Friday, 3 June 2011

Don't Rain on my Parade!

A couple of weeks ago I went down to London for the day.  Now, unless you know me very well, you won't realise the enormity of that sentence.  Due to a chronic condition that forced me into early retirement I haven't been able to travel any great distance for the last five or six years without disastrous consequences that laid me low for days.  For the first three years I had a fifteen mile limit and could only be glad that there was so much that I could do locally within such a small area.  Gradually, I've been able to push my boundaries further afield, getting to Stratford two years ago and Oxford last summer.  Now I've managed the two hundred mile round trip to London and although I'm not going to be able to do it very often, I feel as if I've been given the world.  As I walked down Baker Street on my way from Marylebone Station to Trafalgar Square I looked up at the first storm clouds the capital had seen in weeks and bellowed out the Streisand song defying the weather to rain on my parade.  It's a good job people are used to eccentrics in London.  No one paid a blind bit of notice!

I had, in fact, gone specifically to see the Jan Gossaert exhibition at the National Gallery.  I love the Flemish artists of this period (early sixteenth century), especially the wonderful portraits that they painted of both their aristocratic patrons and some of the more mercantile burghers who employed them.  This chap, keeping very careful note of all the financial comings and goings in his business, is a banker.  I would love to know what his filing system was like.  Could he just reach up and find the appropriate note that told you by how much you were overdrawn without even looking.  I bet he could.  Look at that face.  You weren't going to put anything over that gentleman, were you?

But the whole expedition had clearly gone to my head because I kept seeing all sorts of things that I suspect a serious minded art critic would not have agreed with nor approved of.  For example, there is a wonderful cartoon of Adam and Eve in which it is absolutely obvious from the way in which Eve is supporting him that Adam has taken all the apples from the Tree of Knowledge and turned them into high octane cider.  What's more, he's drunk it all!

Then there is a canvas of St Luke painting his vision of the Virgin and Child and I am seriously worried about what one little cherub sitting at Mary's feet is up to.  What need has he to have his hands up Mary's skirt, I ask myself.  Actually, I probably don't want to know the answer.

Anyway, giggling is clearly not the done thing in the National Gallery, so eventually I took myself off down Piccadilly to Fortnum and Mason and indulged in that most decadent of English customs, afternoon tea.

If you ever have the chance to go to Fortnum and Mason for afternoon tea then do take out a mortgage and partake.  (And you definitely do 'partake', any other verb simply wouldn't meet the circumstances.)  Nothing else rivals one of their own individual blends served in a silver plated tea-pot and accompanied by homemade scones, jam and clotted cream.  I was very good and stuck at that.  But if you want to you can go the whole way and add sandwiches and a slice of one of their wonderful cakes.  You won't want to face either your bank manager or the bathroom scales in the immediate future but believe me it will be worth it.

I hope this isn't going to be a one off visit to London.  I just woke up that morning and knew that I could try and I suspect that for the moment that is going to have to be the way I do it.  Planning in advance is likely to hype up my adrenaline levels and undermine me before I start.  But it's a beginning and I intend to build on it.


  1. Yes, we're quite used to people singing as they go about their day here... just as well, it's how I get away with it!

    Glad you had a good day, that cartoon sounds brilliant! Hope you are able to come back soon!

  2. I've just found your blog and am enjoying it very much. I am like you in that I cannot plan to do things of any import or else I work myself into such a nervous state that I make myself sick. I am much better at spur of the moment things and find them much more fun. I'm glad you had a good time in London with no after effects and hope that you'll be able to do more adventuring.

  3. What a wonderful day you had! That banker chap looks like he'd suspect my 96-year-old grandmother of trying to pull a fast one. And the afternoon tea! Completely decadent!

  4. I'm sure you understand the question of afternoon tea, Reading fuelled by tea. It is an essential part of any day out for me and you can't ask for better than Fortnum and Mason.

    Joan, how nice to meet you. I'm sorry we have so much in common, because it isn't nice to think of anyone else having to live with the same limitations, but the thrill when you do get out and about is wonderful, isn't it. I hope you'll drop by often.

    Stefanie it was marvellous all it needed was good company like you to share the tea with.

  5. Congratulations on getting out and about and having such a good day.

  6. Hi Annie,

    I am glad that you had such an enjoyable day, it makes the effort so worthwhile and I hope that it is the first of many such outings for you.

    Afternoon tea is always so very decadent, when taken in the proper way and in an eminently suitable location, it's always a good way to wind down the day.

    We used to spend quite a lot of time up in London, for one reason or another, however these days that is just no longer a feasible scenario for us. We were there last weekend however, as part of a family celebration, staying overnight and attending our 10th performance of our favourite stage show, 'Les Miserables',fantastic as ever!


  7. I'm so glad you're able to travel further now! That art exhibition looks fascinating. I just wish we'd had more time in London last Sunday to have had a look at it, but we were there to go ten-pin bowling with my husband, son and nephew's Fantasy Football League's annual award evening and walking round an art gallery beforehand would have been too much!

  8. Sounds like you had a wonderful time. I'm glad you were able to go and I hope you gt to go again soon.

    I'll be off down to London to see Take That in July and can't wait!

  9. Yvonne, I am definitely with you over 'Les Miserables'. I saw it when it first opened at the Barbican, when everyone was saying the RSC was stupid to try and stage it and it was so obvious even then that everyone was so wrong!

    Margaret, it's amazing how tiring walking round an exhibition can be. I know that if I do go to London then I have to go to do just one thing and do it thoroughly. Trying to fit in too much just because I'm there would be a terrible mistake.

    Nikki-ann, I did have a wonderful time and I hope you do too.

  10. I'm catching up here and SO delighted to hear that you made it to London! Wow! It's a plan of mine that I haven't managed to put into practice yet, and I'm just thrilled that you managed to do it and have such fun. There's hope for me yet! I completely agree that spontaneity is the key - planning hypes me up horribly, and the more spontaneous I can be, the better.

  11. Litlove, I'd never have managed it if I'd planned in advance. It was just 'the' day to do it, especially as I had three quiet days ahead of me afterwards. Of course, I had to get out of the house before Jolyon Bear realised how much it was going to cost. He has not forgiven me that tea even now!