Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Moving to Abbey Road On A Truly Historic Day!

Monday July 22, 2013

A Truly Historic Day!

What a historic day in London! And another dream-come-true for me! I always wanted to be in London during a historic occurrence—and I have always missed it.  But this time round, I was right on target: the birth of the heir to the Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is no small potatoes—and I am thrilled and absurdly happy to share in the joy of the British as they welcome the first born male child of William and Kate.   
            I wondered for days on end where I would be when I received the news—and through what medium I would hear it, considering that we are all now so wired. I expected it would be through Twitter—and indeed it was. I happened to be on the steps of Abbey Road Studios (which the Beatles immortalized) at 7.45 pm when the news was announced. Four hours previously, when the baby was actually born, I was sitting in my new digs—an unbelievably sprawling 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom Victorian flat which is 2,000 square feet if it is an inch—so huge, so complex that I am still getting lost in it. It belongs to my American friends Raquel and Chris who are currently on holiday in New York and who kindly offered me their place for my use in their absence. I have never been so lucky in my life! First the amazingly comfortable place in Holborn that belonged to my friends Tim and Barbara where I slowly broke into my London lifestyle again in an environment that was known and familiar and comforting as an old shoe and now this place here in St. John’s Wood. My balcony overlooks the zebra crossing that the Beatles immortalized on their Abbey Road album cover and every single day at any given hour, there are scores of tourists—young and old—crossing the street and taking pictures. Who would ever have thought that I would be living in this gracious old London building at such a historic location? I tell you…it boggles the mind. There is simply no end to the surprises that life can hurl at you—of that I am sure, and I am simply reveling in them.
            But I am getting ahead of myself—so I should begin at the start of my day. I awoke at 6 15, forced myself to sleep for another hour and then finally stirred at 7. 15 with the realization that today was Moving Day for me as Tim and Barbara were returning from their short stay away.  I had done most of my packing last night, so it was only last-minute things that needed to be completed. I ate the last of my scrambled eggs and chipolata sausages (as I did want to clear my food stuff from the fridge) and continued putting my belongings together. I then spend about half an hour cleaning the flat and making sure it looked welcoming enough for my friends. I also left them a Thank-you card and a few gifts and then I was all set to leave.
             By 11.00 am, I got out of the flat with one suitcase as it seemed best for me to make two trips—the idea was to take my back pack with my computer in it on a second trip. Fortunately, St. John’s Wood is only a half hour way—Lord’s Cricket Ground is only a block away and with the Ashes matches going on between the UK and Australia, it is very much the focus of sports lovers at the moment. I was at my new building called Neville Court at 11.05 am. I unpacked and took the empty suitcase back with me to Holborn again at 11. 45am. I reached Holborn at 12. 15 and by 12. 30, I was out for the last time. I left their keys for my friends and was gone. I have enjoyed the best first week there and in a week that was hideously hot during the day and even at nights and in a country in which people do not even possess fans, I was blessed with air-conditioning which did wonders for my comfort. I will ever be indebted to my friends for so generously leaving their place for my use. I said goodbye to the concierge Arben for the last time and was off. He too is a special friend who always greets me with the warmest welcome and offers his help constantly. It is amazing to me that I have created these connections in London—connections so warm and strong that they now make London feel to me like my second home.

Getting Acquainted with my New Digs:    
      The hottest, most humid day in the UK in decades (temperatures soared to 34 degrees Celsius which is almost 94 degrees Fahrenheit) would just happen to be my Moving Day! Go Figure! I was hot and exhausted and very grateful to find a portable fan in my bedroom. It is very easy for me to carry it around from room to room and make the place comfortable. I got connected with wifi, set up my computer so I can get some work done and caught up with email.
          The news that Kate had entered St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington meant that everyone was on tenterhooks waiting for the arrival of the royal heir to the throne.  At 5.00 pm, after which I had accomplished a lot, unpacked and found places for all my things and made myself at home, I took a short 15 minute nap, woke up to make myself a cup of tea (when frankly a cold beer was what I craved). I ate it with cake and then at 6.00 pm by which time the worst of the day’s heat had passed, I decided to go out and explore Regent’s Park and Marylebone using the walking tour in DK Eyewitness Guides.

Exploring Regent’s Park and Marylebone:
           This was one of the shortest and quickest walks I have taken so far. I took the Tube to Regent’s Park Tube station (I love the old emerald green tiles and the embossed ones that form trimmings in these old stations that have seen no modernization) and arrived at John Nash’s magnificent Park Crescent. Those who have been to Bath will recognize the name of Nash as well as the word 'Crescent’ for the two Nashes—Elder and Younger (Father and Son)--created the Georgian city of Bath and the Elder Nash is responsible for this portion of London around Regent’s Park at Marylebone.
          Park Crescent was conceived along classical lines—it has double columns and is a series of private mansions (today mainly offices) constructed as an arc—beautiful hanging flower baskets accentuate its loveliness. Today’s walk was an opportunity for me to skim Regent’s Park (It did not take me inside although I have enjoyed this park on many previous occasions) but into the little lanes and roads that surround it. They are all part of Nash’s plan and they are marvelous. Old classical constructed mansions surround the park—some of them are prominent buildings such as the Royal Academy of Music founded in the 1700s but most of them are Victorian buildings and are suitably flamboyant with red brick and stucco and fanciful gables in the Dutch idiom. Had London nothing to offer but its architecture, it would still be my favorite city in the world. 
          This area is also the home of two beautiful old buildings with marvelous ornamental sculpture decorating their faces:  Wigmore Hall, a wonderful concert hall which still holds a great program of performances (there was a piano recital just about to begin when I popped my head in and had a look) and, right across the street, the original building constructed for Debenham’s, the department store that subsequently moved to Oxford Street. The building currently lies vacant--more’s the pity.
           This walk also took me to parts of London that are vaguely familiar to me but which I haven’t visited in a long time: for example, with regards to the familiar, I walked down Harley Street known for its physicians’ offices. Many moons ago, I had accompanied Llew to a Harley Street optometrist who had performed surgery on his eyes. As for the unknown, the walk took me to Wimpole Street—made famous by Elizabeth Barret who had lived there as a spinster when she had fallen in love with the poet Robert Browning. The couple eloped and were secretly married in St. Marylebone Parish Church which I also visited on my walk. It has a splendid cupola that is crowned with gilded figures holding hands. The inside of the church was closed but services are still held there regularly.
          Just next door is Ferguson House, where Charles Dickens had once lived and where he wrote several novels. There is a bas-relief sculpture on the wall of this building that portrays Dickens as well as several of the characters he created. The area was also home to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who has a blue plaque to mark the place where he lived and wrote. Indeed, there are several blue and green plaques dotting the area as several significant pioneers of British science and medicine once lived in this neighborhood where the country’s most successful doctors still have their clinics. 
          Finally, past Portland Place which is filled with wonderful sculpture. I arrived at All Souls Lapham Church, also the handiwork of Nash. It has a thin spindly spire and a circular base and was derided when first built. This church was also closed but is is open during services to which all are invited.
           Directly behind it is the BBC’s Broadcasting House from where all their radio programs are beamed out to the world (the TV programs are made in their studios in White City). I was quite taken by the sculptures by Samuel Gill on its faced featuring Prospero and Ariel from The Tempest. Inside the 1930s Art Deco interior has been very well refurbished.
           The third significant building in this corner of London is The Lapham, once London’s grandest hotel. The likes of Mark Twain once stayed in this hotel which boasts a fabulous marble lobby. I popped inside to have a look and was charmed by its décor although this is decidedly new.   

News of the Royal Baby—Finally!
            It was time to call it a day and since I spied a 189 bus, I followed it to its starting point just off Oxford Street and was home in half an hour. It was then about 8. 45 pm at which point the staff at the Abbey Road Studios permitted me to pose on the steps to take pictures—this was the exact moment when the world was getting to know that the royal birth had taken place four hours previously. I got home, switched on Twitter and got the news—about 20 minutes after it had occurred. As I said, I felt absurdly pleased for the young couple and the entire nation that had become so involved in this birth. Just imagine what it must be like to gaze at this infant child and know that one day he will be king! Must be an awesome feeling for its parents—of course, one of the parents (William) will be king himself and since this child is not likely to rule within my lifetime, I guess I should not be that excited! But for some reason, I am and I am sure it has more to do with the fact that I am actually here in London when this royal birth has occurred.
    It was 11. 30 pm when I finally went to bed after drinking a beer, eating a sandwich for dinner and watching Burton and Taylor on TV.
          Until tomorrow, Cheerio!              

1 comment:

Chriselle Almeida said...

What a great time we had in London (AGAIN!!)