Even during the couple of years I spent living in Wimbledon, I never considered myself a Londoner; geographically misplaced Devonian maybe, but Londoner, no! I liked the wide open spaces, the sea and the coastline, and rolling hills. Not noise and traffic and the diesel belch of a passing bus which grits in your teeth.
However, whenever we get a spare day it is to London that we go, but to our favourite spaces, shops and views. And that is precisely where we went on Thursday.
It is a family joke that whenever my father plans an expedition, the list of sites to see in that day will stretch the ordinary family and yet there are little extras built in on all sides, "just one more", "just up this hill", "just...".
I am nothing if not my father's daughter. I also adhere to his maxim that you see things best on foot. H has learned to wear sensible footwear.
From Warwickshire you arrive by train into Marylebone which crosses off one Monopoly square for starters, and we took shanks pony down into Marylebone itself. Marylebone High Street is a picture of upper middle class shopping, there's no other way to describe it. It is perfect for window shopping all the gadgets, odd arty furniture, and hand painted china you could ever need. We did however, fall victim to the Cath Kidston shop. Secretly I love Cath Kidston prints in the same way that I love Martha Stewart Living. I know that however much I aspire to have my home look like that it will still be full of hockey sticks, fragrant sports clothes, golf clubs and bags and boxes of yarn and fabric, but I girl's got to dream.
H, loving as ever, and with a fairly recent recollection of the interaction between a pin and the sole of his foot, bought me this:
And a pinny covered in strawberries which I fell in love with. The reason for our heading in this direction was to pay a visit to the legendary VV Rouleaux. I wish I'd taken a picture of the outside of this shop because the window displays were lovely and the shop itself is a great plummy colour but I was hypnotised by the wares beckoning me in. If you have never heard of it, VV Rouleaux sells ribbons, from the finest gauze to the heavy cord tassels needed to hold floor length curtains in place. We found a rack full of embroidered ribbons
and as you see, a few came home. The pink at the top left is little girl ribbon, then the orange stripe I want to turn into knitwear somehow, the green is elephant ribbon, then there are blue boats and three different colours of butterflies - inspiration ribbons one and all, these will turn up as trims on quilts or tiny clothes, or wrapped around very special parcels. Or maybe I will keep them to look at and play with and love.
Our meanderings took us past Harley Street (where we paid homage on behalf of the medical members of the family) and past this:
A cow. On a first floor balcony. Lest it not be obvious from the picture I should stress that this is not a real cow, which would be very lost, but I suspect it to be part of the Cow Parade. It's at the end of Wimpole Street behind Oxford Street if anyone knows which one it is.
Need I say more or shall I just show you the buttons?
Five pretty little flowery buttons to go on this piece of knitwear:
Before I give you the impression that this was simply a very girly shopping trip which I dragged my husband on, our next stop (well after the bead shop at the bottom of Carnaby Street) was his choice - The Royal Academy:
This sculpture is called Promenade, originally intended for the Tuilleries gardens in Paris, but instead set up in a courtyard in London. During the week, and without any special exhibitions on, there is not that much to see as a lot of the galleries are closed. However, we found plenty to enjoy including, A Quiet Corner, which I can't find on the internet but which has a girl in tudor dress curled up in a sunny windowsill with a book while the fire burns brightly next to her feet. She isn't reading the book but has looked up to see someone coming into the room.
Oh and we found a painting with knitting - Alone by Amy K Browning. In the flesh the lady's face is far more detailed than the rest of the painting, drawing your eye in to her expression - she's too sad to knit.
H is a keen and fairly talented artist and for him, Mecca is three floors of art shop, Cass Art in Islington. "Islington!", I hear you say, "surely there's a knitting shop there!". And you would be correct.
Fortified by a slow pint in a pub near the Angel we made it to both Loop and Cass Art. Loop is small but crammed full of yarn and books and lovely things which I hadn't seen before and would find it hard to get anywhere else. For example, Autumn Vogue Knitting (with amazing mittens) and the Norah Gaughan books, which just might have come home with me!
We made it back to central London as dusk fell, and we sat in Trafalgar Square to watch the world go by
before heading into the National Portrait Gallery which has late opening to 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays. I don't think I've ever been in before, I've always gone for the familiarity of the National next door, but although much smaller it is more concentrated. We say pictures of the Tudors (always a favourite period in history), the portrait of Shakespeare that always pops up on the back of the textbooks, the Stuarts, William and Mary, naughty Queen Caroline, right through to Vera Brittan, Beatrix Potter, and our modern Olympians. Walking through the chronology either painting ability/style has improved or people looked really funny in Tudor times!
After a delicious supper nearby and a stroll around Leicester Square to play with the hand prints (I'm smaller than Arnie and bigger than Maggie Smith), we came home. But there was one last surprise:
Miniature fairy cakes from Fortnum & Mason. Perfect.
The knitting requiring buttons was this:
The first of a conveyor-belt of Baby Surprise Jackets for the onslaught of babies due in the next few months. I was hoping that this one was going to be gender-neutral (yes, I can hear you laughing) but by the time we arrived in London it was clear that this jacket was for a girl so I capitulated and bought the Liberty buttons to match.
It might have been for today's baby, born this morning, but as his name is Oliver, I think we shall have to find something else for him!