Pit-stop in Blighty for tea with the Freemans..
London Travel Blog› entry 5 of 52 › view all entries
An Orwellian Nightmare
Arrive at heathrow. Hug hello with Ma & John. Feels like a both a blink and a lifetime has passed since we said Goodbye in this same place. Physically shocked by the cold night air. John puts on car seat heating. Roads out of London seem quiet and orderly, like they're functioning under sedation. Drive out on the M4 into the country. Rural landscape is even more eerie: barren, muted & deserted. Feels post -apocalyptic. Once home I sleep like the dead for a day and a half.
Day 2 & Must make plans! Have people to see all over South England. First thing - hire a car. 5 phone calls later discover I can't hire car. After 3 camera snaps on empty roads, the DVLA have rendered me a National Liability. Must find alternate transport.
Travel to Alccester. See Debbie in jeans, coat and hat. We laugh at each other's transformations from bikinis & sarongs in Goa. Night in Alcester is full of wine and exclamations of 'how lovley!' this little market town is. Next day visit Wawick Castle in the rain. Wonder at the excellent waxworks and live history. Feel properly back in Blighty now.
Say fond goodbyes at Straford On Avon station. On train from Stratford to Cheltenham, gasp in realisation that a hot chocolate costs about the same as 3 nights stay in India.
Train from Cheltenham to Lymington Town. 4 hours, 3 changes. Have very cold extremities from platform hovvering.
WC at Bristol has an automated combo wash, soap & dry machine for hands. Pandemonium ensues as women get soap on sleeves, can't make the water start or the blower stop.
Spend 2 days with Dad in which we go to a family friends' funeral. Smile at the big band number which unexpectedly bursts into life as the mourners leave the chapel. Dear old Tarvi is as life-affirming in death as she was for the past 100 years.
Sad goodbye with Dad. 10 months is a long time to be apart. We resolve to phone each other despite my last Vodaphone bill costing more than the return flight to India.
Somewhere on this train journey I turn the last page of 'A Million Little Pieces' about addict James Frey's struggle for sobriety. Am so moved I vow not to touch a drop of booze for 12 months.
Train from Lymington To London Paddington.
Do not smoke, Do not play loud music and This is a mobile free zone.
Whilst a conductor is punching my ticket his phone rings with Thomas The Tank Engine ring tone. It's strangley sweet & everyone smiles.
Wait at Paddington for Catherine. Notice lots of girls wearing skinny jeans tucked into high boots. Quietly lament the fact that I'd look more 'Trunky' than 'Twiggy' in latest fashion. Cat arrives & is beautiful.
Back home we watch Eastenders & I feel my will to live eroding away. The episode closes with a particularily gloomy character wailing: 'It's all coming to an end' & 'There's no point in going on'. Nice!
Switch to commercials. TV tells us that if we're watching with out a TV licence:
We Know and You Will Be Caught And Fined.
Switch to Crimewatch and learn about a man who erected 5 CCTV cameras around his house. He successfully managed to record his murder. But didn't actually manage to avoid getting murdered. Appeals for witnesses. Raining Outside.
In the Morning take tube to West London - Advert on tube says: We'll lend you money!
More adverts say We'll consolodate your debt!.
Tannoy says Stand well back of the sliding doors and Please let passengers off before getting on the train.
Swipe in, swipe out. Meet friends from my old work for lunch. They tell me they are More Busy Than Ever and Too Stressed To Sleep. Am sincerely touched they've taken time out to see me.
Evening. At Nightclub 'Home' stone cold sober. Feel very boring. Love my firends dearly but want to be in bed instead.
At 1am I attempt to leave celebrations early to catch cab home. No success for about 40 minutes beacuse 1) London Cabbies simply refuse to drive east to west after 11pm. 2) London Cabies hate thier jobs & People In General. (Could get an unofficial cab instead, but then I might as well just stand on the roadside with a sign saying 'rape me now')
At home I listen to Heart FM whilst getting ready for bed. Between soppy-bollox love songs a commercial warns;
We know if your car isn't taxed!
and politley advises that any untaxed cars will be crushed into rubix cubes. Perhaps it'll give the Police something to play with once 'our databases' have irradicated need for direct human interaction?
Morning tube from Edgeware Road to Goldhawk Road. Sign warns:
Please do not eat spicy food on the underground.
Emerge from the depths, step over 3 drunks gulping Special Brew at 10.40 am. Ignore everyone & everyone ignores me as I walk the long grey road to the Doctors.
Head home via Hammersmith. A billboard tells me that:
Homeowners with undeclared lodgers are Benefit Frauds and invites people to snitch on perpetrators.
Reach the underground & see directions for Heathrow on the Picadilly line. Feel first glimmer of hope in days, spurred by the idea of escape from this miserable, dismal city.
Soundtrack & Booklist
On The Pod On The Train:
• Justin Timberlake: Futuresex album • KT Tunstall: Eye to The Telescope
• Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs • Watching The English by Kate Fox
Mum & John in Cheltenham Thank you for picking me up from the airport, for washing my kit, for taking me to the cinema & to Grille, with the lovely Turkish waiter.
• Debbie in Alcester Thank you for having me to stay, introducing me to Notorious Steve, showing me Alcester by Night and Warwick Castle in the rain.
• Ben & Rach in Henly On Thames Thanks for the most sumptuous Christmas dinner imaginable & for the hip flask (sorry for quitting booze) Best Buds.
• Morris Chapman in Lymington. Thank you for driving Dad & me to Tarvi’s funeral.
• Dad in Lymington Thank you for reminding me how cool you can be.
• Catherine in Marylebone Thank you for letting me sleep on the inflatable bed for 3 nights, for good advice about bad men & general Angelic-ness.
• Mizza & Jamal in Chiswick Thanks For Ghostbusters
• Anna & Tom in Shoreditch Thanks inviting me to Home: Love the Party Packs.
• Lorimer at Edgeware Road (Not Marylebone!!) Thank you for the time basking in the glow of your constant genius.
• Lou, Julie & Helen in Osterley Thanks for escaping Alcatraz for lunch.
• Dru & Helen P in Osterley Thanks for sisterly & motherly company over coffee.
• Tora & Kieran in Bradford On Avon Thanks for an Indian Feast in your cosy new house. For the deep bubble bath and a night with Golum.
The Dreary Dawn of Sobriety
Ever since my epiphany on the train I've resolutley avoided alcahol. This sounds All Very Positive, but the thing about being sober that people generally tend to forget, is just how painfully dull it can make you. So far every day has presented a social occassion and every day I have participated with the exhuberance of yesterday's flannel.
At dinner I've told sparkle-free tales of opposing gear mechanisms; at parties I've stared at my well heeled feet and dreamed of slippers; At the pub I've shared banal nicities with blank faces.
The only reason I'm sticking with sober is because I'm as stubborn as I am bored & refuse to back down on the personal challenge. On the upside, family & friends seem genuinely impressed, so at the very least I can furnish being tedious with being smug & self rightious. ;)