|A grand night out
||[Oct. 29th, 2017|09:29 am]
The flying visit to Brittany was just a bonus: the real purpose of our journey was that we had been invited to attend the awards ceremony of the Crime Writers' Association, at which our friend and client Ann Cleeves was to be presented with the Diamond Dagger, which is the CWA's lifetime achievement award. I was thrilled and delighted, and also somewhat intimidated: a glittering dinner at a fancy London hotel is way outside my comfort zone. And as the details trickled through, I became more nervous: first it was "dress code: black tie", which was bad enough, then "cocktail dress" - cocktail dress - fortunately qualified by the option of "your own version of smart". durham_rambler threatened to wear his Fair Isle Bird Observatory sweatshirt, and we agreed that this was entirely appropriate (but maybe not all that smart). We packed our party clothes, and told each other it would be fine, and - spoiler alert! - it was.
It was an early evening event, which gave us a little time to do something with the day, and GirlBear suggested we visit a part of Bloomsbury where she had enjoyed lunching with a friend who used to work in the area. For reasons of logistics, she and I set off first, with the promise of interesting shops in Marchmont Street, and durham_rambler joined us later. We pottered happily into a wholefood shop, where GirlBear scored the variety of herbal tea she had been looking for, and I discovered why the name Marchmont Street had been familiar when we stumbled upon Gay's the Word bookshop.
In Tavistock Square we found the perfect landmark for our rendezvous with durham_rambler, and from here it was just a moment's walk to Woburn Walk - London's first pedestrian shopping street, apparently, and so well hidden that it wasn't named on GirlBear's A to Z. We lunched at a deeply retro Italian café, which was excellent, and provided durham_rambler with his preferred lunch, an all-day breakfast. I was tempted by the vegetarian all-day breakfast, but decided on home-made pie and salad, and didn't regret it.
At the other end of Woburn Walk we emerged onto university campus. I've never thought of the London universities as having a campus, but this group of buildings (mostly SOAS, leading through to Senate House and Birkbeck) really gave that impression. I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the statue of Thiruvalluvar as whole, but this detail appealed to me:
- and no, I promise, I did not move that leaf!
We had come to SOAS to visit the Brunei Gallery. The photographic exhibition Moulids - the Sufi Festivals of Egypt occupies the most prominent part of the gallery, and I found it the least interesting: tucked away at the back is a splendid little display of musical instruments and documents from the museum's own collection, illustrating the transmission of musical culture along the silk road. On the way up to the roof garden were more photographs forming another exhibition. That's a Japanese garden, on a rooftop in the middle of Bloomsbury in the October drizzle, in need of a little weeding and raking, but a pleasing place to find - and to have to ourselves - all the same.
Then a scenic bus ride home, and time for a cup of tea and to compare notes on our days with BoyBear, who had been to his martial arts class, before showering and putting on party finery ready to go out again. I felt a bit conspicuous on the tube, in my big Indian print frock, but it was only a step from Tower Hill station to the venue (so close that I didn't realise until our homeward journey that the Tower of London was right there, all lit up, behind us); and although the light coloured print stood out visually among all the lacy black dresses, I didn't feel underdressed, so that was all right.
The most glamourous thing about the evening is probably that I can now claim to have dined with Peter Capaldi - albeit several large tables away, and not to speak to. More significantly, we had interesting conversations with various members of the publishing and marketing team, the after-dinner speaker (Robert Thorogood, who writes the BBC crime series Death in Paradise, which I haven't seen) was entertaining, and CWA Chair Martin Edwards did a fine job of presenting Ann Cleeves with her Diamond Dagger and explaining why she deserved it. Afterwards we had a chance to mill around and talk to people, and admire the actual dagger (no actual diamonds, though) - and get the not-quite-but-very-nearly last train home.
This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.