Wallace and fish


Today we went to the Wallace Collection on Manchester Square. This is a decent-sized museum, housed in a converted house, just a few minutes’ walk from Selfridges. It’s something of a shame that I never visited while I was living and working in London, but sometimes you only appreciate things when they’re harder to come by.

Our main reason for visiting was to have lunch with an old friend – the Wallace Collection has a great restaurant with a terrific vegetarian set menu – but while we were there we had a quick wander around the galleries. There are a lot of Dutch Masters upstairs, and downstairs there are lots of pieces of plate armour. That is a mixture that is politely referred to as "eclectic": like so many museums founders, the eponymous Wallace was probably the sort of person who just liked lots of different stuff. A bit like Horniman with his walrus, or Pitt-Rivers with his shrunken heads.

Our daughter was mostly well behaved, with occasional flashes of filthiness. The Wallace has exceptionally civilized toilet facilities: down in the basement there is a corridor with ten separate doorways, each leading to a private toilet, rather than having to share a communal sink. I don’t think a museum can be judged solely by its toilet facilities, but it helps. Along with a decent restaurant, of course.

We scuttled back to Victoria and took a train to Beckenham. To protect our daughter from the wind and rain, we have continued to zip her into my jacket. While from the front this looks quite amusing, her little face poking out of my chest, from behind there’s no visible sign that I have a baby attached – I just look like a fat man. Perhaps I need to have a sign on my back to warn that I’m carrying a fragile load.

Or reversing lights and a warning klaxon.

This evening we had friends to visit and inspect the baby. They travelled quite far – two of them from Enfield on the other side of London – so to compensate everyone for their travels I went out and fetched fish and chips from our local chippie. I like fish and chip shops, although being vegetarian there’s not much there for me. They’re one of the few food outlets in England I can think of that concentrate on doing one thing well. (Our local, Nemo’s, does anyway – some chip shops seem to try to include horrible pies, dodgy curry sauce and deep fried misery on the menu, but this place sticks to the basics and gets them right).

Now the house smells slightly of vinegar and battered fish, which is a cheering scent. I can sleep happily tonight, and perhaps Felicity will too.


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