My impending departure is sharpening my appreciation of London, no bad thing after a winter of shuffling around cursing the weather, the trains, the noise and business of the city.
I’ve been taking pleasure in Bloomsbury this week, visiting the shops and cafes in up-and-coming Store Street. The street is looking very lovely at present, and the Store Street Gallery is a real treat, overflowing with artworks inspired by nature. I especially liked Lara Cobden’s modern botanical flower paintings.
The light evenings have made it possible to str0ll along Regents’ Canal before my writing class in Kings Place, enjoying the contrast between the bucolic feel of the towpath and its wildlife, and the forest of cranes busy reconstructing Kings Cross. I popped into Caravan, a trendy bare-brick cafe-come-restaurant-come-bar tucked into the old train sheds, for a light supper before class. The staff were friendly and happy to suggest wine by the glass. I’m going back for my leaving lunch with colleagues.
I have a particular affection for canals. I love the way that something intended to be entirely utilitarian, a way of getting heavy goods from A to B, has left us with these quiet, contemplative backwaters, filled with ducks and swans, giving us a different perspective on our cities. There’s also the pleasure of seeing how people will take a small, disregarded corner and make it into a little refuge, a quirky, personal haven from the world. That’s especially obvious in the canal boats themselves, customised by their owners to reflect their own lifestyles and aesthetics. I was charmed to see the little gardens carved out of the far bank of the canal, complete with hammock in one case.
And I have ticked one thing off my list of things to do before I leave – I finally made it to the Queens Gallery at Buckingham Palace for the Northern Renaissance exhibition, which was all that I’d hoped of it. The highlight was the masterful Holbein drawings of the men and women of the Tudor court. Their faces watchful and wary, they were as full of life as any face you might see on the Victoria Line today.