Friday, August 29, 2008, London
Our day began with the buzzer ringing downstairs in our building’s lobby—our first time, so it took us several moments to recognize it—as we let in Bartouch, the Eastern European technician from Virgin Media who came to set up my internet connection, TV programming and telephone landline. How fabulous it feels it to be online again in my own home and to have a wireless connection that allows me to keep my laptop mobile as I choose exactly which part of my tiny flat I will work in. Let’s see…shall I set up my work in my living room today? Or would I prefer to sit on my bed and type this journal? Decisions, decisions…
Llew was so helpful as he taught me how to use the dual remote wands—I now have 60 channels on TV, superb reception, a built-in DVD player and a built-in radio with a gazillion different stations. I have no reason to feel bored. What was it Dr. Johnson said? When a man is bored with London, he is bored with life itself. Never was a truer word spoken, methinks.
And, of course, sooner or later, Llew and I had to make our way to the National Gallery to feast our eyes on some of the best works of art the world has ever seen. We decided to take in the Gallery’s own selection of 25 Highlights plus my own favorite at the National—Pieter de Hooch’s “Scene in a Courtyard in Delft” which sits right next to two priceless Vermeers. We ate a picnic lunch of home made ham and cheese sandwiches on the steps of Trafalgar Square, people-watching as the world went by on an unusually warm day for London, before we went our separate ways—Llew to the National Portrait Gallery and I to two more Orientation meetings at NYU. Fred led us to a wonderfully secret coffee shop attached to the University of London at Bloomsbury which Karen and I immediately loved and decided to make a frequent haunt, and then we were meeting with our students again to go over a few more things with them. It took me exactly 15 minutes of a brisk walk to get back home. The streets were buzzing as Friday evenings in London mean crowds outside the many pubs and theater-goers rushing to the West End to catch the newest show.
Llew and I readied ourselves for dinner with Bande Hasan, one-time colleague of Llew’s and for many years a close family friend. We took the Tube for the first time during this stay in London and were at Marble Arch in exactly 15 minutes. A short stroll later, we were at Maroush, a Lebanese restaurant in Mayfair, just off Edgeware Road, where the Middle Eastern cuisine was delectable. We settled for a variety of starters and a mixed grill which we shared and enjoyed thoroughly. Best part of all was strolling together through this essentially wealthy Middle Eastern pocket of London watching burqua-clad women puffing away on hookahs (hubble-bubbles) outside the many restaurants that line the road on both sides and taking in the distinctly Arab cultural ethos flourishing in the very heart of London.
Tomorrow, we will awake early to take the National Express coach from Victoria to spend the day with my cousin Sherry and her husband David Crane in Kent. It promises to be a great day and the weather is supposed to be warm with nary a raindrop in sight.