London Calling

I knew the first few days would be hard having been in such a focused routine of care, district nurse visits for the syringe drivers and I would be disappointed when no one arrived. If there can be such a thing as good fortune at times like this then the prospect of tickets for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show were just that. We had been in 2010 when Jane had pronounced it to be interesting (but not enough for a blog post) and only necessary to visit once in a lifetime but then she hated crowds, heat and bustle. The salvation then was the gardens, plants and numerous stalls selling that handy garden tool that you cannot be without but never use once you have it.

Forty years ago when I was young and lived down south, London was my bolt hole. It was easy to reach by the Metropolitan line and I would spend a happy day wandering Carnaby Street before it was pedestrianised, boating in Regent’s Park then hanging out in Soho. So an excursion to London seemed the most natural thing to do where I could be lost in the madding, impersonal crowds without appearing too odd or distraught. Cat lady was organised, trains and hotel booked so the next morning I had to get up and get on and not mope. Edinburgh’s lovely buses even have a service from near the flat to near the station which when combined with the wee walk in spring sunshine made for an auspicious start. But we did so many journeys, had such a precise routine for ensuring all the necessaries were prepared and gathered that although that meant I automatically knew exactly what to do, it wasn’t just the train that lurched as we pulled out of Waverley almost on time. And so the angst would come in waves as some memory surfaced or well kent view whizzed by but the journey passed with its familiar rhythm punctuated by occasional stops and a picnic lunch.

As I left the station I could hear a familiar voice warning me not to crush toes with my trolley case in my haste to reach the hotel; smiles were appearing. P1030244.jpg Chelsea 2012 was never going to be as good as 2010 but it was interesting and some of the show gardens were quite stunning. The sun shone, the Pimms was quaffed from large jugs, shady spots were at a premium and a proper seat impossible. They give you a free newspaper which was an ideal seat for my almost secluded spot under an elm tree. P1030250.jpg But by the afternoon I’d been around everything once, some things twice and the queues for the loos beyond relief. Time for a quick exit and a wandering back to Bloomsbury. I did wonder if staying way two nights was a mistake – I could easily get back that afternoon – but it was too soon, I needed more time. At some point I remembered there was a Bauhaus exhibition on at the Barbican – another shared interest but potentially a return enhanced (an oft-mentioned Goethe theme), a reason to stay, a plan for tomorrow. P1030297.jpg

Entry to the exhibition wasn’t until 11 so I had time for a quick scoot around the Museum of London – as good as I remembered it from many years ago. Then an elevated walk to the Barbican and small pangs that this wasn’t a familiar for us but she would have liked the irises, ducks and contrasts between the old London wall and the modern complex of housing blocks and cultural centres.P1030301.jpg Bauhaus: Art as Life was worth staying for, much was familiar and all the explanations in English, essential now without my resident linguist. Left with resolve to do more with art and revisit interests shelved for many years by work and family necessity. Downstairs in the Curve was another exhibition which was curious and all too familiar. Song Dong: Waste Not is the artist’s collection of 10,000 items from his mother’s house arranged as an installation. Should I feel guilt for clearing my mother’s house of something very similar or encourage my brother to keep going with his collection? I was so fascinated I took far more pictures than I had at Chelsea. What a funny family.

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