Love for Victoria (& Albert too)

Wednesday we (ie: self and daughter’s family with two small persons) reluctantly extracted ourselves from the farmyard near Thame where we’ve been talking to cows and magpies the past couple of weeks and flung ourselves at London, to insert said daughter’s family onto an aeroplane Thursday morning. A process that proved rather more troublesome than any reasonable individual might expect. United having thrown its hands up and had the vapors like a Victorian heiress, said family grabbed at the opportunity to transfer onto British Airlines. Which, despite the late notice, at least managed to a) get them four seats together, only three of which they had paid for since one member is less than two years old and b) succeeded in presenting them with two (count them: two) car seats upon their arrival at San Francisco.
None of their other luggage, mind, those suitcases being somewhere in the bowels of Heathrow, but at least they could drive home without having to duct tape the kids to the seats. (And in case you’re wondering, the daughter’s husband being an engineer, yes they do travel with duct tape. In more than one color.)
While all this was going on, I was attempting to let Avis have their car back, Avis being singularly uninterested in having their car back, and by the time I had traded a ton or so of motor for a three-inch length of printed paper, my family had been sucked into the security vortex. So I boarded the tube to London.
I adore the Victoria & Albert museum, one of my two favorite grandmother’s attic sorts of places (the other being the Pitt Rivers, which is anthropology to the V&A’s art and textile focus.) My first visit to London, in the winter of 1977 (during such a bitter cold spell the gas fires in sitting rooms burned a sullen orange, the evening roasts were not cooked through until midnight, and a genuine London cab driver admitted defeat and pointed out the entrance to the tube station) my husband took me to the V&A to meet Tipu’s Tiger.

Tiup's Tiger, thanks to Wikipedia

Tiup’s Tiger, thanks to Wikipedia

I said hello to the fellow again this time (have you seen the Youtube video of what the tiger’s internal organ–ooh, punny joke!–sounds like?  It’s here. ) and then went to look at all the Victoriana I could find (have I mentioned that The Murder of Mary Russell will spend a great deal of time in the half-century before Russell is born? Although I’m pretty good on the Twenties, when it comes to 1860-1880, much research is involved…)

And then I wandered over to the best part of any museum visit: the cafe. What is it about museum cafes? An endless source of delight, stimulation, and interest both visual and gastronomical. Of course, being set in William Morris rooms makes the V&A even more of a treat.

However, I have decided that museum visits to London really ought to be done using a base of central London: clawing one’s way into the Underground in the late afternoon shatters any sense of peace and uplift a museum might have given one.

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  1. Merrily Taylor on May 24, 2015 at 6:44 am

    Oh, Laurie, that all sounds lovely with the exception of the Heathrow Experience (always a joy, isn’t it?) I love the V&A too, my favorite piece being the Armada Jewel. Trust me to go for the jewelry. Hope you conintue to have a good time – without it being too exhausting – and thanks for that little teaser about “The Murder of Mary Russell”!

  2. Tricia Mills on May 24, 2015 at 6:48 am

    I’m sure the Sultan who had this made laughed and laughed. I saw this, loved it, and wish I could have taken a better photo of it. The Cafe was glorious; i wish I could have gone there twice.
    Laurie, don’t get on the tube during rush hour! Find a nice place to sit down and have tea where you are. So relaxing and refreshing: the genial beverige.

    • Tricia Mills on May 24, 2015 at 6:50 am


  3. Janis Kiehl Harrison on May 24, 2015 at 10:36 am

    I am mildly anglophilic. I am becoming an anglo-maniac reading your accounts! Now: what do I need to get there, do all those touristy and semi-scholarly immersion things I’d like to do:
    * money
    …and did I mention money?

    Enjoy, enjoy! And thank you for sharing.

  4. Lynn Hirshman on May 24, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Did Tipu’s Tiger inspire the Toy Room in The Game? I seem to remember Mary’s distaste for a similar “toy” while being hosted by the Raja.

    • Meredith on May 25, 2015 at 12:48 am

      I certainly thought of it at once. Crikey!

  5. Nora on May 24, 2015 at 11:51 am

    So enjoying your experiences! Never having been, and doubt if I’ll ever get the chance, it’s at least nice to see it through your eyeNothing ever goes smoothly, especially when young children are involved, but sounds like you’re making the most of it! Nice clue regarding your new book too!

  6. Mary Garrett on May 24, 2015 at 11:55 am

    That tiger is amazing! . . . and disturbing. Rental cars are a mixed blessing, even though the Car Talk guys give some seemingly rational reasons for using them for long trips. I once rented from “Rent a Wreck” and found the name far too accurate, and then there was the experience of clipping a car in a parking lot and explaining to Avis that, while their car was fine, they should expect a call from the owner of the other car. A museum would be a great place to decompress after all that. Now thinking about the consequences of duct taping children into the car . . . not that I hadn’t thought of such with my high school students . . .
    Eagerly awaiting the next book!

  7. Nancy on May 24, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Every year I gladly trade the hassles of Heathrow and transatlantic travel for the joy of hearing a cuckoo in the wild, sitting in a pub where Dickens wrote, hearing music in venues unlike any other, petting friendly dogs while enjoying a pint with pub food, chatting with candid kind curious people with such charming accents… and even watching BBC. My mantra of “keep your eyes on the prize” has gotten me through innumerable figurative and literal roadblocks. And don’t get me started on the weather… I even love the mizzle. Thanks for the phrase : “I had traded a ton or so of motor for a three-inch length of printed paper”. Write on!

  8. Carol Rogers on May 24, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Thank you for evoking a wonderful memory of a visit with my mother. We mastered the ” tubes” for the first time and wallowed in things I had only read about.

  9. Kristin on May 24, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    In 2012, when I was visiting a friend/former student who happened to be a docent at the V & A, I spent several fascinating afternoons at the V & A, checking out the Beatrix Potter works, the silver displays, the formal art, the ironworks. And yes, I loved having tea and scone in the William Morris room. And I recently found my pictures of the blown glass “chandelier” that hands over the information center at the entrance. Thank you for reminding me of some delightful time “doing nothing.”

  10. Meredith on May 25, 2015 at 12:51 am

    Remember Albert Campion, upon receiving a call from the V& A, “always at home to their majesties.” One of Best Places Ever.

  11. David King on July 3, 2015 at 7:43 am

    There are two videos at YouTube that show Tipu’s Tiger along with the wonderful music that it makes.

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