Thursday, 5 November 2009

A Penny for the old Guy

cloudy, windy, but not cold, temps 14

What a hectic few days, but now Michael and I are in the London flat running from window to window, watching the fireworks all over London! It's magical. This is Guy Fawkes day and, as I mentioned in an earlier post (and mis-spelled Fawkes), the Brits celebrate by setting off firecrackers. it started about 6:30 this evening. Frankly, being Canadian, we were vaguely aware of this day but didn't think it was a big deal. So when the explosions started we wondered...and looked out the kitchen window.

We're on the 8th (and top) floor of an apartment building in Chelsea. Now, the thing about London is that there are almost no sky scrapers...most buildings went up a hundred or more years ago and don't go over 3 floors. there was bomb damage - alot - in the second world war and in rebuilding some of new-build got up to 8 or 10 stories. But it means there is a charm and human scale to the city. it is historic and gets light...and it means that from the 8th floor we have a panoramic view of the city.

Tonight for 4 hours, fireworks have shot into the sky from all over the city. It's spectacular. Some are just bright specks on the horizon...some are almost next door. Absolutely stunning and unexpected. Very moving, the way bagpipe music moves me. Not in the head, but in the gut.

Spent this morning editing Bury Your Dead while Michael visited Carol. Then we went out for The Peer pub on Sydney Street. After my last pub experience I clutched my purse (handbag as they say here) like a crazy woman. Michael had fish and chips, I had steak frites. Then we walked down the King's road to a wonderful art supply of those tiny shops filled with dark wood and curiosities you know have been there for a hundred years. Michael picked up a watercolour kit - he'd left his at home...then we walked along to one of my favorite gardens in the whole world...the London Physic Garden, down near the river. It's 400 years old and specializes in rare and medicinal plants, picked up by explorers from all over the world. it's magnificent, with all these ancient flowers and plants. It's walled and sits right in the centre of London...a sort of hidden garden. But - it had closed for the season four days ago! We stood outside like waifs. Hands clutched around the wrought-iron gates. As though staring and will could open them. It couldn't. So we left.

I went to Marks and Spencer to pick up something for dinner, and Michael went home to put the kettle on. We were a little chilled.

I went back to editing, he read the Times, and then the fireworks started. Delightful.

yesterday was quite a day too. Started with hoping on the 22 bus and leaping off at Green Park, on Piccadilly - for breakfast at the Wolseley. A real scene. Very elegant. Fabulous coffee. Michael had the....can you guess...yes! The Full English...which is pretty much everything fried, including the waiter. I had a bowl of fruit. And we soaked up the atmosphere. Then Michael walked me along to The Ritz where I was meeting my agent, Teresa.

Except...get this...they stopped Michael at the door. Only men with shirts and ties allowed in. Michael had a beautiful jacket, a cashmere sweater and a turtleneck, and they turned him away. We both thought it was pretty funny, especially given they were certainly letting in arms dealers and crooked politicians and trust fund kids who did little with their lives...but refused entry to such a lovely, kind, gifted man.

So, Michael went off to the Royal Academy - which was always his plan anyway - and I met up with Teresa then we went to Shepherd's Markets, nearby, for a bistro lunch. I'd planned to have breakfast with Deborah Crombie (one of my favorite writers and people of all time!!) who's in London researching her next book, but had to cancel when this agent meeting suddenly came up. Actually, meeting up with Deb was possibly because one of you - Marjorie - mentioned that Deborah Crombie was also going to be in London, and provided her email. I had it already, but it was at home. So - a big thank you to Marjorie.

While Teresa and I met and talked and discussed the future of the Gamache books Michael saw the Anish Kapoor exhibition at the RA...then had lunch at Fortum and Mason's (picking up two boxes of Turkish for sister Carol and one for me). Teresa and I walked back through Green park...spitting rain but lovely. Then I hopped back on the 22 bus...Michael got on the 22 as well, but about 20 minutes later.

When we met up back at the flat he was raving about the Kapoor show. Extraordinary. So I'll go see it next week with him. Can hardly wait!!!

Have decided to take tomorrow away from editing...I can do that anywhere, anytime...but can't always do London! Off to Tom's kitchen for breakfast, then not sure what...but there's an antiquarian book show and sale at the Chelsea Town Hall, just around the corner from us starting at 2. Carol and David gave us their generous. Can hardly wait to see the books!!! Hope Michael hides his credit card since mine was stolen. don't think Michael... nah.

Spent an hour last night applying for a new birth certificate on the Canadian Government website. Very convenient. Surprisingly easy. Makes me wonder what I will actually get.

Off to bed soon...will leave the curtains open so we can watch the last of the fireworks as we drift off to sleep. How lucky we are.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your kind wishes about John. All your thoughts, your words, your experiences. How kind you are to care for us. The funeral is November 14th in the Buxton Church...named for his family. Indeed, John oversaw the re-forging of the bells for the church. We saw the foundry, in Whitechapel.

We want you to know your presence has made a very real difference to us. surprising since I have met so few of you, and even those I don't know intimately. And yet there was real comfort I felt from you. As did Michael. I think it was the blessing of knowing we were not alone. How powerful community is. Belonging.


Deryn said...

Oh - I want to be in London!
Any chance that Inspector Gamache might have a case there at some point? It might be too anglo for him, but it sure would be great to spend a whole novel reading your descriptions of the city!

Bev Stephans said...

Dear Louise,

I love your travelogue of London. It's as if I'm right there beside you. You and Michael will never want to come home!


Anonymous said...

Dear Louise,

I am completely appreciative of your sharing of London and also your feelings towards everything.
I think I'll declare Guy Fawkes as an excuse for a celebration here with friends who also love London.

I'm actually re-reading a Crombie book now while waiting (ahem) for your next one...

How funny..Micahel in such top of the line clothes getting turned down, but you gotta love it in a funny way..the tradition thing..

Well, time to drink more crap. I'm having a screening colonoscopy this a.m. finally...aren't you glad I shared?

SO nice to have so many memories to share with Michael.

Donna K

Dana said...

Tea at Harrods and a free pass for the Ladies Loo! The British Museum. Window shopping along Portobello Road. Memories brought back by your blog. Many thanks for sharing.

Jodi said...

Louise, your descriptions bring back memories of lovely trips to London (long ago).

What really made me smile was your story of how Michael got turned away because he didn't have a shirt and tie.

About 30 years ago, my family went out (or tried to) go out to dinner at a place called the Water Wheel. Dad had on a turtleneck and a knit jacket. The restaurant required shirts and ties and they wouldn't let him in.

So, he went back to my grandparents' home (which was nearby) and picked out the ugliest combination of clothes he could find. It was something like an orange tie, a brown jacket, and a blue shirt.

He went back to the restaurant in this garish getup -- and they had to let him in. He looked awful, but he followed their dumb rules.

Jodi said...

I forgot to add that not only was the color combination appalling, but there were plaids, stripes, and paisleys all clashing together with wild abandon. Not to mention that he and grandpa weren't quite the same size -- and dad tied his tie in a really messy knot.

Louise Penny Author said...

Hi Donna,

Did your colonoscopy go well??? Good news? Sure hope so. Have been thinking of you - without too much detail.

Hi Jodi,

Ha - that's what happens when people follow the letter of a rule rather than the spirit. Your father sounds like quite a character!

Hi Dana,

Oh, that reminds me...we must get to the British Museum. or BM (is that too reminiscent of Donna's trials?)

Hi Bev,

you know, you're right. We adore london, and I'd have a home here, or a nearby village (within striking distance of London) in an instant. But our hearts...and Trudy...remain in Canada. One day, perhaps. But I suspect we'd always keep a place in Sutton.

Hi Deryn,

Oh, don't think I haven't considered it!!! Actually, since he went to Cambridge, where he learned his English, it might just happen one day. But not, sadly for the Chief Inspector and Reine-Marie, anytime soon. Glad you're enjoying the visit to London!