We had a very quiet long weekend, which I needed as after my presentation I was feeling like a donkey (the Marrakeshian variety) flogged to within an inch of its life and left for dead by a road, circled lovingly by blowflies.
On Saturday H and I had been intending to visit Kew Gardens, but the weather was vile so instead we went to the National Portrait Gallery. On the ground floor was an interesting exhibition on the lead-up to the Iraq war, and I noticed the following: a) it was Tony Blair who was gung-ho about war and he seemed to be convincing many other people, both in his party and abroad, that it was worthwhile to attack = so much for democracy b) there were very few women in the pictures, and if there were women they were usually on the edge of the clusters of people c) all the decisions were made in opulent offices, which couldn’t be any further removed from the debris and squalor of Baghdad.
Then H and I went upstairs and came across a picture of George V and his family, which I had though was the Tsar and Princess Alexandra. ‘Ah well, they were all interrelated anyway,’ we said to one another. Then we tried to figure out the lineage of the royals, failed hopelessly, and moved onto the Modernism section. This I was very impressed with, not least because I saw lots of famous works (incl. the bust of V Woolf and paintings by Vanessa Bell), and a group of photos of women writers. After that I was hungry and wanted another coffee, so we crossed the road to St-Martin’s, as H had been told about a café run by homeless people that was there, and he wanted to have a look at it. I had initially wrinkled up my nose at this, but after being told off by H (‘Don’t be such a snob; we’re going and that’s that’) I resigned myself to it. However the café appeared to be closed during the renovations of the church, so we went on, though not before examining a disturbing statue of baby Jesus immersed in a square slab of stone, the umbilical cord still attached to his stomach.
We walked on to find the Temple Church, stopping by the courtyard of the Courtauld, which H hadn’t seen before. He played around with his new camera while I sat on one of the chairs in the sun and, being exhausted, envied the sprightly little sprogs running in and out of the fountains, then dozed off.
Eventually we came to the doors of the church on Fleet Street and were told by a sign that it was only open for two hours on that day, and to go around the back to get to it. The surrounding buildings reeked of money and law, but I wasn’t that impressed by the church, and I was knackered, so I went home and H went off to walk along the river.
On Sunday I woke late after a night of insomnia, then accompanied H to Columbia Road because I badly needed exercise. Never again will I go to that place at 2 in the afternoon. It was swarming with humanity, unbearably crowded with people trying to get a bargain, there was too much shouting and a rude woman knocked over the rhododendron I’d placed on the ground while waiting for H and didn’t apologise, and I hated London all over again. I’m not allowed to complain anymore though. H says I’m allowed to say 5 bad things a day and after that I have to censor myself. In the afternoon I worked on a short story about grass.
The following morning I went for a run (my wonderful physiotherapist has largely fixed my knee, bless him) and continued my short story about grass. Then H and I caught the bus to the Barbican to meet G and have a look at the conservatory. It wasn’t as ornate or exotic as the conservatory at Kew, although it was larger and housed a selection of wildlife, namely some turtles, some very weighty carp and some birds huddled in a cage, puffed up against the cold, ‘tropical’ air.
We had lunch outside, where the wind blew over one of the umbrellas shading the tables, knocked it inside out and sent a smaller umbrella flying into one of the ponds. The Asian boy to whom it belonged decided it couldn’t be retrieved, though H later fished it out with his own umbrella, dried it out and took it home (Father’s sense of thrift is evidently present in him, to some degree). We ambled on to the Museum of London and my eyes watered from pollen drifting from the surrounding trees. The Museum was pretty boring. It was mostly filled with bits of flint and brick, although it had a good 3D simulation of what London was like before it was filled with people, and also an interesting exhibition on the Great Fire of 1666. There was a video showing in a small room and, to my amazement, it had a loop system installed, and it actually worked. After that were exhibitions with more brick so we gave up and went home.
Oh, I forgot to mention the cacti garden in the conservatory, which had me in raptures. It was full of hanging baskets of cacti that spilled over the edges and burst out with red and pink flowers. I love cacti – I like their weird shapes and their unfriendliness – but H refuses to buy them because they don’t grow fast enough or provide enough variety.
In a similar vein, by the end of the weekend H was sick of me and wanted people around for dinner to liven up his life. We got our cousin A over and H made a meatloaf which, while it looked spectacular, didn’t taste so brilliant. My cinnamon teacake, on the other hand, tasted fantastic but didn’t look so hot, as it fell apart when I tried to get it out of the cake tin because I hadn't put in enough flour. Oh for a decent set of measuring cups and something better than a wooden spoon for stirring, the £10 beater purchased on Boxing Day from the Muslim man down the road having failed utterly in its primary task, by blowing up whilst beating butter and sugar.