In our last Loose in London post, Victoria set the scene by describing all we had seen at the Queen’s Gallery, one of my favourite places. I love the exhibits they put on – the topics are always of personal interest, the items well chosen and the Gallery space itself of a size that still manages to seem intimate.
Back in 2010, Victoria and I had attended the Art In Love exhibit, which was comprised of all manner of artwork, jewels and other fabulous items that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had exchanged as gifts between themselves on various occasions over the years. You can read the post about that visit here.
One of my favourite pictures from that exhibit was Winterhalter’s painting, above, showing the Duke of Wellington presenting a gift to his namesake, Victoria’s son, Prince Arthur, on the boy’s first birthday.
However, my favourite picture – either from that exhibit or from all time – was Landseer’s painting of Prince Albert’s greyhound, Eos. Queen Victoria had to smuggle Albert’s cane, top hat and gloves out of the Castle and over to Landseer to use in the painting without Albert discovering why until the painting was ready for gifting. This picture does not do justice to the stunning craftsmanship of the painting, which is almost photographic. I sat on a bench in front of it for nearly an hour. Then I marveled at the fact that Victoria and I were being given the opportunity to see so many favourite, and so many iconic, paintings in the same room.
The First Georgian’s exhibits we saw in September was not exactly up my alley, being, strictly speaking, before my chosen time period. Realizing that that train of thought sounded closed minded and, admittedly, faintly ridiculous if one aspires to be at all fair, I made my upstairs to the Galleries and was gobsmacked to see the complete, original series of Hogarth’s The Harlot’s Progress on display. Maybe this show wouldn’t be a miss after all.
As so often happens during trips to galleries or museums, Marilyn, Diane, Victoria and I soon all went our separate ways in order to focus our attention on those things that interested us individually. After a goodly amount of time, Diane, Marilyn and myself found ourselves together once more.
“Where’s Victoria?” Marilyn asked.
“No idea,” I answered, “but come to think on it, I haven’t seen her for quite a while.”
“We haven’t, either,” said Diane. “We’ll go and look for her.”
“No,” said I, putting a restraining hand on Diane’s arm. “Let’s make a plan first, so that we don’t lose anyone else.” I thought for a moment, channeling Wellington and hoping some of his strategic savvy would rub off on me. “Okay, here’s the deal. I’ll wait right here (we were in the largest gallery, with most rooms opening off of it). You go that way, and Diane, you go that way. What time is it?”
“10:50,” Marilyn said, checking her watch.
“Right,” I said, “both of you will be back here by 11 o’clock. I won’t move.”
So off they went. And back they came with a few minutes to spare.
“No Victoria.” Marilyn said, looking at me expectantly.
“Where on earth can she be?” Diane murmured.
“We have to be just missing her. Like something out of a Marx Brothers movie,” I said. “Tell you what, let’s go out to that half wall right outside the Gallery and wait for her there.”
So off we went, down the stairs, when Diane had a brilliant idea, “Maybe she’s in the giftshop?”
The three of us made a thorough search of the giftshop. We checked every nook and every cranny in every section of the shop. It’s a wonder we didn’t get hauled in for casing the joint. No Victoria. So off we went, out the door and over to the half wall that fronts Buckingham Palace Road. It’s hard to believe, but I haven’t a single photo of the wall. Can’t even find one on Google. Hard to believe because Victoria and I are well acquainted with the wall. We’ve sat on the wall many times. We’ve used the wall as a meeting place on numerous occasions. And you may remember that this was the exact same wall upon which Victoria had left her camera just a few days ago. I felt certain that Victoria, once realizing that we’d been separated, would make a bee line for this wall as a point of re-connection.
So, there the three of us sat.
“I can’t imagine where she can be,” mused Diane.
“How could we lose her? The Gallery isn’t that big,” Marilyn added.
“This does not bode well,” I said.
“Oh, it’s not that bad. She’ll turn up,” Diane said.
“I meant that it doesn’t bode well for the Duke of Wellington tour. It hasn’t even begun yet and I’ve lost someone. And not just someone, but Victoria, my co-guide. If I can’t keep track of a tour guide, how am I supposed to keep track of seventeen tour goers?”
We sat pondering the answer to this question for some time. Some long time.
“I’m going back inside the Gallery to see if she’s there,” I told them. “Don’t move from this spot!”
Once back inside, I cased the giftshop. Again. Then I went up to the information desk and explained my dilemma to the kind lady behind the desk, giving her Victoria’s name and telling her where we’d be waiting, just in case Victoria thought to ask at the desk. Then, I asked one of the guides if she’d go back upstairs into the Gallery and look for Victoria, which she did, using my description of Victoria to scout any lost women she may find. She came back to say that she hadn’t found anyone who looked lost or bewildered, nor anyone matching Victoria’s description, nor by discreetly having called Victoria’s name in various rooms. She even checked the bathrooms. No Victoria.
So I want back outside and told the girls that I was going to walk down to the Palace entrance to see if somehow Victoria had left the Gallery before us and was waiting for us there. I went. I looked. No Victoria. I went back to the wall and sat down beside Marilyn and Diane.
“Where can she be?” I asked no one in particular.
“She wouldn’t just leave us there,” Marilyn said. “I mean, the plan was for the four of us to go on to the Palace together. Why would she leave without us?”
“She’s not any place that makes sense. She can’t still be inside. She wasn’t here at the wall and we haven’t crossed paths in quite some time. Weird. It’s like someone came down and abducted her.”
“Yeah, but instead of aliens, it was Prinny who whisked her away to Regency England in another dimension,” Diane said. “Maybe she’s eating ices at Gunter’s as we speak.”
“She’d better not be,” I replied. “I wish we could fast forward to when we find her so that I’d have the explanation. The suspense is killing me cause I can’t for life of me think where she could be. We haven’t seen hide nor hair of her.” I stood up, “I know it makes no sense, but I’m going to walk up to the Royal Mews gift shop and see if she’s there. Unlikely, but we’ll then be able to rule that out. Don’t move!”