Sunday, January 25, 2015
Having set my alarm for 5.00 am (for a 5. 30 am departure), I found myself waking up automatically at 4. 45 am with plenty of time to wash, dress, do last-minute packing and leave. Chris and the cab driver were on schedule and we were off for Heathrow airport while St. John’s Wood and Swiss Cottage were comatose. Through the sleeping streets we sped past Chiswick to arrive at Heathrow at 6.15 am where I checked in immediately, received my boarding passes, had my bags tagged but was told to return at 8. 3o am to check them in as the counter only opened 3 hours before departure.
It was a good time to get into Carluccio’s to buy myself a hot chocolate and a plain croissant which I enjoyed with butter and their signature fig jam as I awaited 8. 30 am and the arrival of my friends Bash and Kim who were scheduled to come to the airport to spend a couple of hours with me as they live nearby. As it turned out, my brother Roger had arrived at Heathrow on duty last evening and it was with him on the phone that I passed time while waiting for my friends. They did turn up at 8. 30 am when we went straight to Café Nero to get mocha lattes and to catch up. It was great to see Kim on her feet (sciatica had kept her away from our trip to Oxford) and for the next couple of hours, we had a lovely time together.
Then, if you can believe it, I boarded my flight to go from London to the USA but for some inexplicable reason, via Madrid in Spain! The flight run by Iberia was in a very small plane but it made good time and gave me a chance to catch up on my journal. Skies were clear over Portugal and Spain and views from my window showed me snow-struck mountains and fallow fields. Soon we were descending into Madrid where I had to change terminals to get my international flight to the US. I had no time to grab a sandwich (I could have murdered for one with Spain’s manchego cheese and serrano ham!), but in no time at all, I was in my plane (another small one with none of the lovely British Airways in-flight entertainment) and just when I wondered what I would do for the next 9 hours during daylight, I was grateful for my laptop that would allow me to pass time through writing and for the Woman and Home magazine that I had bought at Heathrow airport. My seat had a charger plug point which permitted me to listen to music on my I-Phone and hammer away on my laptop and with a window seat on a very light flight, I was up and airborne and ready to make the most of the last lap of my holiday.
It had been a blast! In one week in London, I had done favorite old things (the National Gallery and the Guildhall Art Gallery, for instance) and discovered new ones (tours of the Royal Courts of Justice, Highgate Cemetery). I had seen one play (Di and Viv and Rose) at the West End and one really brilliant TV show (Wolf Hall). I had been invited to a very special lunch in a very special place (Morden College in Blackheath), Afternoon Tea with the NYU Dean’s Circle in a fancy hotel—The Montague on the Gardens in Bloomsbury—and had a lovely farewell pub dinner of fish and chips at the Old Bank of England pub on Fleet Street where Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street had apparently murdered many an innocent client.
I had found some really good buys at really great prices (a Barbour quilted jacket for myself, plum puddings at Harrods, vast supplies of my favorite tea, biscuits, cereal, soup). I had combined some work by meeting with my Dean and the students he had brought to London plus many of our administrative staff members with a great deal of play, long walks and longer bus rides on days that were frightfully cold even when the sun shone.
I had heard Mass at favorite churches—St. Etheldreda’s in Holborn and at Westminster Cathedral. I went to very unusual museums of which even Londoners haven’t heard (The Old Operating Theater in Southwark and the Linely-Sambourne House in tony Kensington) and discovered new lines of perfume by my favorite perfumier (Jo Malone in her new line called Jo Loves) on Elizabeth Street. I made one daytrip to another one of my favorite places on earth—the university city of Oxford—to which I introduced Raquel.
But, above all, I had met and reconnected with dear English friends who mean so much to me (Tim and Barbara, Rosemary (Roz), Loulou and Paul, Michael and Cynthia and Susan in Oxford), Indian ones (Murali, Michelle and Reshma, Bash and Kim) and American ones (Mahnaz. Raquel and Chris) who make my stays in London ever so special by invitations to lunch or dinner either in their homes or restaurants. In the final analysis, although I adore London in every season and despite every affliction that is thrown my way (this time it was a persistent cold and an aching throat), ultimately, it is the people I know and love in this country that make it all worthwhile for me.
Thank you for following me on my adventures and for being my companion through thick and thin. I hope you enjoyed armchair traveling with me as much as I enjoyed actually making the trips, for, remember as the philosopher said, it is not the destination that matters but the journey. I am grateful that you were a part of mine.
Until the next time when I leave my usual abode in Southport and return to my Roost, I say cheerio!