In London.

St. Pancras means Home. If I can see the steeple, I know we're close. The sounds of its bells waft in through my window. I greet the slightly slouchy ladies there each morning.
I carry my tea past plaques commemorating Keats, Dickens and the victims of the 2005 bombings. There are many lovely squares nearby -- Tavistock, Russell, Bloomsbury. It is here that I see my first proper blackbird -- exactly the kind that one would bake into a pie.

We inch our way through crowded Borough Market, past mammoth meringues and gigantic wheels of cheese. There are stalls selling Cumberland sausages and duck confit sandwiches. I buy a bottle of San Pellegrino from an ice cream van and drink it next to the Thames. I can see the dome of St. Paul's off in the distance. Being here is at once totally natural and slightly odd. It feels good.

Before I even realize it I'm in Clerkenwell. You really can sense the Fleet beneath your feet -- submerged, but ever-flowing. I peek in on the eponymous well, which was not rediscovered until 1924. We arrive at Dr. Johnson's house and pay our respects to Hodge, that "very fine cat indeed." I imagine him slinking around Gough Square in spectral form, twining about my ankles. I should've brought him an oyster.
We take the train to Greenwich. Yes, the pigtail grease stains on Nelson's coat are still there. I walk down to the foreshore and borrow three fine rocks from the Thames. I hope He doesn't mind.
Strolling along the embankment under a blue sky, I watch the sunlight dance on the murk of the Thames. Black-headed gulls swoop and dive at the water. I'm vaguely reminded of my own River, far away. My provenance is showing.

We stop for lunch at Covent Garden. My squash and goat cheese pie is especially tasty. I take a picture of my other trusty travelling companion, Mr. Difalot.I'm pleased that I can show him where he came from.

Now we're off to Bunhill Fields. I imagine that this is a serene, meditative place. Today I am quickly disabused of this notion.

A group of uniformed schoolchildren have colonized the main path and are running about, making up noisy games on the spot. Their matching hats adorn the nearby fence. I hope I'll get to have a quiet moment with William and at the very least be able to take a decent picture.I feel like I should be annoyed by the noisy kids, but I'm not. Suddenly, strangely, my heart fills with joy and I burst out laughing. It's a magical moment.

I try opening up to William, asking him to tell me which stone is his. I sense a vague insistence (over there, to my right, a few rows back, a few stones over...) Is it him? Is it me? The both of us? Neither? I wish I would've had the time to knit him socks; I bet his feet are cold.
On the walk to St. Paul's I just can't help it -- The Real Tuesday Weld's music and Glen Duncan's words spring to mind, unbidden. This is really not all that surprising. Both are perfect complements to the bustle and Spirit of the City they were created in; how fitting that they chose this moment to float to the surface. When one Loves one's city as much as they do, it can be quite catching.I think it's safe to say that I've contracted that condition myself. I love London; it is wonderful to be here....and I'll be coming back.

11 comments:

JelliDonut said...

It's been many years since I was in London. Thanks for the lovely photos.

piipadoo said...

Beautiful photos and a nice tour you took us on. Thank you for sharing it. You made me miss England, and London. And, surprisingly, hours spent reading Blake (and understanding very little of it).

-Paula

tamara said...

Wowzers, but I've really been digging these posts of Far and Away...more to come, dare we hope?

Blonde said...

Your photographs are amazing! Full of nostalgia...
Thank you!

Sha said...

Fun fact! William Blake was a pauper when he died, and was buried in an unmarked, mass grave. The grave you saw was only erected later, after he became famous. I lived in London for 2 years and one of my little day adventures was exploring that cemetery, one of the park employees took me around and showed me all the various folks in it. Including where William Blake is actually buried - Right underneath where all the kids play! I was thrilled by it, and i think he would have been too!

Laura said...

Thanks so much for the pictures of your travels. With your commentary, it feels like we're with you! And I love that you pick up smooth stones! I do that also to remember moments. I have a little bowl on my work desk containing some. One time I picked up big honking sharp edged rocks from a very recent avalanche in Idaho. Very cool.

Voie de Vie said...

Thanks for showing us your moody blue London - and sharing your travels. How many more cities on this tour?

spillyjane said...

Voie -- not a problem! Glad you've enjoyed it.

I fear that three cities were all I had time for on this most recent journey -- not bad for one week and a quick(ish) recovery from significant jet lag!

spillyjane said...

Sha -- Thanks so much for that Fun Fact. Now I know that that feeling was William beseeching me to share in his Joy.

Eleni said...

Oh, you make me miss London, and I only left her year ago!

Sarah said...

Hi! This is random (but I have been reading your blog for awhile, just never posted before now), but we were in the same part of London at the same time! I'm just reading this entry now because I had so much blogging to catch up on... What a great time of year to visit, huh? The weather was amazing, especially considering the temperatures back home. I couldn't get over all the flowers in bloom! And the wonderful coffee shops everywhere! Oh, wow, I could go on. It's nice to see that you had a great time, too. :)
-Sarah