Okay. Okay. We really ought to take the goddamn Underground while we’re in fucking London. It’s a straight shot from Covent Garden to the V&A, the Victoria & Albert Museum, Britain’s vast treasury of decorative arts and design. Ali’s been touchy since last night and takes some post-Tube comments to heart which results in us splitting up for the day. J&K stay at the V&A, while V&A depart. Ali and I walk for a long time through South Kensington. It’s a gorgeous day, clear blue sky filtered through the winter superstructure of the plane trees. The neighborhood feels decidedly chichi. There are classy, five-story apartment blocks that all carry a plummy name like – Whatsitshire Mansions. Is this wishful thinking, or is the real estate here such a breed apart. We stop for lunch at a corner café and immediately feel better.
Ali and I arrive at The Design Museum in Holland Park. It was founded in 1989 by Terence Conran, he of the wonderfully quirky shop in the Citicorp Building during the wild 80s. The structure is elegant and dramatic, however the collection feels sparse. The Museum appears primarily to act as an educational institution. A special exhibition, however, of the work of Anglo-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye is stirring and profound. Adjaye designed the African-American History and Culture Museum on the Mall in Washington, DC. This exhibit features his designs for monuments, either high cultural venues or commemorations of historical events or personages. We feel that sort of chastened feeling one gets from powerful and original art. We have learned something.
After poking around the gift shop (always) with some success, the two of us head down Holland Park Road to the Leighton House, where Sir Frederick Leighton lived and painted. Leighton was not quite a Pre-Raphaelite, because his training was European and not Royal Academy. Anyway, he built a grand showcase for himself, suitable for man of his pedigree and reputation, adding on to it over and over again for thirty years. This beautiful, elaborate house filled with light and treasures has but one single bedroom (not counting staff). Fred was not a snuggler. We are just in time for the three o’clock tour. There must be thirty-five or forty people waiting for this fucking ‘tour’. The docent is a knowledgeable Scots woman with an abruptly mild sense of humor, but after about an hour our eyes have glazed over and we duck out.
We hail a taxi on Kensington High Street giving the driver our usual address – Royal Opera House, please. Our flat is just a block away down a footpath. I suggest a nearby restaurant for dinner, Barrafina, a tapas joint. It has counter seating so the four of us split up again. Joss & I and Kif & Ali. Now this is the weird part: Joss and I have what will perhaps be our most memorable meal, while Kif and Ali sitting thirty feet away are deeply underwhelmed. “All that meat and seafood, Dad.” No theater tonight. Bed.