It was ‘feet day’ day today: a lovely relaxing pedicure care of Sabrina. In truth, it’s not really relaxing. All that grating and clipping and chopping and scraping. And she never stops talking – mostly to the receptionist in a corner of another room. She can talk for England, that one. Still, it has to be done, especially as my feet have done a lot of walking in the last week. Yes, I know I generally walk a lot but I’ve been to London, so most of it was undertaken on unforgiving concrete.
And being London, one is required to walk at top speed. Actually, in London everything has to be done at a pace to compete with the world athletics championships. Waiting ten minutes for a connecting train, for example, is not allowed. If there are ten precious minutes to spare, they must be used in finding a quicker train or catching a bus. The bus will take twice as long as the train but it doesn’t matter because we are not sitting around reading a book. Last Wednesday, we were primed for the 10.20 train from Bromley North. Suddenly, it was discovered that the 10.05 would negate a tedious delay of 15 minutes at Grove Park and we had to leave the house immediately and race down the road in order to avoid such an horrific waste of time. Thus, I brought up the puffing rear guard without having had the opportunity to ponder whether an umbrella or coat might be in order. ‘You should spend a month in Dorset’, I said grumpily. Why? ‘Well you might learn to slow down a bit then’. I noted my words zooming over her head in the direction of the land of old mothers.
We exited the Summer Exhibition and discovered that the monsoon was back. She’d been carrying a little black bag which, when unwrapped, turned out to be a sneaky waterproof coat with hood. I was carrying nothing more than a soggy handbag. A suggestion was made regarding the purchase of an umbrella. The nearest umbrella purveyors to the Royal Academy are Cath Kidson, Fortnum & Mason and the Burlington Arcade. I’m a poor pensioner. On arrival at the restaurant, I am dispatched to the ladies – ‘perhaps you can stand under the hand dryer’, she suggests disapprovingly.
During lunch, I spot a bedraggled man across the road with a stall selling tourist tat and I instruct her to go over and purchase a Union Jack umbrella or a plastic poncho with a picture of the queen on the back – whichever is the cheapest. These are desperate days and I would, on this occasion, rather be a royalist than wet. She returns, clutching an emergency poncho which has been donated free of charge. It has a very small hole for the head to go through and two attractive slits for arms to protrude from. Having already, in her view, caused an altercation by demanding the 12.5% service charge be removed from the bill (‘this is London’), I stand by the table and eventually get the plastic sheet on. Then I realise that I should’ve put my bag over my shoulder beforehand so I attempt to extricate myself, hook the bag over, and try again.
Eventually, we take a seat on the tube. I am sat next to a very chic looking Italian lady. The tube is very hot. Too hot for plastic outer wear so I try to remove the poncho which involves athletics of a different nature and a lot of banging and shoving. More brownie points are lost. ‘That lady wasn’t very happy’, she comments. And when we eventually get back to Grove Park, guess what? Yes, we might have to wait five minutes so we have to exit the station and catch a bus to Bromley. Strangely, the bus stop is outside and, as it’s still raining, the bloody poncho has to go back on. ‘It’s ok in London’, she says, ‘because there are a lot of odd looking tourists. However, it’s not quite de rigeur for Bromley’. Reader, don’t worry that this weasel will upset her – there will never be enough spare time for reading.
I move on to West London where my friends walk even faster. However, these people understand that I do the Dorset Dawdle and are accommodating. Plus, they spend a lot of time reading, drinking and doing the crossword so there’s breathing space. Offered a choice of trips, I opt for the Kensal Green Cemetery. We once went to Highgate Cemetery and, apart from a hill climb which might’ve been better led by a Sherpa, it was a pleasurable experience. Kensal Green is not and we are deeply disappointed. It’s an overgrown, uncared for affair and we struggle to find something of interest.
It all went downhill after this and I was pleased to learn we could depart the cemetery and catch up with the close-to-hand Grand Union Canal which was making its weary way to Paddington. In particular, I was delighted to discover that we had to cross the Ladbroke Grove. For those of you who are not Van Morrison groupies, which would be everyone except me, the seminal album, Astral Weeks, features a track called Slim Slow Slider in which the action takes place on the Ladbroke Grove. It’s a beautiful song which, I fear, wasn’t written at the Kensal Green end of the road. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMEExDZEgoo
Towards the end, there’s an art installation about and dedicated to Alan Turing. If you’ve got time to read this, then you’ve got time to click on the link. https://londonist.com/2016/09/alan-turing-commemorated-with-new-paddington-installation
And, as David Bowie wrote, ‘The Next day’, which was the purpose of this week in Londinium. We undertake a walk organised by the Museum of London, in conjunction with Crossrail, to and around the site of the new station at Bond Street. It’s so interesting and our guide couldn’t be more informative.
But my favourite part was going below Gray’s Antiques Centre and viewing the lost River Tyburn. When Bennie Gray took the joint over, he discovered the basement was under six feet of water: a lost tributary of the Thames.
Here they are, down at the allotment.
And after this, we all came back to Dorset and walked the Purbeck Ridge. As I said, today was ‘feet day’.