with added culture.
Last night, I went to the Proms - something I haven't done for years, and I bought a seat, not being able to face the standing up thing. It was worth every atom of electronic money transfer, not so much for the Beethoven, exquisitely played though it was, but for the John Adams piece: Harmonium.
Such power and inventiveness . . . the number of choir members, the percussion, Oh! Visually stunning too.
Before that I explored the dazzling streets of South Kensington: not so much as a black spot of time-trodden gum on the pavements, no drifts of London dust, just rows of gleaming white and off-white mansion blocks and mews adorned with prim window boxes and manicured olive trees (!) Global warming is well and truly happening in London.
I would have taken a sneaky picture of the mother taking an iPhone photo of her three designer outfit-clad offspring sitting in a restored open-top Aston Martin outside their town-house but it felt a little creepy. I would be a rubbish photographer for any of those screaming pink mags called WTF! or similar.
Lone Ginko and bike outside Imperial College
After gawping at houses and people, I ate a curry in 'Little India', beguiled into stepping inside by their sign that read: The Manager Eats Here Too. I'm sure he does; it was delicious, especially the fresh mango at the end.
The owner also eats here
At the end of the evening, I walked towards Knightsbridge and found a bus going towards King's Cross. It was completely full so I sat on the stairs and then was informed by a recorded and polite lady that I should get off the stairs which I did. The message also said that anyone standing upstairs shouldn't be. We waited while the bus reverberated but didn't move and the message kept playing. Eventually an elderly Indian guy in a beige safari suit went upstairs and told everyone standing to get get their arses downstairs and they did, muttering apologies.
The following day dawned uniformly grey and slightly chilly for mid July - perfect for walking, observing, musing, and asking people if I can take away part of their souls.
rice and backache
local resident (park near Tavistock Place) and his dog - he said the dog makes a better picture but I think they were both beautiful
one of the photos I will make into a pen and ink drawing for 'The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book
window-keep-opener and mural in The Half-Cup on Judd Street
I ate possibly the best beans on toast in the UK in a small café, drank a vast mug of tea and hunted a bus going towards Hampstead Heath - my chosen place to continue 'Hamish's' tale - and claimed the front upstairs seat.
Arriving at the destination, I consulted the map then completely ignored it, as I do, and got utterly but usefully lost. If we didn't sometimes get lost we wouldn't meet such interesting people, n'est pas, such as the bloke striding purposefully towards an oak tree that had the girth of an elephant. He proceeded to fling his arms around about the tree, or rather stood there looking as he was trying to prevent the tree from moving forwards as his arms were almost straight due to the trunk's expanse. This is something I occasionally do when moved by the sheer wonderment of ancient trees, but only when I know someone else wouldn't be observing me. I had to ask him.
"Is it a very special tree?"
He turned and grinned as if they were recently married: "Oh, yes. Absolutely."
I then asked him as he obviously spent quite a lot of time on the Heath, where the ladies' pond was. He pointed out a route which I followed for a while before being distracted by a clump of gangly pine trees atop a hill. I sat for a while near the trees and thought about all the paintings and engravings I had seen of this London-view, and how, (if I shut my ears to the various calls of 'Maisy, come away from that!' 'Pickle . . . no! and 'I thought you had the poo bags', etc) similar it seemed, apart from the Shard and all the rest of the glassy-grey structures clustered in the distance.
The ladies' pond
I did eventually find the pond, and although the changing rooms had developed a little since I was about thirteen (last time I visited) the water, ducks and over-hanging trees still looked the same.
Pond-swimming. How glorious, especially in pale, drifting mizzle. Several other ladies were in the muddy, olive/brown water, swimming slow, quite majestic breaststroke, a certain calm expression on their faces, quite like (mostly) grey-haired otters, peacefully cutting through the water between ducks and life-saving rings. I'm reading 'Sapiens' at the moment and I suddenly saw us as the animals that we are - interesting book which does have the effect of making you look at all human behaviour in a different way.
After a chat with the life-saver and leaving my pink towel on a hook (hello anyone who might find and use it) as I wanted less baggage, I continued walking the Heath, drank a hot choc in 'the Brew House' briefly visited the grand 'Kenwood House', enthused over various greyhounds and reached Parliament Hill (Kite Hill). The view over the city would have been dramatic at this highpoint but alas the mizzle had turned to drizzle, almost everything obscured except the Shard's sharp triangle and the lumpy sword of the Post Office Tower plunged into Fitzrovia.
useful view-map of central London, including heights of buildings
Back at base (the wonderful and super cheap, St Athan's Hotel, Bloomsbury) I collapsed for a while and then ventured out into the madness of Trafalgar Sq, Covent Garden, etc, to people-watch, wander, and avoid all the antique map shops of Cecile Court (wallet-empying danger).
New residences on Charing Cross Road sushi break
LOTS of hen parties The Texter
This elegantly-dressed young man had just graduated from theatre school
sigh . . .
a quiet symphony of inner city colour and the more garish tones of just one evenings rubbish . . .
The next morning, I walked from the hotel to Golders Green (with a short bus journey in the middle and a wander around Camden).
I wanted to visit all the highest points of London, the Flagstaff being the highest - apparently. I arrived, admired the flagpole, and the Whitestone pond (which used to be used for rehydrating the London horses after their trek up Hampstead Hill) talked to a grey-hound owner and went in search of The Pergola - another viewpoint. Here, you can almost forget you are in London: beautifully maintained gardens full of roses, jasmine and herbs and a magnificent brick and stone pergola/walkway. No one was there. It was impossible to imagine the seething crowds of Oxford street only a few miles away.
Map of an unknown continent on a stone paving slab near Camden
The brilliant tip-bowl of a café housed in the old 'Palmer's pet store', where I used to nag Mum about buying a crocodile.
The Whitestone Pond and Flagstaff, and my tired feet
the magnificent Pergola and gardens
After exploring the area, I walked back to the Flagstaff and down into Hampstead where I ate beans on toast (again) in a friendly café called 'Polly's and talked to a man wearing a fabulous outfit who didn't object to me recording it, and him, for the blog. (Hello, if you see this . . .)
Then waited for a bus and availed myself of a chair that the newsagent had left outside. He came to have a chat and said that he had put it out there for people who'd got fed up of waiting for the No 46 - 'the worst bus in the world'. The bus arrived and seemed quite good really - wheels, engine, seats, etc.
I loved this: soap maker, AND philanthropist
A textual slice of London building materials
After a sleep and foot-bathe, I strode (sort of) out generally Southwards on a 'Derive' which ended up being quite a long one from Charing Cross to beyond Tower Bridge, fuelled by some excellent and super value healthy grub from 'Gaby's on Charing Cross Road. I had often eaten there as an impoverished on-dole-Londoner back in the 80s and I was relieved to see the establishment still going strong.
I hadn't been to the South Bank for some years and was overwhelmed by the amount of pubs, eateries, boutiques, and new buildings, some of which were just absurd. I mean look at this.
It's the sort of thing I might have drawn in a notebook if my (then) under-ten son had said 'Hey, Mum, let's draw mad buildings that would fall over.'
But then someone designed and got away with that weird bowed over, telephone thing . . . not actually in this skyline picture
And then there's The Shard. Impressive, a little violent-looking and difficult to clean, I'd imagine. I went in an old pub, (about the only old thing still standing around the base of the pointy triangle), ordered a gin and tonic and then got cornered by a youngish beer-smelling man who said he was from Fife and that he'd like to talk to me about what I was drawing (a very, very bad rendition of The Shard). We had a surreal chat during which he asked me if I thought that there would be a lot of wobbly-wobbly, dark wooded lanes within the top of the building. Who's to say, I said. I haven't been up there - yet.