense of accomplishment I boarded the train back to London. And as usual, asking at least one person on the platform and one on the train about its destination to make sure that I didn't end up in Wales. I opened my copy of Jane Austen's Persuasion and sat back to enjoy the quiet. Once back in London I took myself on a walking tour of Bloomsbury in the mist, it suited my melancholy mood but the next day I'd be meeting Rachel, Simon and Mary and I couldn't wait!
Thursday, September 29, 2011
We're immensely interested by the World War II era in our house and hearing about my last trip The Heiress wanted to see the Imperial War Museum for herself. I wish that I had taken down the details of the painting above but my attention kept being pulled by a group of seniors visiting the museum. We listened to snippets they were sharing with family about being evacuated to the countryside, wearing gas masks or their treasure of half a tin of biscuits from the family's ration book. Oh to sit down with them for an afternoon! Forget the balled up tissue tucked inside a cardigan sleeve and their slow shuffle, I could easily imagine these seniors in wool short pants and starched dresses playing or helping out. After a bit I steered The Heiress to the exhibit with the bomb shelter you sit in and listen to bombs falling while it's completely dark inside...then a blast hits and the bench actually shakes! Or was that a hunger pang? We had a delicious soup and salad lunch in the cafe and strolled back in the sunshine to the tube station. The half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square was our next stop.
Tucked up in bed it wasn't long before we were out like a light. The Heiress was too tired to even worry about the butterflies that would come the next morning as we packed up her worldly goods for the next stage of her life in Canterbury.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Rachel, for the tip to get a whopping headstart on a Boots points card! We still had smiles on our faces while we visited the Hunterian museum and even during the first half of our "West End Ghost Walk" tour but we were flagging fast. Weaving our way around the dark alleys near Piccadilly Circus with our group but falling slightly behind, we passed a warmly lit eatery with tables of laughing guests. The Heiress and I looked at each other, watched our group walk further down the street and decided that a great burger and a rest was just what we needed. Don't hesitate to stop at Byron Proper Hamburger if you're on Haymarket and try the blue cheese on your burger, it was delicious!
At the end of every day full of wonder and lovely people to talk to, I would make my way downstairs to the kitchen area of the B&B and make a pot of tea. Joseph would keep watch until midnight and refused to let me get away with chucking a teabag into the pot, things had to be done properly. "What is the point?" he would say. So he came to know my routine and would start the kettle boiling so it was ready whenever I was. Tucked upstairs with my tea, something sweet, my book and BBC or ITV on in the background was my idea of heaven and I got to do it all over again the next day.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
The Heiress and I thoroughly enjoyed our time together. The agony of dragging heavy bags from pillar to post was nothing in comparison to the wonder of being back in a city we thoroughly enjoy. The crowds of people, the rush of the tube, people enjoying the sun in leafy squares and someone with an English accent calling you "Madam" will put a smile on your face after a long overnight flight. And then there is the stunning architecture topped by chimney pots and gargoyles, foreign to those of us used to square, functional offices with little character.
Usually I refuse to give in to jet lag but as of this moment the white flag must be waved to and fro. By the end of my shift at the library yesterday I just wanted to curl into a ball and fall fast asleep so apologies for the delay in writing about our adventure. Who else in my neighbourhood has the warm glow from a computer shining through their window at such an early hour this morning though, I ask you?
There is so much to share about Canterbury, Oxford, Jane Austen's house in Chawton and a peaceful stroll through gorgeous Chelsea to Carlyle's house. The absolute cherry on top of the whole trip was meeting five of my blog friends. It would have been six but for Verity coming down with mumps of all things! In so many instances, this trip was about connecting with people at every opportunity and though I was alone for much of the trip I was never lonely. So my aim is to be get things caught up around the house, take a photo or two of the books that were purchased and given and to be awake enough to string a sentence together by mid-afternoon. Be back soon!
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
We've never been clingy parents. You know, the sort who soaks a box of tissues when their child attends their first day of kindergarten or goes on a bus to overnight camp. Even tonight, R asked me if I would be stopping in to see The Heiress after my week in London and before heading back to Canada. A glance at my bulging itinerary said it all. "Uh, hello, I'm right here!" shouted The Heiress before bursting out laughing. I can't quite remember where I read about young women, some still in their late teens, joining the Red Cross to go overseas as nurses during World War II. Now that would take some intestinal fortitude on the part of the young women and faith from their parents. What we will go through as a family during this venture is a walk in the park by comparison.
There are bookshops to visit, shows to see, train rides to take, London Walks to go on, cakes to try and blog friends to meet. I'm even excited about the gray skies and chance of rain on the day I'm to tour Highgate Cemetery! How atmospheric can you get? And Rachel emailed me with the exciting news that the second series of Downton Abbey will begin while I'm in London. Talk about all your Christmases and birthdays coming at once.
I can't wait to indulge in a Full English breakfast every day, buy just about everything that comes in black current just because I love it, eat roast chicken and stuffing sandwiches from Marks & Spencer Food Hall and try a different flavoured yogurt every single day. Pet dogs out for their morning walk in Russell Square and try to spot magpies hopping around in the bushes. And there is a cafe in Bloomsbury that once served me coffee with cream so sweet I didn't have to add sugar, I wonder if it's still there?
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, for chicken sandwiches and children, and the next twelve months will go by in no time. I can hear The Heiress now..."Uh, hello, I'm right here!"
Monday, September 5, 2011
There is no two ways about it, Lovejoy is an eleven year-old tyrant but oh, did I ever fall for her. Fobbed off on Mrs Crombie and Vincent by her useless mother, Lovejoy lives amongst the soot and debris of post-war London. Her clothes are too small and her feet are busting out of her shoes but her observant eye recognizes good quality and one day she vows things will be different. Vincent also loves teaching his very keen protege how to make a little go a long way in his restaurant. A simple flower in a small glass and a crisp, clean tablecloth will bring a smile to a customer's face and barely costs anything. But much to Mrs Crombie's despair his passions occasionally run to more expensive accoutrements.
Lovejoy desperately wants to create an Italian garden, tucked away somewhere safe from marauding boys. She resorts to all sorts of wheeling, dealing and stealing to acquire whatever she needs to make her dream garden a reality. Tip Malone is the leader of the neighbourhood street gang but he bends to Lovejoy's commands in such a way your heart melts for him as well. They're like an old married couple come to think of it. And when Lovejoy thinks the eyes on the statue of The Virgin Mary at church follow her, burning into her very soul to expose her indiscretions, Tip helps her to find absolution. Honestly, you will laugh and cry for these two and I mustn't forget little Sparkey with his bad chest, too fragile to be of much use to anyone. Sitting on the stoup with only newspaper wrapped around his skinny legs for warmth I wanted to knit him a sweater so badly!
This story of love, hard work, determination and even disappointment is so beautifully told by Rumer Godden. Her sublime writing and the way she wraps characters around your heart just might explain why I haven't come across her books in second-hand shops. My book is a library copy but I will be searching high and low amongst the shops on Charing Cross Road for one to call my own.
Thank you, Harriet, for writing about this very inspirational story.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Now it may be total madness to join a group to read Persuasion when I'll be flitting about London but I'm going to give it a try. After all, one has to have a book to whip out of one's bag while waiting for the tube to arrive at the station platform. Or better still, while enjoying something sweet with a cup of tea on a park bench while pretending I'm a local.
Rachel's offer to anyone interested in joining her read this wonderful book was also the inspiration I needed to finally make the pilgrimage to the Jane Austen museum in Chawton (I will not spend a fortune in the gift shop, I will not spend a fortune in the gift shop). How did Jane manage to write exquisite novels in that house with everyone bustling about? I've been interrupted at least ten times from everyone in my family, including the dog, during the past hour!
Carl. Ever since reading Her Fearful Symmetry in 2009, I've been desperate to visit Highgate Cemetery. The book did a pretty good job of navigating my imagination through the pathways and tombstones but I want to know what it feels like to be there. And not that I'm a scaredy cat or anything but the fact I'll be surrounded by others in a tour group does hold some appeal.
Earlier this year I picked up a copy of Turn of the Screw with this challenge in mind but perhaps a reread of Niffenegger's book will win out. Another option is The Woman in Black which I may end up taking The Heiress to see if we need something to do on a rainy evening.
Sometimes a trip can be the inspiration needed to pull a certain book from a shelf but in this case it's the other way around. No doubt there will be at least one night spent having a nightmare about ghosts and Captain Wentworth. I can't wait!