I was the first passenger to board the plane and my flight, BA 666 or something on an old Airbus with what I think were molded fiberglass seats ergonomically designed to fit hunchbacked two-headed dwarves comfortably was uneventful. Upon arrival, I was on my way quickly since I had no checked luggage. I took the Heathrow express train to Paddington station, shown in the first picture here. I love this sort of train station, which one finds throughout Europe.
It is a good idea to read Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” before traveling on the London Underground. At least it made it far more enjoyable for me. The system is at least 100 years old and looks it in parts. Some of the escalators are still made partially of wood, and the system involves a complex arrangement of stairways, tunnels, hallways and other passages that can prove confusing to the first-time visitor. It is also important to remember your ticket, which as in many cities you need both to get into as well as back out of the system. I often forgot where I’d stowed my ticket upon exit, and had to do the pocket-slapping thing while walking towards the turnstile.
There were many stairs. At some, there were signs warning you.
I stayed, at D.’s recommendation, at a nice little hotel in the Tufnell park neighborhood. Tufnell is not only part of the Islington district – the Angel Islington being a key figure in “Neverwhere” – it is also the neighborhood in London where Adam Ant was recently taken into custody after causing a disturbance in a pub, and later admitted to a mental institution.
My hotel room was not large, but since I was looking for something cheap with a lock on the door, located conveniently to the parts of London I was intending to visit, it was far more than sufficient. It was run by Cypriot Greeks, I believe. One of the reception women was Irish (from Galway), and was nice to me, possibly because I have an Irish surname and make such a bewildered impression. The hotel room had not only a lock on the door, it also had a small bathroom. The hot water worked, and the toilet flushed, and there was a clean towel and a pyramid of toilet paper rolls on the toilet tank.
After arriving and unpacking, and trading my suit for more practical jeans and boots (it was raining, and would rain the entire weekend, off and on, but that was okay) I called D, who had just woken up and made arrangements to meet, have lunch/breakfast at a nearby cafe (funky, enjoyable, good food, which I wasn’t expecting in London. In fact, no where D. took us to eat was the food anything but quite good) and then go meet Jessica and Brendan at the Albert Memorial. As do many monuments in London, the Albert memorial has four things in the four corners; in this case, four scenes representing the four continents. The one depicted here is America, which the careful observer can tell from the buffalo, pawpaw fruit, stylized “Indian” headdresses and the words “America” chiseled into the front of the display.
We walked and walked. We walked past a good number of large trees, and tried to guess what type they were. We walked further, past a large man-made pond where there were some swans, including one black one. We told swan horror stories as we walked by a large penned-in enclosure that turned out to be a playground; it had teepees and a large mound that closely resembled the mound in the Teletubbies show. We walked some more, the ground grew ever harder until the soles of our feet felt chewed by jackals and our boots grew heavier. We found a shop called MIG, where I had someone take my picture. Then we walked on.
Eventually we had dinner at a fun restaurant called TigerLil’s where you’d better have a reservation. It is an all-you-can eat buffet. The food is all raw at the buffet, but cocky young men are more than happy to cook it for you, over large open flames, in matchingly large woks, while they chat up your date. They use a lot of oil, which they skilfully set on fire, shooting flames 8 feet up into the largest ventilation hood I’ve ever seen. It is a very impressive show. If you go there, be sure and stand a step or two back from the cooking bar area, because hot burning oil can spatter and cause harmless, yet painful, burns, as I found out. Melly and Michele joined us at the restaurant, in spirit at least, in the form of cardboard cutouts produced and directed by D.
We had ribs for appetizers, among other things. Ribs turn out to be hard to eat with chopsticks, so we all eventually gave up and ate them with our fingers.
Drinks are generally served by the pitcher at TigerLil’s. Here’s Michele enjoying, eh, not sure, that’s not a Long Island Spiced Tea; what else did we have? Mai tai maybe? Hrm. Anyone else have a guess?
After dinner, I took Melly and Michele back to my hotel room, where we watched a little TV. There was a Russian movie on Channel 5. I’m not sure what it was about, but it involved a photographer and a number of models on a freighter on the open sea, and sort of alternated between spicy scenes and scenes in which models armed with automatic weapons fired upon various people. A large submarine, Soviet I suppose, surfaced at one point, then submerged again.
The hotel was actually a bed-and-breakfast. Here’s breakfast. The other man in the breakfast room seemed to find it odd that I photographed my breakfast. I do not recommend the sausages, although the rashers were good.
We went to Camden, where there are hundreds of indoor and outdoor shops, stalls, and stands selling everything from black velvet Goth fashions to black latex fetish wear to piercing supplies, neon clubbing wear, to Steve Austin dolls. One is pictured here, in a compromising pose with Stuart Little. In one fetish shop, I purchased a pair of genuine angel wings for Gamma, my daughter who is just over four-and-a-half.
We walked and walked. We wanted to go eat Japanese food, but it wasn’t open yet so we had coffee. Here is a picture of me drinking a Latte Grande. My hair is wet in the picture because it was still raining.
After we finished our coffees, the Japanese restaurant – Wagamama – was open and we ate lunch.
Then we went to Harrods to buy teacups for my wife Alpha. She was very, very happy with them, by the way. In fact, she was so happy with them it didn’t bother her that I’d bought my older daughter Beta a tee-shirt reading “If you think I’M a bitch, wait until you meet my MOTHER.” My wife was so happy, I was even able to joke about getting her the same shirt. She also liked the small wooden box I brought her, which I’d also purchased at Camden. She collects such boxes.
Happiest of all, though, was Gamma with her angel wings.