We had planned to go into London today. I wanted to take the kids to St Paul's and then across the millenium bridge to the Southbank and along the river. However, when the girls didn't get to sleep till midnight, due to a series of over tired spats and coughing fits (Juliette had apparently hidden the hairbrush - as one does - and Lydia had apparently deliberately used up all the hot water) I began to realise that things might not go to plan. Then, when I was woken up at 4am by Sam vomiting in the toilet, any hope I had of seeing the city I love most, went up in smoke.
So my sister Bernadette has taken the girls ice skating at Gadebridge park and I am sitting at home in front of Top Gear with the HO instead. Part of me is dreading going back to Oz, saying goodbye to all my sisters, returning to Oz without having accomplished one of my biggest dreams - to go to the Wigmore Hall (all the concerts I wanted to go to were sold out), without having seen half the people I really wanted to see, without another tour of London; but a part of me is longing for blue skies, to see my lovely dog and, most of all to see Rupert again. It is costing a fortune in international calls to my mobile here, as much as anything else! And my heart nearly broke when he said that, with only him in the house, there is no point in loading the dishwasher....how's that for a measure of loneliness?
It's been snowing a lot these last few days. Thick fat soft snow which coats the roads and pavements like icing and makes you feel as though you are walking around on top of a massive Christmas cake. Snow which has closed a lot of schools so that the streets have been full of gleeful children being pulled along by their parents on bright pink and red sledges. Snow that melts and freezes over night, making the roads treacherous and forcing people to abandon their cars. Snow that is so cold that I have to mince along in my made-for-a-Brisbane-winter-boots, in order not to fall flat on my bum to begin with and then because I can't feel my toes. Snow that has caused trains and even planes to be cancelled...
We did manage a trip to London the other day. The idea was to meet up with Rupert's parents at their office on Great Portland street at 12 so that we could have lunch and then Sam could go off with Grandpa for a mosey round the Natural History Museum and we females could go shopping for presents. But I was determined to see something of London as well, so I bullied the kids into going to Trafalgar square first. We got the tube to Leicester Square and walked from there.
"How far is it? Why do we have to walk? Why can't we drive? Why can't we just go straight to see Granny and Grandpa?"
I did my best to hold my head up high and stride on, convinced that once the children were standing in the great square itself, all argument would cease. We came down Charing Cross Road and there was Trafalgar Square, the water of the fountains sparkling in the winter sunshine, the clean, now pigeonless stone of the statues shining gold. Whitehall stretched ahead of us, covered in a milky mist, the spires and domes of Westminster floating, ghost like in the air. This is the London I love, the London of Jane Austen and Dickens and John Garfield; the London of blood thirsty Tudors, plotting Admirals, evil Earls, lusting Lords. (Okay, also the London of Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron, but we can gloss over that.) Looking at the plunging horses and proud lions caught in stone, my heart swelled with excitement.
"You've got to be joking," Sam said. "Please don't tell me that we have to go into the art Gallery."
"Well we only have twenty minutes," I replied, "so it won't kill you."
And indeed it didn't. The fact that he went straight to the toilets and then went straight outside again to wait, may have helped to save his life of course, though I have my doubts. The girls and I headed inside and I discovered a love for Degas - I've always loved Degas, but never really realised how infinitely superior to every other French artist he is. And yes, I did say that. I would have been happy to spend twenty minutes just looking at Degas, but unfortunately, the girls wanted to see more. But I was thrilled when we got to see another painting I have always admired - the Ambassadors, by Hans Holbein. I have always wondered what the funny, bony stick thing was in the foreground and was excited into a state suitably embarrassing to my Tweens when I realised that it appears as a skull, when viewed from the right. And I am sorry if I am displaying my deepest ignorance, but that's the way it is. The Tweens couldn't quite see what the big deal was, but then again, with all the 3D pictures and movies etc that have been just an accepted part of their childhood, I guess that's sadly understandable.
Anyway, after our whistle stop tour of the National Gallery, it was up Regent Street to Oxford Circus.
"This used to be one of the most famous shopping streets in the world, children. People would come here to drive up and down in their carriages, just to be seen."
"Just look up there, at the little dormer windows five flights up those beautiful Georgian buildings. Wouldn't you love to have a little flat up there, and be able to look out over London on a lovely day like this?"
Oh well, I guess my love of London is not rubbing off on the kids as I had hoped.
After lunch I took the girls to Libertys. I remember Libertys as a beautiful, old fashioned shop, full of the scents of lavender and other flowers, bursting with fascinating merchandise, a place where one had to squeeze between tables overflowing with goods, a place where one was bedazzled with colour, with bright Liberty prints, beautiful craftsmanship, perfumes and textures that tantalized and tickled the senses. I had been dying to show it to the girls.It was a great disappointment to find that it has now gone all modern and up market, so that, once inside, one could be in any smart department store - Myers or David Jones in Brisbane, Debenhams, Harvey Nicks, even Harrods (through which we dashed the other day).Yes, there are still the famous Liberty Prints, notebooks and diaries and writing paper, all coved in them, but they are all lined up on neat white shelves in clean, homogenous rows. The soaps and bath wear is all piled up neatly in bright lighting like a Marks and Spencer. If it wasn't for the carved Timber stairs and wrought iron fake timbers round the doors, I'd have had serious trouble interesting the girls at all. Apart from the chocolate shop that is. We did quite well in the chocolate shop, it has to be said.
And that's all for now, must get back to Top Gear. Just can't wait to see what moronic statement JC is going to come up with next. But if this is what it takes to bond with a teenage boy....