(Hayward Gallery staircase)
Armed with nothing more than an A-Z map and the need to have a morning off from blue fingers and aching shoulders and weary hands from too much writing and knitting in cold May weather, I decided to walk round a part of London I don't know very well. I've wandered along the South Bank, been to a wine tasting in the Globe Theatre, visited Tate Modern plenty of times, jumped off the Tube at Borough Market, and sailed through London Bridge railway station with its wonderful bird's-eye views, thus creating lots of little pin marks on the map of SE1, so to speak, but have never actually joined them all up.
So I took Mildred Pierce for company in the cafes that punctuate my cultural wanderings, and discovered the joys of south east London which, as it turns out, is punctuated by many brilliant blocks of colour that work as beacons, signposts, landmarks and pick-me-ups along the way.
The walk along the South Bank always causes a tussle in my mind. I am beginning to like the Royal Festival Hall and its Midcentury Modern look, but I cannot bear the Brutalist Hayward Gallery which even in dry, warm weather seems cold, dripping and shadowy, and yet I feel I should be more open-minded. But I can't complain about this staircase (above) that is part of it. Maybe the whole building should be painted in bright colours like a massive Luis Barragan extravaganza? Wow, now that would make it worth looking at from the other side of the river.
Funnily enough, there is a little piece of Mexican exuberance in Bermondsey - a little further on from Borough Market where I bought some huge Italian lemons that honestly smell mouth-tinglingly lemony, and some fabulous British cheeses from Neal's Yard Dairy whose smells tell you exactly what they are, and from Southwark Cathedral which I finally went into after years of wondering what it looked like on the inside (amazing).
This is the Fashion and Textile Museum whose external colours mirror the pink hair and colourful designs of its founder, Zandra Rhodes - and, yes, it was designed by a Mexican architect. I went to see the Sanderson exhibition which brought back memories of working for the company in the 1980s - the best ones concerned fabric and wallpaper (I only lasted 8 months there).
(corner of the entrance ramp)
It's good to see that its bold splash of colour somehow works in what looks like an ordinary street in SE1. Yet if you look more closely, you see that Bermondsey Street is one of the those amazing, regenerated, re-invigorated London streets that has reinvented itself. Even the pub which is decorated with these emerald green tiles, is a very smart gastropub which looks as though a stylist with a good budget has been let loose inside it.
This is such a striking shade of emerald - one of our rooms is painted this colour and it's fab - and it is mirrored in the Booth's veg stall at Borough Market which I reckon is the most artistic of all the greengrocers there, with Turnips a close second.
The colour extends to flowers, too, and I saw a couple of intense wallflower plantings, great blocks of a single colour that fill their surroundings with an unmistakable sweet scent, depsite the traffic that thunders past. Too often, I find, wallflowers are muddled up like a dirty paintbox when in fact they are stunning when planted by colour or single variety - like these in the courtyard of Guy's Hospital.
So the dots have been joined up and the map has been coloured in. Another part of London has been added to my list of colourful favourites.