Astrid drove us to London, a nice change from getting up at 6 AM and enduring a nerve-racking ride to Heathrow. I booked an extra day in London so we didn’t have to rush, could linger a bit in Kensington (her old neighborhood) and so Daughter could see friends, if the opportunity arose. It was a clear shot down, if any British road could be described as such: the one-and-a-half-lane road we took out of Walbers was the same road that turned into a two-lane road, then a four-lane divided highway that was as close to an American freeway as you’ll find.
Because there is no highway straight into town, we had to approach by all sorts of crab-wise moves. Oh, we complain about what freeways do to cities, but you have to experience the joy of moving through dense urban areas for an hour, realizing this would be ten minutes in an American city, to appreciate the interstates blasting through the urban core. It was several levels of insanity, partly because nothing’s marked.
Kensington was lovely. That’s Kingsley Amis’ old house! Sir Thomas Beecham lived there. And so on.
It's a delightful neighborhood, and I'm sure everything costs a billion pounds. I mean they've probably subdivided this smokestack into a dozen flats.
Then it was into the city to our hotel, a 20 minute walk from the COVID testing place. It had the feel of an inner-city VD clinic, not that I’d know. Two pokes up the schnoz, out you go, results in half an hour. We walked back in a pleasant state of ignorance, not knowing if we’d be able to fly out or have to return to Suffolk to live in the little house.
I mean, there are worse fates.
LATER: Checked my email at Cafe Nero, heart thumping.
Now we find a place to have dinner, then it’s the Prince of Wales Feathers for a pint.
“I think the water turned itself on,” Natalie said. She opened the bathroom door, noting that she expected to see a leprous old lady in the tub. What she was saw was something else: water pouring from the ceiling.
Never good, that. Water ought not run from ceiling apertures designed for other purposes. We heard water running upstairs, as though someone had drawn a bath, and then gone to sleep. Might have been the case - we never did find out. I called the front desk to explain that water was pouring out of the fixtures in the ceiling, and they might want to give it a look. They moved us to another room, and while it was a bit larger, it was also so harshly lit in its own way that the beds looked like mortuary slabs.
Well, a bed’s a bed. Went to sleep at woke at 6:30.
We got to Heathrow with plenty of time to spare, because we beat all the lines by showing up a little ahead of everyone else. Had a toastie and the last Cafe Nero. After the gate was called it was time to experience the peculiar part of the English airport experience, or at least here: you have your passport and boarding papers checked as you enter the departure lounge, after which you’re supposed to stay put. No wandering off to the loo, now.
Note: everyone in the room was fully vaccinated and had presented a negative test from the last 24 hours before getting past the baggage drop. And everyone was required to have a mask.
Unless of course you were eating or drinking, so if you wished, you could pull down your mask and hold a bottle of water and no one would complain. Then again, no one cared. There was one fellow wearing no mask at all. No official came up and insisted that he raise shields.
So right now I’m halfway over the Atlantic, having finished the green curry supper. And so to sleep.
LATER There was no sleep. Not much. Landed at 3, which was 9 PM to us, and said goodbye to Natalie outside the airport. Sigh. But at least we did it, again, and it was damned near perfect, and the Peg Lynch Podcast is closer than ever to its conclusion.
One night I took a picture of the shed where Alex has his studio:
I called up the astronomy app to see which stars were overhead.
But of course.