Something I meant to mention in my Enkirche blog, but which I left out - because I was writing it in the middle of a small sitting room with at least fifty people holding seventy five different, animated conversations around me - was the music that we came across in our mountain trek. All the way along the path across the top of the mountains, are placards with hiking songs on them, lyrics and music both, some with harmonisation as well, put up in the hopes of boosting the morale of the weary traveller. Personally, I think that would be a great thing to extend to life in general - wouldn't it be wonderful if every five years of one's life one had a special, morale boosting song to sing whilst navigating the torturous path?
We went to London today. Juliette was meant to be meeting my mother-in-law to go see Cirque de Soleil at the Albert Hall. I had been planning it in my head for a while.
My plan went thus: We would all go up together, bright and early, buy a nice picnic from M&S and then have a lovely wander through Hyde Park, taking time to play with squirrels a la Snow White, (all bathed in the halcyon light of winter sunshine, childish wonder and familial love) enjoy the monuments, maybe take in a ride in a silly boat on the Serpentine, before meeting my mother-in-law on the steps outside the Albert Hall, whilst impressing the children with the imposing facade of my once nearly home for four years, the Royal College of Music. The remnants of the party would then educate themselves by perusing the museums until time to meet up with Juliette again.
This is how the day really went.
After losing my rag with the children, we finally made it out of the door by 11:30, Sam moaning all the way to the train station because his shoes had worn down to a thin piece of sharp metal at the heel. Were lucky enough to catch a train immediately - so immediately that Sam did not notice the £20 that must have fluttered from his pocket as he ran for the train. Got to Knightsbridge where I had misremembered the existence of a Marks and Spencers. Eventually found an H&M - the only shop in the area which sold shoes under £300 - dragged a reluctant 13 year old through the female section and bought the cheapest shoes available, whilst 13 year old moaned and groaned and carried on as though I was trying to kill him, by buying him shoes which wouldn't hurt him with every step. Then raced down to Hyde Park Corner, took out a mortgage to buy some sandwiches at Pret a Manger, legged it to Hyde Park, gulped said sandwiches down before setting off at a brisk pace towards the Albert Hall.
"Oh look Mum, there's a squirrel, isn't it sweet?"
"But Mum, you've got to take a picture!"
"But Mum, it's so sweet, can't we stop and play with it?"
Got to Albert Hall in time. Met Granny, disposed of Juliette.
"Look children, there's the Royal College of Music where I studied for four ye- "
"Can we go to the museums now please because we're soooo cold?"
"You know, children, I spent four years there. I met so many people, had so many friends it was the place where - "
"Yes, can we go to the museums please?"
So went to museums. Now, have to just say here that this part of London - Kensington, Knightsbridge, Gloucester Road - is my favourite part of London, not just because I spent four interesting/miserable years there. It seems to me to have all the best parts of London in it - it has history, it has great architecture, it is full of embassies which makes it cosmopolitan, as well as being quintessentially English. It has broad roads with grand Georgian terraces, as well as, if you look closely, tiny alleyways lined with ancient mews houses. It has wonderful museums, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the V&A. It has shops and yet is also residential. And, on top of all that, it seems to shelter an England that has died out in most other places. There aren't many other parts of England where you will see a family with several boys, ranging from seven years old to teenagers, all with beautifully combed, short back and sides and wearing identical outfits - perfectly ironed, collared shirts, V neck jumpers, corduroy trousers and lace up, brown leather shoes. The mothers and daughters wear knee length navy skirts, navy tights and dark woollen jumpers and wear Alice bands in their hair and a string of pearls, whilst the Fathers wear chinos and a collared shirt and a tweed jacket. They walk slowly and politely and obviously live out their lives doing slow polite things on the Cromwell Road - when they're not dressing up in red coats and taking part in gymkhanas, or chasing and killing defenceless animals, I suppose. Today I even saw a lady pushing what could only be described as a perambulator.
Anyway. Had a look at the Red Zone of the Natural History Museum, which was full of incredible fossils and all sorts of rocks etc. Then decided to go to the V&A for a cuppa as had heard that it was good for that and we were in sore need of it by then. However, the cafe looked like feeding time at the zoo, so we gave up on that, simply whizzing around the fashion section to look at their wonderful collection of fashion through the ages - well, from 1700 something to 1900 something - then made it back to the NHM. The cafe there was much quieter so we ordered coffee for me and pots of tea for Lydia and Sam. I don't know if it's meant to be a posh way of serving tea now, but was faintly horrified when their tea pots turned up with what looked like old sanitary towels hanging out of them. However, thankfully, it turned out that they were merely weird let's-use-as-much-paper-as-we-can-tea-bags-to-try-and-look-different, after all.
Much restored by caffeine, we then ventured back into the Museum proper - the green and blue zones - and spent another very happy hour or so mooching around looking at dead things and models of Blue Whales. The museum was due to close at 5:30 and we weren't due to meet Juliette and Nancy till 6 so had been worrying as to where we would hang out for half an hour, without catching hypothermia, but luckily we weren't turfed out till 6. Which meant we only had to hang around waiting for half an hour, as Nancy and Juliette had tried walking to High Street Kensington Tube Station, instead of South Kensington, where we had agreed to meet. We eventually found each other, however and none of us has yet had to make an emergency dash to hospital so all is well and good.