An exhibition of Audrey Hepburn portraits was always going to be irresistible, so that's where I headed yesterday morning. There was Audrey, age nine, already looking like Audrey.
And then, a few years later, Audrey dancing in Ciro's famous nightclub which I never realised was on the site of the NPG's archive in Orange Street. There was something very touching about seeing her old ballet shoes, the leather now crackled with age. And her dressing table with her kitsch lucky bunnies and a flaçon of Femme de Rochas.
There was Audrey in Kew Gardens ...
And Audrey in Richmond Park, both by Bert Hardy for Picture Post, but I think Bert was probably more interested in the impact of Austerity on the family behind.
There was Audrey on the set of The Nun's Story which I remember watching with my mum who must have seen it a dozen times.
And there was ravishingly gorgeous pink Audrey. At the end, though, I realised that it was all 'Audrey', dazzlingly beautiful, perfect and unreal. Not a glimpse of what she might be like if perfection ever slipped. I wondered if it might be the result of the war and living in occupied Holland, the need to keep it buttoned in order to survive. But even at nine, there's a sense of her controlling what she lets you see. This was the only image that gave any hint of an ordinary, real, pretty girl.
When I got home, I watched Two for the Road (1967, with Albert Finney). Oh, Audrey, you did make some bloomin' awful films! If anyone is planning to see the exhibition, a warning - it's lovely, but I do think that £9 for a ticket is far too much for a very small exhibition of photographs.
After the exhibition, I set off on my favourite way of spending a sunny afternoon in London ... a long, aimless walk. Just looking. (It was so blissful not to be feeling too hot.) I ended up strolling through Temple with all its peaceful little courts and hidden gardens that always remind me of Oxford. I discovered a grave I'd never noticed before (because you always do stumble across some new literary connection when you're walking in London). I also discovered the most fabulous place for a cheap lunch. How gorgeous, I thought as I walked through Middle Temple, glimpsing the elegantly-laid tables in a garden of red and pink roses and lavender. How expensive, I assumed, looking at the menu with no prices. (Well, that's one way to deter the tourists on the da Vinci trail!)
Turns out I was wrong. Lunch (burger and fries, corn on the cob, a big salad, a big bottle of sparkling water and a glass of wine) was only £10. Now to be perfectly honest, the food wasn't great; the fries were pretty awful and the rest was standard office canteen fare. But it was such a glorious place to sit for an hour that I could forgive them their wilted chips. (What a shame, though; if only they'd got that right, it would have been perfick!)
(If you're tempted, they only serve lunch outside on days when the temperature is over 19˚ and they stop serving at 2pm.)