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Once and Matilda

Well my friends, I am, as they say in this country, knackered. Spent done worn right out. This parrot has had it. As I strolled along Piccadilly today, I came upon Sackville Street. My street. Calling me home.

Yesterday I went shopping for a few gifts, and of course to Marks and Spenser to buy underpants, because that’s what you do at M and S, and to take a look at Kate Moss’s trendy TopShop. That was my exciting morning. Wandered through huge old Selfridges which used to be a stodgy store but is now uber-trendy – as is this whole city, just jam-packed with people and everything going on. Overwhelming as it is, I love London, the energy is phenomenal, and yet Londoners are hospitable and patient and somehow this madhouse of a city runs.

Met Christopher, Cristina and little Marina and took them nearby to lunch to thank them for their hospitality. And then later, went up to Hampstead to have dinner with Tony and Blossom.

I’ve written about Tony before – he was my boyfriend during my year at theatre school in London in 1971-72. I was 21, he was 31; he wore platform boots and was one of the most interesting men I’d ever met, a dealer in antique musical instruments. And he still is – a fascinating man, still dealing though much less now and about to sell his Hampstead shop. He lives in a rambling house full of paintings of people making music and antiquities; the minute I appeared, as usual, he opened a bottle of champagne which his wife Blossom and I polished off. She’s Australian, nearly 20 years younger than he, a sexual health nurse and an honest and funny woman. And then Tony opened a bottle of superb wine to have with dinner. Oh my. And still we talked. And still I managed to stagger onto the tube back to Marylebone.

This morning the family left on vacation and left me the extraordinary luxury of a bright flat in London all to myself. For one day. My plan was to walk all day before going to the theatre tonight, but it was just too cold. Instead I found the half-price ticket place in Trafalgar Square and got a ticket for a matinee.

And then I had a task – just as I brought some of my father’s ashes to Paris and scattered them in the Jardin des Plantes, I’d brought some of my British mother’s to London. I had them with me today and wasn’t sure where they should go – and then I realized, of course, right there in Trafalgar Square is Canada House. Canada was very good to my mother; she loved her adopted home. Luckily Canada House was closed today, so I sat on the steps and discreetly scattered my mother and said goodbye.

Then I got completely lost in the tangle of the West End before finding the theatre to see “Once.” I wasn’t interested in seeing it when it played in Toronto – I’d seen the movie. But the musical won a Tony and people seemed to love it. And now I can tell you – I love it too. It’s a moving show full of heart, wonderfully directed and acted, about hope, love, kindness, music, creativity, trust. Among other things.

Home on the 453 – on the top deck, of course, still thrilling; the busses on the Amalfi Coast gave white-knuckle rides, but London busses are my favourite. A brief respite away from the truly unbelievable crowds and noise of the West End, and then back to the theatre again, so see “Matilda,” which has been sold out for years – I booked my ticket months ago on-line. It’s playing in New York, but I wanted to see a British show with a British cast. Another huge treat. An explosive anarchic funny yet dark celebration of children and especially one brave and brilliant little girl, who reads books and weaves stories. A story dear to my heart, with fabulous music.

What a feast. Plowed through the millions to Regent Street and there was the 453 waiting for me. And now I’m home, at Christopher and Cristina’s, in the silence, about to go to bed on the last night of my journey.

For tomorrow I fly. At least, that’s the plan. Take me home.

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2 Responses to “Once and Matilda”

  1. theresa says:

    What a lovely account, Beth. I've always loved theatre in London. Something so special about seeing, Vanessa Redgrave in Hecuba in the west end and realizing that the man sitting behind us was Tony Harrison. Or Tyne Daly in Master Class. Or, or, or…And that curve of Regent Street (and yes, the underwear at M&S.,..). Thank you for this.

  2. beth says:

    I sat next to an elderly British couple at Matilda, and when we chatted, I told them that I come to London to see theatre, the best in the world. They liked that. But it's true, the brilliance here in all fields, writing and acting, but for me especially direction and design, is stunning. Thank you for coming with me, Theresa. When I get home I'll get caught up with your travels.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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