Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Dream of England - Day Seven


     This is our last full day in England. I have planned our trip well and have few regrets, but there is one small thing nagging at me: I wish I had purchased one of the Roman coins for sale in a shop I visited on Portobello Road. My husband insists we take the tube up to Notting Hill after breakfast and buy a coin before traveling on to the British Museum. I would dearly love to know whose likeness is stamped on my coins.

     It seems surreal to me that as I view the iconic artifacts on display in the British Museum, I am carrying two chips of antiquity in my own pocket. Again, there is too much to see in one day. We visit the ancient Near East, Roman Britain and Medieval Europe exhibits. I learn that Rameses II erected more colossal statues of himself than any other pharaoh and encouraged popular cults in which he was deified. He even reworked the facial features of the statues of previous kings to resemble his own. Hubris, the oldest of failings. The poem, Ozymandias, by Percy B. Shelley is written about one of these colossi. I see the broken fragments displayed around the museum and remember these lines:

And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

     My husband is fascinated with the Rosetta Stone. He has been here before, but he wants to share the thrill of it with me. I linger over the Roman and Saxon helmets and cloak pins. And the treasure hoard of Sutton Hoo. I have read of its discovery, but I didn't know a portion of it was housed at the British Museum. These things we are seeing give shape to the dusty images of the distant past. What feels like shadows and sounds like myth moves closer, becomes real. It's like fist bumping a pharaoh.

     Time travel works up one's appetite and we stop at Pret for one last crayfish and avocado salad. Would you think less of us if I confess it is the fourth one this week?  

     Bloomsbury is also the home of the London Review Bookshop. I pick up H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald. The cover art has lured me. The synopsis sounds promising. I scan a few pages and paragraphs and the writing seems good. Has anybody out there read this book? No matter, I have broken my rule again and bought it. I just don't see how I can come all this way to London and then go home again without a book or two by British authors in my luggage.

      My husband sits on the sofa by the front window and takes photos of me looking at books. He says the outfit I am wearing today looks literary. He knows how to charm a girl. We stop for tea at the tiny cakeshop next door. My coffee drinking husband orders a pot of tea that tastes and smells like a campfire. Oh my, the day is passing too quickly.

     We have eaten some tasty meals while in England, but we have saved what we hope will be the best dinner until our last evening. Of course, it could turn out all wrong since we have never been here before and Google is not foolproof; but as it happens, it is one of the best meals I have ever eaten. The restaurant is across the street from St. Barnabas Church in Pimlico, and the 19th century church has a charm of its own.

     We are seated one floor above the street and I look to my right to see the peak of the old church framed beautifully in the paned windows. The evening sun breaks through the clouds and paints shifting leaf shadows on the gray stone walls. A crow flies past and perches on a chimney pot. I am feeling bubbles again, effervescence.

     My husband orders pollock with lemon mash and asparagus tips. I order rabbit saddle and confit leg wrapped with pancetta, grilled spring onions and mustard fruits. We share bites. Oh heavens, the chef is an artist. It is the kind of meal one should eat slowly, savor every bite. The portions are not large so there is room for dessert. We share those too. Mine is the best: lemon posset with passionfruit jelly and crushed mint meringues. If only I could prepare food like this. If only I could describe food like this. I need Molly at remedial eating to potion the words for it.

     Twilight lingers this far north, but it is late. I am counting my blessings as we walk back to the tube station in the chilly dark. I do not take any of this evening for granted. I am supremely happy. It has been a perfect first trip to London and it has been a perfect way to end it. My dream of England isn't a dream any is a memory.


  1. and thank you so much for eloquently sharing those memories with us.
    ... til next time!

  2. It has been a delight to see your joy in discovering England in these posts. Many happy memories to you now!

  3. You have been on these shores, dear Nib? But I would have commandeered the helicopter from Taizhou and rushed back to show you the sights, my dear!

  4. Dear nibs, I'm quite sad that your travel log has come to an end. I have so enjoyed it. Well I guess like all good books I'll have to read it again.

  5. Oh what a trip of a life-time ! You write so well about what you've seen , done, and eaten I want to visit every place you described and eat what you ate.

    The museum and the history captured my attention and I would love to hear you talk even more about your trip.