January 9, 2013

When I was writing yesterday's post I mentioned the delicious little thrill I get when I am watching a movie set in London and I catch a glimpse of a place I have visited.  The other night it was Westminster Abbey while watching The Da Vinci Code, and I was immediately transported back to my first visit there, and my feeling of awe as I paid respect to Queen Elizabeth I's recumbent effigy in the Abbey.  I thought it so strange that Elizabeth and Queen Mary, her half sister, are buried together in the same tomb, as in life they were certainly not close. The Latin inscription on the tomb translates to "Partners both in throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of one resurrection."

Over the holidays we watched A Christmas Carol, and every year I get excited all over again when I catch a glimpse of St. Paul's Cathedral in the distance.  It is such a beautiful building (although I must admit I have this really strange desire to burst out in song, singing "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins every time I see it!).  In the same movie we are also transported to the vendor stalls at Covent Garden, for which I have particularly fond memories.  The first time my husband and I visited London I was sitting on a bench in Covent Garden, taking in all the hustle and bustle, when a flower vendor approached me bearing a single red rose.  Surprised, I accepted the rose and discovered a note from my husband.  He had written 'dreams really do come true' on a card and sent it over to me via the vendor.  I had dreamed of visiting London for years and I was so excited to share that time and place with both my husband and mother!  How I treasure that note and rose!

St. Paul's Church and benches, Covent Garden
The "Actor's Church"

Sitting on that bench that long ago day also reminded me of one of my favorite books, A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Published in 1905, it was based on Burnett's 1888 serialized novel titled Sara Crewe: or, What Happened at Miss Minchin's Boarding School. It's been named one of the 'Top 100 Chapter Books of all Time' by the School Library Journal, and with good reason.  If you haven't read this heartwarming story of a little girl orphaned and left in the hands of a cruel headmistress, Miss Minchin, and how Sara's imagination and belief in the goodness of others sustains her, I suggest checking it out and settling in for a lovely night's reading.  I have always particularly enjoyed the version illustrated by Tasha Tudor.

But what does this have to do with Covent Garden, you are probably wondering?  In the book, Sara and her father, Captain Crewe, go shopping for a Last Doll, the doll that will keep Sara company while her father returns to India.  This delightful picture shows Sara and her father window shopping at Covent Garden for her new companion.  I found a doll shop there with dolls in the window that would have delighted little Sara, and oh, how badly I wanted to bring one of them home with me!  Perhaps another trip, another time, and I will have my own Last Doll.  
A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Shopping for "The Last Doll"

“If nature has made you for a giver, your hands are born open, and so is your heart; and though there may be times when your hands are empty, your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that--warm things, kind things, sweet things--help and comfort and laughter--and sometimes gay, kind laughter is the best help of all.”  (Sara Crewe in A Little Princess)

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