“I’ve been to London to visit the queen”

I’ve been absent from this favourite space of mine for too long, and I’m reminded of the humble tone in the letters I used to write to my grandparents too many weeks after Christmas had passed. “I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner, but thank you for new nightgown, I do like blue.”

Truth be told, I’ve been busy. I’ve just returned from a research trip to London, England, and I am now sorting through the maze of information found there, and hopefully figuring out how to make it into a story.

I went on the trip with my sister and co-author, Tracy Kasaboski (our first collaboration was The Occupied Garden), and my mom and our sister Heidi came along as research assistants.

It was the first time we’d really traveled together just the four of us since our childhoods, and we had an amazing time. The city is a dizzying mix of old and new — you can still find the cramped courts and alleys that will feature in our story, set in late Victorian and Edwardian times, but everywhere you turn there’s something that gives the city a playground quality: the Eye, the Shard, the Millennium Dome. Along with the beautiful bridges that stretch over the Thames, there are cable cars soaring back and forth. At night, the skyline has a neon sparkle.

The last time I was in London was when I was pregnant with N. I didn’t yet know how many of our most treasured books would take us there, but I’ve been thinking about it today, and have compiled a sampling:

Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?

I’ve been to London to visit the Queen.

Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there?

I frightened a mouse under a chair.

N loved this book of old nursery rhymes, with its patchwork imagery and picture-words.

“At last they came to St Paul’s Cathedral, which was built a long time ago by a man with a bird’s name. Wren it was, but he was no relation to Jenny. That is why so many birds live near Sir Christopher Wren’s Cathedral, which also belongs to St Paul, and that is why the Bird Woman lives there too…. All round her flew the birds, circling and leaping and swooping and rising…. They flew round and round the head of the Bird Woman as the children approached, and then, as though to tease her, they suddenly rushed away through the air and sat on the top of St Paul’s, laughing and turning their heads away and pretending they didn’t know her.”

A 2009 original Quentin Blake knock off by N

“Sophie and the BFG came at last to a large place full of trees. There was a road running through it, and a lake. There were no people in this place and the BFG stopped for the first time since they had set out from his cave many hours before.

‘What’s the matter?’ Sophie whispered in her under-the-breath voice.

‘I is in a bit of a puddle,’ he said.

‘You’re doing marvellously,’ Sophie whispered.

‘No I isn’t,’ he said. ‘I is now completely boggled. I is lost.’

‘But why?’

‘Because we is meant to be in the middle of London and suddenly we is in green pastures.’

‘Don’t be silly,’ Sophie whispered. ‘This is the middle of London. It’s called Hyde Park. I know exactly where we are.'”

“‘Wendy, I ran away the day I was born….

It was because I heard father and mother,’ he explained in a low voice, ‘talking about what I was to be when I became a man.’

He was extraordinarily agitated now.

‘I don’t ever want to be a man,’ he said with passion. ‘I want always to be a little boy and to have fun. So I ran away to Kensington Gardens and lived a long time among the fairies.'”

“Ron pressed a tiny silver button on the dashboard. The car around them vanished — and so did they. Harry could feel the seat vibrating beneath him, hear the engine, feel his hands on his knees and his glasses on his nose, but for all he could see, he had become a pair of eyeballs, floating a few feet above the ground in a dingy street full of parked cars.

‘Let’s go,’ said Ron’s voice from his right.

The ground and the dirty buildings on either side fell away, dropping out of sight as the car rose; in seconds, the whole of London lay, smoky and glittering, below them.”

“This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child. It is a very important story because it shows how all the comings and goings between our own world and Narnia first began. In those days Mr Sherlock Holmes was still living in Baker Street and the Bastables were looking for treasure in Lewisham Road. In those days, if you were a boy you had to wear a stiff Eton collar every day, and schools were usually nastier than now. But meals were nicer; and as for sweets, I won’t tell you how cheap and good they were, because it would only make your mouth water in vain. And in those days there lived in London a girl called Polly Plummer.”

Last but not least, A Christmas Carol comes to mind.

“They scarcely seemed to enter the city; for the city rather seemed to spring up about them, and encompass them of its own act. But there they were, in the heart of it; on ‘Change, amongst the merchants; who hurried up and down, and chinked the money in their pockets, and conversed in groups, and looked at their watches, and trifled thoughtfully with their great gold seals; and so forth, as Scrooge had often seen them.”

Advertisements

12 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

12 responses to ““I’ve been to London to visit the queen”

  1. Oh boy. You’ve made me want to reread all of these at once, and by at once I mean now AND all at the same time!

  2. Elizabeth Danzig-Teck

    I’m thrilled that you were able to go on such a fabulous trip and had a magical time with your mother and both of your sisters, and to London, no less. Wonderful to know that your co-author of “The Occupied Garden”, your sister, Tracy, was able to be a part of your the treasure hunt. I believe you know how much all of your works mean to me, Kristen. My daughter, Lia, has now read all of your works that we know about, save ‘Water Wings.’ It is next up on her docket. She’ll be excited to learn that you and your sister are going to be writing another book of any kind together, as am I.

    You’ve made me want to re-read all of the books above too, and in London, of course!

    Happy writing and reading to your whole family!

  3. Thanks Elizabeth, the same to you!

  4. Michelle Parks

    “They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace, Christopher Robin went down with Alice”… so jealous of your trip with mum and sisters. I’d love to do a trip like that with my girls. Looking forward to hearing how you unknot the twisted tales. Don’t forget Paddington Bear! Another classic, although perhaps a less challenging one for Nell 😉 Cheerio…with Marmalade on it.
    M.

  5. Ah yes, Paddington! I loved those stories, but I haven’t read them with Nellie. I even had a tiny Paddington Bear that sat on my shelf. Wonder where he got to….

  6. Marilyn

    Yes, what a wonderful time we had in Old London Town. Now I. too, am anxious to see how all of this will be turned into a story.

  7. Angela Bartley

    Me too! Can’t wait to hear the story of our treasured past. So glad the trip was a success, at least for the four of you. We four are just a little jealous of your jaunt together to the homeland. lots of love

  8. Sara Angelucci

    Peter Pan. That’s got to go on my “list”. You know which one K!

  9. Rige

    Love the title…and love the picture with Big Ben!
    Looking forward to the ‘harvest’ Kristen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s