Saturday, July 30, 2016

Back in Londinium! And First-Day Flutters!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

     First Day Flutters! I felt them big time. Flutters of trepidation as I wondered how I would handle my mountainous baggage alone! And flutters of exhilaration at walking the lovely streets of London again!
     So yes, here I go blogging again! Or rather, here I come! Back again in Londinium. Or T'Smoke--whatever you might wish to call it, I am in Blighty now--for the long haul! And no one could be happier! For as firsts go, this day was fab.

Journey Outward:    
     Bidding goodbye to the family this time round was harder than I expected. Excitement was tempered by a twinge of sadness as I hugged and kissed the Smallies who are now part of our family in Southport. Llew dropped me to JFK--all the while more concerned than I was about the load I was carrying: two cases of 50 lbs each, a strolley backpack with not one but two laptops (don't ask!)--a PC And a Mac--and a crossover pocketbook. I knew I could do it--maybe even in my sleep for London, as you faithful readers of this blog know, is my second home.
     I couldn't have had a more comfy flight for, as luck would have it, I had a window seat with no one else occupying the two seats besides me--truly, the angels of international travel had my back! After a picture-perfect takeoff (the skyline of Manhattan silhouetted against a gorgeous coral sunset), I moved like lightning to the end aisle seat to hog it all, stretched out with three pillows and a blanket and ordered a G and T to celebrate my return to the UK. Dinner swiftly followed (and as airline meals go, this wasn't half bad for the chicken with orzo they presented me was far more than merely edible). Then, as is my wont on trans-Atlantic flights, I popped a sleeping pill into my mouth and was out for a whole four hours. By the time I surfaced, we were preparing for landing. And, once again, I hope you will believe me when I say that I got a brilliant picture of Buckingham Palace from my window as we made a smooth touchdown at Heathrow.
     Llew needn't have chewed his nails off in worry, on my behalf, for I sailed out of Immigration, loading my cases on to a trolley and hotfooted it to the Piccadilly Line in under ten minutes. After loading my Oystercard with a monthly Travelpass, I slid into the elevator that sank me down to the platform and, five minutes later, voila! I was in the Tube and changing at Hammersmith for the District Line right across the platform. A quick call to inform my 'pick up person' that I would be there in about 40 minutes and, like clockwork, an almost empty train dropped me off at Stepney Green where I connected with him.

Getting to Know Bethnal Green and my New London Digs:
     My landlord and landlady (whom I shall refer to from now on as Mine Hosts) couldn't be nicer. N was there, as promised, and with all the gallantry of the Middle Ages, hauled my cases up as if they were featherweights, as he led me to the surface--of Mile End Road. The neighborhood was still in the throes of its Saturday Lie-In as we dragged my cases down two New York blocks to my new digs on Globe Road--and a more appropriate name would be hard to find for someone who does as much globe-trotting as I! His wife, C was awaiting my arrival indoors as we opened the lime green door to my new home, a charming Victorian three-story semi-detached house with a front and back garden! As my eyes scanned my new abode, I thought, "Have I lucked out once again, or what?"
     We spent the next two hours getting to know each other and my new home. They put me through the paces as they shared wifi codes with me, pointed out light switches, security measures (locks, latches, and the like), discussed rental payments with me, walked around the garden with me, gave me the Grand Tour of all three floors, showed me how kitchen appliances, shower and heater worked--all over a cup of coffee and a bowl of muesli as I suddenly discovered that I was starving.  They told me to help myself to any of their pantry staples (oils, vinegars, spices, condiments), introduced me to their storehouse of a gazillion teas (only to discover, much to their chagrin, that I drink decaff!) and made me feel fully at home. They had also drawn me a cool diagram of the neighborhood with landmarks like museums and markets, favorite restaurants and bus and Tube stops all highlighted. How unbelievably thoughtful!

Off to the British Library:
      Two hours later, all formalities ironed out, I set out to find my way to the British Library at King's Cross as my Reader's Ticket expired yesterday! How was that for timing??? I jumped on to the No. 8 bus at Bethnal Green, hopped off at Liverpool Street and took the Tube. From there, it was only a stroll to the Library on a glorious day, temperature-wise. After the heat wave we've had Stateside, it felt heavenly to wear a light jacket! Reader's Card safely in my pocketbook, I browsed around an exhibit called Punk--but found little in it to arouse my interest.

Crossing Regent's Canal:
     Having used wifi at the library, I set out in search of the nearest Waitrose as I needed a few urgent groceries. And so it was that I made another charming discovery. There is a huge Waitrose behind St. Pancras Station (one of my very favorite buildings in London with its splendid Victorian Gothic facade by Sir Gilbert Scott for whom I have a soft spot as he also designed the library building of the University of Bombay). I can never pass by without saying a silent Thank you to Sir John Betjeman who saved it from the wrecking ball! (How could something so grand ever be slated for demolition?) And what's more, that Waitrose is hidden in a vast warehouse behind a pedestrian plaza that sits astride the Regent's Canal to which one is led by steps going down--like getting to the banks of the Seine in Paris at St. Michel! It was enchanting. I can see myself actually strolling along the canal tow path in the very near future.
     But for today, I was not to be distracted from my mission...and discovering that I can get a free coffee every time I use a Waitrose card, I signed up for one and began shopping. I got Warburton's multi-seed bread (which I love), honey yogurt, honey ham, mature cheddar cheese, a lemon for my tea, decaff tea bags, Lavazza decaff coffee (because C recommended it), a date and walnut loaf for tea, pork sausages (which I shall fry for my dinner tomorrow), a cauliflower to make a mash to accompany the sausages, a bag of fruit and nut muesli and a ton of free magazines! Did I ever tell you how much I adore Waitrose? After paying, I obtained a free latte and sipped it in the cafe with a slice of my cake--as I hadn't really eaten anything since that bowl of muesli at 9.30 am. At 5 pm, I left Waitrose, with a grocery load far less weightier than it sounds.
    At King's Cross, I took the Tube home and within twenty-five minutes, I was testing my new skills with the new keys I'd been handed. Easy peasy!  

Unpacking and Getting Settled:
     It is a thrilling process--unpacking and deciding where to put what in a new home. My room on the first floor (American second) is darling. It has a double bed, a night stand, a carved wooden armoire, a very modern desk and ancient chair. My bathroom is just outside the door and rearranging my toiletries and cosmetics in it was also a blast. These flutters of delight I feel are priceless. My window has double glazing--so busy Globe Road is not a concern.
     I then got down to setting up my laptops with wifi connections and suddenly felt fully in sync with my family members again. Arranging my groceries was also an opportunity to rearrange the kitchen cupboards, discover where everything is kept, and make an open toasted sandwich for myself with fig jam, ham and cheddar washed down with lemony tea. I listened to Radio Four as I munched because there is no TV in this house--not an issue as I have BBC's I-player here and Netflix!!! The evenings will be a good time to catch up with the movies and TV series I love. I am pretty sure that it will not be long before this old home, that was built and has been lived in since the time of Queen Victoria, feels very much like home to me.
      So much has changed since the last time I lived away from Llew in London. There was no Facetime or Imo then--although there was Skype with its rather spotty reception. Now Llew and I intend to videochat daily. Just as I did today with him as well as with my niece and nephew.
     So there you have it! A Fab First Day! And a few fine flutters! Thanks for following me again. I would love to have your comments. Please do read my posts, but please do also respond.
     Until tomorrow, cheerio....     

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