Thursday, September 17, 2009

Precious times

I had the day off work yesterday. I went with M to drop Little Planet off at daycare and then we headed to the Fleet River Bakery in Holborn for breakfast. M had a pain au chocolat and coffee; I had a cheese and ham croissant, and pear juice. Though highly rated amongst reviewers, I am less enamoured by this rustic, homely Holborn cafe. The cakes and bread always seem dry; they never offer to heat up my savoury croissants or sandwiches; and the service overall seems remote.

M went off to work and I walked through Covent Garden, Chinatown and Soho. I like walking through here before 10am, whilst the stores are not yet open and the delivery men are still unloading their wares.

I saw two good art shows at the Haunch of Venison: a collective show of Enrico Castellani, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and G√ľnther Uecker and then the monochromatic watercolours of Uwe Wittwer. If you're stuck in Piccadilly with a full bladder or with a baby with a full nappy then I highly recommend this gallery's toilets - very nice and clean and, most importantly, usually empty. I also saw the Keith Arnatt photography exhibition at Karsten Schubert on Lower John Street.

I had hoped to see the latest Abstract America exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery off Sloane Square but it was closed for a private function. I didn't feel like window shopping along the King's Road so I headed to Paddington to catch a train to Oxford.

There, I ate a disappointingly stodgy lunch (too many potatoes) at the stuffy Nosebag cafe opposite the Oxford Union. I then wandered past the Bodleian library and the Radcliffe Camera, and through the still delightful Covered Market (photos above and below).

I studied in Oxford and I adore wandering around its pretty streets. For me, those streets resonate with history, and the scent of academia is so palpable it still makes me shiver with pleasure. I admit I am totally “rose-tinted glasses” about my alma mater. I had no negative experiences studying in that high-pressured environment. As much as I am energised by my career in advertising, I never felt more at home or more at peace than when I was immersed in pure academic research. What I dislike about academia is the teaching and the pressure to “publish or perish” and so I left it aside as a career option.

However, my memories of Oxford are tainted by the fact that I became quite ill while I was there. I recovered, but every other year, I have a checkup with an oncologist at the Churchill Hospital. Everything is usually fine, but still I get quite emotional in Oxford. In fact, I still get emotional whenever cancer is mentioned on TV, in movies, in real life. The last time I had a check up, Little Planet wasn't yet born. I am married, I have a daughter, and I feel like I have so much more to lose nowadays. It doesn't bear thinking about really.

So I was relieved to leave Oxford and overjoyed to return to London yesterday evening, to kiss my husband and hold my little girl tightly before putting her to bed.

Life is so, so precious that it hurts. But the fact that it is precious can produce pure joy too. Thank goodness.


beyond said...

may i ask what kind of cancer did you have?it runs in my family and i,with a husband and 2 children with 3rd on the way,gets really curious too when somebody mentions it.

Planethalder said...

Hi Beyond... I had papillary thyroid cancer that had spread into the lymph nodes in my neck so had to have two major surgeries and then 2 years' worth of radiation treatment. Wasn't the best period of my life, especially because I was so young, but my spirt and mental capacity strengthen enormously and I credit that experience in my life to being a "live in the moment" kind of girl.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that you had to go through all that. My mom went through chemo a couple of years back, it was hard.

I had been to London for a few days but haven't visited the Oxford area, will do next time :)

Anonymous said...

I have lurked at your blog for sometime now. I love reading about your weekends and your art journeys. Also, your little one is absolutely gorgeous.

Your last sentence in this post made SO MUCH sense to me (let us just say I needed to hear those words and that spirit of acceptance). All precious things are pure, fragile joy arent they. And yet, perhaps, fragility is only a perception.

Take care. And may you always keep well.


Planethalder said...

Priyanka I am sorry your mum had to go through that...

Welcome Scarlett and thank you :-)