So, my trip has come to an end with a few days in London.
I'm not very good at London. It's more than thirty-five years since my first visit to London, when I worked most awkwardly for several months as a shop assistant in the bridal department of a now-defunct department store. Though both London and I have changed greatly over those years, and though I've paid a number of visits in the interim, I still feel uncomfortable in London. I'm not really sure why this is. When I first visited in the 1970s, it had something to do with what I perceived as a condescending attitude to 'colonials', that developed a defensive, 'chip on the shoulder' attitude in me. But London has changed, and Australia as a colony is, if anything, only a distant memory for most of London's current, very multi-cultural inhabitants. Now, I think any discomfort comes mainly from London being strange, but familiar at the same time. In Paris, partly because of language, I am unquestionably a 'foreigner'. My stranger role is well defined. In London, my role as foreigner is less obvious. Maybe my discomfort is just because my identity is unclear, and I don't cope well with lack of clarity.
On this visit it was great to catch up with old friends. Both with friends from Australia, now living in London, and with a new friend made through Ravelry and blogging. With Jane, I visited the yarn shop I Knit in Waterloo. On the evening we were there the shop was crammed with more than thirty people all popping in to knit and chat together - very buzzy. The visit was on the last evening of my trip and I felt unable to cram anything else into my suitcase, so, reluctantly, I bought nothing. But Jane did direct my attention to some wonderful local yarns that I intend to follow up on-line - particularly Blacker Design yarns, and those by JC Rennie.
I had earlier visited Loop in Islington.
It's a cosy, welcoming shop with a very international selection of yarn. I particularly noted some lovely Canadian yarns I'd not seen before such as Hand Maiden's 'Casbah'. I did buy a little - but more of that in a later post.
My other knitting excursion was to Liberty's, where the yarn is still part of the haberdashery department. Most of their yarn stock is Rowan, so there was nothing I'd not seen or at least heard of before. But seeing such stocks of all the Rowan yarns arrayed together was most impressive. A very nice place to linger for a while...
Otherwise? I think I'd really reached the end of my tourist oomph and just managed some old favourite haunts.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, of course, though the recently magnificently revamped jewellery collection, which was one of my primary reasons for visiting, was closed due to a civil service dispute about redundancy provisions. After some grumpy reflection on why the jewellery in particular was a target for industrial action I clearly was able to find many other things to interest me. A rather quirky display that I now find very attractive (I used to be very dismissive of it) is the Cast Courts. These are two very large, very tall areas devoted to exquisite plaster casts of famous (and not so famous) sculptures from many lands.
The collection was initially assembled in Victorian times as a teaching aid to demonstrate, at a time when travel was very expensive and less widely available, the characteristics and beauty of great sculpture. Over time, with the deterioration and sometimes even destruction of the objects of which casts were taken, it also provides pristine replicas of the original sculptures. With our modern passion for 'authenticity', copies and reproductions are not often valued, but perhaps such replicas - beautifully crafted objects in their own right - provide a solution to the issues of appropriation of material culture from other times and cultures.
The other old favourite revisited was the Courtauld Gallery collection - now beautifully hung in Somerset House on the Strand. Enough great impressionist and post-impressionist works to provide a very satisfying visit - including perfect Cezanne
and seductive Matisse.
It's been a most interesting and satisfying holiday - and I think the pleasure has been increased through blogging. I've kept travel diaries before, but never quite so consistently, and never with such coordination of images and words. The blog's identity as a knitting blog has been eclipsed by the travel - but I'll try to remedy this in the next couple of days with an account of my very meagre knitting output over the last few weeks.