"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

Friday, November 28, 2008

Yesterday & Today

The weather took a damp turn yesterday but remained quite mild, and the rainfall, when it fell, wasn't lasting. I did the shops from Regent Street--well, Liberty only--north to Oxford Street, east to Charing Cross Road, south (stopping in music shops and book shops).

Peeked in the print shop at Cecil Court that I frequented. My real-life version of Helene Hanff's bookshop at 84 Charing Cross Road. Almost soon as I stepped inside, the proprietess mentioned that it was the 8th anniversary of her father's death and asked if I remembered him.

"Very well," I replied, and expressed belated condolences. I don't recall when I last visited the shop--some time ago tho' not as long as 8 years. I stayed a good long while, bought a bundle of antique prints. The prices haven't changed in the 20 or so years I've been going there! I'm thinking of giving away a few as prizes here on the blog. Had much interesting conversation with the owner, very devoted to her shop and her father's legacy. Her nephew, she thinks, might be the one to take it on in the next generation.

On to the National Portrait Gallery. Didn't do the whole thing, just the Elizabethan and Stuart galleries (characters from my book clog the latter one), and the Annie Liebovitz photography exhibition.

Headed westward along Pall Mall (not nearly as crowded with pedestrians or traffic as Piccadilly) and stopped in St James's Square for my usual gaze at:

this corner house, the birthplace of my duchess, and

across the Square, her childhood home.

Both are greatly altered since the late 17th century.

I bought a book in Hatchards and made for Fortnum & Mason's. The revolving front window displays are magical!

In the course of my shopping day, in addition to books and prints I purchased a spiffy skirt, two pair of earrings, a necklace, a sweet little purse.

And these Christmas tree ornaments, King Charles II and an unidentified 17th century lady who greatly resembles Queen Mary II. Both feature in my novel, so I'm chuffed about finding them!

Last night we made our way to Chelsea for our Thanksgiving dinner. It was just ducky--meaning we had duck, in addition to other delights like oysters and leek casserole and apple pie for pudding and a sort of pumpking Swiss roll. All delicious, and the conversation and company were delightful. We stayed late, just managed to catch one of the last trains on the Piccadilly line!

Today--more shopping. Found another Christmas presssie for the Chap in St James's, stocked up on supplies for myself at Floris, popped into Hatchard's again but this time bought nothing, and trotted over to Fortnum's (lately, my go-to place for just about everything) where I did buy. Oh, and I visited the Post Office in Albemarle Street to post a large parcel.

This afternoon we changed locations, our new one being another place where we always spend time because it's such an easy walk to the British Library--where I'll be spending much time.

The afternoon was so cold and drizzly that I decided to start library work immediately. Headed to the Metropolitan Archive (a repository of documents and info on London's history, and various collections of family papers) to try and find my duchess's last will and testament. I accessed it in May 2006, and wanted another look, in case I missed anything crucial in my transcription. Stupidly, in my excitement at an entirely unexpected find, I forgot to mark down which box of documents it was in, and which bundle of papers. So it was a "needle in a haystack" search, and a hasty one, because it was an early closing day.

Much to my relief, it turned up in the third box requested, and I had about 20 minutes to review the will. I both admire and dread the ornate, flourishing penmanship of Her Grace's lawyer's clerk! But my eyes were fresh and I deciphered it without much difficulty. Mission accomplished!

Tonight we dined at a favourite Italian place a short walk from our digs.

I did not take a single photograph all day.

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