When Darlene said she was coming to London several weeks ago, I was overjoyed to finally get the opportunity to meet her! Simon, Mary and I were delighted to form a little British contingent of blogger visitors to greet our Canadian friend as she arrived on our shores. I was first to meet Darlene outside the National Gallery cafe and was instantly overwhelmed by her warmth; it’s wonderful to meet people you have known for so long online and find them such as lovely in person as you thought they would be. Darlene is also wonderfully glamorous; I felt quite dowdy next to her!
Mary was next to arrive – we have met many times before but I hadn’t seen her in over a year so it was lovely to catch up. The always lovely Simon then breezed in and our gathering was complete! We gorged ourselves on the delicious cakes – thanks to Jane Brocket’s post I had heard about how amazing the National Gallery’s cakes were but I didn’t expect them to be this good. They were absolutely magnificent and there was so much tempting choice that I didn’t know what to do with myself and ended up being greedy and choosing two! In for a penny!
We had such fun chatting and chatting and chatting – it felt like we always met up to do just that, and it was made even more delightful by the addition of bookish gifts – Simon had brought me Helen Thomas’ As it Was, a book I have been wanting to read since I read his review of it many moons ago, and Red Pottage by Mary Cholmondeley, a New Woman type book I have wanted to read for ages and couldn’t get hold of, so Simon kindly offered to lend me his copy. After spending plenty of time over tea and cake, we decided to show Darlene the delights of the Charing Cross Road book shops. We took her to my favourite, Any Amount of Books, where Simon smugly (joking!) said ‘Hmmm…yes, I’ve got that’ to EVERY SINGLE BOOK I picked off the shelves that I thought he might like, and I bought a very nice first edition of Elizabeth Von Arnim’s Christopher and Columbus, on Simon’s recommendation. Darlene went away with spoils that included a beautiful illustrated first edition of The Diary of A Provincial Lady that Simon found gathering dust amongst a pile of books on the floor! We perused a few more of the shops, and I picked up a little pocket hardback of Anthony Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her? which will be my first foray into Trollope and one I plan on starting next month, before heading off to Bloomsbury to join a free walking tour of Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury that Mary had seen advertised.
We arrived on the scene to find a huge group of Woolf fans, and after following on through Bloomsbury’s leafy and quiet squares all the way to Coram’s Fields, we decided to split from the group and go and get some more tea. We had taken in the site of the Omega Workshops and Virginia Woolf’s first Bloomsbury home, both in Fitzroy Square, and Tavistock Square, where Virginia and Leonard lived before their house was bombed during the war, so it was very interesting and it was lovely to get a bit more context about the Bloomsbury Group’s living arrangements and moves around the Bloomsbury area.
A wander down Lamb’s Conduit Street and a peep in the window at the Persephone Books book shop (it was a Sunday, so the shop was closed) followed our aborted tour, before we popped in to Bea’s of Bloomsbury for take away tea and cakes which we ate on a nearby doorstep, as Bea’s was totally crammed. Simon realised we were on the same street as E M Delafield’s wartime flat, but unfortunately I had to head off, so I left my lovely fellow bloggers to go and stand at the site of one of my favourite author’s homes while I went to catch a bus back through the streets of Bloomsbury on my way to Charing Cross.
What a wonderful day; it just goes to show that blogging really does widen your world and allows you to form friendships with lovely, fascinating people who share your interests. I just wish that Darlene didn’t live so far away! I was also sad not to get to see Claire while she was in London; unfortunately flat hunting got in the way. I hope there will be another occasion for us to meet soon!