There was a time, before we moved to the countryside and began living the ‘Good Life’ that I fancied myself an out and out city girl, despite my appreciation for the great outdoors. Following years living in Manchester city centre and a heady year in the City of Light, the thought of not needing cafés, bars, art galleries and supermarkets right on my doorstep was at one point unthinkable. How crazy I was. Led astray by an outdoorsy boyfriend and a need to get away from it all, I now can’t imagine life without the hills, sheep and glorious skies of my little moorland village.
Although I appreciate the super-charged energy and immense history of our glorious capital, since I only usually nip down there for meetings I usually just get one huge London-style kick in the gills for a couple of hours before scurrying back to my home town, relieved to be out of the mêlée and able to breathe.
It was therefore a real treat for the boyfriend and I to take advantage of a couple of sneaky days off to go around old London Town in a more leisurely manner and take in a few of the sites like proper tourists. Impossible to see everything we would like to in less than 48 hours but we had a good go all the same. Main stop was Islington and the London Art Fair:
Early last year I was asked by a Manchester-based artist if I would be interested in taking part in a new project she had in mind to explore the act of reading and writing. After reading aloud passages of Jean Paul Sartre’s Words in the basement of a Salford town house last summer, the performance reached the lofty heights of the London Art Fair last week, a feat that was simply a pleasure to take part in and will surely reach the top 10 ‘strange but wonderful’ bookish projects of 2015. A brief description of the artist and her work can be found here.
Arty business aside the first stop on our rapid tour was the British Library (well, the foyer at least) where my other half promptly, hands behind his back in an exceedingly British fashion, attempted to poke his nose in a couple of the reading rooms. Nosy tourism aside, it did strike us just how many people were lolling around with their Macbooks on show rather than a good old book (see above) ……………….or am I just old-fashioned?
Along with a couple of necessary gallery stops and an amble around Greys Inn, the most important stop of our tour by far, and a bit of a pilgrimage for me in particular, was the Dickens museum on Doughty Street; a glorious, huge Georgian terrace where the writer lived out the frenzied beginnings of his successful literary career. ‘My house in town‘ as he was purported to call it.
I was in the throes of the last chapter of David Copperfield when down in the capital, actually finishing the book on the train on the way back, so visiting Dickens’ old family home came at a rather poignant time for me. As well as poking around his personal bits and bobs (including THE desk where he penned Great Expectations…that’s right) I discovered a great deal about the great man; the fact that he was rather a dandy back in the day, his turbulent childhood period in a shoe blacking factory….the circumstances surrounding his divorce to Catherine Hogarth, the whole shebang. I’m a lucky lucky girl and now I will most definitely be reading Claire Tomalin’s celebrated biography.
Have you visited our fair capital lately or done any general bookish tourism? Where should we go next time?