Soundbites

london

1. I’ve fallen back in love with London. Miranda introduced me to the lovely Quo Vadis in Soho, which showed me that sophisticated restaurants are within my price range. My friend Emma took me to Somerset House to see this lovely photography exhibition. This showed me that I forget how many brilliant galleries there are to visit, and need to stop going to the same ones all the time (though I’ll be going back to Somerset House to see this in November). I finally made it to Sir John Soane’s Museum, which was magnificent and a real hidden gem. Miranda reminded me that Lamb’s Conduit Street is more than just Persephone Books by showing me Ben Pentreath and The French House, two gorgeous shops that sell beautiful and affordable home goods. I walked along the river in the Autumnal twilight after a lovely meal at Wahaca and a browse at the Southbank Book Market and felt all weak at the knees at the twinkling of the lamps along the Embankment and the shadowy silhouette of the Houses of Parliament. Why did I ever want to move? I am a silly girl.

2. I am really looking forward to Persephone’s new releases for the Autumn. I read Enid Bagnold’s The Squire many years ago before I started blogging, and thought it was an absolutely beautiful book, with such luscious prose. I can’t wait to read it again. Incidentally, I do think Enid Bagnold is rather an underrated novelist. Aside from National Velvet, she wrote some wonderful books. The best I have read is Diary without Dates; a truly eye opening account of her time as a VAD nurse during WWI – and it’s free on Project Gutenberg!

3. I saw the trailer for the new series of Downton Abbey this weekend. Obviously it won’t be the same without Cousin Matthew and his gorgeous eyes, but I feel this is the series for Lady Edith to SHINE. I have my fingers crossed for some spinster shenanigans and some amazing flapper dresses. Let’s hope that Julian Fellowes really has upped his game this time!

4. I want to go and see this fascinating sounding photography exhibition, showing pictures taken by civilians during the 30s for the Mass Observation project. It’s reminded me that I really need to read Vere Hodgson’s Few Eggs and No Oranges, which has been sitting on my shelf for far too long.

5. I am getting into The Great British Bake Off spirit by flexing my baking muscles. I have been the toast of the staffroom with this delicious cake – super easy and very delicious!

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20 comments

  1. Glad you made it to Sir John Soane’s, Rachel! It is so chock full of things it’s hard to remember the details but I DO remember becoming slightly obsessed with Hogarth’s work after that. And pull that copy of Vere’s diary off of your shelf, it is absolutely fascinating. As for DA – the trailer was the cause of much excitement at our house and the desire for a closet full of stunning dresses is ramping up again! Can’t wait…

    1. It’s an amazing place – but yes, an assault on the eyes, that’s for sure! I will, I will – it’s nxt on my list! And I bet you can’t wait – I can just imagine you getting ready for your Downton fix – get those pearls on!

  2. It’s always lovely to “see” your new London discoveries, Rachel. Though I’ve loved Sir John Soane’s for decades, and we used a picture of my husband among a forest of busts there for the back of his poetry book! Well, not wanting to beat a dead horse but I’m going to New York in October and a lot is happening there too – I’m especially looking forward to what promises to be an amazing exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, a recreation of a 1910 ground breaking modern art show at the Armory that took New York by storm; also some Gilded Age portraits, and then 18th centur pastels at the Met.

  3. There are so many hidden delights in London that I keep forgetting to visit so end up visiting just the well trodden favourites. thanks for the ideas of some gems here. as for Downton Abbey, I lost interest after the first series I am sorry to say. I just had enough of the pretence that the family members would get into quite so many cosy chats with their servants

    1. Same here – it’s easy to get stuck in a rhythm so I try to push myself to go to somewhere new as often as I can. Oh no! You have to just suspend your disbelief! It’s ridiculous, I know, but I am emotionally invested now and I can’t help myself!

  4. Rachel,

    You are indeed so very lucky to live in London.

    My son and I went to an exhibition at Somerset House in 2009: Once Upon a Time…Artists and Storytelling. It wasn’t very crowded that day and the man who organized the exhibition spent quite a bit of time with us. He gave us some paper and chalk and ask us to try to recreate the sketches. I have NO artistic ability and was a bit embarrassed to show him what I’d done. I told him that even though my work looked nothing like the works in the exhibition, his idea had been a success. By trying to copy, I had looked at the sketches in a more careful and focussed way than I otherwise would have. He grinned from ear to ear and said, “that is exactly what I hoped would happen.”

    He recommended Sir John Soane’s Museum. He said to be sure to go into the tiny picture room and have the staff open the panels of Hogarth paintings. It was just the coolest thing.

    1. Thank you! How lovely – what a special experience. I love it when people have encounters like that! I’m so glad you got the chance to see so much while you were in town.

  5. My sole trip to the Sir John Soane Museum will live in brain for two reasons: 1) someone knicked my umbrella from the front hall, and 2) the attendant obligingly unwrapped the cellophane on one of the museum catalogs so I could take a look at the contents and then was pissed off when I didn’t buy it. Of course I remember how wonderful the museum was, but those two incidents happened as I was leaving so they have stuck.

    This may be one that you have already been to, but I am a big fan of the Wallace Collection. Not only is it under visited, but it is in one of my favorite neighborhoods in London. With the original Daunt Books just around the corner on Marleybone High Street one can make a nice day of it. Plus a little picnic nosh from Waitrose and then a short walk over to Regent’s Park. Perfect.

    1. Oh, Thomas! What a sad experience!

      I went to the Wallace collection years ago, while skiving from a terrible summer job I had at university. I enjoyed it very much. I should definitely go back for a visit very soon, though. That neighbourhood IS lovely – and becoming more and more interesting every time I go. Plus Marylebone is where my family is from! They got bombed out in the war. So I feel a connection!

  6. You reminded me of all the wonderful things we’ve done in London over the years. Last month we were there and visited Persephone’s and I bought The Carlyle’s at Home, having been to Carlyle’s house the previous year.

    And an interesting bit of trivia – here in Tasmania we went to see Dame Kiri ti Kanawa late last year and she told the audience that she was letting them in to a secret – she was flying to London the next day to do a cameo in this series of Downton playing Dame Nellie Melba, so look out for her. We will probably get it later in the year.

  7. Last time I was in London I went to that Mass Observation photography exhibition. The photos range from the 1930s to very recent, and there’s lots of other material too. Well worth a visit.

    1. Thanks James! I will come over and check out what you wrote. I still need to get myself over to the exhibition but I need to be quick!

      Thank you – they are mostly little treasures – I think I need to get my light shining a little stronger for some of them though!

  8. It is ironic how we forget how much we love the places we live in. I would kill for a month living in London, I think I would not get much sleep because of all the things I want to read and how inspiring the city would be and how many short stories I would write.

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