beautiful, bright, mild day - temps 13
Stunningly beautiful day. We'd planned to meet up with Mike and Dom and have brunch together but plans changed so we walked down to the Duke of York Barracks and had coffee at the Patisserie Valerie there...were planning to do breakfast but the waitress kept yelling at the other workers - I believe in Russian - but it was altogether too Dr Strangelove-ly - so after what was a really terrific cappuccino we moved next door for breakfast...fruit salad and toast for me...scrambled eggs for Michael.
Then we decided it was so gorgeous we'd hop on the Number 11 bus and go to St. James Park and just walk.
We got on the bus - sat up at the top of the double-decker...and got off at Trafalgar Square. Very moving. We went past Westminister and there were huge wreaths out and crowds gathering...then down a wide avenue - we think it was called Whitehall - with huge war memorials...it was clearly about to be blocked off...perhaps for the Armistice Parade. Television platforms were being erected. There was Nelson's Column....and behind it the National Gallery. We hopped off the bus and decided we'd go into the national Gallery. It's a glorious building...pillars and wide sweeping steps. At the top we looked out over Trafalgar Square...the monuments, so familiar from postcards and photos and past visits...but still and always so impressive. The fountains. And then we noticed the fourth plinth. It had sat empty...for centuries. And just this past week it was filled. One last monument, one last person.
I can't remember his name, but the statue shows a man in late middle-age. Slender. Smiling. Wearing aviators outfit and putting on a glove. He was the air marshall who led the Battle of Britain. And now he's taken his place with the other heroes.
This is a terrifically and terribly moving time here in Britain, and certainly in London, as preparations are made for the November 11th Remembrance Day. Since so many British soldiers have been killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just last week 5 more were killed in Helmand Province. Dreadful. Like most places, the Brits struggle with being so proud of the young men and women fighting the war...and so upset it is happening at all.
We went inside and saw an exhibit called The Sacred Made Real...a look at Spanish devotional art from the early 1600's...very graphic...violent really. Not my idea of the divine...I actually found it appalling, but others would almost certainly be deeply moved by it. Still, it was extremely interesting to see...and if I know one thing about art - it should move me...either to delight and safely and comfort - or to contemplation - to wonder and awe - or anger...or just revulsion. Good art is rarely neutral.
Then we hopped back on the number 11 bus and scooted for the flat...it was moving day and we had to be out by noon. We were a little late but the next people hadn't arrived. We'd already packed up so we just hailed a cab and came to the place we'd wanted to stay all along. The flat on Lennox Gardens, in Knightsbridge. It was still being cleaned, so we went off for lunch, then Michael picked up flowers and I did some grocery shopping and now we're back at the flat. It is enchanting...will describe more another time...except to say it is a black or so from Sloane Street...close to harrods...close to the Old Brompton Road. And is basically two semi-circular gracious attached buildings surrounding a huge fenced garden, with massive trees and stretches of lawn and flowers. It is a tiny private park in the very centre of this magnificent city. We over-look it.
How magical is that? We've rented this flat often and consider it almost a second, or third, home. One day we might be able to buy it. That would be such fun. I suspect our finances would never run to that...and as people keep pointing out, why buy when you can rent. And that is certainly the sensible thing...but this is a dream, a fantasy, and a rational-free zone. My own garden square, where sensible thoughts are locked out. and the sacred is made real.
Speak to you tomorrow, from London.