I had my Almost-A-Week of Liberty a month or so ago when I accompanied GJ on his business trip to the Capital City... I loved it. I wandered and rambled hither and thither, glugging down culture shots like a thirsty punter long lost in the arid desert.
My lovely friend, Sarah, whom I met at Uni and whom I had shamefully not clapped eyes on in almost ten years, owing to family pressures, encouraged me toute seule to take in the Wallace Collection. What wonders. What beauty. And that was merely our octogenarian gallery guide, who artfully drew our small tour group in to the world of story-webs she wove, hands that seemed too long for her tiny frame pointing out symbols and meaningful images in old masterpieces.
In this red room was the Laughing Cavalier. Over in that sumptuous blue room we found Fragonard's Les Hasards Heureux de l'Escarpolette, the Swing... Over here, against opulent wallpaper, several sets of drawers that once graced the boudoir of Marie Antoinette herself.
Sarah and I had a packed day of chatter and culture, ensconced in the Arts & Crafts tiled dining room at the V & A: Sarah later startling an entire gallery by setting a theatre sound effects weather-machine into stormy action! We drank tea and eyed iced cupcakes at Bea's of Bloomsbury, and quaffed late into the evening at a chock-ful Wagamama's in Tavistock Street, just off Covent Garden.
Left to my own devices, I took a number of workmanlike buses to Hampstead, beloved of Keats, and spent hours in a house he rented rooms in for just two short years of his beautiful, brief life.
I am still in love with John Keats, I am not ashamed to recall. I didn't need Jane Campion's Bright Star which I have only seen recently, and which is also wonderful, to uncover the tragedy of his lost love for his next-door neighbour, Fanny Brawne. Keats' Grove always does that for me.
In London I found part of myself whole once more... The bits of me that were put in careful cotton-wool-wrapped storage before Grizz was born, almost nineteen years ago. And before that, there was the arts and culture-loving gawky teenager from a working-class background, pit village in the north, with all her buttons pressed by portraits and history, passion and poetry, words, colour and music.
Thank you, Sarah. Thank you, London, for making me fall in love with you just a little: for letting me see you as more than a grotty work-a-day destination.
“Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn” - Keats' Ode to a Nightingale
A la prochaine,
(And what of Liberty's itself. Beautiful, thought-provoking, too dear for me to even afford an egg-cup shaped like a donkey's head!)