Sunday, August 04, 2013

la belle dame sans merci

Last day in London. Always a little bit sad. I usually feel a little panicked to "see" the city one last time, but there's no real point in that. If I haven't seen it by now I won't, and there's probably no way I'll ever feel like I've seen the city anyway. There's just so much to take in. And I'm only one man.

It was a little different this year, though, having Lisa here. This being just her second day she was raring to go, and wasn't feeling wistful or sad about anything. So it was good for me. We hit the town.

We had lunch at the Kensington Creperie (only my second time this trip, I'm practicing restraint) and we both ordered the same crepe (which happens to us more than you'd think) and shared a summer fruit crepe for dessert. Lisa bravely tried the carrot gelato, though just a sample of it. She seemed to like it, but she might have been lying to spare my feelings. Sometimes we do that for the ones we love. We pretend to like carrot gelato.

Lisa's only museum request was that we see the National Portrait Gallery, since it's her favorite. And not having been this summer, I was happy to go, too. I always like to see who wins the BP Portrait award, and this year it was:

Pieter, by Suzanne du Toit. It's a portrait of her son. We liked it.

I also liked:

Timothy Spall, by Stuart Pearson Wright

Shinjuku Tokyo, by Carl Randall

Clown Face, by Lisa Stokes

Lisa and I pretended like we were so cosmopolitan and we "had to get out of the city" and "had to get away from all these people" but really we were "phony baloney" so we got on the tube and headed to my favorite little village in London, Hampstead. She's never been there, and I could basically live there.

We wandered up and down the high street and looked in some shops and at a "contemporary affordable art" sale, which was pretty poo in terms of "art." But it was still fun to wander around and eat fancy different kinds of Kit Kats. We ended up at John Keats' house, which put me under the Bright Star spell and makes me feel like I want to wear a waist coat and call it a "waistcot." And write poetry about faeries. Lisa and I toured the house and suddenly felt grateful for the size of our home in Provo, which we're always complaining about. We don't share it with another family, anyway.

After the house we saw people napping on the lawn and we decided that we should probably do that, too. So we laid under a big green tree on the lawn and slept for about 20 beautiful minutes.

Once we were up and going again we wandered up through Hampstead stopping occasionally to take pictures or follow little passageways and closes. You can't believe how quiet it is up there. You hear the sound of every footprint you make. We continued up until we reached the Heath, and we sat on the bench overlooking East London. Two elderly ladies stopped by to tell me that the Olympic Stadium rings were the London Eye. I knew they weren't, but I didn't want the ladies to feel bad so I went along with it. Eventually, though, I told them. They were very nice about it, and then they pottered off. I got a picture while I could.

The heath was beautiful and the weather was beautiful and it was a beautiful day to be up there. Unless you hate lakes with lily pads and swans. You would probably hate it. Do you hate forests and moss covered trees, too? Don't go to Hampstead Heath!! Restrooms that look like gingerbread houses? Who likes that?

We walked back through the village and stopped briefly at the grounds of Fenton House, a 17th Century Inn with a really nice garden. We sat on a bench there, until we couldn't handle how pretty it all was. So we said "let's get out of this rat hole" and acted like it was all no big deal. But it was a big deal. We're both a little aesthetic about everything.

We had dinner at Pizza Express, because I can't get enough of that joint. The table across from us was a set of parents and three adult children. They were having a wonderful conversation and laughing. The table next to us had two small children, saying the cutest things. And I looked at Lisa and realized that our family was somewhere in between there. I wished for a few moments that all five of them were at the table with us.

I love going to the Everyman Theatre in Hampstead. You sit in these giant couch seats (ours was a hounds tooth love seat) and the screen is crystal clear. On demand, a waiter will bring you a Diet Coke during the film. It's the best place ever. We saw Only God Forgives, which I'm pretty sure God skipped. It's one of those Ryan Gosling movies where he only has six lines and then looks tortured in flashing red and blue lights for the rest of it. Kristin Scott Thomas was awesome as his dragon lady mom, but it's so violent and you get a sense that you've seen the movie twelve times before, but in versions where people actually talked. We didn't love it.

And then, the day was over. We headed back to Queen's Gate and started the pack-up. Can't believe how quickly time goes, or how fast one little dormitory flat can acquire so many memories.