Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Sweet Thames Flow Softly

It's my last day in London. I'm taking an Internet break between Covent Garden and my second trip today to the National Gallery. When a museum is free and central you can drop by and return, which is quite civilized. I approached the museum this morning as I often approach a large flea market: I walked quickly through, to assess what was there and to get my bearings, stopping now and then and planning to return later at a slower pace. Unfortunately later will not encompass enough time, but -- oh, how can I put this? I know! There will always be an England.

I think I'm still reeling from this morning's experience of standing a few inches away from Van Gogh's "Sunflowers". It wasn't a refrigerator magnet, or a note card, or an umbrella's print. No, it was a painting.

I arrived here a week ago, and went out the first night with my hosts Peter and Miko who meet up at a different pub each week with their Goth friends. First we had delicious Pan-Asian food. I was so tired, and paying so little attention, that I didn't even realize that we were in the East End, an area of London that escaped my neighborhood-by-neighborhood exploration during my ten-day trip here in 1984. My research at the time indicated there wasn't really much to see there, and it was dangerous to boot. Now it is not only the hip neighborhood, but it is fast becoming too gentrified for the hip. I was back there a few night's later for dinner with some friends of mine at a super-hip Swedish restaurant where I ate reindeer sausage with untrammeled glee.

I had a fine time at the pub, mostly talking to some Australians.

Then it was off to Yorkshire for the weekend, about which I have written. The singing in Yorkshire already seems a long time and a different trip ago.

Since returning to London, I have filled my time:

- Monday I again joined Peter and Miko, this time for a dinner at a Mexican restaurant to celebrate the birthday of the husband of a close friend of Miko's.

- Tuesday was shopping day, as previously reported.

- Tuesday night was Swedish dinner with friends in the East End.

- Wednesday I slept in -- I think I had been building up to that, but it seems a waste of London time to do so. Then I went to the National Portrait Gallery in the afternoon, an adventure that deserves its own account in reminiscence when I return.

- Wednesday night I was able to snag a ticket to a production of La Cage Aux Folles starring Torchwood's John Barrowman. Although I could offer various criticisms, I won't because on the whole this turned out to be an easy sweet pleasure of little intellectual engagement.

- On Wednesday, between the Portrait Gallery and the theater, I stood in Trafalgar Square (which is between those two things) and let it overwhelm me, that here I was at Lord Nelson's statue looking at the Thames in the distance with St. Martin in the Fields behind me and evidence of London's past all around. I cried at it all, but don't ask me why -- the response "Because here I am in LONDON" probably wouldn't be a satisfactory answer for you, I'm guessing, and yet it's all the answer there is.

- And now it's Thursday. This morning, after a cup of coffee at "The Crypt" of St Martin in the Fields, I spent some time at the National Gallery. Then I walked the streets around Covent Garden, stopping for a fine Italian meal. I spent a fair amount of time at the bookstore of the Transport Museum -- I've been to the museum, but I needed time with the expensive coffee-table books about the history of the London Underground. Each time I come I get a better sense of the city, and these books hold more interest. I plan to return to the National Gallery in a few minutes.

- Tonight I end the trip as I began it: Joining Peter and Miko and their Thursday night companions. This trip I didn't set out on my own in the evenings, as I've done in the past.

That's my three days in London. Between all that I described here was an awful lot of walking.

Tomorrow I fly home. This weekend, if I have the energy, I'll be joining MTM to dance at the Renaissance Festival. And cleaning my apartment for a guest who will be staying with me next weekend for our shapenote convention. Because next week I have to do the shopping and cooking and other preparations for that convention.

But that's next week. For now I'll be enjoying my remaining London hours.
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