A couple of weeks ago I was lying in bed reading Midcentury Magazine, a new magazine I’d subscribed to after reading this post about it on the H is for Home blog. The article I was looking at was about the Southbank Centre’s season of events to celebrate the anniversary of the Festival of Britain. At some point I started to feel a little bit cross with myself – the event had been on all summer, and I’d had ample opportunity to go and take a look. There were just two weeks left in which to see it, and given that train tickets from here to London cost a fortune if you don’t book them months in advance, it seemed I’d missed my chance.
But the next morning I had a look for train tickets, found a day when it wasn’t too expensive, and made my booking. This made me feel much better – I really wanted to be the sort of person who actually visited the event, rather than the one who sat in bed reading about it all.
When last Thursday rolled around, it turned out I’d been very fortunate with the weather – it was a warm and sunny day, and London looked at its best. I started out with lunch at Wahaca, and then walked from Covent Garden to Trafalgar Square, and down Whitehall to the Houses of Parliament, before crossing over the Thames and back up towards the Southbank Centre. That walk was my favourite part of the day – the city looked so beautiful, and the architecture in that part of town is not to be taken for granted. There are so many special buildings and views, mixed in amongst the usual London landmarks of black taxis, red buses and phone boxes. I really appreciated having the time to just wander around with my camera, with no deadlines and no rushing.
The exhibition that had prompted my visit was OK, but I was expecting more of it. There were some good things to look at – the 1960s sitting room, the beach huts, and the rooftop gardens (it was great to see bees and butterflies amongst the flowers in what’s usually a concrete jungle). It didn’t take up as much of my day as I thought it would, and so I needed to come up with a plan to keep me busy until just after 8pm, which was when I was getting the train home.
I couldn’t face the crowds on Oxford Street, but liked the idea of doing some shopping, so I caught a bus from outside the Southbank Centre, all the way across town and up to Marylebone High Street. I got the best seat on the bus (evidence here!), and it reminded me of when Megan and Scott visited us last year, and Megan wanted to sit on the top deck of the bus, since that’s something American buses don’t tend to have. On that particular day it was cold and rainy, so we could barely see out, but on this occasion I was very lucky and saw plenty of sights en route.
I’d never been to Marylebone before, but it’s a nice place to visit and I was happy to have ended up there. My favourite shop was Skandium, but must of their stock was heavy and breakable, and so not ideal things to buy on a day out. Just across the road was Divertimenti, a big kitchen shop with two floors of things to browse. It was here that I caved in and bought something fragile, bulky and very breakable, which I then had to carry round with me for the rest of the day. It was worth it though: when the last Nigella Lawson series was on TV, I’d spotted some pretty storage jars in her kitchen, and had spent some time online trying to find them, without success. But Divertimenti had something that was either the same thing, or at least very much like it. And they weren’t even that expensive. I bought a tall jar for storing spaghetti, and then I carefully carried it with me as I walked all the way back to Selfridges. On the way there I passed legendary ribbon shop V V Rouleaux, which was an unexpected bonus.
In Selfridges I bought make-up, things from Muji, and a very fancy-looking pistachio and fresh strawberry confection. I ate that on the train home, while all around me people were having to buy snacks from the onboard shop. It was satisfying to know that my train snack was far superior to everyone else’s!