Walking in the World

Tag Archives: London

Reflections in London

I’m feeling drawn to London lately, with its cosmopolitan flair and colourful neighbourhoods. Often it’s woolly things that beckon me into the big city, but yesterday was all about meandering in search of labyrinths and mazes, on foot, train, and bus. Sunshine, spring blossoms, and maze-y artistry are a great lift to the spirits, and our sense of exploration and play helped to dispel the dark violence that invaded our week on Wednesday.

Victory Park Mirror Labyrinth

We met a friend at the Mirror Labyrinth in Victory Park to admire the artistry and play with our fractured reflections, then caught the 97 bus to Leyton where we visited Coronation Gardens with its gentle but profound juxtapositioning of old and new, serious and fun. To get to the hedge maze at the far end of the park, for instance, we passed by a particularly inclusive war memorial that honours all who served the war effort, women as well as men, a reminder not only of war but of equality – issues that are still in the limelight today.

Leyton Coronation Gardens

But further into the park is this sweet little maze, imaginatively evoking the manor houses and grand gardens of the past. I call it a sweet maze because I found it to be inviting rather than confounding. The hedges are only about waist-high to an adult, so there isn’t ever a sense of being seriously lost, though to a child, there would still be a sense of adventure in navigating the paths. I loved it.

Coronation Gardens Hedge Maze

Leaving the gardens, we walked back up the road to Leyton Underground Station in search of more of the labyrinth plaques from the Art on the Underground project – it’s become a London tradition to seek out the black and white plaques as we travel around the city. This one and the one at Leytonstone, one stop up the line, took us into small waiting rooms alongside the tracks – a feature I had never noticed before. I am always appreciative of a quest that helps me focus on details that I would otherwise overlook.

Leytonstone Labyrinth

Similarly, as we slowed down to search for the labyrinth plaque, I also had time to notice the other signs along the platform, pausing as I came face to face with Winston Churchill, whose message is as pertinent in our modern world as it was in wartime Britain.

26 Mar 2017

My Inner Gudrun

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After a morning of immersion into the artistry of the medieval world at the V&A on Saturday, Jeff and I re-entered modern London and went our separate ways for the afternoon. I have recently been taking a new interest in the fashion world, carefully considering the way I show up in the world. Where do I conform, comfortably or not? Where do I rebel? Who do I want to be when I grow up? Because we work from home and most of our ventures out into the world are of a casual nature (and because I’m always cold), I tend to wear a standard uniform of jeans and sweaters. I think I clean up pretty well, but I don’t show up with the character and verve that I admire in others. I’m lucky enough to be living into old(er) age, so I’m thinking I might as well show up in colour!

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This all started when I was walking through Covent Garden with a friend last year and stumbled onto a colourful storefront that drew me like a magnet. Gudrun Sjoden. We went in and tried on a few things, but I was overwhelmed by the character and choice. And then the same thing happened in Stockholm in September. Same store, same experience, different country. The moment I crossed the threshold, I knew it was Gudrun. Again, I tried things on, but couldn’t decide… so I came home and studied my Gudrun catalogues carefully.

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I looked at women wherever I went, and I experimented with my existing wardrobe. Biding my time, I designated Saturday afternoon as my style pilgrimage. I went back to Gudrun’s Covent Garden store alone, tried on piles of clothes in varying styles and colours (to the point of exhaustion), squinted at my reflection with what I hoped was a lovingly critical eye. For hours. I probably drove the saleswomen nuts…. but in the end I had a good sense of my Gudrun profile, and I bought a couple of pieces that feel both edgy and perfectly right for me. For once, I didn’t settle, didn’t listen to anyone… I chose.

Gudrun has taught me some things: 1) it’s ok to be true to ourselves, even when we’re past 60. Or maybe especially when we’re past 60! One of her models has long grey hair… 2) Style can be playful and fun; 3) I can wear dresses and leggings; 4) it’s fun to show up in the world; 5) I really look best in darker clothes with colourful accessories; 6) I look best in clothes with a little shaping (who knew?); 7) I like my colour and style to be a bit coordinated, with an elegantly funky undertone; 8) I don’t like frills and ruffles; 8) layering is a life-altering experience.

Although my body has some sags and bumps, it tells my story. It’s a good strong body and I have a creative spirit who wants to play with colour and style, now more than ever!

07 Nov 2016

Opus Anglicanum

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We were lured into London yesterday by a wonderful exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery. We arrived when the doors opened yesterday, hoping to beat any crowds later in the day. Even though it is a ticketed event, we knew we’d want time to linger and press our noses up against the glass cases for a closer look. Interestingly, most of our fellow visitors were male – I’d expected to be crowded in with an audience of primarily female stitchers.

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No photography is allowed, presumably to protect the fragile fabrics, but there is an enormous book available in the gift shop – we ordered one to be shipped directly to our doorstep so we wouldn’t have to lug it with us for the rest of the day. (The photos above are from advertisements on the museum website.)

The wonderfully curated collection features exquisitely stitched items from around Europe, some of which have not been seen in Britain since they were produced many centuries ago. Most of the stitchers were professional craftsmen, primarily men, though some women also worked on them. Many of the items were copes and other religious vestments that were commissioned by Europeans seeking the best embroidery available.

The detail was truly remarkable. Not only did we enjoy searching out familiar religious symbols and motifs, but we also marveled at the accuracy with which people and animals were depicted. Jeff could actually identify the species of the stitched birds,still completely recognizable today. And I was delighted to see that the depictions of my pilgrim saint, St. James, were complete with tiny cockleshells and pilgrim attire.

It would be impossible for me to choose a favourite. I loved the many and varied depictions of Mary, each a miniature masterpiece that introduced me to the artist’s vision of the Virgin. But the contents of the last case really took my breath away – a stitched coffin pall loaned by the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers. Adorned with sea creatures, including double-tailed mermaids, it is a stunning dimensional piece of embroidery, and truly representational of the thriving fish industry in London, then as now.

Then, too, there were the little Green Man faces on a cope that was later re-purposed and made into several smaller objects when religious copes fell out of favour during the Reformation, and actually became quite dangerous to own. Reunited but not resewn, and illustrated with modern digital imaging, the pieces now tell a bigger story of English history.

It truly pains me not to be able to show you photos from the exhibit, but perhaps my words will inspire you to visit them for yourself – and that is always the best way to experience such beauty and craftsmanship. If you’ll be in London before mid-February, don’t miss it! At the very least, go linger on the Opus Anglicanum webpage to admire some close-ups of featured items. If you’re interested in embroidery, you’ll love this video on The Making of Medieval Embroidery.

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Afterwards, we wandered the V&A’s labyrinth of halls and stairways (which are beautiful in their own right) to navigate our way to a favourite piece of Gothic Revival furniture way up on the 4th level.

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Fortunately, photography is allowed in that part of the museum, and there was a helpful guard available to shut off the alarm when the camera got too close.

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It just wouldn’t seem right to leave without seeing it one more time!

06 Nov 2016

Collision of My Worlds

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I went into in London to take a textiles class yesterday, and lingered well into the evening for dinner and an after-dark wander back to Fenchurch Street. Most impressive was peeking into the deserted Leadenhall Market which was the setting for the original Diagon Alley in the first Harry Potter movie. Equally fun, though, was stopping to look at the advertising on the bus stops:

london-signs

Apparently London is not only open, but it also really loves San Francisco:

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And there you have my life in a nutshell: London, San Francisco, growing up in the 60’s, and a bit of literary fantasy.

16 Oct 2016

On the Town

Today wasn’t the brightest of days in old London Town, but the skyline never fails to delight. No matter how long I live in this green and pleasant land, I will never get past the thrill of getting off the train, turning the corner, and seeing the Tower of London up ahead. You know you’re in London when you see this in front of you:

Tower

And this famous weathervane high atop Trinity House behind you:

Maritime

We were celebrating a birthday with a yarn crawl, visiting the best  yarn shops our capitol has to offer. En route we caught glimpses of famous landmarks like the London Eye:

EyeSkyline

And modern labyrinths decorating the walls of the tube stations (like this one in Waterloo station):

WaterlooLaby

Following our quest, we braved the escalator at Angel tune station which used to be the longest in the world (it is now the fourth longest in western Europe):

AngelTube

Did we find our yarn? This smile says it all:

EmmaLoop

Happy birthday to the other American in the village!

26 Feb 2016

London with Kids

Tardis

I love how the very nature of London seems to change depending on who you’re with. Today was absolutely brilliant! With two small kids in tow, a friend and I took the train into London for the day. We walked past the old Roman wall across from the Tower of London, then made our way to Covent Garden where we visited the gardens at St. Paul’s Church to eat our pre-lunch snacks, chase the “pidges,” and admire the various structures and statues that are in the grounds.

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Maze

When that grew old, we headed over to the London Transport Museum for the rest of the afternoon. Now, that’s a place for a girl like me! Travel runs in my veins, and I love just about anything that gets me from one place to another, so I enjoyed it as much as my pint-sized companions.

Museum

Bus

23 Oct 2015

Lovely London!

Tower

London is just up the road from us, but it usually takes an out-of-town visitor to lure me into the city. Today I met up with good friends from the US for a day of gentle wandering and exploration. The River Thames has been a major artery for as long as London has been a city, and we spent much of our day wandering along its embankments, appreciating the sense of history and enjoying its international culture and cuisine.

Tower Bridge

We met up at Trinity Gardens just across from the Tower of London, then walked across Tower Bridge and headed west past many of London’s famous landmarks.

ShardThe sun played peek-a-boo with us as we meandered, forming a halo around the Shard as the sky reflected the moods of the rising tide. Just outside the Tate Modern, we stopped to visit with RSPB volunteers who had set up telescopes to let people get a glimpse of the peregrine falcons high up on a neighbouring skyscraper. They were an inspiring pause before we went into the gallery to marvel at mankind’s creative genius as manifested in the array of intriguing, often enigmatic and thought-provoking, art on display.

StPauls

From there, it was back across the river as we walked on the elegant Millennial Bridge with its stunning views of St Paul’s Cathedral, Christopher Wren’s architectural masterpiece.

Ethiopian FoodWe ate street food at Burrough Market and washed it down with Sangria — because we could!  I just may have fallen in love with Ethiopian food, all of which was gluten free – a real boon for me!

Labyrinth

Leaving the mighty River Thames behind, we took the Underground to Oxford Circus – this plaque greeted us as we walked into the London Bridge station.

LibertyMaypole

After the peace and conviviality of our river walk, it was a bit of a shock to emerge at Oxford Circus with its great hordes of frenzied shoppers. We joined the throng, eventually making our way to the lovely Liberty of London where this lovely beribboned creation took our breath away and restored our faith in modern creativity.

Tower Hamlets

Saying goodbye (until tomorrow when my friends will come to stay with us here in Thundersley), I made my way back to Tower Hill and headed back out of London on the train where there was one last surprise in store for me. Glancing up from my book, I was stunned to see this lovely little labyrinth on the edge of the tracks — a complete surprise, one I didn’t know anything about. I didn’t have a chance to grab my camera, so this is a download from Google Earth. (The labyrinth is in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. I guess that will have  to be a pilgrimage for another day! Information about it can be found in the Labyrinth Locator if you simply enter London into the city field.)

17 Aug 2015

Kensington

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After Lea left for the airport, I decided to take advantage of a free day in London by making a personal pilgrimage to Kensington. Like many Americans, I’m fascinated by Britain’s royalty, especially our two longest reigning monarchs, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. I’ve wanted to visit Kensington Palace, the grandiose “home” which has figured prominently in the lives of these women who have walked in my imagination for so many years.

Ceiling Decoration

Seeing a few of the objects that would have figured in Queen Victoria’s life and seeing the decor she would have seen felt significant. And like most of us, I can never forget the iconic images of Kensington Palace as they were beamed around the world in the dark days following Princess Diana’s death.

Kensington Palace

Most of the public area is of historic, not modern importance, and I was particularly interested in learning what I could of Queen Victoria’s life. In addition to the rooms permanently on display, there are two special exhibits at the moment, Victoria Revealed and Fashion Rules.

I found it oddly moving to see dresses I have seen in photographs. I am not someone who follows fashion, so it was the personal connection to these women and the stories I have heard about their lives that moved me, more than the designs.

Similarly, seeing Diana’s clothes touched a chord in me, reminding me of the way in which she touched so many hearts, worldwide.

 

 

24 Mar 2015

Geek Quest

My inner geek has had a field day today. We came into London on the train, checked into our hotel, then headed out in search of notebooks, journals, and stationery supplies. Seriously, there is some cool stuff out there,  and we logged nearly 20,000 steps in pursuit of our writerly quest.

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A whole store devoted to all things Moleskine! Who knew?

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And another filled to capacity with maps and travel goodies. Combining all that with good food and a great companion makes for my idea of heaven.

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I may have had  a bit too much fun picking out a new notebook for my Morning Pages.

20 Mar 2015

Into London

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London’s Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are thrilling in any weather, but the afternoon sun made everything look its best as we walked through the park en route to the splendid Victoria and Albert Museum. I loved the football game casually taking place in front of the Royal Albert Memorial.

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25 Feb 2015

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