We're now back at the top of our low mountain after a few days in London. At the risk of sounding like 'a hick from the sticks', when you're more accustomed to the plod of rural life it's a busy old place isn't it? We pounded the streets with the best of them, shopped and ate for England and got an injection of culture as well. Hmm, is it any wonder I'm exhausted?
Our hotel, The Montague on the Gardens' is an artefact's throw from the British Museum - which must be one of my most favourite places. Its proximity means that it's easy just to drop in for a quick browse and a gawp at all that wonderful STUFF. Such a treasure trove. Forget 'Supermarket Sweep ' - I'd like 5 minutes with a shopping trolley in the BM.....or perhaps a block and tackle to liberate an Assyrian statue or two.....
We had tickets for 'The First Emperor' exhibition staged in the Reading Room in the Great Court. Whilst not particularly large it was certainly worth a visit. The chance find of a terracotta head in 1974 by a Chinese farmer whilst sinking a well resulted in one of the archaeological discoveries of the twentieth century - the tomb of China's first Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi. His own burial mound remains unexcavated but archaeologists have uncovered a wealth of material in a vast underground complex which surrounds the tomb. As well as c.7,000 terracotta soldiers, pottery entertainers, officials, musicians, horses and bronze birds have been found in an area 56 km sq. The scale of this one man's quest for eternal life is staggering - and any exhibition can only ever show a fragment of its magnificence.
These little clay figures made by schoolchildren, standing in lines like the real warriors, caught my eye. Each one similar to the next, but each one, like the originals, an individual. Good work girls and boys.
A taxi ride across London in the early evening to Battersea took us across Waterloo Bridge. Lights twinkled in all directions; the London Eye and Westminster to our right and the City, London's financial hub to the left. Below us the inky Thames magnified those lights a thousand times. It was both a pretty and an impressive sight. We supped champagne at a friend's new riverside apartment which enjoys equally impressive views across the city - envious? Moi? We dined on fish in Mayfair - at Scotts.
More good food was eaten at Moro in Clerkenwell, where we met the Eyechild who stumbled out of the darkness from the seamy side of town. Good hearty food here - just right for a cold December evening.
On our final night we took our seats at the ROH for Rossini's 'La Cenerentola'. While we were unfamiliar with this opera it's essentially a reworking of the story of Cinderella. In spite of a convoluted plot involving characters changing roles it was remarkably easy to follow - the sur-titles did help! I don't know whether I would go out of my way to see it again - it seemed to lack oomph. I was longing for some spectacle; mice and pumpkins, smoke and mirrors - a grand ball, but this was not to be. We got a swish blue car, a girl in pretty dress for a few minutes and some good tunes. Jacopo Ferretti's libretto - its word play - was great fun. As ever, wonderful to hear music for real - I never fail to feel a frisson of anticipation as the orchestra launches into the overture before the curtains part and the drama begins. Bliss.
There was just time on Friday morning to go back to the British Museum and take a quick look at some of the objects in the European Galleries.......hoards of gold and silver, tools and coins and wonderful things. Interestingly there was very little on display from this part of the world. .....Perhaps that means it is still here, still buried, just waiting to be discovered! (note to self: dust off metal detector and spade. Enlist help of Doreen.)
Then finally, shoe-horned into seats 29 and 30 in coach C on the 12.40 from Euston we hurtle north to Birmingham. It seems many others have the same idea. They and their fantastic amounts of luggage + frail carrier bags of jolly presents, are going home for Christmas. Young and excited, back to Mum and Dad. I imagine the same scenario is taking place in the other direction too. (I am always amused by the thought of this annual people exchange - north to south, south to north and presumably east-west, west-east as well.)
Miracle of miracles. The local train not only arrives in Birmingham, but it departs on time. We are home. Released from travel's enveloping time capsule where there is neither night or day or reality we discover fresh air. Cold frosty air, which as we climb out of Welshpool onto the side of our low mountain, becomes thick and foggy. Long Mountain is swathed in mist and covered in crisp hoar frost. Beautiful.
Oh - and these are my new shoes:
Now all I need is an invitation to the ball.