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Monday, 28 February 2011

No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life...

You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford - Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784)

So folks , on Saturday the 26th of February, I did go to London for the day and I did meet up with my friend Natalia. We had a lovely time and caught up on the eleven years since we actually saw each other last. It was a beautiful re-kindling of our long- treasured friendship and even though the weather was rubbish (persistently rainy), just walking arm in arm for hours with my lovely friend made it seem like the sun was forever shining. We laughed a lot, we mucked about, we reminisced, we skirted big puddles and to our great joy, Puccini’s ‘O mio babbino caro’ played as we ate our lunch in a restaurant. I forget the name of the restaurant itself, but it sits, rather flamboyantly, behind the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane and had an extravagant interior that seemed not unlike the set from The Phantom of the Opera. The Puccini aria with its ‘Room with a View’ connection was a nostalgic reminder of some very pleasurable times when we both lived in Derby, both belonged to Derby Shakespeare Company and hung around, as friends, in the bluebell woods together on a particularly balmy summer evening back the 1980s. Fond memories.


The restaurant interior

After lunch we sought out some way of having ‘fun on a bus ‘ that you couldn’t get arrested for. Alack and alas, we were royally put off the London ‘open top’ bus tours as the scoundrels were wanting to charge us a rip off price of £25 each. Ridiculous! You would be much better off spending the money on some nice coffees and cake. Actually at central London prices the coffees would have been £26.50 each, plus vat. Cakes you have to re-mortgage your house for.

Phil with the Phantom

As it was, we walked pleasurably for miles across central London until the rain stopped early evening when both of us decided to take tea in a hotel. We didn’t even know what the name of the hotel was but we were both gasping for a cuppa and a rest of our tired bones. Sadly, the tea rooms didn’t have any mugs and you couldn’t dunk some delightfully crumbly chocolate digestives in the aromatic Earl Grey tea and it weren’t exactly cut –price. However, the experience was a bit of pre-birthday luxury in, what turned out to be, the ultra- luxurious Berkeley hotel on Park Lane. Even the loos were well posh! Thank you again Nat for my food and drink treats that day. BTW, I’m convinced that they charged us for the ice and lemon in your tap water and you really shouldn’t have stolen that many loo rolls! How many loo rolls can a girl comfortably fit down her tights without looking obviously lumpy around the thighs!! How you passed yourself off as the Michelin girl to that keen eyed doorman in the top hat is true genius. Clearly charm school has paid off. That and quality, ladder resistant tights.

London was vibrant, we saw the exteriors of many a fancy theatre in the capital, including Her Majesty’s where Phantom of the Opera is still playing and also the surprisingly small frontage of the Adelphi theatre where the sequel ‘Love Never Dies’ is the current production. In Trafalgar Square we witnessed a big ship in a bottle and the wind was whipping a vast spray of water from the fountains across the famous square. Nelson was looking a bit green about the gills aloft on his column. Around the corner, that little chap Eros was still hanging about Piccadilly Circus but I think the rent boys have now gone home due to inclement weather. Oxford Street was rammed solid with happy shoppers and a particularly wacky couple were observed walking arm in arm singing the French national anthem (badly). Ahem!

The Victory in a bottle - big style. See pidgeons for size reference.

Frontage at Selfridges

En route, Ikea had a closing down sale where the discounted items were three times more expensive than those at Ikea’s regular prices back in Nottinghamshire. The day itself sped by far too quickly and, finally, we said our fond farewells at Kensington around six in the evening, Nat went back to her home and her fiancĂ© in Chelsea in a taxi and I made my way on the hectic underground four or five stops towards the newly renovated St Pancras station. I had plenty of time to kill before my train at 8.15pm back to Nottingham so, after some deep consideration and a rumbling tummy, I got out the trusty credit card and splashed out on some crab, cucumber and avocado at Le Pain Quotidian –  (where bread is king) and had a couple of pre-birthday glasses of Bordeaux. Well you are only fifty-five once and the waitress was exceptionally cute and attentive. It was either that, OR spend two sordid hours lurking around the dodgier parts of Kings Cross in a dark, dank, scarily filthy alleyway armed with a crumpled and forlorn copy of the London Evening Standard newspaper under my grossly stained armpit trying to be theatrically authentic as a dubious, decidedly grubby under the nails, Londoner in a quasi- depressing Mike Leigh film. Curse those method acting classes!

Phil at Le Pain Quotidian in St Pancras

Retrospectively: On the inward London bound train journey from Nottingham via Peterborough two young ladies gave me a glass of their wine and sang a glorious Happy Birthday to me. How uplifting and sweet that was. In the capital itself, nobody mugged me; the tube was packed and whilst waiting on the platform at Holborn it seemed that the whole of the world had arrived to catch a tube train into town and being a human sardine was temporarily and unexpectedly thrilling, especially when some stranger enthusiastically grabbed at my pert right bum cheek. I daren’t turn round to see who but it was absolutely the most fun I’ve had in a hot enclosed space whilst travelling underground at speed, for years. I still have the finger print bruises and must go down there again sometime.

Travelling across London takes much more time than you think and if you are planning to go anywhere special you really do need to plan your route. Get a travel card too at £6.60 for the day for zones one and two including busses. Well worth it to save money and hassle queuing. I got mine whilst at Nottingham station. Next time I WILL go to Borough Market and maybe even Harrods food hall.

The following I day I met up with me Mum and we enjoyed some food at Edin’s cafĂ© in Nottingham before shopping at M&S where she bought me some clothes for my birthday. I haven’t seen Mum since last October so it was very nice to spend quality time with her. We spent a very pleasant three hours together before she returned back to Derby.

My birthday itself was a big success and I got some lovely cards and presents and a lot of birthday wishes on Facebook, some even in German. Note to self: Must stop subscribing to that Teutonic porn site.


French Fancy... said...

That snippet on your facebook page lured me back into the blogosphere - London will always do that for me.

Loved the article and photos about my home town. I hope by this time next year to be back there.

On verra - life can bring surprises sometimes and I'm trying to live one day at a time

Tim said...

I'm pleased you had a wonderful day in London! It really is a great place to visit especially with friends and loved ones.

If you go to Harrods next time, check out their toilets! They are also very impressive!! LOL

Cheryl said...

Sounds like a really lovely birthday, Phil. I'm so glad you had a great time.

The last time I was in London, btw, it was February and it rained every single day. I still loved it, though. And, oh my God the priced there. Higher than in Tokyo.

Marian Barker said...

Glad you had a lovely day ....

Shame that only one of your bum cheeks is pert!!!!

Jean said...

A belated happy birthday, Phil. Glad you had a good time in the capital. Whenever I go I'm always surprised how grubby and expensive it is, but it still has a certain iresistable charm.

Karen said...

You make London sound so tempting (it's years since I went there)- & after all th walking around I'm amazed you had the energy to tackle Nottingham on Sunday. You have more stamina than me, & I'm 1/2 a year younger. It sounds like a wonderful Birthday weekend....& you have the semi permanent reminder of a bruised bum cheek.

Ken Devine said...

What a birthday treat! Glad you had a great day. I sensed it was a special time by the way you wrote it.

Phil Lowe said...

French Fancy: thanks for taking time out to make a comment. I hope that each day gets easier for you my friend.

Tim: My friend Charlotte also mentioned the toilets. Must do that.

Cheryl: Yes I had a great day thankyou. It rained but I didn't really care.

Phil Lowe said...

Marian: Ooooh you are cheeky.

Jean: Actually it seemed cleaner this time round, particularly St Pancras.

Karen: My right ankle was killing me sometimes. I twisted it a few days before the trip. I took some painkillers and they helped a bit.

Ken: It was a real treat and fun being in the capital.