Day 12: July 4th
Friday morning I took some personal time, slept in luxuriously late, sorted thru my stuff, deciding what to send home rather than pack in my bag. Since I knew I'd be having dinner up north near Camden town, I decided to take a turn in the Camden Market, advertised on the web as the most artisan-centered of all the London Markets. Ha! It is a seedy, dirty tourist trap full of Goths and street people and generic international namaste crap -- t-shirts, and fake Celtic,and various bangles and beads, and cheap imported clothing. Every once in a while I happened on a genuine crafts person, like Penny Burdette http://www.pennyburdett.co.uk/pages/MenuFrameset/MenuFrameset.html
Who designs her own knitwear. But after an hour or so I was tired and depressed by both the schlock and the density of the crowds so tubed back home for a bit of a break.
Treated myself to a taxi back up to Camden to join Gabe and Karen for a long hilarious dinner wi Jean and Cecil. ( b/c of work on the tube, the trip to Camden requires at least three line changes, each of which involves significant walking and climbing). Told the waiter that the two additions to our party would be a very tall thin elderly man and a very small dramatically dressed woman. Jean did not disappoint. Showed up in a floor-length black burnt-out velvet striped gown, trimmed with bright turquoise sequins and embroidery, a matching iridescent choaker collar, and a large black feathered hat. (Pic on my FB profile), and of course the usual irrepressible glamour of her enthusiasm.
Ah..how to collect such evanescence...you know: the usual high hilarity, old stories embellished, new stories (a lively discussion of why everyone loved Duncan, should we feel sorry for Vanessa, who made her own choices. Didn't realize duncan had bunked on top floor of house on Victoria Sq. That Cecil shared wi Leonard after the war); comparing courses, favorite "new" novels; why do we all like A. S. Byatt; is it possible to enjoy reading Fowles' The Magus as an adult? Jean asked for poems abt our relationship to history, which produced quite a list and a delightful series of recitations; news abt friends, gossip, plans for conference next year.
About 11:00 I asked how late the tube ran, by 11:30 I realized that this party was not going to break up in time and ordered a taxi. I think we finally disentangled ourselves about midnight.
Hadn't quite realized how much I'd missed being with real friends... Couldn't get to sleep until 2:00 AM -- think it was as much exhilaration as the lovely port and shared chocolate mousse. Traveling is fun, but nothing beats traveling wi friends.