Sunday, November 23, 2008

Memory Album

Home, as dear Mr. Stevenson wrote, is the sailor. Home, in fact, from the sea. Here is a picture of said sea from my balcony on the Queen Mary 2, for which I will now forever pine the same way a dispossessed Estonian countess laments her lost ancestral dacha on the Baltic.

Halfway Across on the QM2

But I am getting ahead of myself. Before the voyage back there was the trip over, and three unforgettable days in London. Rather than try to craft a polished and interminable narrative, however, I'm simply going to throw a bunch of raw extracts from my travel notes onto the page and hope they will form, in your eyes, at least a moderately interesting pattern.

Here we go, and hang on because my verb tenses are all over the place.

Query. Why is it that although one may begin preparing one's friends and business contacts months in advance for one's absence, begging them to please be in touch to tie up this loose end or that before one leaves home, they all wait to call until one is going through airport security?

The agony of attempting to sleep while sitting up for seven hours in a roaring airplane, then braving surly British customs agents who make anti-American remarks before stamping one's passport, then struggling to get four big suitcases and a mammoth camera gear bag onto the Heathrow Express and then into a cab at Paddington Station is absolutely worth it, when at the end you throw open the curtains of your hotel room in Trafalgar Square and find that this is your view for the next three days.

View from the Hotel

(Query re: Trafalgar Square. Where the hell did all the pigeons go?)

File under: Good Ideas. On your first morning in London if the weather is fine, do walk down Pall Mall to Buckingham Palace and then walk back through St. James's Park. Your pictures, like mine, may be only tourist-grade snapshots, but your memories will be gilt-edged.


Lamp and Unicorn

Palace Guard


The Boy

This little cottage-looking-thing is in St. James's Park. Would be perfect for me, as has wing at back with pond views ideal for drawing-table and desk. Must remember to make inquiries about summer rental upon return to Chicago.

Cottage in the Park

Wednesday night, a friendly and familiar face in the hotel bar: Jane, who I last saw in my living room in Chicago when she came to be photographed for 1,000 Knitters during a trip to the United States. Even though we are both beginning to droop, we perk up at the sight of her. She kindly offers to shepherd us to and from the book signing tomorrow night, and we are grateful.

And then to bed, which feels awfully good after almost 24 hours awake. We sleep for something like 12 hours.

File under: Good Ideas. Get up very early and get to the Tower of London smack on the dot of opening and go straight to the Jewel House and you can have the crown jewels all to yourself for twenty minutes before Japanese bus tours show up and all hell breaks loose. This will give you time not only to ponder quietly the Big Stuff, like the Koh-i-Noor, but also the small stuff, like Queen Victoria's coronation ring–which was accidentally jammed onto the wrong finger during her coronation. She, being made of Stern Stuff, simply bore the pain until after all was over.

Tower ravens: love them. The sort of bird I would be if I had to be a bird–scary and severe. Also love admirably prim and concise wording on almost all British public signage.

Out of Bounds

Most photographs from this trip disappointing, nice for souvenir purposes but artistically bankrupt. Quite taken, however, with this accidental shot from the Piccadilly Line of the Underground. Clicked the shutter button when I thought I had the camera turned off.

Kid on the Tube

On second day, realized long-time fantasy of afternoon tea at London Ritz, chosen by the delightful Kerrie Allman of
Yarn Forward magazine as location for interview. Remembered reading, at age nine or so, of Madame Ritz insisting to her husband that the Palm Court must be perfectly lit, so the lunching ladies feel would feel pretty. Cesar Ritz therefore ordered delicated, pink-shaded lamps. I was thrilled to find the pink-shaded lamps still in place.

The Yarn Forward ladies surprised and delighted us with a birthday cake (chocolate mousse, thank you very much) for Tom. It was phenomenally good and had a cookie as the bottom crust.

Happy Birthday, Tom!

After interview, took photographs on main staircase while various Ritz employees sneered openly at our
gaucherie. Realize with great relief that finally, at age 37, no longer give a flying fig whether people who work at fancy hotels approve of me.

Signing at I Knit. Jane arrives at the hotel as promised and announces we will travel by bus. I have no problems with the Underground but haven't braved a bus yet and am very excited to try it. The ride through night-time London from Trafalgar to Waterloo is dizzying and thrilling. Less thrilling is watching Tom be nearly thrown down the stairs from the upper level when we are descending and the driver screeches to a halt. Happily, no harm done, and Jane assures us that we have now had a very authentic London transport experience.

At the shop, first an interview downstairs with Elizabeth, extremely sweet writer from
Simply Knitting. Then, upstairs to find shop is packed with knitters. Absolutely not an extra square inch of room. People are backed up against the doors and perched on tables. Am, frankly, overwhelmed and only just able to stop self from fainting and/or weeping. Naturally, forget to take pictures–but Tom remembers, bless him.

At the Reading

Such a crowd. Came from all over England–and at least one came all the way from France. Full of good wishes, kind words, and caring inquiries about our stay. Listened and laughed while I read from two essays from the book, and then queued up for signed copies–which sold out.

At last met in person so many knitters I've admired from afar, including long-time correspondent Judith, and Yvonne Davies of
And All That Stash. (Ages ago, wrote fan letter to Yvonne after hearing her on Marie Irshad's late, lamented Knit Cast. In person she is even more fun, if you can believe it.)


Note the glass of wine. I Knit has a fully-licensed pub
in it.

Presented owners Craig and Gerard, on whom I developed an instant double crush, with drawing of Dolores dressed as Britannia. Wish I'd had more time to talk to them - perhaps during the next visit? Thanks, guys, for giving me such a splendid welcome–and my door is always open if you come to Chicago. (You just might want to wait until spring.)

Craig and Gerard

Afterwards, Jane led us back across Waterloo Bridge–on foot, this time–to Covent Garden and we had a celebratory dinner at Joe Allen. Then a quick photograph, and so to bed, not quite believing all that had happened in the space of a day.

With Jane at Joe Allen

Last full day, beautiful sunny walk from Trafalgar Square to Kensington Palace via Green Park, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens. Horse Guards were out exercising in the ring.

Horse Guards

In the afternoon another walk, this time down Whitehall. Gorgeous piles of architecture everywhere, to which this souvenir stand was (I thought) a fun contrast.

Souvenirs, Whitehall

Paused at Cenotaph, which was covered in poppies and crosses.

At the Cenotaph

Am always taken aback by British respect for the wreaths and tributes on public memorials, which can be laid in place without fear. In Chicago, even flowers tied with wire to private graves aren't safe from thieves and vandals.

Then to Parliament, for a very special visit. Liz of Knitting on the Green has offered to conduct us through the Palace of Westminster. On previous visit to London, only saw the clock tower from a distance. This time, am able to spend a while poring over the peerless neo-Gothic details. Am unfortunately too dazzled to get any really good shots, but do enjoy myself nonetheless.

Richard I

Windows, New Palace Yard

Fence, Palace of Westminster

Inside, pictures mostly forbidden but am allowed to catch the magnificent hammerbeams in Westminster Hall, the only surviving part of the mediaeval palace.

And Tom got a good shot of Liz and I on the stairs up to St Stephen's Hall.

With Liz in Westminster Hall

Inside, rendered speechless. I am, please understand, such a passionate disciple of the Victorian Gothic Revival that I named one of my teddy bears Augustus Pugin. And these buildings are the epicenter, the ground zero, the
ne plus ultra of Gothic Revival architecture, furniture, art and decoration.

And that's not even considering the
history–both actual and fictional. After years of reading Trollope's parliamentary novels about the Pallisers, I find myself in the Commons debating chamber where Phineas Finn made his maiden speech. I stand on the very spot from which the Prime Ministers field questions.

In the Members' Lobby I hunt down Disraeli's statue and am (frankly) distressed to find that it–a sugary sweet bit of white marble–is overshadowed by a hideous, gargantuan bronze of Margaret Thatcher.

I probably have no business, as an American, thinking that this is shockingly wrong, but nonetheless I do think it. There is some comfort in noting that Mrs Thatcher in effigy looks like a badly-aged Valkyrie with indigestion. Which upon reflection I feel is wholly appropriate.

Liz, it was an afternoon I will remember until my dying day. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Last morning. Tom waved goodbye from our room (you can see him, faintly) as I photographed from below.

Tom at the Window

Too soon! Though I admit the prospect of six days on a Cunard liner softens the blow a little bit.

About which, more to come.


Anonymous said...

Wow! How ever did you manage to cram that all into one trip? You must be exhausted!

Anonymous said...

Your desciption of Mrs Thatcher's statue deserves to circulate as one of the great quotes of our time.

Looks like you had a wonderful time. There should be more knitting shops that are licensed premises.

Sweet Camden Lass said...

It was entirely, but entirely, my pleasure.

Glad you made it home safely. Come again soon.

And, seriously, my word verification is 'pences'. Entirely apt, I feel, if grammatically confused.


Anonymous said...

A fully-licensed pub in a yarn shop. Brilliant.

Is it weird that I thought the color graphic on the tube brochure in that child's hand was a Kilim rug photo or a knitting pattern?

Anonymous said...

AWESOME! Looks like you had a BLAST - but I am glad you're back - it's been too quiet here :)

Thanks for all the photos - I am going to go back and look again!!


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading about your trip and seeing the photos, too! Now, how was the crossing??


Amy said...

It's good to have you back! I wish I could take tourist grade snapshots. I know that whenever I travel, I never have enough pictures. I think I try to get enough so that I can recall in my mind the smells, tastes, sounds, emotions, and stir them all back up.

It sounds marvelous.

Anonymous said...

sweet mother of pearl, what fun!

just remembering my jaunts around london in 1970 (age 15)...all monuments still in their proper place, I see.

and if any of those shots contain the handsome tom, well well well (fans herself)...

can't wait to read the next installment!

smooches and have a nice thanksgiving!

Vivienne said...

Sincere apologies for our customs oafs. If it's any consolation, they're equally rude to returning Brits.

Nancy said...


All those years of reading my major and never a voyage across the pond. It was one of three goals I had to reach before I turned thirty that I did not attain.

knititch said...

oh my. what a delightful voyage. i am glad for you. and the idea of a yarn store with a fully licensed pub is quite something. maybe i should go.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back! It was too serious around here without you. Must talk to my LYS about pub in store. Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Wow! A trip of a lifetime it looks like. I can't wait for the ocean voyage chapter. I lived in London for 5 months in 1993 and seeing your beautiful photos brought back a lot of memories. Thank you for sharing your trip with us. I also love the London Tower ravens - such amazing birds.

Anonymous said...

Jane and Franklin...Franklin and Jane - two people I feel I know but have yet to meet. I need to get out more! Looks like a lovely visit!


Matthew (sorrowandsong on Xanga)

Anonymous said...

What an amazing trip! I once had the pleasure of spending two weeks in London and enjoyed every single minute of it - can't wait to go back.

Mary deB said...

Regarding the pigeons: the city introduced some hawks a few years ago, and the hawks ate up the pigeons, or at least threatened too so effectively that the uneaten ones moved on. Gruesome perhaps, but involves no poison!

JoAnne said...

I just wanted to mention how utterly divine Tom looks in a suit! (and isn't it apt that my verification word is "tomsigh") !?

Thanks for the great report, welcome back and how do I convince my LYS to become licensed? What a brilliant idea!

Anonymous said...

Welcome home!

Glad you got 6 days on a ship to recuperate from all of that.

And the pub in the yarn store...brilliant!

Now, get out your calendar. First weekend in May. MD S& there, aloha.

Alwen said...

Glad you're back, and that your trip sounds so awesome!

A pun in a yarn shop. Wow.

(Verification word egaper: sounds like an online tourist.)

JelliDonut said...


Your three days in London sound like three days in Heaven. The only other thing I would have crammed into an already impossible schedule: the food court at Harrods. Fabulous!

Can't wait to read about the ocean voyage back. I'm sure you're exhausted, but please hurry!

And while you're at it, I am dying for the pattern for the transatlantic cap. Pretty please?

Liz said...

It was lovely to see you - you were so entirely welcome. Hope the QM2 bit of your trip was fabulous...

Sandra D. said...

Next best thing to being there! Thanks for sharing your trip.

M-H said...

Fabulous three days. Looking forward to the next episode. I'm sure you're enjoying the freedom of travel with the burden of alumni.

rams said...

Craig and Gerard -- don't you believe a word of it. Chicago in February is an experience not to be missed. (And Franklin, I'm glad you weren't sufficiently dispassionate to manage to produce what you would consider Art. Anything much better than these short probably would melt my monitor, anyway.)

Cat said...

So glad you are back to share your tales, pictures are lovely!

Just wish I could have hidden in your suitcase...


Anonymous said...

I want to go!!! Thanks so much for sharing those pics- wow!

Anonymous said...

Welcome home! Even people you've never met have missed you. Can't wait to read about The Voyage.

The Country Mouse said...

I'm weeping a bit with jealousy as I look at your photographs. Partly because I'm not in London, and partly because I can't take photographs like that.

Also, I'm a little bit in love with you now. That Stevenson poem is one of my all-time favorites.

Anonymous said...

How delightful to stroll again in London through your memories. Our youngest daughter played in St. James Park for the week DH was there on business. It was a short walk from our hotel, and I could imagine myself just another Mum taking her daughter to the park.

NC Knitter said...

Thanks for posting so many great pictures! Can't wait for the QM2 installment.

Now and Then said...

I've been to London twice and love it, love it, love it, just like you. And your pictures are great, too. Even better to go on the Queen Mary - what a treat!

Sarah said...

Great photos! I stayed at the same hotel a few years ago. They had quite a cool art selection in the hall in front of the elevator bank, if I recall. Also, the pub-slash-LYS concept is awesome. If I ever open my own yarn shop, I think that's got to be the way to go!

Kristen said...

How wonderful! I'm so glad you had a lovely trip. Looking forward to the next trip!

Kristen said...

Cripes--I need sleep. I mean I look forward to your next installment about your trip. {sigh}

Molly Bee said...

Oh Franklin! It sounds like you had a wonderful trip! I'm so glad. You did remember to tuck David Tennant (the current Dr. Who) in your bag for me before you came home? Send him him COD, please. I'll pick him up at the Beeville post office. That's a good chap. Pip! Pip!

stash haus said...

Happy belated birthday to Tom and welcome home, you two!

Did you get to the Ceremony of the Keys? It was great fun to read the blogs of knitters across the pond and see you at Iknit.

Any Stephen Fry sightings while you were there?

Confessions of a Knitting Diva said...

I love England!! Thank you for posting pictures. We were there in 1993. I will go back someday.

Anonymous said...

Such vicarious pleasure for me to read and see that. I also want to say what pleasure the cartoon of the jumper with ingrate stitched into it gives me.

Sherilyn said...

If that's your definition of tourist grade snapshots, remind me to never, ever, ever, should the opportunity arise, subject you to one of my albums.

I've only visited England once since learning to knit...and that was for a quick weekend with my hubby where he would not have been friendly to the idea of hanging out in a yarn shop. Little did I know one of them is also a pub.

miastick said...

What a wonderful trip. I haven't been to London in a few years, last time I was there was during the bombings, so I haven't really wanted to go back. But reading this makes me want to go there again. Are the pigeons gone from Trafalgar square? Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Whee, you're back! Welcome home! (Happy Birthday, Tom!) Wonderful trip notes. I'll take your 'souvenir' photos any day, Franklin. (Westminster... ::sigh:: The Tower ravens!) You look very unfazed and quite the polished author at I Knit. Hurray for the crowd; they all look utterly content, and no wonder. So do Craig and Gerard.

And so much for trying to restrain myself to a short comment. ;) Hugely enjoyed reading and seeing everything. Looking forward to the next segment - but get some rest!

Anonymous said...

What a fabulous trip so far! So sorry you didn't make it to Amsterdam but we'll save that goody for next time, right? Right?

Anonymous said...

Wow! I did that much during a 2 week trio to Ireland (it's not as much fun if you're under 23) Also Franklin I sent an email to you and thought I should let you know so it isn't sitting in junk or spam email. Thanks for all your work it brightens up every day.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you had a good time. Always interested to read other's views on our wonderful country.

Agree with you on the Thatcher/Disraeli statue thing too.

Sharon Rose said...

Oh, Franklin... you make me so homesick for London. That view from your room! I must stay there next time. But... *gasp* no taxi pictures?

Welcome home!

Helen said...

Ahhh, London. I am always mildly amazed by people's reactions to the place, I suppose I have always taken it somewhat for granted. You'd probably find me utterly hilarious in New York as I would be falling over at the sight of yellow cabs and famous buildings. I am glad you enjoyed, and the weather seems to have been kind (mind you after Chicago it was probably bordering on tropical) I must say I am impressed to see we share a passion for the Gothic Revival. I wish I'd thought of calling my new bear Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin! Interestingly, my verification word is "favers." Hmmm.

Christy D. said...

What a wonderful trip! And I disagree that your photos are "souvenir snapshots." Those are lovely photos, and now I really really want to go visit London. In a strange fangirl way, I'm glad you're back. I missed your blogging. :)

Anonymous said...



Gamba Girl said...

Your photographs reminded me once again of how much I love London. Am in tears with envy and longing.

CraftyGryphon said...

Thanks for posting all the photos, and the great report of your trip! It was wonderful to read first thing on a Monday morning!

Anonymous said...

My goodness is Tom a tall fellow!

I read this post with breath entirely held and am now quite blue in the face which is an improvement over the green with envy I was flushed with.

Glad you made it home safely. Cheers.

goosefairy said...

omg! someone else who likes Trollope!

I have to tell you that I finally broke down and bought your book. I *was* going to try for the signed copy as prize from the Interweave contest but broke down in a yarn shop as I was perusing it. I couldn't quit laughing so a purchase was then required.

All the good things coming your way are richly deserved :)

junior_goddess said...

Ah. there is joy in your enjoyment. That's the whole point of traveling, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Oh good! I want to hear (and see) all about your transatlantic crossing, and I am glad no pirates got you. Your pictures and descriptions are transporting . . . thank you so much for sharing. -- Cat

FiberQat said...

We would like to see more of your "tourist grade" pictures. Don't play artiste on us.

Sounds like you had a lovely time despite British customs. I suppose Dolores snuck into Buckingham Palace to have tea with the Queen. Welcome home!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful trip! Take some time to relax, long journeys are always so exhausting. :)

Unknown said...

Wow! Thank you so much for sharing your trip adventures. I cant wait to hear more.

Roggey said...

Welcome home!

How you managed to tear yourself away to return is beyond me...

dale-harriet said...

Oh, Franklin - first, that 'accidental' picture is a STUNNER! Print it, frame it, put it in a safety deposit box. Second, thank you, my dear, on behalf of someone who won't likely ever get to London, for showing me what I would want to see if I did! (Oh, and Happy Belated Birthday, Tom!) I do love someone who relishes experiences and can describe them as you do. Megwetch.

Nana Sadie said...

Oh my! What a fabulous trip! (((hugs)))

Emily said...

The dacha metaphor is perfect writing. Love it.

I have a bad case of Anglophilia (that just sounds wrong)--went so far as to get ordained and Episcopal priest and went to a Chicago-area seminary that specializes in Gothic Revival architecture to scratch that particular itch. So I understand whereof you speak.

My favorite part of the trek along Pall Mall (at least I think that's where I saw them) is the ships at the top of the streetlights.

Reading your travel notes is making my passport itch.

Welcome back and glad you had a wonderful trip.

Patti said...

welcome back! I was just yesterday trying to figure out how we could afford to spend some of the holidays in London.. but alas it seems out of the budget for this year, so I truly enjoyed your notes of your trip. BTW, I think wine should be sold in ALL yarn shops.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. I, too, spent three days in London in 2005 and this really brought back memories of a magnificent and exhausting experience.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous!!! But when did Tom's birthday change from August to November!?! Must I now change all of my calendars? Or does he expect Birthday greetings twice a year?

brandilion said...

I bought a coin purse with the Union Jack on it at that very souvenir stand.

My last trip to London over Easter which is a 4-day holiday and Westminster and the Tower of London were PACKED. I missed the crown jewels and the resting place of Elizabeth, but I absolutely loved it. I'm so glad you liked it.

I was at iKnit right after they moved to Waterloo and while browsing overheard Gerard being interviewed for the Miss Flip Knits podcast.


Unknown said...

Thank you for the fantabulous synopsis. I will be on pins and needles until you get Chapter Two posted. In your absence, I discovered your library, which was handsome compensation for the waiting time. Lordy, a trip to London has moved WAY up on my Must Do Before I Die list.

North Idaho Woman

LoriAngela said...

Wonderful travel notes. London is one of my favourite places. I couldn't believe I was walking in the footsteps of Christopher Robin and Elizabeth Bennet.

Anonymous said...

Yay! You're back!

Heather said...

It was lovely to meet you, I had a great evening, and hope that you will be able to come back again soon. Looking forward to hearing all about the cruise!

firefly said...

"braving surly British customs agents who make anti-American remarks before stamping one's passport"

I've been three times now, and on the way home from one trip (an American going back to America, see?), those airport b@st@rds insisted on X-RAYING all my canisters of unprocessed b&w film.


What the hell is it with airport staff, anyway?

Great photos, by the way, especially the juxtaposed statues!

TheBond said...

I'm exhausted just thinking about it, but glad your trip went well. Welcome home! We missed you!

Knit Purl Gurl said...

I left an award for you over at my blog, Scrap Paper Scissors! I hope you go to my blog and retrieve it!! :)

Anonymous said...

I love that we saw so many of the same things (though I think you were less lost than I.)

janna said...

Thank you for the wonderful travelogue. I spent 3 days in London about 25 years ago and would love ot go back. (and my verification word is yandl, which amuses me...)

Unknown said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing! Glad to see your back safe and sound.

Denise Bein Kroll said...

Welcome back! Sounds like a wonderful trip.

Unknown said...

Felt like I was there. Thank you so much for the tour.

A pub in a yarn shop!! I do believe that I have found my calling!

AllyB said...

So glad you had a wonderful trip. Your photo of the poppies and crosses took my breath away. It would look great in my craft room. Do you ever make prints? I have money, LOL.

Anonymous said...

Don't want to be too picky, but it was A.E. Housman who wrote home is the sailor...
Au reservoir, sweet one!
I was so sad to have finished all the Trollope.

Eileen said...

AH.....Franklin, thank you.

And if you have not done so, read this:

"84, Charing Cross Road" and this:

"The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street"

(Heck, read all Helene Hanff's adult books, if you can.)

Bo... said...

OMG, your pictures are breathtaking!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Welcome home! Sorry to read that Brits in customs, etc. were rude. Eons ago when I was there, we felt so relieved to be in England where the officials firmly but politely promoted queues and taking your turn and fair play and sent a couple of stinking rich Americans attempting to bypass a queue to the back of the line. Said officials were most genial and we wanted to cheer.
Of course, we had been to France first, and after that...


Vermont Designs said...

I just discovered your blog before you left for your trip to my birth City. Thanks for all the marvellous photos. I don't get into Town since my best friend, who lived in Covent Garden, died in 2005. But I do go to Cornwall every other year for family visits. Looking forward to the QM part...Cheers, Shelagh.

Phlights of Phantasy said...


Welcome home! I just finished the book last night and I loved it--laughed out loud at every essay and cartoon (except the one about the poncho made me cry!). When are you going to come back to California for book signings (I'm in L.A.) ???

Susan Lea Howley said...

Argh! I am so gutted that I wasn't able to go and meet you at iKnit, esp since it is so close to me. But alas I had a sick little one so it was not to be this time round.

Reading of your trip is so familiar to me because I'm an expat and feel similar passion for the things that the British respect and preserve... and similar disdain for the statue of Maggie! It's nice to hear a tourist view of London again because I tend to forget what it's like sometimes - once you live somewhere for a while it can lose its shine. But London is an amazing city, I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

And Happy belated Birthday to Tom. I've done champagne at the Ritz it's an experience!

Angie said...

Thank you so much for the wonderful photos and narrative of your visit in London and the trip back to the US.

Unknown said...

Not sure how I came about your blog? but I enjoyed eavesdropping into your life all but for a brief moment. And I enjoyed very much your take on our great City of London.
You mentioned at the end that you were going to write about your experience on the transatlantic crossing you were taking on the QM2. I'm doing the same voyage myself on the 14th September, and would find it fun to read your notes before I sail. Where would I go to find your blog?.

Wishing you a happy day.