London Birthday Weekend
It was my birthday the day before yesterday. 30 down, hopefully a lot more to go. I am so dang tired I am typing with one eye closed. This is why my post will look a bit like this…
Friday evening flight to London, long “birthday weekend” 3 hours to get from Gatwick to friend’s place in West London. Jolly good start. Saturday morning breakfast – “rustic” bakery Le Pain Quotidien. Lovely sun, window view, oven-warm scones crisp buttery almond croissant. Fragrant Earl Grey in red bowl cup. How to tell when strong enough? Big mystery. Frothy coffee for Mr. B. National History Museum – loooooooooooooong queue. Lots of children. Harried-looking parents. 10.30 am. Frosty. Jaw-dropping building. Mostly free. Not the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition though (yearly ritual). Entry fee for that, and more crowded than tube at rush-hour. Gorgeous photos. Especially this one, of a green turtle – body and water like diamond-cut surfaces. Dinosaurs next – children screaming to get in, and then screaming to get out. Little boy convinced the T-rex model would eat him. Clutching older sister’s arm. Shove. “Gerrrooffffme.” Wail.
“Mind the gap”. Picadilly Circus. Exit 1, Exit 2, Exit 3, Exit 4. Pick a number, any number. It’ll be wrong anyway. Boots. 40p ibuprofen, no more than 2 packs per customer. Through the queue, and back again. Still cold. Now looking for insoles. Key cutters, Northface, Russell & Bromley’s. Jackpot at Jones’s Bootmakers. Shopping. Shopping. Shopping. Holborn’s Sainsbury’s, looking for coffee. A 6-pack of Taylor’s strength 4. Take the cardboard box, too. We’ll have a bag, the Union Jack model. Red stripes made of strawberries. Freezing. Late lunch. Soup of the day. Egg mayo sandwich and butter wrapped up in thin white paper and sealed. Veggie haute-cuisine. Orchard, on Sicilian Avenue. Quietfriendlydelightful.
Bus to Tottenham Court Road. Foyles. Threefloorsbutwellstayonthegroundoneasusual. Browsing browsing browsing. Freezing outside now. Quick stroll to Abeno. Irasshaimase! Hot plate. Hot yuzu sake toddy. Wait wait wait. Friends late. Friends there. Okonomiyaki. Only mayo and brown sauce , no bonito flakes or seaweed please. Itadakimasu. Chatchatchat -crap. Too late Aldwych too far will never make it to Top Hat in time. Step out. Flag down cab. Arrive with minutes to spare. Music. Lights. Silk. Glamour. Jokes and romance. Old-school Hollywood. Home by midnight.
Late Sunday morning. Marks&Spencersbaconfriedeggsprolattemachiattofreshbuns. My friend got them especially for me because I like buns you can bake in the oven. My friends are the best. Lazy. Red sofa. Serenity. Fox spotted in the grass outside. 3 green parrots. Geese. Blue frost. Sunshine. Indecision. What to do today?
Bus, tube, tube, boat. Boat ticket office French farce. 6 Gallic women with no pounds and no English between them. French excited chatter. Managed to get tickets anyway. And steal the employee’s pen. Small price, his face said, small price. Lovely ride from Embankment to North Greenwich. Peaceful. Last rays of the sun. Off at the O2. Through the white alien bowels, to the giant clam stuck with orange pencils by a naughty child. Walking around. No place to have a drink, all damn eateries. Blue neon stairs up to cinema. Sky bar tucked away. Prosecco. Yum.
Dinner at Gaucho’s. Black shiny tables chandelliers poor lighting draught. The taster selection of 3 cuts. Meltinyourmouthmeat. Die happy. But not yet. Time for the concert. Support band like two unoiled metal cogs. Then Elbow. Beyondblissbeyondhappybeyondwords. Happy birthday, Marcus, you wanker. I wanted that guitar. Reverse Mexican wave. And again. Alexander, you sing like an angel. Stringshighlowsoothingyearningmovingwarm. Twenty thousand people singing in one voice.
One day like this a year would see me right.