Sunday, 12 October 2014

A day out, and enjoying the little things

Yesterday, for a change, instead of doing my grocery shopping, cleaning, running the washing machine, etc, as per any normal Saturday, I decided to take myself off for a day out.

That makes it sound rather momentous, which I suppose it isn't really.  But in an odd way it felt as though it was.  Life is short and sometimes hard, and at the moment there seem to be so many troubles and disasters in the world outside my own little life, most of which I am powerless to do anything about.  On Friday one of my colleagues quoted "Firefly" at me, and the knowledge that I'm working with a fellow-Browncoat made me grin for about the next hour.  Little moments like that can uplift a day, and sometimes, at times like these, one can simply miss them as they pass by.  I don't think it is hiding one's head in the sand, to want to see some good amid the gloom.  The pleasure those simple few words gave me outweighed quite a few rough moments during the working day, and it reminded me how seldom one indulges oneself to stop and look at the good things as they flash by.  I want to find things to give me hope and moments of pleasure, to counteract the knowledge of so much violence and cruelty, so much sickness and sadness.  To have those tiny flickers of satori, even if of the most simple and minor nature.  To say "Give me some happiness, give me some tiny epiphanies, as I slog through this week, this month, this year.  Let my life be about the journey, not the goal; let the journey not be devoid of good things, and let me have the time and the energy to notice them."

So I didn't do any of my duties, I was self-indulgent, and I enjoyed the simple things.  I had a lie-in with a book, and proper coffee and hot buttered toast for breakfast, and then a leisurely shower with some new smellies from Lush; and I went to the V&A.

Part of the Tube was out of action, so I took the bus to Hammersmith.  I sat on the top deck and watched autumn leaves go by, and people on the Chiswick High Road doing their shopping or having coffee out.  It had poured first thing, but by late morning it was bright and sunny, and all the cafes and restaurants seemed to be doing a roaring trade.  At Hammersmith I changed onto the Piccadilly Line and went through to South Ken, and went and had an early lunch at the Kensington Creperie.  My neighbours at the next table were French, and terribly Gallic with it, noisy and emphatic and talking with their hands, which certainly added to the ambience.  I had a savoury crepe with sundried tomatoes and olives and pesto and cheese, a glass of cold lager, and then (because I am a pig) a second crepe filled with cherry jam and dark chocolate chips.  At the other neighbour table were a group of students all eating dessert crepes and huge ice-creams, all of which they religiously photographed and tweeted before eating.  They weren't as talkative as the French group, but at one point I did hear one of them say "So are we going shopping or are we going to meet Lee at the Natural History Museum and help him pick up girls?"  The general consensus seemed to be for shopping.  I wondered why Lee needed help picking up girls in the NHM?  And is the NHM a pick-up shop? - have I been missing a trick?  I wonder which museum is the pick-up shop for forty-somethings?   

I walked up the road belching in a most unfeminine manner, and had an afternoon of Constable paintings, Indian sculptures and wonderful fashion.  No pick-ups in the V&A, just lots of food for the mind and the eyes.  The current Constable show has a lot of his little oil sketches, which are marvellous, and a lot of instances of a preparatory sketch, an oil sketch, a full-size study and a final painting, all shown side-by-side; fascinating.  There are also a lot of his copies from other artists, including a drawing he did when he was about 18 which is endearingly bad.  Even Jove nods, and even John Constable had to start somewhere.

I wandered after that through the big galleries of historic Indian arts and crafts and scultpures, and finished up in the fashion section.  It was too late by then to go round the special display of wedding dresses through the ages, so I just went on mooching.  There's something very satisfying about seeing perfect cutting and elegant styling in something like a suit or a coat; and of course the party dresses and cocktail outfits and so on are always gorgeous.  At the moment one of the 1940s cases has two Utility suits, one for a lady and one for a gentleman; it's salutary to realise how elegant, to modern eyes, this supposedly unflattering clothing seems.  I would have had a deal of trouble, in times of rationing, being a distinctly larger lady these days; just to make a neat knee-length Utility skirt for a big pair of hips like mine would need an extra half-yard compared to a "standard" size, and that would have meant saving up coupons a bit longer.  But when one tends to dress, as I do, like a parrot, with eclectic colours and patterns and styles thrown-on anyhow, it's fascinating to study the careful colour choices, precision of cutting, and clarity of line and silhouette of earlier fashions; and maybe I can learn something from them, too.

Then home, with very tired feet.  My new shoes (thank you, Hotter!) are wonderfully comfortable, but even in the best footgear Museum-foot strikes eventually.  So I finished off my indulgent day by eating a big bowl of noodles and an apple, writing up my diary, watching a little idle tv and having an early night.  I then slept for over ten hours.

It's no good pretending otherwise; I am tired.  This has been a stressful, draining year for me.  Over the next few months at work I need to get my head round the changes in my role, and in my spare time I need to focus on getting some rest, eating healthily, and doing things that make me feel happy rather than duties that make me feel harrassed and strapped for time.  And carry on with my writing, of course.

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