... this time, Pacific Daylight Savings Time. I'm back at my study desk in Los Angeles, overlooking that familiar view of our back yard and, beyond, of Hollywood. The fountain is gurgling its familiar tune, the birds are singing. Home. It's at once a strange and a welcome feeling, after a good while away: so this is where I live, when I'm at home. It doesn't yet seem quite real, and my mind is having a hard time adjusting.
But first--and this is perhaps why--I need to get back to the last day of our European trip, Tuesday, Greenwich Mean Time. The grandchildren were back at school,
and Matthew was able to take a day out of his busy work schedule to join us for a day in town. London, that is. I used to know it well, but it has changed a lot since the years I lived there, in the late 1950s. These days, if you want to understand the meaning of the word "cosmopolitan," London is the place to be. It teems with every human race and every human language. Back then, in my young, post-Cambridge days, you could still feel something of the insularity of England, even in its capital.
Expensive! Unbelievable! Now that the dollar is worth a scant half of a pound sterling, you double the price of everything to come up with its dollar equivalent--and the prices themselves look the same. Ten pounds--twenty dollars--for a lunch is barely adequate. Ah, well, no point in dwelling on the obvious. Everywhere in Europe seemed expensive. And to think there was a day when Americans crossed the Atlantic for a cheap vacation!
London. With Ellie's cold and the prospect of a long day's travel ahead of us, we decided on a leisurely day, with just a couple of easy destinations. We took a morning express train from Harpenden, and were in London within half an hour. Then on by the still-easy and convenient "tube" to South Kensington station, whence we walked the few blocks up through the museum area to Hyde Park.
Still green, still filled with magnificent trees, still serene despite the traffic.
Our destination was the Serpentine Gallery, where we have seen interesing work before, and we were not disappointed by the current exhibit of Paul Chan--an unusual and effective use of the medium of video. Chan projects his images from above onto the floor or a tabletop, where they end up looking more like moving silhouettes rather than the familiar video images. The overall impression is of things falling--leaves, chairs, motor cars, kitchen appliances, cell phones, everything imaginable... and people. Human shapes, some almost too tiny to be recognized at first, others larger, falling across the surface of the floor. My eye kept watching for their appearance at the edges and following their drift, even as my mind was drawn irresistibly to that dreaful day at the World Trade Center in New York. Mixed in among all the other falling objects, the human shapes took on a sudden, almost tragic poignancy each time they appeared. Reflections about time, the unending passage of time, the equivalence of all things, including ourselves, their disappearance beyond the edges of our consciousness...
We walked back through the park and admired the renovations to the Albert Memorial--Victoria's inordinately grand tribute to her lost love--and past Kensington Palace,
the erstwhile home of the ill-fated Diana, still much in the news because of the NBC broadcast of images of the accident in which she died. A great debate in England at the current moment: her death can still cause controversy. Hoping for a good pub lunch, we stopped off at a pub--the wrong one, it turned out, for a good pub lunch--and had a beer there before finding a small Italian restuarant on a side street that offered a better menu.
After lunch, we wandered on through the back streets of Kensington toward the museum. It's an attractive area, with grand squares, elegant mansions and tiny mews--the old stables turned in post-carriage days into small but appealing--and highly "desirable"--living quarters.
By the time we reached the South Ken underground station again, there was time only for a quick stop at the Victoria and Albert Museum gift shop, then back to the tube and a train from Kings Cross back to Harpenden. We had wanted to get back in time to pack, because we'd need to leave early for our flight from Heathrow.
A leisurely last dinner with Matthew and Diane
at a local, very fine restaurant, and time for a good talk and promises of a return visit with the family as soon we we could all manage it. Five thousand miles is too great a separation for grandparents from their growing grandchildren...
As for the flight, well, it was uneventful. Enough said. More later, when I get myself back onto Pacific time.