Earlier this week I left the eastern seaboard for a 7 hour hop across the pond to glorious London. London in February?? was the quizzical response from a few well wishers to my extended vacation-a three week ‘mini sabbatical’ of spending time with friends, writing, photographing and strolling around in silence through the city’s green spaces. London is fabulous even when it’s damp and cold and rainy…which could just as well be the case in July as it is in February.
Something happens to me when I come back to London. I’ve lived there twice over the last twelve years and return almost every year to visit. When I am there, it is as if I step back into another life and all I have to do is press the ‘play’ button and things pick up again from where they left off. My friends greet me warmly and open their homes to me. On each visit there are new partners and children to meet, but otherwise, it’s as if little time has passed.
My interests manifest themselves differently here. I do things I rarely do in DC, like make time to go to all these galleries and plays and markets. There are so many great art exhibits that beckon and the winding streets invite me to wander. Not to mention, the red double decker public buses offer delightful views of the city and neighborhoods little seen by the tourist. When I first arrive, I go back to certain spots in the city as an anchoring mechanism, where parts of myself can be found in these specific places, like the Tate Modern, Borough Market, the northwest corner of Hyde Park, etc. Once I go back and recover her, then I am grounded again and can begin to explore anew. It’s a sensation that I haven’t experienced elsewhere.
Day Two: Wednesday, February 26.
My friend who is kindly hosting me is 38 weeks pregnant and has left her house just shy of 7:30 am to take her UK driving test. Apparently getting a driver’s license here is way more difficult than in the states. I languidly move about, making breakfast, and get myself together, still jet lagged and bleary-eyed. Around 10:30am, she’s back, having passed her test and ready for the next errand: grocery shopping. This time, I join her.
“I’m not sure you will be here still when the baby comes…”
“Mmm,” I nod, “They say first babies are usually late.”
We take our time getting home, pushing the overflowing grocery cart across the railroad tracks back to her house, just down the road from the supermarket.
Eventually around 1pm I make my way out the door again, camera in hand, to take the overland train into Waterloo, where I would then wend my way from the London Eye along the south bank of the Thames to my final destination, the Tate Modern, a power plant repurposed into an art museum that rests at the foot of the Millennium Suspension Bridge. Below are photos from my stroll, which took me nearly two hours. Always in a hurry, I consistently have to re-learn how to move at a slower clip so I can actually see what is around me.
Finally, before meandering home, about a 45-60 minute door-to-door journey from the Tate Modern, I sat for a moment in a coffee shop to enjoy a late afternoon cappuccino, careful not to spoil my dinner. Another friend was coming over tonight and the three of us were planning to cook. By chance, I glanced down at my phone at an incoming text message. What I saw at 5:14pm caused me to throw back my drink, foam splashing down my chin, and bolt out the door.
“My water broke.”