WIW: blue shirt, grey trousers.
WRW: navy suit, white shirt, Burberry plaid tie.
We had breakfast down the street at a place called Caffe Concerto. We were seated and handed a menu listing their “Breakfast Special’s”. Yes, apostrophe S. They were lucky I didn’t walk out. Richard had the lox with scrambled eggs and toast with tea. I had the English breakfast: two fried eggs, a square of hash browns, a grilled tomato, grilled mushroom, bacon, sausage, and beans. And toast. Clearly this was a day I’d be having an apple and an orange for lunch. Richard dashed off to work, I stuck around and wrote in my journal.
I went to the Sir John Soane Museum. Paul Stoller sent me there on my last visit to London. He was an architect based in London in the 18th century and a major collector of antiquities. The museum is his former home, and it houses his collection and many of his drawings. It’s an extraordinary place, it’s so brilliant the way he maps out the space to make the most of the natural light. I wandered around a bit, and found a life mask (as opposed to a death mask) of the actress Sarah Siddons, who was immortalized in *All About Eve*.
I spoke with a docent, who asked me how I heard about the museum. He told me had had worked across the square for nine years, and never knew there was a museum nearby. The highlight of the museum, for me, is *The Rake’s Progress* - - this is a series of etchings by Hogarth (which inspired an opera by Stravinsky), and Soane had the paintings on which the etchings were based. He has them hung in a small room, and since there’s so little wall space in this room, he built a set of double doors on one wall. When the doors are closed, they don’t look like doors, it looks like a wall. There are paintings hung on that “wall”, and on the connecting walls. But you open those doors, and there are paintings hung on the wall behind it, and also on the inside of the doors. Brilliant. It was also interesting seeing Hogarth’s series *The Election*, since the election was happening that day!
I got on the tube and walked to the British Museum. I thought I hadn’t been there before, but once I got there I saw they have the Rosetta Stone, which I DID see on my first trip to London, so I must have been there. I looked at the map of the museum, tried to decide what pile of ancient rubble might interest me. I looked at the list of events for that day - - I saw that there was a thirty-minute tour of the Japanese collection that had started a few minutes before, so I thought I’d catch the end of that. I took the elevator up to five and saw a small cluster of people listening to a docent, an adorable woman around seventy years old with a lilting musical accent. She was going into great detail about the way their pottery was made. She smiled at me and I thought, “Oh how nice, she can tell I’m paying attention.” She took two steps to the right and told us about a clay sculpture of a warrior which was placed as a sentinel on a burial mound. She turned and smiled at me again, lingering a bit longer this time. I smiled back in my typical clueless manner! I started thinking she was going into a lot of detail for a thirty-minute tour, but hey, it’s her party. She took three steps to the left and started telling us about a suit of armor when she interrupted herself, turned to me, and said, “I’m sorry, this is a private tour.”
Needless to say I left Japan. I went to the Elgin Marbles. The most interesting part of that room was the disclaimer at the entrance: “The sculptures from the Parthenon in the British Museum and those in other European museums cannot for conservation reasons be returned to the temple. Even those that have until recently remained on the building are now being removed to the New Acropolis Museum.” Ha! Hilarious.
I took the tube back to the hotel, stopped at TK Maxx down the street. This is the English version of TJ Maxx. I found three gorgeous shirts in white and blue, all by the same maker. I tried one on and it was WAY too small. I went up one size but they didn’t have any of those shirts in that size, waa. The other larges by that maker were all ugly. I did find a navy blue cotton sweater and a beige knit hooded sweater in a quasi-Scandanavian design. I tried on the hoodie first because it was cuter, also cheaper. Two problems: it was acrylic, which means I would be a sweaty, stinky hag within twenty minutes. Also the hoodie was a bit junior for me. I’m nearly forty-five years old, it’s time to set aside childish things. I tried on the navy sweater, which fit marvelously, looked great on me, and wasn’t too expensive. I bought it.
I went home, had a lunch of an apple, an orange, and the lemon muffin leftover from the plane. I watched two hours of CNN’s election day coverage, which made me so anxious that I switched to a BBC show, “Escape to the Country”. The hostess was taking a married couple around Dorset looking for a house. The shtick of the show is they show you three houses that match the specifications you have, and then a fourth house that’s outside the box but appealing in some special way. Their specifications:
Under 600,000 pounds.
At least four bedrooms (they don’t have kids, but they often have house guests).
Large spaces for entertaining (they’re so boring, I don’t know who would want to go to one of their dinner parties, let alone spend the weekend).
Close to a village (I think for the wife she was more interested in being close to a bar).
Space for a gym (they’re both rather large, so I guess this would be a lifestyle change for them).
The first house was six bedrooms, it had a big kitchen with an island, but it was not in walking distance to the village (aka bar). Great room for a gym, with a view of the garden. The second house had four bedrooms, a sauna, the kitchen wasn’t as big as the first house but it was big enough to add an island. It had a good room for his fire engine collection (remember what I said about them being boring), and was in walking distance to the village (she was really taken with the bar down the street - - can you blame her, being married to him). The third house was a classic Dorset cottage. Lots of nooks and crannies, which appealed to him (the second house, he decided, was lacking in character). It had a hot tub but no particular spot for a gym. It also had a babbling brook. The mystery house had magnificent views of the ocean but was much too small and too remote. Worth a visit, but clearly not in the running. I was sure they’d choose house #3, but they chose #1. They’re going to hate it.
WIW 2: blue shirt, royal blue/white/purple plaid bow tie, navy and black check sport coat, grey trousers.
I went to the Carlton Club for a cocktail party. This is an old school London club - - every Prime Minister for the last 180 years has been a member. Margaret Thatcher necessitated opening the club to women. About time! I talked with my buddy Tom Travers when I got there (he’s our Johnny Halliday connection), he introduced me to this blowhard Englishman and then gave me the 411 on him after he walked away. A real piece of work. Richard showed up and introduced me to a few other people, one of them a charming exuberant gay man from NYC who seemed like my NBF45M (New Best Friend For Five Minutes) until Richard told me he’s a big souse. Talked with Lucille for a while, who was having another primo hair day and wearing a beautiful jacket. I met a lot of other people, and like all the people I met at WTM, they adored Richard and were thrilled to meet me. That never gets old.
I met a delightful French woman who lives in London, she and Richard have been friends for years. She was excited to hear we were going to Paris, and said she’d send us a list of places to go to in Paris (she never did), and was even more excited to hear that we saw Johnny Halliday in concert. She saw him in Paris six years ago and was amazed at how energetic he was. She said the word on the street is he does a lot of cocaine.
Our date for dinner was Carol from the Palace Hotel, one of New York’s most glorious hotels. She wanted to take us out to dinner to celebrate our wedding - - she’s an utter delight and we had such a fun easy time with her.
We went to the Wolsley, where we had been for brunch with Lena on Saturday. Richard and Carol started with a glass of rosé champagne, I had club soda and lime (which they served with a splash of Rose’s lime juice, I love that). The first course was steak tartare and grilled sardines. Carol was thrilled that we wanted the steak tartare, she could tell it was going to be a fun night. Main course: Richard had the roasted lamb, Carol had the tarragon chicken, I had the Welsh rarebit. Sides: roasted carrots, mashed potatoes, pickled cucumbers. All of it spectacular.
Richard had a cute exchange with our waiter - - he asked him who he thought was going to win our election, and he said, “Well, as an Irishman, of course I’m rooting for my countryman, Mr. O’Bama.”
Carol is from outside Chicago, so we bonded on that whole Midwesterner in New York thing. We told funny stories about our families. Richard and I prompted each other to tell stories, we do that a lot. We talked quite a lot about our mutual friend Susan Norz, an ex-coworker of Richard and an ex-boss of Carol’s. I kept listening to Carol talk, and there was something familiar about her voice, her resonant voice with its somewhat patrician air but strong American accent was making me think of a major actress. Then I thought of it - - Bebe Neuwirth. Carol was tickled to hear that.
She told a hilarious story about her mother watching her sons when she was out of town. She made breakfast one morning and dropped a sausage on the floor, but picked it up and put it on the plate. The older son threw it in the garbage. She took it out of the garbage, rinsed it off, fried it up a bit more in the skillet, and put it back on his plate. He said it was garbage and he wasn’t going to eat it. She said the the sausage was NOT garbage, and he was going to eat it. The younger son sent a text to his mom: Grandma is making Brian eat garbage.
We got home, watched a bit of the election day coverage, went to bed.