Saturday, October 1, 2011

London - Day Four

Well here we are.  Simon, Rachel and me (kneeling on the floor) with Mary snapping the photo.  But let's start at the beginning.

The day could not have been more beautiful with the sun shining amidst a bright blue sky as I stood in Trafalgar Square.  The Olympic clock was on display counting down the hours until the opening ceremony and my eye was on the time until I was to finally meet some of my dearest blog friends!  Rachel arrived first and it was hugs all around, then Mary appeared and I already felt right at home as we found ourselves a table in the gallery's cafe.  Tucked in a corner it wasn't long before Simon joined us and we had the most wonderful afternoon of book chat, banter about this and that, browsing Charing Cross Road, a tour highlighting Virginia Woolf's life and two bouts of indulging in cake!

Winding our way through a few bookshops, navigating creaky stairs to their cellars where the best deals can be found, Rachel, Simon and Mary pulled books for me they thought I would like.  Pictured above is my treasure including a first edition copy of Diary of a Provincial Lady and a very thoughtful gift from Simon, a beautiful journal that will come in very handy, gift wrapped no less!  This man's domestic skills impress me no end.  He also brought Rachel and I copies of As It Was by Helen Thomas which I've already browsed and look forward to reading very much.  The copy of Ex Libris is from my next meet-up with Simon but more about that later. 
Mary, with her finger on the pulse of all sorts of things happening in London, told us about a tour being presented as part of Open House weekend.  So we hopped on a bus to Fitzrovia where we came upon a large group listening to the fellow pictured above.  The poor man's voice was giving out on him despite several of us offering him lozenges and chewing gum, a loud speaker would have come in awfully handy.  And then something bizarre happened.  What we thought was a New Orleans-style funeral cortege with full band approaching Tavistock Square from down the street was actually the culmination of this art project.
Deciding to move along from the crowd we wandered around Bloomsbury, said hello to a closed Persephone shop and then Mary made another wise suggestion to seek out more tea and cake.  Much to my glee we ended up at another destination on my London wish list, Bea's of Bloomsbury!

There wasn't a spare table to be had so with treats in hand we plunked ourselves down on some steps nearby to enjoy our tea.   In fact, Simon pointed out we were just down the street from where Vera Brittain lived with Winifred Holtby (it never ends!).  After more cosy conversation we ended up going our separate ways.  It may sound silly but from that moment London felt a little less like somewhere I like to soak up culture and more like a home away from home.  Rachel really is the package with her clever mind, hilarious wit and brazen attitude (don't even ask), Mary is a woman I would love to share more cups of tea with.  Being closer in age to me there is all sorts of things to talk about such as our shared indifference towards cells phones that a younger generation would gasp at.  And then there is Simon who is the reason I have a bookcase full of twentieth-century English literature in my living room.  He is incredibly warm, probably the sweetest man next to my husband and loves to laugh as much as I do!  It was a very special day that I will never forget. 

All of this and watching the premier of the second series of Downton Abbey whilst tucked up in a fluffy white duvet with tea tray close at hand no less.  Tomorrow...Chawton and Coronation Chicken!


  1. I am enjoying your London Series.

    I am off to London in 12 days time and excited. You sound so at ease wandering London. I am overwhelmed whenever I go, and in fact, I am getting my partner to come down with me as I am too nervous to travel alone.

    I am loving Downton Abbey.
    I have Netherwood by Jane Sanderson to read, which is along the same lines.

    Have you read 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff?


  2. This looks like a wonderful day! I have to say that you look way, to young to have a child going off to the University!

    Looking forward to more of your adventures.

    By the way, 84 Charing Cross Road is Excellent if you have not read.

    Have a wonderful weekend, Elizabeth

  3. Oh, Darlene, this has brought the lovely day back to me completely! And I am blushing at the extremely nice things you say :) I am just cross that we live so far apart - I want to go book shopping and cake eating with you every month - nay, every week!

  4. Another wonderful day. I'm very envious of your meeting with Simon, Rachel & Mary & the book buying & the cake eating & seeing the new series of Downton, well, everything really! I'm glad you had such a lovely time.

  5. It sounds like a wonderful day, I've been really enjoying this series of blogs not least because it reminds me of my own first trip to university. I wasn't so far away as your daughter will be but watching her set of to do the 500 mile trip back to home was quite daunting, but it also made me appreciate her much more and bought us far closer. Can't wait to read the rest of your uk adventures.

  6. I'm a great fan of both Simon and Rachel's blogs and I'm not in the least surprised that they are are as friendly and witty in person as they come across on their blogs! And lucky you to even get a peek at Downton already! (And I agree with Rachel--that is the cutest haircut--you do look very chic!).