London is big.
But it feels oddly familiar. Is it because I’ve been reading London for so many years?
London has a lot of new stuff built on top of old stuff. Often, it copes with its excess of history by installing a plaque so that passersby can discover that something else stood here, or that remains still exist, but under here. But even with all the new stuff, there’s still a lot of old stuff to be seen, too. Today I went to the National Portrait Gallery and stood in front of Elizabeth I and John Donne and Shakespeare and Anne Boleyn. Ben Jonson looked contemporary. Maybe it was his simple shirt and haircut. I’m trying to remember which man was wearing a pearl earring. I think it was Sir Walter Ralegh, who lived to a ripe old age, unlike the majority of people whose likenesses hang in the Tudor and Stuart rooms.
So much changes, but the human face remains the same. Compelling in its mortality, and conveyance of individual spirit.
I’ve done so much since arriving Friday morning. I shall list it all here, mostly so as not to forget.
My flight was late. Nath met me at the airport, and we took the tube directly to lunch at Two Roads (my UK publisher). They served a fabulous plum and pistachio cake from a place called Cake & Co., and I did indeed record a video after applying mascara, which may or may not have made a difference but I felt better about it. Nath and I returned by taxi to her house, and I had a power nap, and changed, and went out for a late supper with Anansi (my Canadian publisher). Nath’s husband Craig accompanied me, for which I was truly grateful, because the trains were confusing, with lines closed here and there, and it was after midnight by the time we were riding home with the tipsy crowds. I saw a few stories waiting to be written.
Yesterday, I dragged myself out of bed by 9AM. After breakfast, Nath and I walked all over the City of London, and saw the sights (along with all the other tourists). We saw St. Paul’s Cathedral, walked across the Millennium Bridge, saw the Tate but did not go in, saw the Globe, walked across the Tower Bridge, and around the Tower of London. I also registered from my reader card at the British Library and we wandered around the Treasures room. Books! Manuscripts! Scores! I was in heaven. And I get to go back again tomorrow and spend the whole day there. (Nath and I also had lunch at this ramen place. We think Waterloo needs a ramen place just like it.)
This morning I went for a run in Greenwich Park. I did not get lost and I did not get hit by a bus. And I wore shorts and a tank top. (Kevin texted to say that at home this morning it was -8 and felt like -13 with the wind chill. What is wrong with the weather???) I’m feeling oriented now and even rode the bus and tube in to lunch today by myself. I had lunch with Claire (my US publisher) and my agent Hilary, and then Hilary and I shopped for football souvenirs for our kids and husbands, after which Nath and I went to the National Portrait Gallery, which brings you right up to date.
We’re home now. Dusk is falling. The world out my window is lush and green and a bit damp.
(No photos till I’m home, but I’m taking lots. For now, text must do.)