Things to do in London before I leave

From Waterloo Bridge

From Waterloo Bridge

My writing sabbatical approaches apace. I have three more weeks living and working in London before I escape to the watery flatlands of the Broads to spend the summer knocking my novel into shape. My inner Samuel Johnson is kicking and screaming about being banished from the Smoke, so I’m indulging in a list of London pleasures before I go.

  • Tea and cake in the London Review Bookshop. I can’t say goodbye without one final debauch over pistachio and rose cake with jasmine pearl tea. Has teatime ever sounded prettier?
  • The Queen’s Gallery, to see the Northern Renaissance exhibition before it closes on Sunday. The forthright, plain beauty of Cranach and Holbein have a strangely familiar quality that resonates with me even more than Florentine loveliness.
  • Cycle to work, even if the weather doesn’t warm up, just for the joy of riding over Waterloo Bridge (see photo).
  • Leave the house in time to take breakfast in The Delaunay, a rather smart-looking new restaurant in the Aldwych, en route between Blackfriars Station and the office in Bloomsbury.
  • Beg, borrow or steal tickets to the Pompei and Herculaneum exhibition at the British Museum. The BM has been my lunchtime refuge for the seven years I’ve worked in Bloomsbury, but I think it’ll take more than a lunch hour to do justice to this blockbuster.
  • Browse the bookshops, theatrical curiosity shops and artists’ galleries of Cecil Court, stopping to admire the formal wear in the gentlemens’ outfitter on the corner and wondering if I can persuade the Gentleman Caller into a top hat.
  • Ramble along the Thames at Southwark, where alleys and markets and churches and pubs jostle along the waterfront that Shakespeare once knew.

It may be a squeeze to fit them all in, so some may have to wait for a precious London day when I come ‘up to town’ for unavoidable business. ‘Doctor or Harrods?’ as one braying female enquired of a London-bound friend, in Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love. As Linda might have said, what bliss to be able to answer ‘Pompei, actually’.

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