Monday, October 17, 2011

An (almost) uneventful journey home

I finally got to have a tuna and sweetcorn sandwich, purchased for only £1 from Boots at Terminal 4. It was quite enjoyable. Getting to Terminal 4 was another story. Read on.

My original plan was to save money and take the tube to Heathrow on Sunday, but I realized that planned engineering works on half the tube lines would make that next to impossible. So, I took the #36 bus to Paddington Station and planned to catch the 10:13 a.m. Heathrow Connect (the same train I rode in from Heathrow on). At the station, I went to the area where I'd emerged from platform 10 or 11 on my arrival day, and saw a bunch of temporary barricades in front of the turnstiles there. So, I looked around for a Heathrow Connect ticket office and didn't see one, but did spy the Heathrow Express ticket office. At the window, I asked the ticket agent where I needed to go for the Heathrow Connect, and she told me that it wasn't running due to planned engineering works. Bugger! I then had to pay £18 for a ticket on the (faster) Express rather than the £8.50 that the (slower) Connect would have cost me. But the Express trains run more often and I hopped on the 9:40, which got me to Terminals 1-3 in about 20 minutes. As the train pulled into the platform at Heathrow, we heard an announcement saying, "Passengers for Terminal 4 should exit the train, cross the platform and immediately board the train at platform 2." So I did, following two people who had gotten off my train. Another woman got on behind me, just as the doors shut in her husband's face and the train pulled away, leaving him and their luggage on the platform.

A member of staff was in the carriage near where those of us who got on last were standing, and the woman (an American) started asking him what she should do, as her husband had their tickets. He said that her husband could just catch the next train and they could meet at the end. He phoned someone to alert them to the situation. It then dawned on me that this woman was headed into town, so I asked if the train would be stopping at Terminal 4. No, it wouldn't. We were headed back to Paddington. The two men (also Americans) who had gotten on with me then piped up and said that they needed to go to Terminal 4 as well. The member of staff assured us that we could just get off the train at Paddington, wait a few minutes while they joined some other carriages to our train, and then get back on and go back to Heathrow. About this time the conductor came along, a very nice man who told us that people get confused and make this mistake all the time, especially on Sunday as that is the ONLY DAY that trains going back to Paddington share platform 2 with the trains for Terminal 4.

Back at Paddington, we waited for about 5 minutes before the train left again at 10:25 a.m.. When we got to Heathrow, there was no train yet on platform 2. While I was waiting, I looked up and saw the departure boards above my head, showing the alternating trains. A train pulled in and a different member of staff clearly announced that it was the train for Terminal 4, which got us there in no time. I looked at my watch as I finished checking my bag -- 11:05 a.m., which was probably exactly the time I'd be doing this if I'd been able to catch the Heathrow Connect in the first place.

Everything else about the journey went smoothly, although slowly. The plane to Boston was coming in from Paris, and was delayed due to fog in London. Although we boarded and took off about 1/2 hour late, we landed in Boston pretty much on time. The queues at immigration moved quickly, my bag was one of the first to arrive on the carousel, and going through customs was a breeze, with only a sweater and a book to declare. I had to wait well over 1/2 hour for the Logan Express bus to Framingham, where my car was parked, but our jovial driver Dave got us there in no time flat. I left the Massport lot at about 6:30 and walked in my front door at 8 pm -- exactly 16 hours after leaving Spooner's -- where I was met by much meowing from Sadie.

Note to self: Don't travel into or out of London on a Sunday ever again. And don't blindly follow groups of Americans anywhere. And, as John Betjeman said, always look up.

£18 for Heathrow Express
£1 for tuna & sweetcorn sandwich
£1.05 for bottle of water
$110 to park the car in Framingham
$250 for Sadie's critter sitter

5,958 steps (mostly in Heathrow)
2.29 miles on foot

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I yarn stormed London

It's hard to believe that my nine days in London are almost over. The time went so quickly, yet it was long enough for me to feel the closest to being a real Londoner that I've ever felt.

Yesterday (Saturday) morning, while Spooner was at the steam bath getting all remaining traces of buffalo, pig and soil out of his pores, I took the two yarn bombs that I'd brought from home down to Meanwhile Gardens. I found good places to attach them -- I put a green one with leaf pattern on a metal railing near the pond, and a striped one on a hand-made stick railing in the wildlife garden. As I was sewing them in place, a young man did Tai Chi on the platform above the pond near my first location, and the birds and squirrels scurried and hopped around my feet at the second spot. My friend Helen used to come to Meanwhile Gardens, and to the stretch of canal next to it, often to photograph the birds, plant life, and the reflections in the water. I like to think she would have noticed my yarn bombs straight away, and would have smiled and approved of my creative mischief in her garden.

In the afternoon, Spooner and I went to two art events that bring street art indoors. The first was the Moniker Art Fair at the Village Underground in Shoreditch. We also walked around the car park behind Holywell Lane and looked at what was new on the walls there. Neither indoors nor out was as good as last year, but we saw some interesting things. After that, we rode the bus across London Bridge, walked through Borough Market for some nibbles (much of which was free samples of chutney, cheese and bread from various vendors), and took another bus over to Waterloo to see The Minotaur in the Old Vic Tunnels under the train tracks. Some of it was cool, some creepy, and some puzzling.

Another long bus ride took us to Hampstead for dinner with Greg and Esther at a nice little French bistro where we'd all eaten together a couple years ago. It was a great meal, with lovely company, and a very nice way to end my trip.

I managed to see most of the people I wanted to meet up with, though I really regret not seeing the ones I missed. I ticked off most of the things on my massive list of exhibitions, historic spots, markets and rambles. The places I didn't get to will just have to go onto the list for the next trip. Except for the first couple of days, my back held up and didn't ache. I didn't lose anything or get lost. The weather was decent -- no real rain to speak of, and the final two days were full of blue skies and sunshine. And I didn't wear my rain boots once.

Big thanks to Spooner and all my mates who made this such a fab trip.

£5 last top-up on my Oyster
£2 spinach packet at Borough Market
£10 tix (2) for the Old Vic Tunnels
£17 dinner and wine

17,738 steps
6.99 miles

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A grand day out

The most amazing thing happened yesterday as Maggie and I were getting off the train in Guildford. We were standing in the aisle, waiting for the carriage doors to open, when Maggie whispered, "Look who that is." I looked at the backs of men's heads ahead of us and wasn't sure who she meant until she pointed discretely at the bowler hat in the hand of the gentleman right in front of her. It was Maxwell Hutchinson! My American readers won't appreciate the magnitude of this occasion, but my Brit mates will know him as the architect who comes on the Robert Elms Show on BBC London every week to talk about buildings and history and all sorts of interesting things about London. When we found ourselves on the platform, walking right next to him and the other man he was with, I did something I never do -- I turned to him and said, "Excuse me, Mr. Hutchinson. I listen to you every Tuesday on the radio on my computer in Massachusetts" and I stuck out my hand to shake his. At first he looked a bit taken aback, but then he replied, "My goodness! What are you doing here in Guildford all the way from Massachusetts?" We told him we'd come to see the George Frederic Watts Gallery and the Watts Chapel. He then said, "As long as you've come all this way, you must see the Cathedral." Although we knew this wasn't in our plan, we told him that, on his recommendation, we would try to do. I then said how lovely it was to meet him and we went our separate ways. I, of course, was grinning ear to ear.

The rest of the day just got better and better. Blue skies, bright sunshine, warm air -- the best weather of my visit. Maggie and I waited a few minutes for Ray to arrive by bus from his home in nearby Woking. We then took the local bus to the small village of Compton. Actually, we never saw Compton itself, getting off the bus at the Watts Gallery on a little lane, I assume just outside the village. I didn't know much about G.F. Watts other than that he was responsible for the creation of the Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice in Postman's Park in London, a place I visit often and really love. There is a wall of plaques in the back of the park, each made of Doulton ceramic, that commemorates in just a few words an ordinary person who died in the act of saving another. I wasn't aware that Watts is considered one of Britain's greatest painters. Apparently, many Brits don't know of him either, I imagine somewhat because his allegorical or heroic subjects seem old fashioned to our modern eyes.

After seeing the gallery and having lunch in the tea room, we set out on foot for the chapel designed by Watts's wife Mary. This small funeral chapel is said to be one of the best examples of British Arts and Crafts architecture, and Maggie and I had been wanting to see it for ages. We walked all around it, inside and out, gazing at (and photographing) the amazing details. The cemetery there is also lovely and peaceful, on a hillside looking out over fields below. Then a guided tour group of old dears arrived and the spell was broken.

Ray had suggested we take the bus to Compton, uphill all the way, and walk back downhill to Guildford along the footpaths. We couldn't have asked for a better day to do this. Much of our walk was along Sandy Lane, a well-named sandy, one-lane road, which made for some interesting maneuvers when trucks came from both directions, with the three of us sandwiched between them. Eventually we reached the towpath along the River Wey and followed that back into Guildford just as the sun was sinking low.

£13.90 cheap day return ticket for Guildford
£2.20 bus to Compton
£7.50 for Watts Gallery
£5.00 for egg mayonnaise sandwich on granary bread in the tea room
£1.45 for late afternoon beverage

20,966 steps
8.27 miles

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A quick update

I'm writing a second post today because I have to be out the door really early tomorrow. I'm meeting my pal Maggie at Waterloo to take the train to Guildford, where we'll meet up with Ray and go to Compton to see the George Frederic Watts Gallery and the Watts Chapel.

This was the day without a plan, the day to do whatever I hadn't worked in on other days. It turned out to be a day with a lot of seeing but not much walking, which is ok because I know I will more than make up for it on our walk tomorrow. Just before I left home, I read about the new exhibition at the British Museum by Grayson Perry, about whom I knew absolutely nothing, called The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman. I'm running out of superlatives, but I must say that this was one of the best exhibitions I've ever seen. I totally enjoyed Perry's "love of stuff." This was all about a pilgrimage made with his teddy bear, named Alan Measles, to Germany and through time to other pilgrimage spots around the globe. But it's all imaginary and done through story telling, connecting artifacts and objects from the British Museum's collection to new objects made by Perry for the exhibition to examine shrines, talismans, totems, and other pieces of craftwork in a new context. It's hard to explain, but it was really fun. Photos from the Guardian here.

From there I wandered through Bloomsbury, up to the Euston Road, where I stopped in to the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery (she was the first woman doctor in the UK) and the crypt gallery at St Pancras Parish Church. In the EGA Gallery I learned about the founding of the first hospital in London for women and staffed by women. In the crypt gallery, I saw and heard some cool and creepy stuff that had something to do with the descent into the dark. I then revisited the Wellcome Collection to spend more time in the Charms and Miracles exhibition.

When I was on the Number 7 bus in the morning, headed towards the British Museum, we passed Selfridges with its window displays for the Museum of Everything, which I had on my list of things to see but had forgotten about. So I stopped there on my way back home at the end of the day. It's all outsider art. Nothing special. Kind of ho-hum.

Back at the flat, I warmed up the goat cheese and veg pie that I bough the other day at one of the markets we visited. I'm now going to watch a bit of Downton Abbey and then turn in.

£10 for Grayson Perry exhibition at the British Museum
£3.40 for tat at the BM shop
£2.20 for a spinach roll at a farmers market in Torrington Square

13,962 steps
5.5 miles

Good mates, good art and good beer

With those three elements, I'd say it was a perfect day.

Wednesday had an appointed beginning (meeting Judy at Tate Modern) and end (Guess Where London meetup at Craft Beer Co. in Leather Lane), but lots of room in the middle for spontaneous choices and a walk in the sunshine, when it made a brief appearance, along the Southbank. The first (and the best) thing we saw at Tate Modern was Tacita Dean's new Unilever installation in Turbine Hall, which had just opened the day before. I purposely didn't look at any press coverage of the opening, because I didn't want to have any images in my head of what it would be like. It's big and it's fab! We viewed it first from the bridge across Turbine Hall, and then went down below, where people were sitting on the floor to view it and little kids kept running up and touching the screen. It really needs to be seen from both vantage points, as in incorporates architectural elements from Turbine Hall itself and you need to experience it from both angles and in both scales. I'm doing a mental inventory of the four or five Unilever installations I've seen, and I think that this is by far my favorite.

After Judy treated me to lunch, we wandered across the river to One New Change to check out the views from their 6th floor roof garden. Nice view of the dome of St Paul's, but you really can't see much of the City or beyond because parts of the building itself -- which is an ugly shopping centre -- are in the way. While you can get some glimpses of bridges, the river itself isn't visible. And there are no views to the north, which I would have enjoyed. I guess I'll just have to wait for next year's Open House and go to Broadgate Tower if I want panoramic views.

Back across the river, we returned to the Tate Modern. All together, we saw Diane Arbus photos, Contested Terrains (four African artists), and did a quick walk through the very, very grey Gerhard Richter exhibition (my advice is to skip the rooms with the grey stuff and go straight for the color).

A wander in the warm sun brought us to the Hayward Gallery, where we met up with our mate Malcolm and chatted under a festive bunting of white underpants. More white underpants, this time in the form of a large chandelier (called the "Massachusetts Chandelier" -- don't ask me why as I haven't found out yet), awaited us inside -- all part of Pipilotti Rist's Eyeball Massage. This exhibition was great fun -- full of videos, projected onto walls and gauze curtains, onto objects small and large, inside pocketbooks and shells, and even from a tiny hole in the floor. You can walk in and out of the curtains, stick your head into holes to see things in a large box, or lounge on the floor on pillows made of stuffed trousers and shirts. This review describes it much better than I can.

When our eyeballs were thoroughly massaged, Malcolm and I said goodbye to Judy and walked up to Leather Lane (with a quick stop to look at the inside of The Black Friar pub, which I'd never seen) for the GWL meetup. The Craft Beer Co. is a lovely, new-ish pub that serves a great variety of crafted ales (I had one called Winter Meltdown and another called Hophead -- thanks Malc and David for treating me!). As always, it was lovely to catch up with old mates and to meet new ones.

Another note of explanation for my faithful and observant readers: My posts are time stamped with Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5). Please don't think that I'm awake at 4 in the morning writing these -- I'm too knackered to stay up that late or wake that early.

(Judy treated me to lunch and exhibition entry at the Tate Modern)
£2.75 for beverage at the Hayward
£8 for the Pipilotti Rist exhibition

20,975 steps
8.27 miles

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Retrograde Ramble in the City

Most of yesterday was taken up with future-oriented activities: doing a load of laundry so that I'd have socks and underwear for the second half of my visit, and various errands that Spooner needed to do in order to be ready for his expedition to a farm with his students (leaving today, returning on Friday). One of his missions involved a trip to Citibank to deposit a check. The nearest Citibank branch is in Hanover Square, which put us very close to the Opera Gallery in New Bond Street, where I'd just read that Mr. Brainwash was having an exhibition. We figured this was not to be missed (note that I didn't say "too good to be missed"). It was as we expected -- Mr. Brainwash's work is largely derivative, but in case he shows up in another movie (he was the subject of Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop), I wanted to say I'd seen his gallery show in London. His non-derivative pieces involved using bits of broken vinyl records to replicate black and white posterized portraits of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, etc. Though somewhat creative, these weren't exactly interesting. But there were some things in the gallery by other artists that we enjoyed seeing.

The highpoint of the day was a backwards-looking activity -- Through the Time Tunnel: A Retrograde Ramble, a guided walk in the City. We met up with my Flickr mate David at Tower Hill Station for this two-hour walk backwards in history from the 21st century to Roman London. Our guide, Steven, is an amateur history buff who had worked in the City for 30 years, using his free time to explore and learn about its history and hidden gems. Now retired, he leads seven different walks each week. He showed us the old Royal Mint building, a hydraulic pumping station, the first Peabody estate in London, remnants of a rail line used to bring goods from Shadwell and Limehouse docks to the warehouses in Tower Hamlets, Wellclose Square and Wilton's Music Hall, St Katharine docks, and some bits of the foundation of St Mary Graces (destroyed in the dissolution of the monasteries; I had seen a skeleton from this location in an exhibition at the Wellcome Collection several years ago, so it was really interesting to connect it all together). Our walk ended at All Hallows by the Tower, where we saw a Roman tile floor in the crypt. This was only the second guided walk I'd been on (the first was about Jewish radicalism in the East End) -- both were non-commercial, done by local history enthusiasts, and were highly informative and really fun.

After the walk, we dashed off to do the last of Spooner's errands. This afternoon, he and his group of 14-year-olds will take a bus to somewhere in Hampshire, where they'll stay in a hostel, cooking their own meals, and will work for 2 days on an organic farm that has buffalo, pigs, chickens and vegetables. I can't wait to hear the stories when he returns on Friday.

£20 to top up my Oyster card
£5 for the guided walk, which goes to Oxfam and Cancer Research UK

13,578 steps (and a lot of bus and tube journeys)
5.35 miles

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Groundhog Day

I'm finding myself retracing steps and revisiting places quite a bit on this trip. Yesterday (Monday) was almost a carbon copy of the last Saturday of the 2010 trip, except without Spooner and Malcolm. I was on my own for the day while Spooner got his hair cut, bought Wellies and made other preparations for his upcoming 3-day expedition with his students to an organic farm in Hampshire. So, I spent a chunk of time at the V&A, then walked up Exhibition Road to Hyde Park, visited this year's Serpentine Pavilion (ho-hum) and the Serpentine Gallery, and then walked up to Bayswater Road.

At the V&A, I saw a great exhibition called The Power of Making, which was all about crafts taken in new directions with incredible results. I also saw parts of the Medieval and Renaissance galleries, wandered through the ceramics gallery in search of an Ai Weiwei exhibition that hasn't started yet, and saw the (free) photography part of the (not free) Postmodernism exhibition.

Lunch -- a cup of lovely roasted veg soup -- was the best part of my stop at the Serpentine Pavilion and Gallery. There's a retro Citroen van, converted to a snack truck, sitting outside the gallery. I'll have a photo up at some point, but meanwhile you can see this one by my mate Malcolm.

Speaking of my photos, here's the story: there's an open wireless network at Spooner's flat, but I can't connect to it because Tony (the owner of the flat who is now traveling around the world for a year) has set it up as a LAN and he has to be here to allow new computers to be part of the LAN. I don't really understand it, but it means that I have to use Tony's desktop computer rather than my netbook, and I'm reluctant to dump all my photos from my camera onto his computer. So, my posts will go unillustrated until I'm home. So sorry to disappoint my faithful readers, but you'll just have to come back here at a later date.

In the evening, Spooner and I went up to the Almeida Theatre in Islington to see Tracey Ullman in a new play. She hasn't been on stage in London for 20 years, and I had high hopes that she'd chosen something really fab for her return. But it's not. I'm no theatre critic, but I know a crummy play when I see one. 'Nuff said. We did have a very nice pub meal at the Charles Lamb before the show, however.

£1 for map of the V&A (yes, they charge for this now)
£3.50 soup and roll at the Serpentine
£9 meal and a half pint of bitter at the pub

22,483 steps
8.87 miles

Monday, October 10, 2011

Market Day

Sunday is a big market day in London, and we took in three of them -- the Queen's Park Farmers' Market just up the road from Spooner's flat, Columbia Road flower market, and Brick Lane market. We wandered our way down through the East End from Columbia Road to Whitechapel Road, passing through Arnold Circus, starting at the top of Brick Lane and weaving our way in and out of the crowds, back and forth on various side streets -- Bacon, Sclater, Hanbury, Princelet, Wentworth -- checking out the streetart along the way. I'd read a lot about the East End over the winter, including Child of the Jago, The Worst Street in London, On Brick Lane, and re-reading parts of East End Chronicles. I always have in my head dozens of spots that I want to see, and streets that I want to explore, and I never seem to get to all of them. Having now done this on a Saturday (last year) and a Sunday, I'm not sure which is better -- on Saturday, the streets are rather quiet and less interesting, without any stalls, vendors or many people, but on Sunday it's too crowded in places and I get so overwhelmed with just trying to navigate through the hordes of people that I often forget the various places I want to go in my effort to make it through the mob and not get separated from Spooner.

We stopped into two different galleries -- the one that's in the old Rochelle School in Club Row (Arnold Circus) and the Whitechapel Gallery. I'd wanted to go to the Whitechapel to see the hall of mirrors by Josiah McElheny, but was somewhat underwhelmed -- or it was just over my head because I didn't know enough about the intellectual premise behind it all. However, there's a fabulous exhibition in an upstairs room -- the selections from the Government Art Collection, curated by Cornelia Parker, called Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain. Throughout the upcoming year, different people will be selecting pieces from the vast art collection of the British government, to be arranged around a theme. The works in the current exhibition are all hung salon style, according to the color spectrum -- Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain is a mnemonic for ROYGBIV. Have a look at the exhibition booklet to get a sense of the range of pieces and the humorous juxtapositions. We enjoyed seeing which government ministry owned particular pieces.

Our evening was a quiet one spent back at the flat -- a glass of wine, a hot bath, and dinner.

£3 raisin walnut loaf from farmers' market
£4 Map of Spitalfields Life, bought at Labour and Wait
£5 Lunch at Meraz Cafe in Hanbury Street
£1 juice

19,216 steps
7.58 miles

Sunday, October 09, 2011

A Sweater and a Souk

Score! When I was packing for my trip, as I folded my 25+ year old cashmere cardigan that always comes with me to London, I realized that it was no longer fit for travel. A small hole had developed in one of the sleeves, and the seams were beginning to come apart under both arms. Regretfully, I left it home, thinking I might be able to find a substitute at a charity shop in an upscale neighborhood. Since our plan for Saturday was to be in Notting Hill, I had jotted down the address of Mary Portas' (Queen of Shops) charity shop for Save the Children, called Living and Giving, in Westbourne Grove. Our route through Notting Hill took us down the Portobello Road (after a stop at Lisboa Cafe in Golborne Road and the newly-renovated public toilets in Bevington Road), through the Saturday market. I passed half a dozen stalls in the stretch by the Spanish School that had a rack each of sweaters, many cashmere, but saw nothing that seemed right. Then, just before the Westway, was a stall of nothing but cashmere sweaters. On the rack of cardigans, I found one that was just a shade darker than the oatmeal color of mine. It fit and it was a good deal at £20. As the vendor explained, and as I knew, it's quality English cashmere, not the cheap Chinese variety that they sell at M&S. Success, and before noon on day 2!

We picked up some food items, looked at some bits of street art, and then got out of the market by turning right on Lancaster Road. From there, we walked up Ladbroke Grove to the top of Notting Hill where the hippodrome was located in the 1830s, and then down the west side of the hill into the old Piggeries and Potteries area, which was, in the mid-19th century, one of the most fetid slums in all of London. The clay soil here, which was responsible for the close of the hippodrome some 6 or 7 years after it opened because the jockeys refused to risk any more injuries to horse or man on the track, was used in making bricks and ceramics. And pigs apparently wallowed in it. Along the way, we saw a 19th century kiln used for firing bricks. Some history of the area during that time is here.

Carrying on, and after crossing Holland Park Avenue, we took a small detour into Aubrey Walk to see the new blue plaque for Dusty Springfield. Next stop was the cafe in Holland Park for some lunch before pushing on to Leighton House. Because there was a Souk Nour being held in the studio of Leighton House, entrance was free. As Spooner examined the books and other goods for sale in the souk, I roamed around the house to look at the jaw-dropping gorgeous tiled walls, ceilings and floors, as well as the silk wallpapers and various paintings.

On the way home to Maida Hill, we stopped at the London West Bank Gallery in Westbourne Grove to see an exhibition (a few interesting paintings). We also stopped at Living and Giving, where I didn't see anything I liked nearly as much as the sweater I bought in Portobello Road. Back to Spooner's for a quick meal and then on to the Shaw Theatre to see Far from Kansas, an offshoot of the London Gay Men's Chorus, perform their popular double-bill of We Could Have Danced All Night and Little Shop of Homos. Good, campy fun.

£2.50 walnut bread (eaten immediately) and custard tart for later from Lisboa
£3.80 veggie pie from the Portobello Road (for when I'm on my own for dinner)
£20 for cashmere sweater
£3 lunch at Holland Park
£4 glass of wine at the Shaw

18756 steps
7.42 miles

Friday, October 07, 2011

Arrived ... and knackered

Despite my major pre-travel anxiety, the journey went well and I'm here in London. I was a bit nervous because I was flying a different airlines (Delta instead of Virgin Atlantic), from a different terminal at Logan (A instead of E), arriving at a different terminal at Heathrow (4 instead of 3), taking the Heathrow Connect into town instead of the tube, and going to Spooner's new flat in Maida Hill, a part of town I'd only seen briefly from the #31 bus a couple years ago. Some things were better about this scheme (less crowded plane, so I got to spread out over two seats; much shorter line at immigration; far speedier train) and some were worse (inferior in-flight entertainment, jarring bus ride from Paddington to Maida Hill). But I had no trouble finding the flat, no difficulty with the front door lock, and was greeted inside by a trail of post-it notes pointing me to the toilet, computer, power shower switch, and my room -- a bit Alice in Wonderland or Hansel and Gretel.

And despite getting about an hour of sleep on the plane and another hour when I got to Spooner's flat, I boldly ventured forth today and covered a respectable amount of new territory (and a bit of old pavement as well). I left the flat just a few minutes past noon, and headed down the Harrow Road to the Ha'penny Steps, crossed the footbridge, and walked down the towpath past (and a bit through) Meanwhile Gardens. Though I'd never been here before, these spots looked quite familiar -- the blue railings on the bridge, the paths through the gardens, the coots and geese in the canal, the reflections of the buildings in the water -- because I'd seen them so many times in my friend Helen's photostream. London seems empty with her no longer in it. I know I'll think of her often and miss her enormously during this visit.

Continuing on down the towpath, I walked through Little Venice, on the pavement through Lisson Grove (no access to the towpath through some sections here), along the edge of Regent's Park, and up to Camden Town. Weather was kind of variable -- some grey skies and warm, then blue skies and blustery, chilly wind. I took a lot of photos, but haven't reviewed them yet. I'll try to add one or two to this post tomorrow or the next day.

I started out with every intention of walking up Kentish Town Road to Jeffrey's Street to see the new-ish Banksy piece (particularly as his pieces along the canal have been buffed out), but was just too tired by the time I reached Camden Town. So, I decided to do something tried and true. I hopped on the #168 bus, rode down to Euston Station, and went into the Wellcome Collection for a few minutes to see the brand new exhibition -- Miracles and Charms, which is all about Mexican votive paintings, milagros and other amulets of faith and healing. I only had about 20 minutes to spend there, but really liked the exhibition and may try to go back later next week.

Spooner has gone out for the evening to a play. I just took a hot bath and am now making my dinner. I'm going to try to stay awake until about 9 pm, and am hoping to get a good night's sleep and wake up with energy and good spirits for tomorrow's adventures.

$2.40 Mass Pike toll
$22 bus ticket (return) from MassPort lot to Logan
$2.29 bottle of water at the airport
£8.50 Heathrow Connect (single) to Paddington
£20 to top up my Oyster card
£2 for a piece of quiche at Camden Lock Market

21,858 steps
8.62 miles

Sunday, September 04, 2011

My Year in Dullsville

Yes, we had an earthquake, but I didn't feel it. We also had a hurricane, but it brought me only a lot of rain and some small branches down in my back yard. The winter was absolutely dismal, and I'm not going to mention it again ... ever.

One of the highpoints of the year was joining up with Riot Prrl, a knitters' league for positive mischief. I've always wanted to be a yarn bomber/yarn stormer/urban knitter, and I added to Riot Prrl's tree project in Northampton, done for International Yarn Bomb Day (June 11). Since then, I've made a few pieces to adorn some of the street furniture around town. Here's a photo that ScribeGirl took of me working on one of my pieces:

I'm hoping to do a lot more of this in the coming year. It sure beats my previous feminist activist endeavor, which shall go unnamed, and which was cause of much frustration. I'm also working on some pieces to take with me to London in October. My plan is to place them in Meanwhile Gardens, in memory of my dear friend Helen, who I think would have enjoyed seeing them. She often visited that stretch of the Grand Union Canal to photograph the birds, buildings and reflections. I miss her company, her humour, and her inspiration as an activist, a feminist, and a photographer.

Planning for my upcoming trip to London is well under way. I'm hoping to make some new discoveries and to revisit some favorite haunts. I'll be staying in Maida Hill rather than Belsize Park, as Spooner has moved flats. I'm looking forward to walking the towpath along the canal to Camden Town, and to getting to know W9/W10. I promise to post regularly while I'm there.