Arrived in London June 7 and met up (“up” being the apt description, as our room was at the very very top of the “Club” we were staying at in Russell Square. No lift of course) with The Seasoned Traveller (henceforth TST), who was having a nap, having arrived a few hours earlier.
We had been told by a friend of hers to just ignore jet lag, so we did, and went exploring bookstores in Charing Cross Road. I was dubious about going to Foyles, but TST insisted, and it was a good reminder that a huge bookstore can still be independent. TST bought many cultural theory books and we twisted their arm to make them pack them up and mail them back home (being a publisher has its uses).
One of the art bookstores recommended a local pub, and we ate dinner there – delicious leek and cauliflower pie to share.
Breakfast the next morning at our “Club” – good eggs, lots of floppy cold toast and marmelade. I chickened out on the kippers. Little Marmite containers. Then off to the café in the park across the road to make plans for the day.
• South Bank
• Hyde Park
• More bookstores: Gay’s the Word, Books for Cooks – Nottinghill
• Kensington Gdns
• Brick Lane
• Sunday markets
• Our roots
The reality: not so much.
But we went to the Tate Modern. Spent as much time in the gift shop as the gallery (not unusual, I gather). Westminster Abbey (not even on the list) – spontaneity became a watchword for our journey. I’ve never been there – not been to most of the London tourist spots, having been born there (although there was riding on the elephants at the zoo on Sundays). Had a lovely connection with a man on the street on the way back who gave us a personal walking tour of London on his way home from work. Complete with sites of beheadings, etc.
Then in the evening a birthday gift – two tickets to see Sadler’s Wells Theatre – Wah! Wah! Girls – A British Bollywood Musical. Fantastic dancing and music. Plot was incidental, but hey, whoever expects anything from the plot of Swan Lake either?
The next day TST was off to a conference with her international conference buddy (ICB), who had arrived in London that morning. I was on my own to find my London. Mostly looking forward to seeing family. Wandered round Covent Gardens and went to my favourite toy shop, Pollocks, which continues to not disappoint me. Undies at Marks and Sparks. Jubilee Marmite in Sainsbury’s (which started my having to check my luggage which inevitably got lost, in Toronto — Marmite is considered a “paste” and therefore banned from carryon).
Started off to visit my grandfather in the Jewish cemetery and then realized it was Saturday and would be closed. I figured that even though I am the only person who ever visits his grave, he probably wasn’t too disappointed. Sadder because I was not able to see the person who collects his books and who had met him – he was too ill to see me.
Visit with cousins was most lovely, and I felt the responsibility of being blessed to look just like their mother. Our joint birthday was coming up; I wished she’d been there too. Moments of missing her terribly. But the Cake Maker made a wonderful cake with maple syrup icing in my honour. And we talked and talked. And I promised to come back sooner next time. I will.
Then off to meet TST and the Conference Buddy and have dinner in Brick Lane. We got overwhelmed by the touters and ended up in a not so good restaurant, lonely for the touter who didn’t want to talk us anymore once he’d got us inside, but the evening was fun anyways. And we were still determinedly ignoring jet lag.
Sunday TST and I went to the markets — Petticoat Lane and the Old Spitafields Market and then met up with ICB and went to the ICU to see a show and I bought a book called Folk Opposition by Alex Niven. About the left recapturing cultural territory from the far right. My perpetual search for commons continues.
Wandered out to find dinner in the pouring rain and ended up at a kind of tapas bar — the food was alright; the owners lovely. ICB went off to catch the train home, and we went back up to our room. The owners gave us umbrellas to take with us so we wouldn’t drown.