I know that it is about time that I sent you an update on my gap year in England. The first month was filled with problems, and I simply did not want to write anything. But, slowly, we began feeling better, and we solved some of the “immigrant” problems…yes, we felt a little like immigrants only we have money to solve problems…we do have great sympathy for people moving into a new culture minus our security blanket and family. At least, I knew how to turn on the lights (when they didn’t pop—which they did) and make the electric kettle work, but we did fill in a lot of forms for bank accounts, bus passes, and library cards. We now have all of the above and can start to move through the city smoothly.
The first month also saw us entertain four sets of American guests and take a trip to a family wedding in Grange-over-Sands and visit DC friends in Peranuthnoe, Cornwall. I did not read anything those first weeks even though we are surrounded with books in Betsy’s flat. Yesterday I began the search for independent bookshops. John Sandoe is very close to the flat and the staff is friendly. I couldn’t help but buy a couple of books and can recommend an old book by Jan Morris, Coast to Coast. Perhaps everyone else has read it but it is new to me. Morris traveled from coast to coast in America in the 50s. Her description of the Mormons is wonderful. I have given the book to local friends already and ordered another copy for me. The Europa Editions have a variety of exotic mysteries. Hatchards on Piccadilly is an old independent who will have a Christmas party in two weeks with authors who I have only dreamed of before. Even our local library has book talks with authors who just happen to live here.
My great joy here is art. I can go to all the museums I want when I want to. I have joined the Tate, the Victoria and Albert, and the British Museum but spend much time at the portrait gallery and the national. I have discovered The Wallace Collection and Aspley House and the paintings in Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace. I have a senior bus pass which allows me to hop on and off any transit and I can go from gallery to gallery. I went to Tate Britain three times in the first month to see an exhibit of works by L.S. Lowry who has been a favorite of mine for 60 years.
I have finished reading Dominion by C. J. Sansom (who we have read) and it comes alive when living here. It is an alternative history…what if England had made a pact with Hitler? It is on the best seller list here and I have the ARC. I believe it will be out in the U.S. in January. Just pulling books from Betsy’s shelves I am finding books that I have not read or, many times, not even heard of. For those of you who enjoy Jane Gardam, I am enjoying The Queen of the Tambourine. Ruth Rendell’s Harm Done was a good size for carrying on the train. There are so many books on these shelves that I feel strange buying more but can’t resist when I am in a bookshop. Thank heavens for the library card so I can listen to audio books while painting.
I do find myself thinking of you all and wondering how you all are. I pass the Millenium Hotel on Sloane Street regularly as I take the 19 or 22 bus to Piccadilly. I am trying to discover the restaurants which have vegetarian options… Wagamama, Wasabi, or even take away in our neighborhood. The food has been wonderful.
Tomorrow we plan on a trip to Parliament to see whether we can get in the gallery—if not, the Tate Modern is down the river or the National across Trafalgar. An important trial begins tomorrow at the Old Bailey but we will never be able to get in at this time. It is the journalists who were caught bugging various and assorted people.
The clocks have moved back and it is dark by 4:30 now. We are in our little flat listening to the wind and rain. Tomorrow will be a good day whether for a walk in Hyde Park or a visit to a museum. I don’t care which. I only know that I am not reading as much as I did in Utah because each street and each window makes me curious and I walk and walk. If you are coming, bring walking shoes and get your Oyster Pass at the airport.