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london: the third

April 13, 2009

paul's bakery

March 5, 2009

Sitting outside Paul’s bakery by South Kensington Station, at  a little table, under a warm sun, working my way through an americano and salmon spinach quiche and more words than my mouth can house.  This seems to be where the French converge, a home away from home.  I remember this bakery from Paris, another lifetime ago when it was you holding my hand and we talked of all the places we would go together but you opened the cage door and I flew out and I must admit that I am happy to be perched here alone.  And that is what I want to write on your postcard but I’ll probably write the clichéd wish you were here instead.

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The clouds gather as if plotting a secret shower then break apart and go their separate ways to expose blue skies.  So far, the plot hasn’t thickened.  The beauty of gray skies is that they make surrounding colors pop and give everything a vintage look.  All the flower pots in all the windowsills, the red doors and blue buildings, the secret gardens tucked behind thick iron gates  and daffodils bowing by the sidewalk seem saturated.  As if they they are trying to seduce the sun and lure it into coming back.

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When the sun comes out, it outshines everything and washes landscapes with light; colors pale in comparison.   And although I am a sun worshiper by nature, I also love sky drama, particularly when there is that one little tiny patch of blue in a sea of gray.  That there?  That little spot in the sky is my definition of hope.

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After coffee, I wander as I am wont to do.  I have become quite fond of the naked chestnut trees lining the streets with their seed pods hanging like ornaments; spiky balls dangling from long strings.  And of course, I laugh when I come across St. Loo Avenue, because that is just the kind of kid I am.

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Eventually, I find my way to the water’s edge where I stumble upon a secret meeting of a small flock of crows.  They walk in a single line and appear to be very pensive, as if discussing their disappointment in the human race and what they are going to do about it.  The graceful swan gliding by is in perfect contrast, both in color and imagery.

***

I love how the museums in London are free… as it should be, yes?  I roam the Natural History Museum to see the Wildlife Photographer exhibit, which blows my stinky socks right off.   I then hop over to the V&A where I am very tempted to touch the sculptures; smooth bronzed and creamy-colored skin, immortalized expressions, cold to the touch (or so I imagine).  I also quite fancy the fashion collection and this dress in particular.

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In the early evening, I walk into Harrod’s… I last all of 5 minutes before walking right back out.  Susannah had warned me about going there, telling me to avoid it at all cost.  She was right.  The building is lit up at night, which is lovely and enticing but it is chaos on the inside.  Let not the twinkling lights fool you, it is a maze of shops in there.  A mall.  A very fancy mall to be sure but a mall none-the-less and if you know me at all, you know that I don’t do malls.  Just not the mall type, nor the shopping type for that matter and definitely not the crowd type.  A + B + C = D, where D equals remove yourself from the premises.

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The subway gets pretty busy at 6pm on weekdays and people squeeze in so that they don’t have to wait for the next train (it’s called the “I want to get the hell home” syndrome).  So I am standing there and so is the train, for a good few minutes, then I hear over the intercom, in a polite tone, calm voice and British accent (I guess I am stating the obvious but it is so much bettah when you can put a propah voice to the words):

Ladies and gentleman, no need to pack yourselves in like sardines, there is a train 1 minute behind us, literally one minute behind us.  Please step away from the yellow line.

He must have asked people to step away from the yellow line 3 times.  In Montreal, you take your chances.  They don’t ask you to step away from the doors.  They don’t even really tell you to either.  They simply close the doors  and if you happen to be in between them when they shut, you are the cheese in a subway door sandwich, my friends.  Of course, the doors open back up and you squeeze through with a bruise on your ego and maybe even one on your person.  I have seen it, people.  It’s pretty funny.   But this announcer slays me with his sarcastic use of the word literally.  While everyone is thinking can we please be on our merry fucking way, I am the crazy Canadian cracking up in a corner.

***

I must take a minute to talk about the English sense of humour, because it is a brand of humour I subscribe to wholeheartedly.  Susannah gave me this book, which perfectly describes what I am talking about.

“England and the English claim two muses as their own.  The first is history and the second is humour.  The English also know that they have more jokes work telling than anyone else.  A sense of humour is as necessary to being English as a sense of the past.  To accuse an Englishman of lacking or losing his sense of humour is tribal blightiness.  The ability to give and take a joke is almost a definition of being English, and the inability is often used as the demarcation line between belonging and being other — a foreigner.”  – A.A. Gill, The Angry Island

So true.  No wonder I love this place and its people so much.  A girl afflicted blessed with a case of the giggles fares well surrounded by the English.  On my first night in London, Joe and I watched skits of some of his favorite comedians.  This one nearly killed me.

***

Finally, I go to Joe’s mom’s place for dinner.  It all feels delightfully English.   What it is that makes it English, I don’t know, can’t quite put my finger on it.  Is it the banter between Joe, his mom and his brother (wit with a deep undercurrent of love), the accent, the food, the kitchen, the giant table, the way they say saltines instead of crackers…  Or simply because I am in England surrounded by English people.  That’s probably all it is.  Either way, it’s all very lovely.

It is my last night in London.  I’m not ready to say good-bye but adventure beckons and I have something to look forward to.  Tomorrow, I make my way to Bath to meet this amazing beauty.  I am in for a treat.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. safstar permalink
    April 13, 2009 1:25 pm

    Brilliant, absolutely brilliant!
    Come back soon, please.

    xoxo

  2. April 13, 2009 6:49 pm

    oh…I’m so loving all of your shots from this trip. I’m drowning in “ohhh, I so want to do this.”

  3. April 13, 2009 10:53 pm

    Amazing shots again. That one with you and the green dress is so cool!

  4. April 14, 2009 2:59 am

    Essentially the English sense of humour involves just taking the piss out of everything 😉 xxx

  5. April 14, 2009 10:07 am

    You got so much out of that trip. Memories to last for a lifetime.

  6. April 14, 2009 10:21 am

    such a wonderful post, i got lost in it for a while…and it lovely.

  7. April 16, 2009 1:59 am

    Scrumptious opening shot, interesting innuendo accompaniment. Love the colors in the next pics…the ethereal purple…and that blue…where else can you find a building painted in such a hue? My eyes strain and squint to extend the focal point beyond those first pink florets…to no avail. The chestnuts make for an interesting silhouette, Harrods frightens me…and Eddie Izzard is in a league of his own. My oldest son first introduced me to his humor. He is a card.

    Thanks for sharing. Nice post.

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