So. London to Cambridge and back to London. I had considered adding Brighton to the itinerary, but I am very glad I decided against it. The weather was hot and clammy - and it sucked all the energy right of me. Instead of doing the thousand things on my list, I opted to visit The National Gallery which I hadn't visited for nearly twenty years. I knew it would be cool, relatively free of crowds and very restorative to my sanity.
But first a gratuitous photo of The Thing which is currently blocking.
A grey woolly blob pre-blocking transformation. I like the early evening light.
The National Gallery in London had played a big part in my days of living in London two decades ago. I spent much of my free time wandering through the galleries and several paintings had become old friends by the time I left. It was a great joy to see these paintings again - a certain Titian, Fra Filippo Lippi's The Annuciation (it had not lost any of its power and mystery) and Paul Cezanne's Les Grandes Baigneuses (Cezanne's painting took on extra meaning for me this time as I'm now so familiar with J.D. Fergusson's Les Eus). But I kept coming back to a simple portrait by Albrecht Dürer.
Detail from The Painter's Father by Dürer. This portrait is over 500 years old and it is still so achingly alive.
But my favourite discovery at NG was the mosaic floor in the Main Vestibule. I spent a lot of time looking at it (much to the bemusement of other visitors).
Detail from The Awakening of the Muses (1928-1933) by Boris Anrep. That man bears an uncanny resemblance to TS Eliot.
After the National Gallery, I headed next door to the National Portrait Gallery. I tend to visit NPG whenever I am in London - it is the perfect size for an impromptu visit and yet I see something new every time. This time I was struck by a painting of Aleister Crowley - the yellow colour vibrated and clashed beautifully against the red robe. I'll need to see it again.
And then I headed out to Hackney to teach at the very delightful Wild & Woolly yarn shop. I always say that yarn shops reflect their owners - Wild & Woolly is owned by Anna who I liked on sight. We sat down with a pot of tea and proceeded to have a fantastic in-depth talk about knitting as lifestyle, knitting as art form, and knitting as pleasure. And the shop reflects Anna's warm personality, sense of humour and eye for detail.
I was teaching a class on my Byatt shawl - and it was a blast. we talked colour choices, techniques and how to knit lace at the pub. The students were all lively and funny. A very brief hello from Larissa and I wish I could have stayed longer - always a good sign - but I had to dash into the dark of night as I was staying with my good friend Ben who lives quite a trek from Hackney.
And so I spent my very last hours of my time in London talking gender identity, privilege and Men Who Knit with Ben. We've known each other for years and I don't see him often enough. I don't see many friends often enough, actually, as they are all spread out across the world (that's a complaint for another day).
Exotic travel: Birmingham
Somewhere north of Preston.
Almost sure I travelled across that viaduct on my journey to Settle just two weeks ago.
Oh Scotland. Home.
I have been travelling a lot the past month or so. As a confirmed introvert (and homebody) I can feel I need some time to recover from adventuring. I do try to soak up as many impressions and ideas as I can while I am travelling - but then I need time to sort through them all. The good news is I have finished quite a few things and I'll be able to share a new design with you very shortly. Yes, it's the grey blob shown above and no, it is no longer a blob but a Very Beautiful Thing.
A big thank you to everybody I met on my travels south - the people who came to my classes; Anna and Sarah who both jumped at the chance to host my workshops; Joanne and Ben who let me stay at their places; and all the lovely strangers who talked to me because I was knitting. I salute you.