I have not been on the train to London on my own since August 2002. This was my second solo train journey within a week.
It is another level of freedom. In fact, I can now go anywhere I want to in the country. The only extras I would need to consider are the odd taxi ride for London transfers and the amount of tea I should drink before leaving. It’s almost spontaneous. So today I braved the bus ramp to brave the train ramp to brave the Strand.
I love the way the galleries of the capital have made the effort to adapt their elegant old buildings into accessible spaces so old fudges like me can trundle around looking discerning and intellectual. I find the nature and extent of the adaptations as fascinating as the works I have gone to see. I love the little looks I get from other people. They say: “What’s he doing going in that door?” “Why can’t I go that way?” “Oh look, he’s getting a ride on the stair lift.” And I can talk as loudly as all those other pretentious twits. I can quote dates, styles and names.
I can remonstrate about Rembrandt, muse about Manet or sermonize about Seurat but that would be taking the Pissaro. I can even refer to artists by their surnames alone as if we had been at drama school together. Wouldn’t it be fun to sit there and articulate knowledgeable about people’s bottoms and their choice of posterior containment? I could because I’m rapidly becoming an expert. It dominates my eyeline.
Today I charged up and down the Strand to a cacophony of talking bottoms.
Of course, I have to maintain the bum horizon for reasons of navigation. Imagine all the toes I’d pass over if I dared look a passer-by in the eye. Talking bottoms would become squeaking bottoms, and no-one likes a squeaky bottom. All I have to do now is to become more accepting of visible knicker lines. I must say, I’m still struggling with that.
The Courtauld Institute is a nice little place. It is very bijou but has some real gems by Gaugin, Cezanne, Monet and Rubens to name but a few. There are also several challenges for my steering skills. And some people appear shocked when I make a joke or some other pertinent comment. “Oh yes, just because I’m at a different level and on my own, I’m not some introvert who goes home to a mug of cocoa. I employ northern bawdy sledgehammer humour.
It actually makes me seem real again. There was a school party of year ones there today. I was waiting for a porter to let me out when they all filed past. I chatted to some of the children. The teachers and assistants were also very friendly. I mentioned to one that the last time I was there I had a party of thirty 11 year-olds from the Aylesbury Estate with me. Now that got a look.
The tall sombre American lady who let me out through the back door asked me about the Georgina Houghton spiritual drawings.
Inspired by the idea of the holy spirit, they were unusually abstract for their period. I thought they were both vibrant and addictive.
This led to a brief conversation about Rosemary Brown, a composer of the twentieth century who claimed that her music was written with the guiding hand of the great composers.
I could have stayed chatting for ages. Meeting this person was worth the journey alone. As it happened, the trip back was a masterpiece of well-timed connections. Before I knew it, I was back home watching football. What a contrast.
Where shall I go next week? Thank-you for reading.