London, England

Safia Jabir Ali

Bombay, India

Text from a lecture on a trip to London:

As to the city of London, you have all heard and read of it. I am sure, so I shall not weary you with descriptions all the wonder full things I saw there – the old and new palaces, the huge buildings, the enormous traffic, the gardens, parks, places of amusement, museums, Wax-works, exhibitions etc etc. Just a few words, about these, however, I hope I may be allowed.

I went a great deal to the picture-galleries- as I felt particularly attracted to them, and I could not help feeling and at the thought of the poorness of our own country in collections of this kind, where people can go and learn all about the great painters that land has produced. These visits to the galleries apart from being extremely enjoyable were so instructive.

What a vast collection of exhibits the British Museum has- a few mornings spent there, are as nothing! The Natural History Museum at Kensington is another marvelous place. If I started tell you of it, that would have to be a talk by itself! How easy to teach children natural history with all those specimens before them.

We usually went to a different park or zoo each day, and some we walked through many times; but of them all the one that took my fancy most was the Ke[w] Gardens. As it is a good distance from the city, we gave the whole of Saturday afternoon and evening to it. I think it is the most beautiful artificial garden I have ever seen- although there are a great many others I saw in the big towns we visited, which are very lovely. The beautiful flowers and the wonderful plants, brought over from all parts of the world and growing in such exuberance, the huge sizes and different shades of colours of those flowers, we are accustomed to, all made keep up a torrent of exclamations of joy and wonder!

Then there are the shops to speak of! I can assure you that all you may have heard of their attractiveness is quite true! In fact it is not easy to tell you how very enticing the windows and the shops inside are made took- and how you buy things you had no intension of doing! The charming way in which the shop-girls wait on you, as if you were the only one they had to please in the world, is also very profitable to them!

In the month and a half that we spend in London we went a good many times to theatres, operas etc; and I was most impressed with the “Garden of Allah”. Perhaps some of you have read the book. The staging is exquisite – they had a real bit of the desert on the stage, and for the village scenes they had brought over from Africa about a hundred Arabs. Camels, goats, and other things of less importance, made it all seem perfectly African. The light was wonderfully controlled, – and you saw the dawn, as it comes on, in the Sahara, and the evening when the sun sets and night with its myriad starts; I must, by no means forge[t] to tell you of our exciting experience of a flight in an aeroplane. We flew over London and the suburbs- the view from the air of the world below was really marvellous. We enjoyed it most thoroughly. Some people think, it makes you sick and giddy. Nothing of the kind, we felt quite happy.

We made a few excursions to the country. A two days trip to Bournemouth, a very, very pretty sea-side place is one of our treasured pleasures. The sea and the cliffs, full of purples heathers, and covered with beautiful green, lawns, wild flowers growing everywhere, as well as the artificial huts and hedges, the pine and other fir trees, all contribute to make it what it is. The view of the sea, the chalk cliffs in the distance and the shops, give it an extra charm.

We spent a day and night in Cambridge, visiting some of the famous colleges, like Trinity and Kings and St: Johns and others; saw the Senate house, wondered through the town noting the chief buildings, paid a visit to the agricultural School model farm, and Girton college, of course had a special interest for me and we were taken round to all the living rooms. It is not as find as some older colleges, but the newer arrangements give it some advantages over them.

I thought the backs of the colleges, with their lawns and shady trees, hundreds of years old and the little river running through, worthy of the praises sun of them. It was holiday-time and so we missed seeing the students, but met some old professors and fellow-students of my husband.