"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Monday Meanderings

At the Shepherd Tavern, on Sunday night.

Draught Cider by: Strongbow
Face by: Lancome.
Lips by: M.A.C.
Hair by: London Underground's very windy subterranean tunnels

On Monday I woke (with a perfectly clear head, I might add) and strolled with the Chap through the drizzle to the British Library. He wanted to see the London Maps exhibit, and I had a few reserved items to examine. Emerging three hours later, I discovered the sun was out and the sky blue. Rejoined my man back at the hotel, and we headed out for our excursion to Westminster.

Not just the Borough Of. I mean, The Abbey itself.

In Parliament Square, I took this nice shot of Big Ben. A security detail stopped traffic for Somebody Important as they departed the Houses and Parliament and drove across Westminster Bridge.

Approaching the Abbey.

This was another of my pilgrimages. The duke in my novel is buried here, as is his royal father and bastard brothers and kingly and queenly cousins, and his supremely noble father-in-law. His Grace's remains were deposited under the floor somewhere "behind the old Duke and Duchess of Newcastle's monument". Unfortunately, from my point of view, the family of Lord and Lady Montrath decided that exact spot would be a splendid place to erect a vast monument to their forbears. As a result, the ducal slab is entirely covered. I inserted my foot in a tiny space between the Montrath and Newcastle sarcophagi, my way of saying "I'm here, how are you down there?"

We dutifully examined the Coronation Chair and breezed through Poets' Corner, visited Queen Elizabeth I's monument, and so on. It is a magnificent place--as with Windsor Castle, I hadn't been inside since my student days.

In the same chapel where Mary, Queen of Scots was buried (yes, we quoted Monty Python), I found monarchs far more important to me personally, as they feature in the novel: Charles II, William III and Mary II, and Queen Anne. We also visited the museum to see their hansomely robed wax effigies, which are as fascinating and weird as I remembered. Even more fascinating to me now that I've been writing about them all.

We paused at Downing Street--we were forced to, because the security gate was opening and more Very Important People were being driven out in quite a nice Jaguar. (No, not Tony Blair.) Farther along Whitehall we stopped to watch an end-of-day ceremony by the Horse Guards on duty. Did people know we were in the neighbourhood, were they putting on the show for our benefit?

Next stop was the Banqueting House, the last remnant of Whitehall Palace which was consumed by a conflagration in 1698 and was never rebuilt. It's also the site of Charles I's execution. Here I am, sizing up the throne. Just right for me!

Taking the Tube from Westminster, we traversed St. James's and Green Park from underground, surfacing at Green Park Station. Back at Shepherd's Market, we popped into Ye Grapes, my other favourite pub, which I first entered over twenty years ago. Despite many an update to the decor, the same stuffed game birds and animal heads and old dead fish still adorn the walls.

Like this one. I always liked it the best.

After the requisite pint for each of us, we wandered a few blocks to El Pirata, our much-loved tapas restaurant, which provided the usual excellent meal. Down Street was lined with police vans, overflowing with officers.

When we returned to the hotel and switched on the news, we heard that "an office in Down Street" was being examined for polonium contamination. The ex-Russian spy died a few days ago...since then an increasing number of locations are being swept by the police and various detection units. We just happened to be dining only a few doors from one of those locations--which popped up on the television screen.

As far as we're aware, poor poisoned Alexander Litvinenko preferred sushi to tapas. We certainly hope so....

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