"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, October 30, 2009


The intrepid photographer prepares for a busy day.

The morning market in Pye Street.

Channel 4 television has its logo created in brollies.

I started the day at the Tate. When I went there I didn't know what would happen. I re-visited favourite works (especially the John Singer Sargents--Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, et al. The Constables. The Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. The Hockney Room.

Unexpectedly I found the elusive answer to a research question in an enormous Canaletto view of a London scene.

And (news flash!) I found the subject of a new novel.

That's the trouble when the brain lies fallow. The ideas come springing up like weeds. I already know the novel after this one, and now I've found the one after that. It's exciting and inconvenient all at the same time. I've got loads of revision awaiting me, and then the intial work on the next novel...and now this. But all in all, it's a Good Thing. And proof that one never knows where or when lightning will strike.

Walked along the river through Chelsea. Just before Chelsea Hospital for soldiers (built by Christopher Wren for King Charles II supposedly at Nell Gwyn's instigation), I passed Keats's House. Well, not exactly. Not really. It was miles out of place (the proper place being Hampstead) and the wrong century and ringed by scaffolding. Oh, how I laughed. Anyone who sees the film Bright Star will recognise that this is most definitely not the poet's neighbourhood.

Wouldn't you know it, Shelley House was right next door. Minus the scaffolding.

The grounds of Chelsea Hospital and Ranelagh Gardens adjacent were a great boost to my Dogs of London photo project.

On my way to the Chelsea Physic Garden I stopped at the National Army Museum, where they've got some big guns.

The Physic Garden deserves more time and attention than I can give it at present. Suffice it to say that I took many, many, many photos. At least two scenes of my novel take place there...in its present incarnation. Incarnation of the novel, that is. One or both scenes might come out, I don't know yet. The Physic Garden, which back then was known as the Apothecaries' Garden, looks different than it then did, but its function is unchanged.

Kept walking to Cheyne Walk (it was funny watching staff from a party planning company threading fake spiderwebs all over the black iron gates of a grand Victorian house, and posing statues of witches and hobgoblins and placing jack-o-lanterns on the front steps. Halloween party tonight! How things have changed in the UK. I've spend many an October 31st here, but we used to be the only people who even knew it was Halloween. Now the kiddies go trick-or-treating and even non-Yanks do decorations and throw parties.

Took a taxicab back to the hotel and just had time to change before meeting friends for drinks and dinner. They'd come all the way from France to see me.

We started out at the pub where the MP's hang out when not attending debates in Parliament. Sort of the Barley House of Westminster. (The Barley House is the bar/restaurant across the street from the NH State House!)

We gradutated to London's longest bar.

Then we went to the restuarant, a Portuguese place that is a longtime favourite but neglected of late. I paused to photograph the Frock of the Day in a shop window.

Wishing you a very Happy Halloween with some Chelsea pumpkins--or rather, pompions as they were known in the 17th century. (I know, technically, this variety is a sort of squash. But it's so seasonal!)

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