London Calling

“Go chase your dreams. You won’t regret it. Anything can happen if you let it.” – Mary Poppins

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I’ve been to London hundreds of times. Well, at least in my mind’s eye.

The first time I saw London was when I crouched in the corner of the Darling children’s nursery, watching Wendy repair Peter Pan’s shadow.

Later, I trailed the Artful Dodger and Oliver Twist through their squalid hideout on Jacob’s Island, and saw Fagin teach Oliver to pick pockets.

Then, I encountered Eliza Doolittle, caterwauling in the bustling Covent Garden flower markets.

Jane Austen showed me Regency London, and I strolled down the lovely Grosvenor Street with Jane Bennet, hoping to catch a glimpse of the eligible Mr. Bingsley.

I shared high tea with the prim Miss Jane Marple, when she put her perceptive powers to work in order to catch the murderer At Bertram’s Hotel.

Through the sordid streets of Soho, I shivered at the transformation of the affable Dr. Jekyll into dastardly Mr. Hyde, lurking there.

Sophie of Roald Dahl’s The BFG snuck me into the Queen’s bedroom in Buckingham Palace where she created a nightmare for the Queen herself – all done in order to save the friendly giants of the world.

With authors Alison Weir and Phillipa Gregory, I traveled back to 1536, as Anne Boleyn was brought to the Tower of London, then beheaded for her crime of treason against her husband Henry VIII.

Several years ago, I met Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs just after World War I, wearing her cloche and carrying her leather document case up the wooden escalator at the Warren Street tube station, ready to solve a crime by employing her knowledge of psychology and human nature. With each mystery that Maisie unraveled, she took me to various London neighborhoods – Pimlico, Belgravia, Chelsea.

Rachel Watson, The Girl on the Train, sat next to me on her ride into the city of London each day, and I learned of her envy for that perfect couple, Scott and Megan, whose lives she observed each day as the train whizzed past their apartment.

Just recently, I huddled with a young woman named Mary, from Chris Cleave’s Everybody Brave is Forgiven, in the basement of a jazz club, hoping that the bombs of the Blitz would not strike her or her companions. A few weeks ago, Jojo Moyes introduced me to Lottie in Windfallen, a young evacuee who was sent to live with a family in England’s countryside during the War.

On all of my literary trips to London, I’ve loved its regal splendor, and I’ve been charmed by its history, its majestic castles and cathedrals, its stately neighborhoods, lively pubs, vibrant markets, and the lovely Londoners themselves. Soon, I won’t have to rely on my imagination to see this magnificent city. We’ll be visiting there for three weeks and soaking it all in, from Notting Hill to Knightsbridge, Mayfair to Marylebone, Regent’s Park to St. James.

I’ll savor it all, every step of the way. I’m going to remember to look skyward, too. Who knows? Maybe I’ll catch a glimpse of Mary Poppins hanging on to her brolly and her carpetbag, flying to the home of Jane and Michael Banks. Spit-spot!

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