“I love walking in London,” said Mrs Dalloway. “Really it’s better than walking in the country.” (Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf)
So true Mrs Dalloway, so true.
One year I decided to go on a trip.
All by myself.
I stayed at a wonderful little bed and breakfast near Victoria Station. A good home base. My tiny little room was on the main floor. I had instant coffee and a biscuit in my room every morning when I woke up. Then I’d go down for the continential breakfast served and have fruit salad, yogurt, and toast and listen to stories from an old woman who had regularly ridden the Orient Express.
Then I’d turn in my key to the front desk
and I’d walk.
I’d walk down Buckingham Road and visit the Palace. Where I’d take the tour and walk through banquet halls and down staircases. I’d lean over the velvet security rope to take a closer look at the Self Portrait as an Allegory of Painting by Artemisia Gentileschi that had jumped out a novel at home and had found itself on a wall in the palace salon. The crowds were small and I could take my time, walking slowing, being steeped in the royalness of the ambience, finding that had I found in the experience the strongest sense of deja vu
deep in my marrow
that I was indeed a princess.
I’d walk down the mall and pop into St. James park where the sea-green and white striped deck chairs would sit mostly empty in a haphazard yet poetic arrangement. And watch the feeding of the pelicans and contemplate their Russian heritage.
I’d continue to Trafalgar Square where I’d reach the National Gallery and be awe struck by da Vinci’s madonna depicted in a number of works and discover new painters to love like George Clausen and Augustus Leopold Egg. I’d learn the extent of Monet’s haunting Thames sequence of paintings curious as to how he viewed his London in comparison to how was I was viewing mine. Stopping at the gallery gift store and buying a novel entitled In the Kingdom of Mists about London and Monet
Out of the National Gallery across the Thames to the Saatchi Gallery where I’d become intriguingly unsettled by the “room”. An installation that consisted of the plastering of walls with the artwork, journal entries and newspaper clippings of a young girl. A girl that had been murdered years before.
Then I’d walk out of the murdered girls life and back into London. Along the Thames, where I’d stop and listen to the cellist playing mournful music in a salmon coloured gown.
I’d find my way back to St. James park where I’d sit in one of the empty striped deck chairs and read, becoming a part of the setting and watch the plot reveal itself around me in a swirl of colour