Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Lunch with Friend in Bloomsbury, National Potrait Gallery and St. Sepulchre Church

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

     I am in Get Away Mode. I am trying to be super-organized. I am making lists--To-Do, To Take To My Office, To Take to Scotland, To Take to Oxford. Meanwhile, I am packing up my meager belongings into my two suitcases and logistically trying to imagine what my backing and forthing between London and other locations over the next few weeks will be like. Consequently, I made a big pile of books/printed material to take to my office when I leave the house today. This will make my suitcase load considerably lighter as I move house.

     I blogged, I re-drafted a abstract for a talk I am invited to give at the University of Leeds (the only real bit of work I did today, I must admit), I had a long phone chat with my Dad and brother, I showered and shampooed my hair and I ate my breakfast (toast with peanut butter and Nutella and tea--as I have no cream chez moi and I like my coffee white). My food supplies are finishing right on schedule and I feel pleased with all my planning. Go Me!

Off to NYU:
    At 10.30 am, much later than usual, with my pile of material to be left at NYU, I boarded a 25 bus to Bloomsbury--so much easier than making a change in the Tunnels and walking forever in them, I thought. The bus came soon enough, but a bus strike meant that it only went as far as Aldgate! Bummer! Fortunately, the Tube station was just across--I took the tube for one stop to Liverpool Street Station and then made a switch to the Central Line--so my plan to stay on a bus right through did not work! Still, the journey was not so bad and I had enough time to get to my office, re-arrange all my books and material as I had hoped, get some printing done (as my schedule for the conference in Scotland has changed) and met a couple more NYU British colleagues whom I had last known when I was teaching there. Then I hurried along to my next appointment.

Lunch with my Friend at Bistro Savoir Faire:
     I was excited to be meeting Loulou, who had once rented her gorgeous Farringdon loft to me for a few months during a former stay in London. She and her husband Paul have become close family friends and although they live on a sprawling farm estate in Suffolk, she always makes it a point to spend time and have a meal with me when she is at her pied a terre in Holland Park. This was one of those days and I was glad to meet her and catch up. We had so much to talk about.

     As it is usually Loulou who treats me to a meal, this time I decided I would take her. I chose Bistro Savoir Faire at Bloomsbury on Oxford Street as I had seen it while passing by bus and it looks like a suitable place. It was! It is cute, very Parisian, quiet (perfect for a long catch-up) and the food turned out to be fabulous. Neither one of us could eat 2 full courses at lunch--so we stuck simply to Mains. I opted for Braised Duck Leg with roasted pears, onion marmalade and vegetables (which was out of this world) and Loulou chose the Cauliflower and Swiss Chard Curry with Jasmine Rcie and Cashews--she said it was great. For dessert, we chose to share the Tarte Tatin which was the gooiest I have ever had. Served with custard, it was magnificent. I will go to this bistro anytime and would easily recommend it to anyone else. The service was delightful--sweet, very helpful French waitresses and people sitting near at hand who spoke in near-whispers so that there was no disturbance of any kind. It made for an enchanting experience.

      Needless to say,  Loulou and I chattered non-stop: we had so much to talk about--our children, her new grandson (there were pictures to ooh and aah about), the unexpected but very well-deserved success of her son Jack's new book (The Tree Climber's Guide to London), her daughter's success, her travels, her husband's new business ventures, their Suffolk farm, my current research project, my brother Roger's move to America, Llew's work, Chriselle and Robert's current pursuits including Robert's nomination for an Emmy Award and their attendance at the ceremony, etc. etc. Time flew magically as we re-connected. I was surprised and very delighted when Loulou gave me a little gift--a leather-bound, monogrammed, purse mirror with plain and magnifying sides--how useful!

 I told her that for old time's sake, I did re-visit her (and my) former Farringdon abode because I remember my stay there with such warm memories. I will also never forget how she and Paul, who were virtual strangers when I needed a place, offered me their posh and beautifully decorated Farringdon loft filled with multi-million pound art work and antiques for my use without any reservations whatsoever. Little wonder we have grown into such close family friends. I remember weeping when I left the place because I was so moved by their generosity. And now, once again, it is friends who have come to my aid to offer me a truly lovely place to stay in. And as I prepare for my move, I feel truly blessed.  

Sizing up Contemporaries at the National Portrait Gallery:
     When Loulou returned to her flat in Holland Park to which they downsized from the sprawling Farringdon loft a few years after I lived there, I walked it out to the National Portrait Gallery taking roads through which I had not yet traversed--such as Seven Dials. They brought me to a side street that I had never explored and allowed me finally to find the theater, tucked away from general view called St. Martin's Theater where the world's longest running play has been performed for about 60 years--Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. Every year when I come to London, I resolve to see it--and yet I never have! I popped in to find out if they do Day Tickets and I was told that they do! Well, sometime in October, when I am living in a place to which I am not afraid to return at night, I shall get a ticket and see it.

     I love these little lanes that have developed over the years in this area. They are filled with one-of-a-kind shops that make browsing such a pleasure. I discovered that Pierre Herme has one of his patisseries in this area--perhaps when Chriselle is here, we shall have a little sampling session of his goodies. He was the one who developed macarons while he worked with Laduree in Paris. I always regretted that I never did taste his macarons at his own patisseries while in Paris--well, here in London, I now have the chance as he is not yet on the other side of the Atlantic.

At the National Portrait Gallery:
     I finished browsing through the 20th Century collection at the National Portrait Gallery today. I paused reverentially at the portraits of some of my favorite people--the racy Bloomsbury Group of writers and artists such as Virginia Woolf, her sister--the artist Vanessa Bell--E.M. Forster and Lytton Strachey. It is said of them that they wrote in circles, lived in squares and had relationships in triangles! How very true! Still, they produced exquisite works of art and it is still on my To-Do List to visit the Woolf estates at Monks House and Charleston in Sussex (I have plans to go with my friend Michelle on a day trip in October).

     One of the great pleasure of browsing through the 20th century was finding the portrait of the scientist John Desmond Bernal, whose grand-son Paul Bernal I happen to follow on Twitter and who is a Professor at the University of East Anglia. I tweeted Paul to confirm that the portrait was of his grandfather and indeed it was! What an honor for the entire Bernal family! Other than this 'known' person, the only person I have ever met who happens to be in the NPG is Salman Rushdie--his portrait is by Bhupen Khakkar whose retrospective is currently on at the Tate Modern!

     By 6.00 pm, I had completed my careful review of the Gallery--a place I thoroughly love and to which I can return endlessly.

Off for Evensong to St. Sepulchre Church:
    Yesterday, my rambles on Snow Hill had taken me to the Church of St. Sepulchre from where the Knights would ride out on the Crusades. I thought it would be good to get a peep inside and since they had announced Evensong at 6. 30 pnm on Tuesday night, I thought I would spend part of the evening in prayer.

     Accordingly, I took a bus from Charing Cross Road and got to Thames CityLink. The church was open and fully lit but at 6. 25, there was not a soul in sight but for a organist tinkering with the keys high up in the loft. Naturally, there was no Evensong. It is possible, however, that Evensong is only held on Sundays.

     I had a chance, of course, to tour the interior of the church. It has beautiful stained glass windows, one of which commemorates the sea voyage of John Smith to the New World in 1607. While it is one of the oldest city churches, it suffered immense damage during the Great Fire and the Blitz. What we see today, therefore, is a modern-day re-built version although if you look closely at the base you will see that the foundations are far more antiquated. It also has some lovely Renaissance paintings which are striking.
Back Home for Dinner, TV and Bed:
     Well, it was still bright when I got home on the No. 8 bus to Bethnal Green with a connection to the 309 to bring me right opposite my place. I put together an early dinner--an omlette filled with vegetables and a cheese scone that was all very filling. I watched the revived version of a show I had loved called Cold Feet. Back on small screens after 13 years with almost the entire cast except Helen, it is as if they never left. I also finally finished watching Beck--a really good Swedish show that has English sub-titles. Thank heavens for my laptop. I cannot imagine what my evenings would have been like without televised entertainment.

     It was about 10. 30 pm when I settled down to sleep. The day had been hotter than the past ones, my bedroom was uncomfortably hot again and, as I feared, I did not have a very pleasant a night.

     Tomorrow, I leave for Scotland...there will be a lot to do then...
     Until tomorrow, cheerio...            

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