Last week there were two important things happening. The most important (in a personal way) was my sister’s MA show at Camberwell Art College.
Wait, you say, what? You are seventy five and your sister is just doing an MA? Well, yes, she has spent the last two years becoming more accomplished in the art of printing. And, yes, she is quite old to do such a thing – but not as old as I am.
So. I planned to go to London late on Thursday afternoon so that I didn’t arrive at the show before about eight o’clock in the evening as it didn’t close until nine and then Jennie and I would be going back to her house. I arrived at St Pancras at around half past seven and walked through a maze of tunnels to the Victoria Line in Kings Cross underground station. For a youngster that walk would be easy; for a fit woman of sixty or seventy, it would be fine; for me that walk was exhausting! I arrived on the platform huffing and puffing and found a place to stand,
The ‘tube’ platform was hot and quite crowded but nothing like the tube train! I stood at the back end of a car (there were no seats nearby) next to an open window. It didn’t help to alleviate the heat and the noise (of the wheels and the air rushing past, I suppose) was dreadful.
Eventually, I arrived at Vauxhall tube station and easily found the bus ‘station’ (which, in this case, means the place where a load of buses stop then continue on their journey). I found the 36 but it was going the wrong direction – I had to get on the one behind. Again, I stood as all seats were taken and it was still very hot. As I didn’t know the bus route or how far I was travelling on that bus, I needed to get to the middle so that I could see the digital notices and hear which stop was coming next. (As an aside, this kind of thing wasn’t happening when I was younger and living in London and I missed my stop several times on unknown bus routes.) I made my way through the standing passengers and, after a few minutes, we stopped at a place where loads of people got off so I was able to get a seat.
The bus wended its way through the heavy traffic which was made up of other buses, cars, bicycles, motor bikes, lorries, pedestrians, dogs, and scooters. We passed the Oval where a cricket match must have been in ‘time-out’ or something because there were lots of people standing around inside having drinks and chatting. Oval interests me because Chloe and her partner moved to a flat in the area. Maybe I’ll go back that way for a visit sometime but I think I’ll wait till the weather is cooler.
We were in Camberwell when the bus stopped. In fact, most of the traffic stopped. A man had been hit by a motorbike just in front of the bus, a few moments earlier. A passing ambulance (the kind that take elderly out-patients to hospital and back) had stopped so that the driver could help the injured. The motorbike rider had hurt his leg or foot but was walking around, limping, but the man who was hit was lying motionless.
When things like this happen there is always someone who needs to see what was going on. There was a woman on the pavement walking her dog who stood and watched, there were a few younger people who had a glance and then hurriedly moved on and there was a woman on the bus who felt it was her duty to go to the front of the bus to have a look then to report her findings to anyone who was nearby and since, by then, I was sitting just behind her, I was the main recipient. I knew that she wasn’t going to get out and walk home, “because it’s everso far and I have my shopping.” I also found out that I couldn’t get out and walk because the college was even further than her home. She broadcast the fact that another ambulance hadn’t yet arrived, that the bus going to the right down another road was going to go down such and such a road as a detour, that blood was coming out of the hit man’s head, and that our bus wasn’t going anywhere. And then some of the cars and other traffic behind us started moving. They were waiting for a gap in the oncoming traffic then going the wrong way round the traffic island up ahead and getting to the other side of the accident.
Our driver put on his ‘winkers’ and slowly pulled out into the traffic and we went past the man lying in the road and others who were there helping him. All the time we were given a running commentary and as we went past, I (being averse to bloody scenes except in novels) turned my head and looked out the other side of the bus.
Soon we arrived at the stop called Vestry Road, about half an hour later than we would have. I got off the bus and started the longish walk to the college. There were lots of young people sitting on the low walls in front of the building, chatting and looking very arty. I went to the front door – and was denied access to the show as they had stopped admitting people two minutes earlier! I told them my sister was waiting for me but to no avail so I rang Jennie and told her what was happening. She came to the front door but they wouldn’t let her out because she had a drink in her hand and they wouldn’t let me in because…. She was allowed to stick her head out to say she’d go back (up three flights), get her gear and come back as soon as she could. She sent her friend, Alma, out to stay with me and chat.
Apparently I had met Alma in 1983 at Jennie’s wedding. I’m afraid I didn’t remember her but we chatted anyway and Jennie came out. The three of us joined Jennie’s son and friends at a pub down the road, had a couple of glasses of wine and some pizza and went back to her house where I fell into bed and slept pretty well until eight on Friday, the 13th.
About nine, Jennie and I left her house and went to the bus stop (thankfully downhill all the way) and took a bus to the college. I had arranged for Chloe to meet me there so we could see the MA show together then go and have some brunch. She arrived not long after I did and we went in search of Jennie and her work. The college is in more than one building, joined in places by little bridges and we took a lift, went up and down stairs, crossed one of the bridges and finally found our way, thanks to a young man who was invigilating in another area.
Jennie’s work was interesting, colourful and thought-provoking. She won two prizes for her work and, obviously, now has a second MA in an art subject. (Brainy!) Some of the other artworks needed second or even third studies before I could begin to understand what they meant. We also went to the drawing/illustration show on another floor as Chloe is very interested in that aspect of art. (She wanted to study illustration at art college but was put off during her first year and instead is doing a degree in psychology. Nevertheless, she persists in drawing and some of her work is outstanding!) Then we went to the South London Gallery, next door, and had some food. (They do lovely waffles with fruit on top!)
I mentioned there were two important things happening. The second was the massive protests because (sorry/not sorry if I cause offence here) the ORANGE TURD was visiting the UK. I have never liked big crowds, I was hot, carrying my luggage, had sore feet and longed for home so I decided that Drumpf would never know I hadn’t been in the huge crowds and headed home by the slow route.
I arrived at Victoria station, bought a ticket, bought a sandwich, a bottle of water and a banana and boarded a train which took me on a sentimental journey through Bromley (where I first saw Julian without knowing it), Swanley (where I got out of a train once because I was having a panic attack and had to walk miles to find a phone to ring and ask Julian to pick me up), Borough Green (where I once, many years ago, tried to hitchhike with my then boyfriend, Tim, but gave up and took the train), West and East Malling (where I had lived in various houses for many years), Maidstone, (there’s not a lot I can say about the county town!), and on to Ashford where I changed to a train that would take me to Broadstairs. I got home about three in the afternoon, absolutely pooped!
Not sure about Julian, but Lola was very pleased to see me. We sat quietly for a while then played some ball catching games.
All in all Friday the thirteenth was a much better day for me and, I hope, for the man who was hit by a motorbike!