I have been a terrible blogger in recent months. Infrequent, uninspired, inarticulate. My job has taken almost everything out of me this year so far, beginning with my creativity - the first casualty of stress and tiredness. And so, yesterday I took a day off; to recharge, to do unexciting but necessary tasks around the house, to sit in one place and drink a whole coffee before it went cold, and to try and feel a bit more like myself. My brain needed a jump-start too. So I went to the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington, one of my happiest of London happy places, to indulge in a late afternoon potter in search of a little inspiration.
The V&A is an extraordinary museum. Enormous, seemingly endless and eclectic, it is a wild celebration of all that human creativity can achieve. Its halls are magnificent - ancient in origin yet modern in design. Within its handsome walls lie thousands of collections, from photographs to sculptures, and carpets to ironwork. The articles within these collections come from every corner of the world. You can step from ancient China into renaissance Italy by way of a single staircase.
The museum shines and glitters in its polished silver and its stained glass windows. It quietly glows behind the glass of a thousand framed sketches, photographs and display cases. It glories in both the utilitarian and the frivolous. Plain, battered metal spoons are offered up to the visitor with the same care and attention as perfectly polished diamonds. Here, says the V&A, see the vision and craftsmanship in the creation of all these things. See how we humans have created for hundreds of years. See how we have created wherever we may have been, and look at how we have made use and beauty out of each imaginable material. See how we can value creativity, in every one of its most peculiar forms.
I wandered awhile, from room to room, visiting my old favourite articles: the tiny, detailed netsuke in the Japanese court, the imposing, black iron archways and doors on the first floor, and the beautiful 1920s designer gowns, hung on solid mannequins which reassure me that style and beauty has not always been equated with a perfect size 0. I sat out in the central courtyard gardens with a coffee in a paisley-covered paper cup, and I watched off-duty staff chatting, and children playing in the fountains, and tourists comparing snapshots on their iPads. I thought about the collective years and miles and imagination captured in this single place. And I felt the fog begin to lift.
Back inside, I found a polished wooden bench, between a case of silver chalices and another full of golden saints, sat down, pulled out my iPad and wrote. Just like that. Finding words, inspired by ideas from the ages, and the thousands of things all around me. Creation begetting creation.
I sat typing for almost half an hour. And then I headed off for more, looking and appreciating rather than feeding off the things before me; my earlier need for thoughts and inspiration satisfied. I raised a silent thanks to the artists, the weavers, the stonemasons, the woodcarvers, the seamstresses and the metalworkers, who two hundred, three hundred, four hundred years ago left me so many messages, and reminded me how to write again.