Day 2: Hammersmith, the Thames and tombstones

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

Day 2 in London: morning Facebook post

First of all, we slept till 9:30!!!!! (which explains my broad smile in this photo)

To you, that’s nothing.

Me and Christian, together at last, on North End Road, West Kensington, London, UK
Me and Christian, together at last, on North End Road, West Kensington, London, UK

To Christian, it isn’t frequent enough.
To me, it’s A MIRACLE!!!!!!!
(this is where you would insert Handel’s Hallelujah chorus)

We’re off to Hammersmith for a good part of the day, starting with breakfast, and including shops and the Library where Christian found solace and comfort (and WIFI !) during his first weeks here.

Love you all! xo

Mid day in Hammersmith:

With Christian at La Petite Bretagne, Hammmersmith, London,
With Christian at La Petite Bretagne, Hammmersmith, London,

My first breakfast in London was French! We had crêpes at La Petite Bretagne (Christian had apple cinnamon, I had Belle Hélène), followed by a walk along the Thames Path with its riverfront pubs and houseboat islands.

It was my first glimpse of the Thames. Not the touristy Thames, but the one that wraps itself around everyday life, and upon which people live, work, and depend.

Exiting Hammersmith, I was guided by The Ark: not Noah’s, but instead one belonging to General Electric (Real Estate).

The Thames Walk, Hammersmith, London
The Thames Walk, Hammersmith, London

This strange and beautiful building had an astonishing effect upon me: it whooshed me back home with thoughts of my former students at G.E. Lighting, in Lachine, Québec. I wondered if maybe some of them knew of The Ark, and if so, what they thought of this unconventional and iconic building that sits within sight of LAMDA, which is, incongruously, a global beacon of the dramatic arts.

Such strange bedfellows along Talgarth Road (which is just the A4 in disguise).

The Ark, Hammersmith
                  The Ark, Hammersmith

An afternoon walk in West Brompton Cemetery:

With jet lag still tugging at my energy, and Christian hoping to conserve his for the demands of the week’s worth of performances of Shakespeare that lay just ahead, we ended our day in the deep green quiet of West Brompton Cemetery where I watched the magpies and felt the weight of generations.

Until now, all I knew of this place was that during his year in London, Christian found quietude here (I found it too), and that it appeared in a long scene in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.

Stained and lopsided, the monuments we sat among spoke of love and loss, but also of their growing irrelevance in a culture rushing into the future.

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Leaving on a Jet Plane

On Saint-Patrick’s Day, 2014, the phone rang at our house. It was Rodney Cottier, the Head of the Drama School at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (or LAMDA) on the line.

LAMDA is one of the finest drama schools in the world and a month earlier, my youngest son Christian had auditioned in Toronto for LAMDA’s Masters in Classical Acting program. Rodney’s call was to inform Christian that he had been accepted.

It isn’t always possible to know which of the choices, or which of the curves thrown at us, or which of the harrowing experiences, or successes, or events, or chance encounters will be seminal in our life, and I think that’s a good thing.

Christian waiting for the evening's performance.
Christian waiting for the evening’s performance.

But on that day, Christian knew. We all knew…that his life had just jumped its tracks, that its course had been indelibly altered, that he was going to live an adventure the likes of which he had only daydreamed about.

And so began the saga of Christian’s year in London.

That story is his to tell.

Mine is about how the story ends. It ends with success and immense shared joy. It also ends with a trip to London, which I began on September 11th, because it was unimaginable that I should miss seeing my son on stage performing Shakespeare in the greatest theatrical city in the world; and that he be left to graduate alone, and to pack up and move back to Montreal alone.

I arrived at Heathrow on September 12th. What followed were 15 extraordinary days during which a lifetime of hopes and what-ifs and imaginings about the land of Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Stephen Fry and BBC drama were measured against the reality of Great Britain’s capital, and found to be totally up to snuff.

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What I also realized during my time across the pond is that while Christian was at LAMDA, his father, brothers and I were in London with him for a part of every day: with every Skype and Facetime session, with every Facebook post and Message, every story, every experience he shared with us, every problem, every fever or cough.

 

This is the way we love each other. Our London was discovered vicariously, but it had its own reality.

Here begins my LONDON JOURNAL. Bon voyage!

September 11th, 2015

Facebook post from the airport:

Okay! I made it through airport security and here I am at gate 59.

A year ago, I had just walked Christian to his security check point.

There was such strong emotion on that day; such an acute feeling of separation, anticipation and apprehension…in us both! Finally, Christian disappeared behind the wall of security and what was left was the most painful happiness I have ever known.

Now, I go to see who he has become and what he has accomplished in London, at LAMDA which, for me, still feels more like fiction than fact.

“The truth is life is full of joy and full of great sorrow, but you can’t have one without the other. “
Andre Dubus III

The Thames Walk, Hammersmith, London
The Thames Walk, Hammersmith, London