The week was nondescript except for Neil; frustrating attempts at house-hunting in the absence of my flatmate, sudden awareness of an acute lack of reading material in my temporary lodgings (went through Time Out, Glamour, and two old Vogues in quick succession, finally bought A Confederacy Of Dunces and am chortling my way through it), dinner with Edith where I probably came on far too strong about how much I love love love London and how she should be exploring it day at night despite the fact that she really doesn’t have the time to. Oops.
Saturday open-air theatre in Regent’s Park (As You Like It), then a scoot to Harrow for Tony and Susie’s barbecue where the meat tasted like everything you long for from barbecued meat and hardly ever get. Back to central London by midnight to meet Russ and Gareth and various others for the optimistically-titled Hoxton Festival, which was basically large-scale noise pollution in a firetrap – an experience well worth £2, but perhaps not much more than that.
More Brick Lane bagel indulgence on Sunday – that damn salt beef one is possibly more addictive than crack. Lounging in the sun on a bench in the bombed-out church off Great Tower Street, reading Confederacy. Rushing for mass and microwave dinners before heading out to a pub in Waterloo for what was an enjoyable but rather couply evening. There were 4 couples in a group of 9. I couldn’t decide whether to feel old and boring or as if I was 14 and on an octuple date.
Lots of walking on Monday. From Brick Lane to London Bridge. Along the Thames on the riverside paths. An excellent violinist busking in the tunnel near the Tate Modern – his Bach Partitas were crisp and effortless, although perhaps the needs of busking made their delivery more flamboyant than they should be. Scouring the book market outside the NFT turned up a Gerald Durrell book I don’t remember having read before (The Whispering Land, £1.80). Across the bridge to Embankment, then in towards the West End, stopping in the National Portrait Gallery just because.
But then I ended up spending much more time reading old favourite children’s books on the floor of their current exhibition of portraits of children’s writers than looking at the rest of the gallery’s collection. Everything came back to me with such startling clarity – the illustration in The Borrowers of the door with the safety-pin catch which her father had to use his weight to spring open, the old irritation Mary Poppins books used to spark in me because I felt the way they capitalized words everywhere was Unnecessary and Patronizing, the desolation and bleakness I used to feel every time I read the first half of Joan Aiken’s Midnight Is A Place (they didn’t have it, so I leafed through The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase instead, disappointed. I always thought that one mediocre compared to her other stuff). I searched hopefully for Harry’s Mad (a highly underrated Dick King-Smith book which I think deserved to be as famous as The Sheep Pig) and Grimble (Clement Freud), but no luck. There were a number of other adults cross-legged on the floor with books, but I was the only one unaccompanied by a child.