There’s nothing like the joy and exhilaration and delirium of the first jet-lagged day in London. Right now, it’s 8 PM, and I’m dead tired. I’ve had about four hours of sleep, and I’m only propped up by an Americano that makes me feel like a damp rag draped over a jackhammer.
I am, as I type this, in this location. Right now it looks just like this except it has me in it.
This is my view.
It is the Loo.
So. Let's back up.
We took off from Boston at 7 PM, which is just about the worst time for an international flight headed east. Flying time: 5 hours, 50 minutes. I groaned, thinking: can’t it be eight? Why can’t it be nine? Who can get any sleep in that amount of time? Had a glass of wine with dinner, and eventually settled into fitful shallow sleep punctuated by the usual jerks and dislocations. When we began our descent I opened the window shade and groaned again: The long long day had barely begun. It was only an abstract painting.
But. We were of good cheer. Oh - right! Yes. We. Remember a few weeks back when I was talking about the Italian musical group PFM, and talked about standing in the deserted office looking out the broad windows, listening to the big glorious ending of a song, and feeling fantastic because I’d just gotten some unexpected news?
The day before I’d gotten a text from Daughter.
What are the chances we could use those tickets to England for spring break
Uh - 100%?
She had some friends who were going to be in London - kids today, I know, jet-setting everywhere. Bern this week, Squaw Valley next. Actually, they’re on a college exchange program she hopes to do, but it still sounds so . . . oligarch-adjacent. Daddy please my friends are going to be in London, can we pop over and see them?
I had credit from last August’s thwarted trip. So yes. Let’s go. No Covid test this time, although stupid USA rules say I have to get one coming back, and that presents its own little fun punchline at the end. We’ll see.
Landed with the usual thump and whine. Through customs, which no longer has a fellow in a tie, wearing an official hat, asking you what you’re doing and where you’re going. I miss the personal touch. Now you are interrogated by a machine that looks you up and down and maybe lets you in - I saw four people commanded to seek SPECIAL ASSISTANCE. Down the long labyrinth to the trains, only to find that the Heathrow Express was not running yet. Hmm. Shall we take the local? We went up to a Pret for a coffee to figure it out, sorted the route, and went back down. Quite cheaper. Stops at every possible stop, but I don’t care. You get to see . . . things!
Dolbytown! When we got off at Ealing there was a maddening sign which said take the train on the right of the platform to London, and the other side said the opposite. My brain could not process. I asked a conductor. He pointed to the proper train with an expression that said he had, perhaps, encountered this confusion before.
Rattling and screeching into the city. If you've been, and you want some nostalgia, here you go.
Up the escalator.
. . . and then dumped out at Tottenham Court station, which I recognized.
A short stagger to the hotel through deserted Sunday streets. I remembered this: turn left at the Umbrella Store!
It was now 7:58 AM. As you might expect, our room was not available. But! They had another with a king, and a rollaway. Fine. Whatever. Grope our way to the room. Hit the bed. Try to sleep. Too exhausted to sleep, but it came eventually. The alarm went off at . . . noon, or something.
Stagger up, open the shades . . . where am I again?
Oh, right. Here.
We fetched some coffee from down the street, then went to the British Museum.
Everyone has their own reasons for traveling. Mine are mostly to meet these guys.
Or pet their dogs.
I never tire of the Elgin Marbles. The centaur battles!
His opponant is kneeing him in the groinal department, but that's not very effective on a centaur. Makes him madder.
We did the Japanese, Egyptian, Abyssinian wings, and studied a room of drawings by Raphael pupils until wave of exhaustion #2 nailed us again. We had to change rooms, since the rollaway didn’t fit, and hit the hay again. Strange, surly dreams. Up after an hour, bang back some room espresso, and make for Covent Garden, where I needed to pick up a coffee cup from the Transportation Museum.
I mean, I needed to. It's part of the 2022 Restoration Program. I bought the Central Line mug three years ago, intended to get another in the set last year - and after the cancellation of that trip in the teeth of COVID resurgent, and the subsequent way everything just ground down into COVID eternal, I figured I would never go again. All the fun of life was over.
So we headed straight there and I bought the damned Green Line mug. Also a very small pin I intended to attach to my backpack, a reminder of the Covid Interregnum. Mind the gap.
Dinner in Neal’s Court. Head in, why don't you?
Find the history plaque:
Then an hour - two? Can’t tell - walking around on a bracing March evening in the West End. Saw a few of these, which are horrifying:
Is that Amerikandy? Doesn't matter. It's walls and walls of this.
Starting at ten pounds per box.
This place is a Microsoft store. You can tell I'm really getting the true local experience here.
I wonder what they thought when the buildings where first illuminated thus.
At this point, total exhaustion - but you can’t go to sleep at 8, because you’ll wake at 4. So, coffee. So, push through, until you’re somewhat normal, and then hit the bar for a nice beer to send you off. The bar had no British ales or lagers, which was annoying; all the Radissons are like that, I gather. The Scoff and Banter across the street was the same way, if I recall correctly. Ah well. Peroni, then. Talked to some Texans down the bar - Austinites, who made a distinct point of trashing their governor so I would know they were the Good Texans - and then Daughter joined me for a nightcap. It had been the longest day. It had been two days, perhaps. Who could tell?. I wearing the sweater I’d had leaving Minneapolis. All a blur.
Hit the hay. Off right away.
And, of course, wide staring awake . . . at Four.
Tomorrow: rested up and ready for ART.