I've been in London, primarily for a conference at the Hotel Russell, from where I had a view of a most intriguing building which turned out to be nothing at all what I expected it to be, although it does have an interesting history.
Whilst there, the news from home regarding snow and ice was not encouraging. It had been the plan that Mark would drive up on Friday, for a meeting of his own, so I'd stay an extra night and take the opportunity to visit an exhibition or two. But Gloucestershire was said to be under a foot or more of heavy snow and our plans were thrown into confusion. On Friday morning, Mark made the split second decision to set off early and catch the 7am train and as luck would have it, he got out before the worst snow fell.
Unbelievably, that train arrived on time and we met as I finished my breakfast on Friday morning.
It had been our plan to visit the British Museum to see the Babylon exhibition but we'd been unlucky as it was sold out. This time, however, the weather was in our favour as we took the shortcut across the square as the museum opened and not only did we walk straight in but had the place almost to ourselves.
Though I'd seen some of the exhibits in their home in Berlin, I had forgotten how beautifully preserved many of them are. We were staggered by the intricacy of the cuneiform characters and the richness of the colour in the glazed reliefs from the processional way. I also loved the design of the exhibit - the "gold leaf" panels with cut out lettering, the contrast dark blue typeface on the soft gold background. Excellent all round we thought.
The contrast of old and new in this building always impresses, too.
After a spot of shopping and a fruitless search for something to wear to the races next month, we met our friend Tra outside the Royal Academy to visit Byzantium and another visual feast. A little more crowded than Babylon, but still easy to see the details and to marvel at the sophistication of the workmanship - hard to believe that some of these beautiful things were more than two thousand years old. Sadly, the chandelier at the entrance to the exhibition was way too big for home!
My favourite was the Mummy panel from the first century. Such a realistic portrait, so contemporary in feel it was hard to imagine that this had been painted in such a different age. Love it.
We'd booked an early supper at The Wolseley and walked over, spotting this fun window display in Fortnum and Mason's on the way. Edward met us at the restaurant and we had a great time catching up with Tra's news and doing a bit of star spotting....Melvyn Bragg and Bill Nighy amongst other familiar faces whose names we couldn't place.
Stayed another night at the Russell, with somewhat contrasting artwork to that which we'd seen earlier in the day - these are illuminated panels set into the wall, which, I suspect, will not have quite the shelf life of the Mummy panel...
Then home on Saturday morning. A Challenge. Engineering work on the line meant a bus from Reading to Swindon and a rather longer journey than anticipated. A short stop in Waitrose where the crowds and the panic buying made it feel like Christmas Eve all over again and finally home, around 1pm.
The snow is still here.