Day 8—Saturday, May 19, 2012
Lovely day today, after a rather slow start. Paddington rather crazy—after criss-crossing the station three times in search of an ATM that wasn’t out of money, finally found one that would dispense 50 pds, but no more. We spent an extra hour or so getting to Richmond because of delays on the Circle Line. One of the girls figured out we could take the Hammersmith Line out west and connect at the end of that line to the line that ran south to Richmond. So we did. Serious worries about how they are going to handle the Olympics if they can’t do a busy Saturday morning. And sympathy for why Virginia felt so isolated from London stuck out in suburban Richmond.
When we got to Richmond we went immediately up a series of twisty little lanes until we got to Hogarth House, Leonard and Virginia’s “London” home 1915-1924, where they founded the Hogarth Press and began their printing ventures. The new tenants have nurtured a wandering wisteria vine, trained to circle the blue plaque commemorating the Woolfs’ residency which certainly softens the rather stern façade of the building.
|London Girls at Hogarth House, Richmond|
Then we navigated our way over to No. 17 The Green, the house where they first lived in Richmond, from Oct 1914- March 1915. About all that Virginia has written about this house are memories of huddling in the basement with the servants at night, during the aerial bombardment at the end of WWI. There were guns at Kew which they could hear firing as well. That house fronts onto the huge public space of The Green, still used today by people walking babies, eating lunch, or playing a pick-up game of soccer.
We ducked into Brewer’s Lane, a tiny lane or twitten just a few houses down from no. 17 in order to get back to the center of town, and found ourselves in a little shopping alley already festooned with banners for the Jubilee. We were all getting hungry, so we piled into a pub called the Britannia and had lunch.
Once we got back out on the High Street, we found the proper bus to take us to Kew, but while waiting everyone was eying at least one store they were dying to explore, so I declared a 15-minute power-shopping break. Loaded with a few extra bags we rode about a mile and a half down to the Lion’s Gate, the SW entrance to the park and the place where Woolf would typically have entered. This is right near the famous Kew Pagoda, so we starting out by inspecting it, and then just began to wander.
Some of us made it to the Water Lily Pond. I managed to sneak in a few minutes at the Marianne North Museum—utterly amazing array of YEARS of botanical painting all over the world. The word “redoubtable” was invented for women like her; she travelled alone to Sumatra, Brazil, India, Australia, Java, Ceylon, always painting the rarest native species she could find. When she came back she willed all her paintings to Kew and built a small museum to hold them. They are hung next to each other like mosaic tiles, literally hundreds on each wall. Astonishing. I made friends with a woman who was standing there with her mouth open when I walked in. We instantly bonded on the basis of sheer amazement.
|Marianne North Gallery at Kew|
Finally we all met up at the Palm house—so full of hot steam my glasses became completely opaque when entering—an admired the “oval-shaped flower beds” outside that are the site of Woollf’s short story, “Kew Gardens.” I also made everyone visit the Victorian Water Lily House, with its giant lilies five feet across upon which they used to stand small children—back in the days before child endangerment laws.
|Oval Shaped Flower Beds at Kew|
Exhausted from the 4+ miles we had walked in the garden, we piled into the train. The girls decided they wanted to eat Indian, so we all went out together to the restaurant at the end of the block, where they served us very well.
And now everyone is tucked in, working on their blogs and relishing the idea of sleeping in late tomorrow. The girls have an assignment to visit Tavistock Sq and take pictures, but otherwise are free. I think everyone is planning to shop. They’ve been very restrained so far, but TopShop is calling.