It isn’t all doom and gloom in the House of No Seasons. There have been very large bursts of sunlight. Last weekend we visited London as tourists for the first time in about 12 years. It was a whistle stop tour, 48 hours in all, so we restricted our activities to within walking distance of King’s Cross where we were staying.
Husband Underfoot had an afternoon appointment, so we dumped our bags at the hotel and then he deposited me at the British Library. Needless to say I was in absolute bliss. I hadn’t the foresight to secure a reader card for the reading rooms so I had to content myself with the public spaces.
And what spaces they are! There’s a permanent exhibition of the BL treasures. These include an original Magna Carter, a letter jointly written by Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII to Cardinal Wolsey, Jane Austen’s portable writing desk and spectacles, original manuscripts by Hardy and Dickens. A Gutenburg Bible. Absolutely beautiful religious texts from several religions. And on and on.
So many treasures. Yet the one that stood out for me (well, ok, I was obsessed with Anne Boleyn’s letter!) was a diary / scrapbook by an imprisoned suffragette. Olive Wharry was imprisoned in 1913 for helping to burn down Kew Pavillion. It’s a fascinating story and you can read more about it here at the British Library website.
There was also an exhibition on the history of punk in the foyer. The foyer is HUGE so it was a detailed exploration, including a focus on female pioneers of punk. Each section had headphones and access to the music being referred to. It was great to see young people sitting crosslegged on the floor, utterly intent on listening to the music. A ‘punk pop up shop’ was selling punk themed goods including some very expensive books – and tea towels. For £15. I couldn’t have imagined anything less punk if I’d tried!
I lurked in the coffee shop reading, writing and generally people watching with intent over cake and coffee. I sat at the central point, where there is a gloriously constructed central glass cabinet that runs right up to the roof of the library and has many of the books contained from the original British Library Reading Rooms (I saw this at the British Museum when I was 20 – they were mind-blowingly magnificent but horrifically expensive to maintain). Then I got carried away in the bookshop…
Excitement over for Friday, we grabbed a cheap and cheerful pizza and then were both sound asleep by 9pm! We were staying just off Euston Road, right next to a rather gloriously spooky church (sadly shut to tourists over the weekends). From there we walked to the British Museum. Wow! What a place. It had been 24 years since I was last there. Husband Underfoot was blown away at the sheer scale of the building. Glorious. We were early birds so access to the galleries was restricted on our arrival. That was fine – there was great cake and coffee and the mother of all book shops. We spent a long time travelling through the Egyptian and Greek Galleries.
There was so much more to see but it was getting very busy so we trundled off in search of Bloomsbury bookshops. Tea & cake at the awesome London Literary Review, then more books at Atlantis which specialises in myths, legends and magic. I am now very poor!
We trundled on from there to Covent Garden which was crammed with people – it was London Pride after all and while we were on the fringe of it we saw some wonderful outfits. The living statues are amazing there, and the live music just glorious to listen to. In one of the central arcades they’ve coated the ceiling with metal, and it’s like sitting underwater:
Dinner was M&S Simply Food take away – we were worn out! We sat in Bloomsbury Square and Russell Square for a while watching life. London is so busy. It’s nice to visit but I couldn’t live there. Husband Underfoot pointed out there were very few other natural redheads! We counted 5 in the whole weekend. There were also very few bees and wasps – they normally hunt me down and plague me but I didn’t see any in the parks and it was a sunny day.
On Sunday morning we were at Kings Cross / St Pancras just after 7am in search of coffee, Potter and statues. St Pancras International is an amazing station – and very quiet when we were mooching about. There was the obligatory Potter picture, plus one by the Kissing Statue:
Then it was over! At 1pm we headed home from King’s Cross. Had I waited until then I wouldn’t have been able to get my picture taken at Platform 9 & 3/4 – the queues were immense! I was beaten up by small children in the queue in the Potter gift shop but still managed to leave with a Deathly Hallows tee shirt and some of my pride. Children in search of a stuffed Hedwig are not to be thwarted I found!
We’ve resolved not to leave it so long before our next visit – we saw so much, yet in the scheme of things so little. I didn’t make it back to the Wellcome Museum, nor did we manage to do any art galleries. Next time!