Pollack's Toy Museum is contained in two London houses, one built in the 1880s and one built in the 1780s. You walk up through one, then across the top floor rooms, then down the other. I spent more time looking at the floorboards and doors and gazing out the windows imagining times past than I did looking at the many toys on display. Most of my romanticization of London involves imagining times past. There was one other museum visitor at the time, a middle-aged woman from Manchester who had written her thesis on DH Lawrence and who is going to visit friends in Stockbridge Massachusetts later in the year. We had some lovely chats as we walked through the houses.
My trip is a swirl of isolated memories. On Saturday night I went to the Robin Hood Folk Club in Nottingham because the performers were people I know from Alabama (Southern Brew) who were combining their performance with the shapenote convention. The club itself is run (weekly, I think) by my friend Ruth Steggles. I even got up and sang a song myself, which is how things work in the folk clubs (members of the audience get up and sing before the main act, if they wish). The folk club is held in the back room of a smoky pub populated by folks who I thought might even be a little dangerous but no, I was assured, they were far too drunk by a Saturday evening to be dangerous. One of the Pub regulars offered me some good beer advice. I won a raffle, and my prize was a free admission to the folk club. Ok, so I guess I'm going back.
On Saturday morning my host in Derby, Irene, prepared me a fine and filling breakfast. I noted that it was similar to what had been described as a "proper English breakfast" in places I'd stayed before, except that the quality of the food and the cooking were much better. The eggs were scrambled and very well-prepared, the copious quantities of bacon were good quality, the baked beans (ah, the beans, not normally something I'd eat for breakfast or even at all) had some flavor, and there were sauteed tomatoes. Irene's husband Alan said that properly there would be mushrooms too, but he doesn't like mushrooms so Irene leaves them out. I said I hadn't known that, and commented that that sounded nice. You probably can guess what this would mean: On Sunday morning, on my plate with the rest of the food, was a small mound of sauteed mushrooms.
Sunday night Jim and Denise and I stayed at a sort of residential hotel where Jim stays when he is in London for work, right smack dab in the middle of the financial district quite near to St. Paul's. We headed over to a Marks and Spencer food mart on Monday morning to pick up things for the plane ride, a food mart that was literally right outside of St. Paul's itself. There was something jarring about standing outside this modern store after buying biscuits and sandwiches and bottled water and looking right smack up at St. Paul's Cathedral. I think that's the point the culture shock of the entire trip began to hit me.
Well, I'm home. Sort of. And all I want to do is scheme to return. Now the song in my head is a Peter Bellamy song from The Transports:
The sweet fetters of love they are wrenching asunder
As they tear us from sweethearts and wives;
For on some foreign shore we are sentenced to wander
In exile the rest of our lives.
Here's adieu, here's adieu to the green fields of England
Now we're parting from you.