Phew, finally I feel better, and so does T, so we've taken the chance to get out as much as possible, singly or together, cycling or walking.
One day we went to the outskirts of London to where the huge Crossrail project is underway at Abbey Wood. Crossrail is going to improve London's transport system from West to East, involving many new stations. The areas around the new stations are expected to be transformed, although methinks it will take a long time for Abbey Wood to develop anything resembling "metro chic."
But it has a lot going for it. Just up the hill from the station are the remains of medieval Lesnes Abbey, now being done up with a Heritage Lottery Grant, and then the ancient woodland begins. Although it was wintry, walking along these muddy tracks felt like being in the countryside.
A few miles of woodland walking later we arrived in Plumstead, another forgotten place. Most people who don't live near it have no idea which bit of London it's in, but it is basically somewhere near Woolwich. By this time we wanted a cup of tea, and spotted this - "Tony's Cafe," next to a kebab shop near Plumstead Common. It looked cheerful but downmarket.
Once inside, we found it was no longer the workman's cafe it resembled but a piece of pure hipsterville. We had some delicious tea and clementine cake, and if it had been dinner time we'd have stayed and tried some of the interesting food but since it wasn't dinner time, we decided to come back another time and give it a try. The owners were almost insanely enthusiastic about their work, but Plumstead also has some way to go before becoming anything resembling "chic".
Another day we took the train out to Charlton - another area about which most people (except fans of Charlton Athletic Football Club) say "Where???"
We walked through a preserved chalk pit which is famous for its geological strata and fossils, and gives a glimpse of what a countrified place Charlton was a hundred years ago. Then we made our way round to the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.
It's a fantastic museum, even if you aren't that interested in the sea. I fell in love with the ships' figureheads - here are some of the ones on display. How I wish ships still had these. I once interviewed a very old man who remembered the London docklands in the early 1920s when some of the ships still had them, and he said how exotic it seemed looking up at the battered figureheads and knowing they'd faced all the oceans of the world. .
Many figureheads have stories - some exciting, some dramatic, some rather sad. This beautiful example, from the Victorian yacht "Sunbeam," is a portrait of Constance Brassey, daughter of the boat's owner, who died in 1873 at the age of four. Her father sailed the yacht all round the world.
I really adored a mural in the museum by the 1940s-50s artist Alan Sorrell, it's so colourful and full of life and fun. I can only show a tiny bitt here, where a seal* is about to have a cup of tea spilt over it. *(oops, I mean a shark! Thanks, Tabor and Graham!)
This museum deserves a whole post to itself, which I can't give it here - but I'll just add that we went to see its current exhibition about Samuel Pepys, the famous and very frank diarist who recorded the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London and knew just about everyone worth knowing in the days of Charles II.
One of the things that caught my eye in the show was this pair of men's gloves, which would originally have been trimmed with brightly coloured ribbons. They were quite preposterous. Admittedly they were wedding gloves....,
and the "look" in those Restoration days was pretty preposterous too, as you might agree ....
We made our way home past the tea-clipper "Cutty Sark," overlooking the glittering river. It has been extensively renovated after a fire and the floodlighting showed off the intricacy of the rigging.
Another day we went to Regents Park to see the exhibition that's mostly about some of the books which belonged to the Elizabethan magician and polymath, Dr. John Dee. Dr. Dee has fascinated people for years and several well known books have been written about him, including The Queen's Conjuror and Peter Ackroyd's The House of Dr. Dee. . He seems to have been prodigiously intelligent, but since he lived in an era when magic was taken for granted, he might be thought to have rather wasted his talents on things which we now know not to be true, like alchemy and the casting of spells.
Most of the books on show in this exhibition were actually stolen from him, but that bad behaviour meant that many of them were preserved, since many years later, they were bequeathed to the Royal College of Physicians, which is mounting this show. The College has also got hold of some other things which relate to Dr. Dee and his magical crystal somehow gripped my imagination.
Recently we had Japanese friends over, and they love beer, so we went to several pubs and also had a tour of the Fullers Brewery in South-West London, at Chiswick. It's a good tour which offers the chance to taste 10 different beers. I am a very light drinker so that meant about 10 sips of beer for me!
After, we walked along the river and it looked very strange. The weather has been so warm in England that many Spring flowers are out in peoples' gardens, and it looks and feels all wrong. The weeping willow is usually one of the first trees to come out, and flowers are never normally seen until it is showing at least a haze of green.
Even weirder are the roses against bare winter branches. Roses are definitely a sign of summer, and yet these are not all withered remnants of last year, as you can see.
There have been various family events too. Today it was the twins' second birthday party, an exhausting affair for everyone, including them, although they all enjoyed it.
And now I have a busy couple of months coming up and am looking forward to being able to relax in the Spring.... the real Spring, I mean. Though I get worried that at the present rate, Spring will all have all taken place by the time the calendar says it should be arriving.