Tuesday, 20 December 2022 to Thursday, 22 December 2022
The Victoria and Albert Museum, to look at clothes behind glass, mostly, and then to King’s Road, to do the same. I’d never been to the V&A before, but knew its reputation and was unsurprised to be most interested in the textiles, if a little disappointed to find only one full example of eighteenth century menswear. Fashion for men has not, I think, been bettered since that era, but perhaps that’s just because I flatter myself that I have the calves to carry off a pair of silk stockings. That disappointment is ridiculous, of course, given a moment’s thought about the difficulty of preserving fabric for two and a half centuries. One can understand, too, why they do not provide a replica of knee-britches and silk cravats for modern schoolchildren to try on, but this particular overgrown schoolchild was very happy to have the chance to slip into the couple of reconstructed tunics which were available.
The whole day spent with one eye on the clock, time and tide and Qantas waiting for no man, etc, after a couple of hours admiring the past and myself I walked down to King’s Road and admired items for sale that I could not possibly afford. That’s a working assumption, as I only went into two shops. The first was a Pret A Manger (as I gather it is spelled en anglais), partly because I wanted to eat something while I walked, and partly driven by a recollection of my last visit but one, twenty years earlier, when I had a Granny Smith apple from a Pret which firmly, and indeed crisply and tartly, convinced me that they really are different in England, much better than the insipid variety sold under that name in Australia. Time to try again, I thought, but the collection of apples in the shop I walked into on King’s Road was another disappointment, none too fresh looking and all deep red. I chose a tuna and cucumber baguette, which squirted all over my hand as I ate. After ten paces I returned to the shop, managed by the use of gesticulations alone to communicate that I was after some means of wiping myself clean, got handed a wad of paper napkins thicker than your correspondent and shouldered my way out into the sunshine once more. For sunny it was, a glorious day.
Down the length of the fashionable shopping street, perfectly comfortable now that I did not have to enter any of the jewellery stores. I entered one fashionable boutique, idly checked the price of a basic men’s t-shirt (£80), then carefully checked out several other items of clothing with the aim of fooling no-one in particular that I was perfectly at home in the sort of shop that charges at such rates and that the reason I left empty handed was that I hadn’t seen anything I liked. Which, at least, was also true.
Then back along the length of the street, that being preferable to working out how the bus system worked for a single journey, and into the Sloane Square tube station headed for the south bank of the Thames, my only real mission to pop into the Tate Modern to pick up a couple of cards to scribble thank you notes to my hosts, one for each generation. No time to look at any art, really, although I wandered through a gallery showing Australian art from 1992, none of which will stick long in the mind.
From there back across the frankly hideous Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s and a nearby café where I bought a coffee, borrowed a pen and scribbled my thanks, then onto the Underground, bound for Maidenhead for the last time. Goodbyes in sequential order to Steven, dashing once again pantomimewards, Louisa and, finally, the United Kingdom, on QF2, first stop Singapore, and a reminder of the global trade bottleneck nature of the Strait of Malacca. I managed to sleep both before and after crossing the equator, something of a minor miracle, and got home to my family where I discovered that none of the clothing I had bought for friends and family was the wrong size, a miracle of rather greater proportions.