I arrived home yesterday after three days in London. I took not a bus, nor a taxi, nor a tube train, but walked everywhere — much the best way to see the city. At first I was like a kid in a sweet shop. But after a couple of days the attraction palled. I found the overstimulation exhausting, and the petrol fumes got into my eyes and throat. The visit was intense and enjoyable, but I fled back to the provinces with relief.
As I walked from King's Cross Station on Wednesday afternoon and made my way to the Thistle Hotel near Marble Arch, I couldn't resist popping into the British Library on Euston Road. There's a copy here of every publication produced in the UK: that's a staggering 150 million items, with three million new items added each year. I spent an absorbing hour or two in the John Ritblat Gallery (free admission), and marvelled at the incredibly rare early manuscripts and printed books on display: the Lindisfarne Gospels, Shakespeare's first Folio, the Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta, Leonardo da Vinci's Notebooks, some Beatles' manuscripts, and many other gorgeous works, including some extraordinarily beautiful illustrated natural history books.
The next morning I walked the short distance from my hotel through Mayfair to Grosvenor Square, site of the US Embassy. In the photo you can clearly see the gilded-aluminium eagle over the main entrance. Opposite the embassy the blue tent houses an Iranian protest against the recurrent Iraqi attacks on Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, home to Iranian dissidents, exiles and refugees.
On the other side of the square stands the Canadian High Commission, and also the 9/11 Memorial Garden, officially opened on 11 September 2003. There's an oak pergola flanking a pavilion upon which is inscribed: 'Grief is the price we pay for love'. Three bronze plaques carry the names of the 67 British citizens who died in the Twin Towers. Below them is a fragment of a girder from the World Trade Centre preserved in resin.
In front of this Grecian-style lodge is a memorial stone bearing these words from American poet Henry Van Dyke: 'Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love time is eternity'.