I’m finding some inspiring additional benefits through my current association as an artist with Debut Contemporary in Westbourne Grove, and consequential regular trips down the East Coast line.
Apart from the great workshop programme and the chance to meet a wide variety of artists from all over, it’s providing me with an opportunity to rediscover London after a prolonged absence, and more particularly to explore West London.
There was a time in my life when I thought I knew London very well. I lived in the Barbican and worked in the City and jogged around Brick Lane on summer evenings. I hung out in Islington and Clerkenwell and found distraction in Smithfield and Ironmonger Row baths.
Crossing the river to South London was daring high adventure but apart from brief forays to the museums of the Brompton Road, and Harrods food hall, West London was somewhere I just never went.
I had a vague idea it was full of French patisseries and cheese shops and full of French ex-pats, but I was too busy meandering the hidden lanes of the City and East End to spare time to investigate any further.
Now, of course, given my obsessive urban wanderings and fascination with connecting the dots on any map anywhere, it would be unthinkable not to explore the white stuccoed and leafy avenues of Notting Hill and Kensington.
This afternoon was accordingly typical. Inspired by the prospect of the ball gown exhibition at the V&A, followed by the annual Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, I planned a vague itinerary taking me the length of Portobello Road through Notting Hill down to Kensington with a sharp turn left back towards the centre.
I was so taken and so distracted by side roads and parallel paths that I missed the Summer Exhibition altogether and ended up drawing Renaissance statues in the marbles gallery at the V&A instead of the ball gowns.
No matter. The exhibitions are on for a bit yet, and I have replenished the wells of suburban inspiration. The quiet dazzlingly white backstreets are very different from my usual Northern backstreet haunts, but equally compelling in a very metropolitan and cosmopolitan way.