Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun…once upon a time I could recite that entire poem, but now I can only just about manage the first two lines. These lines have been going around and around inside my mind for the last few days, as a mist has descended on the South East of England. Outside of my classroom window, the beautiful red, gold and ochre trees that are blazing so brightly along the edge of the playing fields and out as far as the eye can see are just poking their heads above a swirling sea of pearly mist, and the grass looks like it is being fondled with icy fingers. It’s all making me feel like I am in a Dickens or Wilkie Collins novel; just give me a lantern and off I shall go to navigate the pea-souped streets of Victorian London!
I have indeed been navigating the streets of London these past couple of weekends; two weeks ago I popped up to visit some friends and we had a glorious time walking along the Embankment and enjoying the views. It has been a reasonably pleasant Autumn, all things considered; clear skies, warm(ish) sunshine and not too much rain, which is always something to be celebrated! Against the background of a piercing blue sky and framed by the red and gold of flaming foliage, the starkly modernist – some would say brutalist – architecture of the Southbank is shown off at its best. Glinting in the distance are the spires of the city’s oldest and most modern buildings, sitting comfortably alongside one another to demonstrate London’s proud longevity and its continued position as one of the most dynamic and important cities on the planet. There is no better view in my eyes! Southbank’s book market doesn’t often offer up many bargains, but I never can resist a browse. It has to be the book shop with the best view in the city, and it’s always crowded with people, which is a heartwarming sight to see. I made one of my friends buy The Death of the Heart, because I believe everyone should read at least one Elizabeth Bowen novel in their lifetime, and I also treated myself, with a copy of Few Eggs and No Oranges for a bargain £4. I’ve got plans for that book; I’m already subtly drip-feeding Persephone books into my English lessons, and Few Eggs is going to have its turn soon, once I’ve thought of a creative use for it!
After a hearty lunch at Canteen, we split off, with me taking my friend who has just moved to London from ‘up North’ to see the joys of Regent’s Street. I popped into Anthropologie and bought this amazing skirt on sale, and I was tempted by the fabric in Liberty’s, but then remembered that I don’t have time to make anything any more, so I put it back on the shelf! Once we had shopped ourselves out, I led the way to the National Gallery, which should be the first port of call for anyone visiting London in my opinion. Not only do you get a fabulous view of Westminster from the front balcony, you also get to see many of the world’s most famous paintings for free. Free! Plus the cafe is marvellous (though sadly not free). I always try to steer a visit to London towards the National Cafe; you can’t beat their chocolate and coconut muffins with a nice cup of tea while listening to the piano man tinkling away and watching the tourists mill around the lions at the feet of Nelson outside. I also always make a beeline for the 19th century gallery, and this time I was particularly struck by the beauty of Turner’s very autumnal looking skies, as well as the cosy tranquility of Constable’s pastoral scenes. These are very much the background of my life now, and I was reminded of them as I walked through the woods on my way home from the station later that evening, delighting in the Turner-esque pink sky that blazed above the Constable-esque landscape. Season of Mist and Mellow Fruitfulness indeed.
This weekend I was back in London to stay with the gorgeous Miranda and her AMAZING mum Donna, who put on a magnificent spread for Simon, Polly and I. We ate pumpkin spice cake and brownies and scones and sandwiches and quail’s eggs (my first time!) and drank gallons of tea while playing fun games and doing lots of chatting. It was a wonderful afternoon and reminded me of how brilliant the internet can be at bringing together people who would never otherwise have met, but who have so much in common. After tea, Miranda and I went on to the Young Vic to watch their version of Three Sisters. I shouldn’t have had a glass of wine before the performance, because I was practically asleep by the interval. It really wasn’t our cup of tea – all a bit too ‘thesp’ for my liking – and I was ready to slash my wrists by the end. Still, not a bad night out for a tenner and I do enjoy seeing how different directors interpret traditional plays. I am not a fan of rewriting plays to ‘modernise’ them – we don’t feel the need to do this with novels, so why plays? I especially don’t like it when rewriting really means adding in loads of gratuitous swearing, which isn’t ‘edgy’, but just lazy. I’m all for making plays relevant, but I think this can be done without changing the original dialogue, and I don’t see why it was necessary to do so in this case. Miss says – 5/10.
After a lazy Sunday spent chatting with Miranda and Donna about books and life and teaching and all manner of things, and being fed and generally looked after, I got back into my car and drove back home through the Surrey countryside, marvelling at how quickly this landscape has changed from the lusciousness of summer that seems like it was just yesterday. Since I started teaching, the weeks have flown by, and in just a few days it will be November. November! This year has gone too fast. But with the nights drawing in and the cold beginning to descend, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a good book. I am determined to get the balance right with my reading now my first (half) term of teaching is nearly over, and I have decided that I want to have a re-read of the first Persephone book I ever read, Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple. Does anyone fancy joining in, for the second week in November? I’d love to have you join me.