19 August 2013

Capital

Hull City's Ahmed Elmohamady seems to be telling the referee
at the Chelsea match that he needs spectacles
Thirty two hours in London. Picture stories that unfold themselves for travellers and every story different from the next one. Exciting London. Filled with energy. Filled with stories. The planet's melting pot. There are people here from every country on Earth. They mingle. They connect. They get by. Weekend visitors, students, diplomats, bankers, kitchen workers, down-and-outs, princes and thieves all mingling together weaving invisible webs.

Our story goes like this.

Arrive at St Pancras railway station, meet our lovely son Ian - now twenty nine! We catch a Picadilly Line tube to South Kensington and then sit at a street table drinking tea and eating cheesy "Farmer's Paninis" from an Iraqi stallholder. We go into the marvellous Victoria and Albert Museum where we are at first a little appalled to see some of the ecclesiastical treasures our Victorian forefathers brought home from Italy - entire marble altars and effigies.

The museum is filled to the brim with the wonders of decorative arts. We wander around seeing church silvers from the thirteenth century, practice paintings by John Constable, theatre posters, stage costumes, arts from South Asia and Japan, exhibits from the Great Exhibition of 1851, furniture, jewellery. After two and a half hours our brains are overloading. You just can't take it all in. Even the fabric of the museum itself is stupendous - mosaic floors, expertly crafted oak doors, marble columns, incredible aesthetic uses of the humble brick. You could spend a month at the V&A and still not take it all in.

Reeling, we head back for South Kensington where we catch an underground train to Finsbury Park. We walk along Seven Sisters Road  to the Best Western Highbury where we deposit our bags. It's a nice, clean hotel room but for £115 a night I expect a leopardskin carpet and a sunken bath filled with unicorn milk.

Soon we stroll back down the Seven Sisters Road and turn left for Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. We can hear the first game of the season in full swing - the oohs and aaahs of 60,000 spectators. It's getting close to the final whistle and as we approach this football temple, devotees are already emerging in their red religious garb. Ian lives bang next to the ground in a modern block of apartments which are part of the Emirates campus. We are like salmon swimming against the tide but we get through and drink tea in the nice, lofty apartment he shares with Henry and Chloe. They are away in Essex.

At six we head back to Finsbury Park. I want to catch a bus to Crouch End but Ian insists we carry on to Turnpike Lane on the tube. Bad move. By the time we get to Crouch End it's about 6.45 and we are under pressure to down a meal before getting into the comedy club. We spot a Malaysian restaurant and the food is great -Set Menu A. I even have time for ice cream and fruit salad. Then it's quickly over to "The King's Head" where we go "Downstairs" to the comedy club. We find ourselves a perfect table - close but not too close to the performance area.
Chris Neill

Drinks are exorbitantly priced so we only have two each but we enjoy the performances of six very different male comedians. Plenty of laughs. There's a gay fellow called Chris Neill from Peckham who has us in stitches as he examines the saying "There's just one thing I'd like to know about..." Only one thing? One thing? About the second world war? And he reels off some of the issues and complexities of that bitter conflict..."But you only want to know one thing?" What is it pray? Why did Germany bomb England?....Err might it be because we were at war with them? Then Brendan Dempsey hilariously examines his disaffection for children and how he hates to see them in public places. Shirley and Ian had never visited a proper comedy club before and they enjoyed it immensely. It's hard to convey the sense of occasion and the intimacy of that live event in a north London pub's cellar.

Then we catch a late bus back to Finsbury Park. Ian carries on to Arsenal and Shirley and I pop into "The Twelve Pins" for a last drink. It's a rough pub with a tall nicotine coloured ceiling. A drunken Irish fellow talks to us before disappearing to the urinals. I don't trust him. We take our leave - along the Seven Sisters Road.

Photos of BEST WESTERN London Highbury, London
The Best Western Highbury
The buffet breakfast in the hotel was surprisingly good though I'd still have preferred a "full English". We meet up with Ian at the Arsenal tube station and then head to Picadilly Circus. He has to return a T-shirt to a shop on Carnaby Street. Then we mosey through Leicester Square and across Trafalgar Square, into The Mall. To the left we find beautiful  St James's Park which we amble through as hordes of tourists return from The Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace. There are even pelicans in the park and by the little Swiss Chalet boat house someone has been growing rows of vegetables - right in the heart of London.

By Green Park we catch a bus towards Chelsea, passing Harrods at Knightsbridge then down to Cremorne Gardens at the riverside. We eat lunchtime sandwiches in the Cave Cafe and then move along the Kings Road towards another football temple  - Stamford Bridge - home of Chelsea FC. There's a tuneful brass band playing in the car park and there are blue Chelsea shirts everywhere but we are going to the Shed End with the amber and black supporters - Hull City AFC - back in The Premiership.

We lose two-nil but we are not disgraced. There are players in Chelsea's team - single players - who alone would cost far more to buy than Hull City's entire squad. Our lads didn't let us down and we came away feeling proud of their second half performance. 

Because the District Line was closed for engineering works, we strolled along to Earls Court where we caught the Picadilly Line back to St Pancras. Ian carried on to Arsenal while Shirley and I ate burgers with chips in a station food outlet then caught the 19.40 train back to Sheffield.

Phew! I am sorry! That's a damned long post and you know I could easily have doubled its length with more details of our latest London excursion. All those people on the underground - all with different faces - all with their own unique tales to tell. London gives you a strong sense of what it really means to live in a country of sixty two million people. We are just krill floating on an ocean current.
Krill

12 comments:

  1. Really? Someone's pancreas was made a saint? Kewl.

    I do not believe for one minute that anyone on this planet is named Elmo Hammurabi or Ahmed Elmohamady or whatever you claim it is.

    Through your reporting I can feel the joy you experienced, but I guess one had to have been there...

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  2. P.S. - My one night in London in 1969 I stayed at the Europa Hotel on Grosvenor Square, near the American Embassy.

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    1. I believe the older hotel maids still talk about that night. One was left with a special souvenir. He is now forty four years old and he is called Bobby. He has your eyes.

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  3. I could do with thirty two hours like that!

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  4. Thank you so much for your telling. I was following your journey in my mind....and, on Google Maps! You covered a lot of ground, Mr. and Mrs. Pudding.

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    1. It is amazing how we can use Google Maps and Street View to check out most of the western world and beyond.

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  5. Sounds like a great trip - apart from the football, of course! ;)

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    1. What? Are you a Chelsea fan? I thought you supported Wrexham! Make your mind up Jenny! What do you think about Rooney's situation and who do you think Arsenal should bring in? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

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  6. I have never seen Krill until now......cute little things.

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    1. Yes Kelly, whales seem to love them more than anything!

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  7. There's always something new to see and do in London. Great place to visit and always a plus with the kids there too. Which reminds me, it's ages since we've seen Brett . Must look for a cheap flight to Sydney

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    1. Well Helen, I'm glad my post made you think about your own son. I am sure Brett will be very happy to see you but not so sure about his authoritarian father!

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.