A very full day in London, first visiting the remarkable Great Diary Project at the Bishopsgate Institute, a quiet refuge in the bustling City of London that is home to a remarkable collection of diaries and scrapbooks donated by generations of ordinary scribblers dating back centuries. I spent some time talking to the director in whispered voice as she sat at a desk surrounded by presumably new dairy intakes in an austere old reading room and then looked through a few old diaries, one kept by a woman from 1957 through the 1990’s that began with the memorable words “Mother died today.” That grabbed me and kept me reading.
Onto the gorgeously revived St. Pancreas and Kings Cross stations, in a once grotty but now rapidly gentrifying North London chunk of Camden. Francine and I had a pricey shared Ploughmans at Betjeman Pub in St. Pancreas, named after the famous writer John B. who helped save St. Pancreas from demolition. I walked around nearby Granary Square, bordered by massive old dark brick industrial buildings that have been spiffed up and converted into an art college (with hipsters playing ping pong in an entry way with stories-high ceilings), fancy shops, an amazing looking Waitrose, of course, clever site specific sculpture and on the day I visited, a craft and food market. It seems like every time I visit London, I find another new dynamic neighborhood– and this at a time when Britons are heavy-hearted and deeply worried as the deadline for Brexit fast approaches.
I am now in a charming late 18th/early 19th century “terrace house” overlooking the sea on Beach Road in the charming small Kent town of Deal. Our friend Una kindly rented the place from friends but arrives tomorrow. Francine, Russ and I took the train from St. Pancreas, an easy, albeit pricey, 1.5 hour train ride. (Cheaper for Francine and Russ who now get incredible discounts on public transport because they are both 60.)
I should add that my day flight on American from Chicago to Heathrow was surprisingly pleasant. Only thing bad was the food. The flight was pretty empty. I wasn’t the only one who had a three seat row to myself. We arrived 1/2 hour early at Heathrow and at 10: 15 pm there was a very short line at passport control. I carried on my suitcase so I got out even earlier into the awaiting arms of my dear pals Francine and Russ who whisked me off to their lovely house in Mortlake. Ahhh England.