London calling


Sitting in the lounge waiting for my flight back to be called,

First of all, sorry for being away for so long. It was never my intention; as the Internet is so slow at my parents’ place, I planned to write a last post from Charlottenburg before my big move to East Berlin but there wasn’t time and I’m now without Internet at home, though doing my best to get a connection. Here I am then in an Internet cafĂ© which isn’t the most inspiring location: I’ve missed you all so much and find it hard to keep up with the blogosphere which explains the lack of comments. Sadly, I can’t promise things will be any better for the next few weeks, although I will make an effort to post regularly. In the meantime though I’ll start with a post on London last month but before that I’d just like to say thanks so much for following me and for the wonderful comments as always.

Sitting in the lounge waiting for my flight back to be called, surrounded by duty free shops, gleaming Audis you can win and with the odour of fast food restaurants, the rest of the trip seems far away already. I imagine my arrival at Tegel airport with no-one to meet me, picking up my suitcase packed with books and hauling it onto the bus with the raindrops streaking down the windows. But then I get my books out and eat the lunch so carefully prepared the night before. The taste of my family home, the things I grew up with that I can’t get in Berlin and most of all the thought that I wouldn’t be so sad to leave if everything hadn’t been so great.

The days in London the week before were perhaps the happiest I’ve spent there. Returning to the same hotel in Bloomsbury opposite the tennis courts in an area which has become so familiar. I can run my finger along the map and visualise the places at every corner. The grocer selling large bowls of grapes, nectarines, apricots or cherries for just a pound, the photography bookshop I long to go into but which is always closed, the orange launderette, the second hand bookshops where I can stay for hours, picking up P.G Wodehouse novels and the Renoir cinema where I saw Clare Denis’ amazing White Material. There were the snippets of conversations overheard; two women discussing the difficulty of finding a good black skirt, a woman cryptically explaining to her companion that even if they took part, they might not win and if they won, it would not have anything to do with her. I rediscovered the red velvet seats of Covent Garden and the refined elegance of the people watching the ballet, visited the Globe to watch Shakespeare with its thatched roof, wooden benches and incredible atmosphere. There were the New Wave photographs by Raymond, still from Godard and Truffaut films or Ophuls’ Lola Montes which made me wish I could be like Anna Karina, Jeanne Moreau or Jean Seberg. We ate sandwiches in the courtyard of the Royal Academy with giant sculptures of hares around us, saw the exotic plants of the African garden outside the British Museum, watched Rohmer’s My Night With Maud with its crisp black and white photography and the snowfall over Clerment Ferrand in a completely silent cinema at the British Film Institute.

Perhaps the most moving experience of all was my visit to the Keats’ house in Hampstead. Even though little of the original furniture remains, it’s still an incredibly special place and alive with his presence. I found it touching to imagine such a small house being divided into two sections and could still picture Keats and Fanny Burne tapping messages to each other through their bedroom walls or see him sitting on the sofa staring out into the garden as he composed his poems. Sitting on a bench outside to collect my thoughts, an young Asian was reading a biography of Joseph Severn, a painter and friend of Keats who accompanied him on his final voyage to Italy and some children were playing in the mulberry bush which was apparently there at Keats’ time. Hampstead is a wonderful place, so close to London but peaceful and calm. Small boutiques line the little cobbled streets, you can enjoy an ice cream in a shop which offers flavours like sour cherry or dulche de leche or look across the roofs of central London from the top of the Heath close to where others were swimming. The days in London seemed so short. Collapsing exhausted into the train taking me back to Derbyshire with Perec’s wonderful La Vie mode d’emploi, I thought how others would occupy the hotel room tonight, that the city would go on living without me
. Can't wait to return there in winter.

Model tutus

A model of the set for Berg's Lulu

Time for champagne

At Covent Garden

The bust of Keats in Hampstead church

In Hampstead cemetary

Apple at Starbucks

In Hampstead

Keats' house

In the garden

On Hampstead Heath

Sour cherry ice cream

Dulce de Leche

A fraisier

Hare sculptures outside the Royal Academy

At Skoob books

Ah, those Penguin mugs

The African garden outside the British museum

Street life at Covent Garden

The National Theatre

At the National Film Theatre restaurant



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