Monday, August 17, 2009

simple pleasures

This is going to become a bit boring for you, but here it is: I am having a wonderful time in London.

It's been active and busy and I've seen stuff that I've wanted to see for a long time. This weekend it was the Tower of London, the Globe Theatre (from the outside but soon from the inside), and the National Portrait Gallery.

The funny thing is, as much as I've enjoyed those things, what I love most about London is more simple.

I love:

a) London's parks. Yesterday I spent time with a friend from university who lives here now, which in itself made me so happy, but we ended up collapsing onto the grass at St James' Park with exhausted feet and ice creams, and it was possibly the best part of the whole day, regardless of the historical wonders we had seen. And today I simply lay on the grass at the park down the road with a book, in the sun, looking up at the sky and the oak tree above me, feeling like I couldn't ask for anything more in the world. It helps that the weather is my idea of perfection.

b) Just coming across things that seem so novel and exciting to me, that I had no idea were around me. The main examples of this so far are all to do with Austen. It took me four days of studying at the British Library to discover that in the gallery just downstairs was Jane Austen's writing desk, one original volume of her juvenilia, and the original manuscript of Persuasion. On seeing this I just about burst into tears, and I couldn't explain why. The other thing was stumbling, in the National Portrait Gallery today, across the original miniature Cassandra Austen painted of her sister, and the only existing likeness that was taken of Jane Austen. Among the grandeur and the pomp of all these artists and subjects who were trying to impress with bigger or better paintings, this tiny, delicate little piece stood in stark contrast, and reminded me of why I love Austen so much. And the fact that it took me completely by surprise made it even better.

c) Travelling by train and by tube. Don't get me wrong, the tube can be thoroughly unpleasant, especially at rush hour. But it gives me a little satisfied thrill when I jump on and off them like a Londoner, figuring out all the links and changes and timetables. And travelling by overground train is generally less busy and also really rather scenic, if you go far out of central London. I sat on one for half an hour today just gazing out the window and feeling so relaxed.

I'm not saying that it hasn't been great, seeing all these historical and cultural landmarks. They have blown me away. But it's almost like you plan them too much, like you're so busy ticking things off your list that you don't get a chance to take a deep breath and enjoy them. It's not always the case, but it is the danger.

1 comment:

LEstes65 said...

My one trip to London - I was amazed at the parks. We didn't get maps. We'd hop on a bus, jump of when it looked interesting and just walk. I remember standing outside this huge ornate gate. We asked a passing police man, "Is this place something significant?" He looked at us like the idiots we were. "Kensington Palace, ma'am." DOH!