40 Hours in London

I am of the belief that when the opportunity to revel in a lovely hotel arises, one should not waste it. One should revel from check in to check out, employing all the necessary tools to do so; robe, slippers, pillow-chocolates, TV, mini toiletries and large bath tubs.

This is why, for the brief period I was in London, much of it was shamelessly spent perched in the middle of my large bed, wearing my luxurious robe, watching The Only Way is Essex. And why, even though my time was brief, I squeezed in a good bubble bath before departing.

Courtesy of my horribly generous parents who have, I assume, missed me terribly, I languished in The St Pancras Renaissance which sits atop, you guessed it, St Pancras/Kings Cross station. It was the reception of this imposing establishment, where a man greets guests at the door wearing tails and a bowler hat, that I dragged my bedraggled self into after The Friday We Will Not Speak Of.

From the hotel, London – well, part of it –  was marvellously accessible. On Saturday morning – after a very bright and early phone call from my Mum … ‘we’re here!’ – I rolled out of bed and down the road to a Costa, where I bought a latte the size of my head as a means to feel alive once more. I promptly returned to bed with it and watched a Made in Chelsea marathon until my jetlagged parents recovered their senses. Sitting up in a cloud of bedclothes, with a huge coffee and shitty English TV, I hit a new height of contentment.

We convened in the lobby at midday and, courtesy of the hotel’s aforementioned great location, trotted around quite happily, no tubing or cabbing needed. My mother was intent on tracking down the hood of her Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-I-Don’t-Know-How-many-Great-Ancestor, Martha, who had been a prostitute in London before being popped on the First Fleet and shipped off to Australia. She had been popped on the First Fleet because she was caught selling stolen goods and the pawnbroker who dobbed her in had his shop on Dyott Street, which still exists today. So we wandered down there and tried to imagine what it was all like hundreds of years ago, when Martha was making ends meet by plying her trade and selling the stolen petticoats of wealthier women.

And then it was time for a drink and the all-important business of catching up. We had long ago decided catching up was going to be privileged above all else. Mum wanted a traditional pub – ‘not too touristy’ – and so we chose a sticky-tabled place that looked adequately ramshackle enough so as to be ‘not too touristy’ and had a cider. My father pasted his map to the pub table by spreading it out with both hands with a touch too much force for the paper to withstand months of gummy beer residue and we rolled on, leaving half the map behind. To another pub, as it transpired, because, as we strolled, it was decided we wouldn’t return to the hotel, rather bridge the gap between late afternoon and dinner with a wine. In the second pub, my father, when he went to inspect some pictures on the walls near the women’s bathroom, attracted the attention of an ancient dog who has apparently been guarding the Ladies’ from male patrons for twelve years. Dad upended a chair in a strange sort of battle tactic and bolted back to our table. Mum and I laughed uproariously.

A couple of wines later, Mum and I had sorted out life as we know it and Dad was getting hungry. I had voted Indian because I have been desperate for it for months, and we chanced upon one on the walk back towards our lodgings. And what a chance it was. The food was absolutely exceptional. I can’t tell you what it was called – I was too full of food and wine to have my wits about me – all I can tell you is it is on Judd Street and, should you be in the vicinity and desperate for a good curry, you need to go there. Traipsing down Judd Street and back to our hotel, my mother realised that we were on the very same street her sister lived on when she lived in London in the haze of the 70s. It was clearly a real family day for Mum.

I left the next day, after an uneccessarily large breakfast – never give me a breakfast buffet, I have no self control over the pastry table. Following an embarrassing display of face-crumpling tears as I hugged Mum and Dad, I hopped into a black cab and was whizzed away, bound for Victoria Station, where the Gatwick express was waiting. I cried the whole way. My sniffing and snorting staved off the cab driver chatter for the first fifteen minutes, but the moment he sensed an in, he took it.

‘You’ll never guess what I forget to turn on.’

I sniffed. ‘What?’

He tapped the meter and invited me, via the rear view mirror, to roll my eyes with him. So I did. And he was off. Many wives back, he had a mother in law in Germany. He has a good friend in Australia, who has a new wife, but doesn’t seem very happy there. But he’ll get all the gossip on a golfing trip in Spain next year. English money is better than American money – he once had a stripper give him the cold shoulder for giving her only $1 bills, and he was genuinely surprised she could tell the difference.

And then, as if the weekend had been but a dream, I was back in Germany.

One Reply to “40 Hours in London”

  1. Olivia,

    I am thinking that you must be wondering what happened to me, and decided that I am just in the lightweight division, being unable to grasp the full impact and gravity of what we have already shared by way of my expressions of admiration and appreciation in past notes.

    Olivia, nothing could be further from the truth. I have no justification and there is no excuse, being always able to just drop a line quickly to say Hi. I am sometimes thinking about you, and how radically awesome you are, as a writer and a person, and this is the middle of the day. By the time I reach home where I can compose my thoughts, something has crossed threaded my plans, usually work related, and the whole stress thing brings me to loose the focus on all the thoughts that were part of my earlier day. No excuses, simply an explanation.

    What is the essential truth, reveals itself by the very message/comment you are now reading. That is, the impact and pleasure of reading the posts of yours that I did read, would fall into my mind quite regularly, and each time my voice in my head, which is my thoughts being read by my conscious mind, would say, “she is really good, brilliant writer and raconteur”, and so this is how you have come to be registered in my memory bank, and I am hereby reaffirming my commitment to keep abreast of what is going on and coming up in your Life, and the pleasure will be all mine. Maybe some of your fearlessness, in sharing your experiences will rub off on me. You make it seem so natural and easy,

    Finally, the metaphor of the cart at the top of the hill in the most recent entry is creative, and defines the feelings of anticipation, and how when the level of anticipation approaches the highest potential, with life altering changes and decisions, it can trigger a prism of reflection and conjecture, looking ahead and remembering the past . I am able to paraphrase your post to a certain extent, you are the only one who might say if that is close at all to what you were trying to say. I would not have thought of the cart and that certain admitted vulnerability it represents in it’s fragility. Memorable symbolism, almost universally recognizable.

    So much is going on here, we elected the right man for President, and I am feeling a certain undeniable pride as an American, as we as a Nation confirmed our conviction about the man when we elected him in 2008. To turn him out, if nothing else, would have been petulant and immature scapegoating, with no justification in reality. The attempt by selected elites to hijack the Presidency was effectively thwarted.

    I will fill you in on my travels, as I am poised and ready to begin a journey in Asia, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur coming up within less than ten days.

    With Love and Thoughts, and Admiration,

    Michael P. Whelan

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