Thursday, March 10, 2016
Trip Report: Old Familiar Faces
We're home. The dogs, relieved and more than a little vengeful, have been fetched from their pricey hostelry, I've been back to the office, and today I'm taking advantage of a post-flight sore throat to stay home and try to get rested and organized.*
It was a lovely trip. As those who know me well may have guessed from the fetching illustration above, one highlight of our London stop was a stroll through the National Portrait Gallery, where I paid my respects to various and sundry favorites - prime among them dear Miss Martita Hunt, seen here in a portrait the frivolous elegance of which belies its date, 1944.
Not far off one runs into the formidable Dame Edith Sitwell, as immortalized in aluminum by Maurice Lambert:
One can think of few sitters who could be caught at one and the same time so accurately and in such a completely stylized sort of way. The quality of twentieth-century portraits, from a purely aesthetic point of view is (to be kind) variable, but this is one that succeeds as both likeness and art.
I can't say that Ramsay MacDonald is a particular pet of mine, but I did stop in front of his portrait, mostly because this is more or less exactly how I should like to look when something like 62 (that is, any minute now):
Isn't he dapper? He looks less like a firebrand Labour prime minister than a worldly old roué who studies the more scandalous aspects of Hellenistic sculptures. Which seems to me all for the good. I may take this snap to my haircutter the next time I go, for future reference...
Even a flying visit of only three short nights reinforced my lonstanding adoration of London, not to mention my firm belief that there are simply things that Americans can't quite carry off. We have marvelous shopping, I suppose, but do we have anything like Regent Street, seen here on a fine march evening?
I made the mistake, during a long and wandering walk, of going down New Bond Street, and must have lost nearly an hour goggling at the jewellery on display in the shop windows. I got a further sparkler-fix on Saturday, when we visited the Victoria & Albert and caught the current, excellent show highlighting the modest little collection of Moghul and Indian-inspired bijoux of the Qatari ruling family. If you're hankering for a look at, say, a series of uncut rubies the size and clarity of especially fine hard candy, or a number of spectacularly carved emeralds larger than the palm of your hand, it's a must-see.
As I often do, both because I like it so and because our excellent usual hotel over at Marble Arch means it's often en route somewhere, I had a lovely walk in Hyde Park. The weather may not have been perfect, but the swans were in fine form.
Given their reputation for fearless aggression, it was almost touching to see how they competed on even terms with the pigeons for crumbs, as if knowing that, while sovereign on the pond, on land they are something of invited guests (and little can do more to ruin a swan's reputation for balletic grace than the act of racing after a crust of bread, surrounded by far pushier and more agile little cousins).
So between our sojourn in Cairo and our quick stop in England, I can say that our travels were quite entirely satisfactory. I've established that long-haul flying is once again a possibility, which is a relief, and while I did find that I still tire rather easily, it is remarkable how much we were able to pack in, how many familiar old pals we encountered, and what a joy it remains to be out and about. If the next few months promise to be rather more tranquil, at least we returned to find things seeming distinctly vernal in Our Nation's Capital, which is a joy.
And Nancy Reagan's dead, so it seems like good news all around...
* By which I likely mean spending much of the day on a sofa watching What's My Line?, but if one can't occasionally be a slug, what good is having a spring bug?