I had a great night out last weekend, my first overnight without the baby. My partner suggested that I stay up in London at my dad’s instead of trying to get home to Brighton from Muswell Hill on a Saturday night after a friend’s party. I set off in the rain and when I got to Victoria it was icy cold and still tipping down. I jumped on a bus and got talking to a middle aged man from Bexhill who was sitting behind me. We talked about the credit crunch and as he worked for an architect’s firm as a builder he new about a huge contract that had just been lost in Russia which to him was a sign of things to come. When the conversation started to get a bit jumbled and he invited me to sit beside him to save craning my neck – I decided it was time to jump off the bus. I was at Trafalgar square. Perfect.
I was sort of curious to see what I would do with my hours in London before the party. Even though it was raining hard, the crowds were still heavy. I found myself on automatic pilot as I headed towards Covent Garden. It was quite strange – a mix of excitement and mild anxiety. Well, more accurately I felt nervous and a bit naïve. Similar feelings to those I remember at 14 years old, the first few times I got the train down from Ipswich to Liverpool Street. I swept through Covent Garden eyeing shops that 20 odd years ago I would have explored religiously in search of bargains. Eventually I tripped back over Blackfriars to the Southbank and walked under the blue lights on my way to the Tate. My jeans clung soaking into my legs and I smiled to myself as I thought how little the rain mattered today and how ordinarily it would have left me feeling very miserable indeed if I had to spend all day out in it.
I passed the Oxo tower and the MA Graduation Show from Kingston University’s Art Faculty was on so I ducked in hoping to see some drawing and to dry out. I hunted around for ‘Drawing as Process’ supposedly in Room 8 but stumbled instead across illustration and animation and was blown away. Some really fabulous and sensitive drawing as it turns out. On to the Tate and I made a bee line for the café and perched on a window ledge with a chamomile tea watching people and just existing in a single state with no baby. It was, quite remarkable. So very familiar and yet unusually alien. Not sure what more to say about that. I literally raced through the Rothko exhibition, it was heaving with people and only the thought that I didn’t know when I might get back up to London made me go in and have a quick look instead of kidding myself there’s going to be anytime soon when there will be less people and time to take a leisurely look. And anyway, it was the Bacon that I really wanted to see and I could have sworn that it was at Tate modern.
I caught the bus on London Bridge north towards Friern Barnet jumping off at Angel – stupidly; I don’t know what I thought I was going to do in the rainy dark at gone 6. It’s because I used to work round there a lot and I just wanted to reconnect with it for a moment to see how it felt. I jumped back on the number 43 – good thinking getting a day bus pass – headed up to Muswell Hill and a welcome Planet Organic at my destination bus stop. I had a coffee and wrote my friend’s card (I had been thinking about her all day on and off – running between home and the British Legion making preparations for her birthday party and presumably getting soaked each time). The party was lovely, I chatted happily to a couple in their late 60’s – he taught at the Royal College and she (Italian) wrote (I think). My friend whose party it was gave a moving speech and her dad got up to say a few words not least of which was about how unbelievable it was to for him to be saying a few words on his own daughters 50th birthday. Wow I could only begin to imagine how profound that must feel to him and to her. It was a precious moment.
I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen for over a year and we did 10 minutes dancing before my dad texted to say he was outside. He came to pick me up. How about that?! I was secretly very grateful that he was happy to trog up from Bethnal Green on a Saturday night to get me. Although I had sussed out that the 43 went back via Old Street Roundabout and I could probably find my way back to his from there, I was not completely enamored about hanging out for buses in the rain once again. So, I climbed in the back of the van and lay down. My friend was going to get a lift to Stoke Newington. As she had on high heels and nice black tights I figured she should sit up in the front. And as my dad said – I am the camping type and climbing in the back of a van is no big deal for someone like me. Well, that’s true.
We got back to Bethnal Green and stayed up chatting till 2 and there was plenty more talking that could have been done. There’s never enough time. Next day on my way back to Brighton I swung by Columbia Road market. Love it and don’t love it at all – can’t make my mind up. Caught up with my brother who was borrowing a studio off Bethnal Green Road to do some hours on art work for a Santa’s grotto. I found myself thinking and then saying to my brother that watching what was happening in his life made me feel for the first time ever- I wish I was 10 years younger!. I felt envious – not a familiar feeling I have to say – thankfully! On my way back to Victoria I walked up Brick Lane and ogled at the uber cool. My goodness it was rocking. I texted my partners 15 year old daughter to say we must come up with her and a friend one Sunday sometime soon and that she’d love it. I was perhaps thinking more about myself at 15 and how if I had happened upon Brick Lane that Sunday I would think I had died and gone to heaven. In those days I hung out in Camden. I don’t know what Camden is like right now but certainly the scene in Brick Lane was as close to happening as you can get and more.
I have spent a lot of time in all of these places over the years. Mostly on my bike dashing between jobs, my dad’s, a gallery or a meeting with my partner after work. I was moving through these spaces as I have done so many times before, but what can I say – it all felt very different indeed!