Time is not my friend these days. I never have time to fit everything in that I want to do in a day. This means that blogging has had to, of late, go a bit out of the window in the face of more pressing pursuits, such as moving house, seeing friends, going to the myriad of groups I belong to, and, of course, the dreaded W.O.R.K. Why do we have to go there five days a week? It’s so inconvenient!
So, apologies for the lack of decent postings recently. Now I’ve finished Richard Yates’ excellent yet gargantuan biography by the wonderful Blake Bailey, who wrote so movingly about Yates that he made me cry, I am free to race through some shorter books, so I shall have some books to review soon. Plus I’m now settled in my new digs, otherwise known as my mum’s house. Yes, I have become a boomerang, returning to the nest just when my mother thought she’d got rid of me. Fear not! This is not due to penury or heartbreak, simply a decision I have made for the short term to save enough money to get on with the rest of my life in the long term. On paper this appears to be prudent, though time will tell if this will prove to be so. My older brother and I have already regressed to our adolescent selves, fighting over the TV and kicking each other under the dinner table, but we like to think it’s in an ironic rather than immature manner. Hmmm….
Anyway, I had a very enjoyable weekend, in which I saw the Suburbia exhibition at the London Transport Museum, visited the Museum of London for the first time, saw The Last Station, and visited London’s only flower market at Columbia Road, in Hackney. At the London Transport Museum, it was absolutely fascinating to see how the landscape of London and the surrounding counties has changed since the introduction of the tube. The railway companies coined the word ‘Metroland‘ for the new suburbs springing up along the tube lines that extended out into what used to be the countryside of Middlesex and Hertfordshire. They sold ‘Metroland’ to potential new residents as a calm oasis of fresh air and country walks, with comfortable, mock tudor style semis in which to live and just a twenty minute commute to work; the perfect lifestyle choice. However, the perception of the suburbs has changed over the years from being idylls to places of boredom and derision, shunned by today’s young professionals as soulless and dreary, with new housing estates springing up in more central locations to reflect the desire of the modern professional to both live and work in the heart of the city. The displays of posters showing how lovely these suburbs used to be compared to how they are now saddened me, and made me long for 1930s suburbia, all clean and pleasant and new.
We rambled our way to the Barbican after that, stopping for lunch and at the Museum of London; we also paused in one of my favourite of London’s ‘hidden gems’; Postman’s Park, where there are beautiful Royal Doulton plaques (pictured above) commemorating the lives of those who died to save other people in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Back when my parents were dating, they both worked near St Paul’s Cathedral and met in the park for lunch, so it always makes me smile to walk through and think of my flared trousers and mini skirt wearing parents eating their sandwiches side by side, before me and my siblings were even twinkles in their eyes!
At one of the cinemas in the Barbican we saw the absolutely terrific The Last Station; I can’t recommend it highly enough. I don’t know enough about Tolstoy’s personal history or that of his wife Sofya to make a judgement on the realism or fairness of the portrayals in the film, but I thought it was absolutely marvellously, and movingly, acted. Helen Mirren gets better and better, and James McAvoy was excellent as the conflicted young secretary whose allegiance is to Tolstoy, but whose sympathy is with Sofya. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Sofya, feeling alienated and belittled by the men who worshipped her husband, encouraging him to make decisions that she felt denied her and her children their dues. I thought the portrayal of Sofya was magnificent in that it shows how selfish and manipulative she could be, but also how deeply she loved her husband, and how desperately she wanted to ensure that her children were provided for. I couldn’t quite love her, but I couldn’t hate her, either. I left the cinema feeling profoundly touched by the plight of the characters, and desperate to read about their lives; I’d love to get my hands on Sofya’s newly released diaries.
Finally, on Sunday morning, we went to the lovely Columbia Road flower market, and despite the grey skies and biting cold, it was a cheery sight indeed to see so many beautiful flowers, and there’s no sound I love more than the competing cries of market stall holders. I went home with a bunch of gorgeous pink tulips, and a big smile on my face. Even though I have to buy them for myself, there is still something special about having a bunch of flowers to take home!
March is going to be an exciting month for me, and a busy one; I’m off to Cape Town in just 19 days to visit my best friend who now lives there, which I can’t wait for; we are also opening the Quilts exhibition at the V&A, which will be marvellous, plus one of my best friends is getting married. Not to mention that I have a pile of review books to wade through. So, lots to get on with! And hopefully, lots to blog about. Happy March, everyone; Spring is on its way!