London Adventures

by Shannon McArthur

I’m learning new respect for those of us that survive through posting online! It’s a beautiful day in Hartlepool England, and the following was supposed to be posted yesterday but internet wasn’t good in the train and not in my room at this hotel either. They are reassuring but I have little confidence. Sitting here in the bar because there I s internet here! (Has nothing to do with wanting (needing?) a beer after all this…

An oasis of peace in the centre of London’s East End, Annette’s house is the epitome of an English artist’s home, stocked to bursting with beautiful things, reminders of inspirations and hard work. I was lucky to see her most recent work, a tribute to pigeons and gulls in The Tidal House, a reclaimed derelict mill, once powered by the tides, now a museum and film location. When we dropped in there was a party going on, an English form of wine and cheese (gin and nibbles!) with live jazz, a real-life crowd-funding for convicts or something. Her origami pigeons, flocks of gulls and great falls of beautiful handmade and painted paper were a brilliant accent to the ancient dark wood and girders. Gave all the dressed-up ladies and gents an extra something special to contemplate as they made out their cheques!

My next experience of Annette’s London was Wanstead Park, an expansive wildish acreage once held by an heiress and her spendthrift husband. There are ruins of a grotto (see picture) where he locked her up when she wouldn’t give him anymore money. But there came a day when there just wasn’t anymore and they lost the place – no more was she captive in the rock-work house set into the hillside beside a small lake, part of a network of waterways. The canals and lakes are home to many birds including coots, mallards, cormorants, swans and robins (different from North American ones) and the ever-present sparrows singing their hearts out. Birdsong was so much more present in London than I’m used to – made me feel confident that, when we bring trees back into other cities, songbirds will come back too.

Annette’s London also includes a jewel of a theatre where we saw Love N Stuff, a stage play of acting genius wherein 2 actors created a comedy of epic proportions that made the large stage seem crowded! The only sound heard in the theatre, other than the actors many-accented lines, was laughter. 90 minutes of that was a great workout for the belly and facial muscles! 

A day walking along the Thames from The Tower of London through to Trafalgar Square was a workout too! It was perfect until, just after taking pictures of the man creating floods of beautiful bubbles to the delight of the children (and all others too!), Annette’s camera was misplaced and all the pictures she had taken were lost too. Though she has my pictures, they aren’t the same and she’s out a camera, a must for an “indigo” artist of her caliber and experience. She shared some of her films with me last night and I’ve been appreciating the many forms of pottery and artistry cached in her small home, catching my eye every time I turned around.

Walking with Annette through her London, it was easy to see why she loves it – it loves her! The joy on people’s faces when they greeted her was clear evidence of the high esteem in which she is held. I am so very lucky to be her friend…

Extremely lucky today, too! Apparently, the British banks do not recognize my bank card. We found a way at her bank; with the help of Visor Johal (I’m not sure of his name, but that’s close!) we were able to put some money in my pocket. Thank you, Annette, for all your help!

I’m on the train now, on the way to Hartlepool, on the northeast coast of England, to meet up with Bret and Tan who are in Skelton, a few k away. Seeing where Tan grew up and meeting the family, especially Gracie, her niece, is anticipated with great pleasure.

I hope the weather cooperates as well as it has so far…!