Up to London today to meet a friend and to attend the Cecil Beaton Portraits of the Queen exhibition at the V&A. No matter how hard I tell myself that getting on the train is voluntary and that I am no longer commuting, I find it very hard to shake off the feeling of apprehension when I drive to the station and park my car, preparatory to boarding the train. Thirty years of commuting takes a lot of forgetting.
But this visit was for pleasure and my good friend Curzon and I duly met up and took ourselves off to the V&A, which is my most favourite museum in London. I simply adore going there and could wander around for hours. This time we just focused on the Cecil Beaton and though we arrived before our allotted time we were allowed and as it got rather crowded towards the end, was rather pleased we have been a tad previous.
Most of the photos were familiar to me, having featured in many magazines and books over the years. His pictures of Queen Elizabeth (before she became the Queen Mother) in the lovely white crinolines she wore when she visited Paris are really quite beautiful. The Parisians had been rather sneery about the Queen's sense of dress and style and so these pictures quite took them by storm and the visit was hugely successful.
We had a series of photographs from the current Queen as a small child, through her teenage years, up to and beyond her Coronation and I know it is difficult for people nowadays to realise it, but the Queen was simply beautiful when she was younger. Old black and white newsreels of the then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip shortly after their marriage show a devastatingly starry couple - Liz and Phil knew all about glam long before Princess Di came along. Quite a few portraits of Prince Philip I had not seen before when he was in full naval uniform and he was dashing and handsome and no wonder the Queen fell in love with him. Some charming shots of Princess Anne as well, all golden curls and prettiness which showed how like her is her daughter Zara.
I make no bones about the fact that I am a supporter of the Monarchy. As history was my favourite subject at school and still is, the thought that there is a long line of rulers stretching back through the centuries is totally fascinating and when we stopped and looked at a film of the Coronation which is on a loop during the exhibition I still got goosebumps when I saw the pageantry and the beauty of it all. Am very much looking forward to the Jubilee celebrations.
We nipped into the V&A shop which is one of the best Museum shops around and felt very virtuous that I did not buy a thing. Quite easy actually as the only item I really wanted was a glorious silk scarf, light as a feather and floating like a cloud, which was a snip at £145............
Lunch at Carluccios - I know this is a chain/franchise whatever, but it doesn't feel like it and the food is always good and the staff very friendly and charming. It has become a custom with us that we always to to Carluccios and was glad to find a branch just opposite South Kensington Tube station.
Then a walk down to Gloucester Road to visit the Slightly Foxed bookshop which I had forgotten was so near and which has been on my list of places to visit for some time. Charming gentleman behind the bijou counterette who was ready to talk about books at the drop of a hat and was highly knowledgeable and friendly to boot. These are not always the characteristics of most book shop assistants these days so should be appreciated when found.
Could not leave without a purchase. Well, I had resisted the lure of the silk scarf so I bought two Slightly Foxed editions, with which I am rapidly falling in love, The Young Ardizzone a biographical fragment of Edward Ardizzone and simply crammed full of his gloriously wonderfully drawings. Looking forward to reading this. The other purchase was A House in Flanders by Michael Jenkins. This was originally published by Souvenir Press and I had a copy of that edition and reviewed it here. I really loved it but then passed my copy onto somebody and then immediately regretted it so was glad to have the chance to have this back on my shelves once more. This edition has a postscript added to it by the author as well so it is well worth having.
And then home on the train, where I did my usual commuter thing, and fell asleep all the way home. No doubt I had my mouth open and was dribbling but I don't care and woke up when the train clicked across to come into Colchester station. That change in the sound of the track always woke me up and it worked again today.
Gorgeous day - a good friend, good books, good food - who could want more? And I get to go to bed tonight with the serene thought that I don't have to get back on the train and commute in the morning.
Oh how I love being retired....