We began a raw, windy new year with a chilly walk through the park to Picadilly, and stopped near crowds at the elegant Ritz Hotel to view the New Year’s Day parade. Every coffee shop en route was full, some with queues trailing onto the pavement. There seemed to be more British units marching this year than last, but Atlanta, Dallas, Richmond, and many other American cities marched, as last year. I’m sure some worried schools cancelled because of post Sept. 11 fears, but the mood was jovial. It was frosty: our teeth chattered as the sun shone. Bands alternated with giant bobbing balloons of Garfield or Bart Simpson, narrowly avoiding building corners and lightposts, and floats carried Little Miss Whatsername and her wannabe sisters from various towns. Most seriously lacked Rose Bowl potential, but enthused parents and siblings lined the streets. It used to be easy to spot American tourists, but now that Gap, Nike, and Benetton are worldwide style-setters, it’s harder. There is still a healthy, pony-tailed American girl look, but it’s harder to tell the boys, all of whom may be in a Yankees ball cap, backwards.
After an hour or two with bands and majorettes, we crossed the street and walked through the elaborate iron gateway for tea at the Royal Academy as much to get warm as to see the Japanese prints, advertised by huge flags on the façade. Inside, a tiny gray mouse darted from under a fat sofa in the members’ room as we nibbled; he nibbled too. Prints of ancient Edo’s theater and pleasure districts, the “floating world,” ukiyo-e, came from the Boston Museum of Art, spread over hundreds of years and displaying various styles and signatures. Few were as x-rated as some I’ve seen. When xenophobic Japan was opened by U.S. Adm. Perry in 1853, westerners went crazy over these prints. Sophisticated artists had to have a collection, and their hard edge, flat color, and unusual angles influenced Van Gogh, Lautrec, Degas and their enthusiastic cohorts. Two days later we were walking in Barcelona, delighted to see a palm tree again but news of that comes in late chapters.
Charming ancient Cotswold towns are best visited by car since not all are linked by busses.
Copyright © 2020 London Chronicles - All Rights Reserved.