Today started with a small, rather insignificant incident which upset me disproportionately! I was walking along Archway Road and noticed a rather troubled young man, who looked a little shifty. He heard a siren at the top of Southwood Lane, waited for the police car to get closer and then screamed "f**k you" at it at the top of his lungs, before, rather tragically hiding in a door way until it had gone past.
It wasn't this incident which upset me, but the response to it from a young mother who heard the man bellowing and instantly grabbed the hand of her son who was walking next to her - essentially to protect him. The response was instant. Subconscious. But her face registered such fear. And in that moment I knew that this woman would have done anything on earth to protect her son, and I found this deeply touching.
As though to compound my feelings, as I reached the tube, deep in thought, the little cafe was loudly playing "Cantus In Memory of Benjamin Britten" by Arvo Pärt, one of the most poignant and beautiful compositions ever written. My eyes duly filled with tears and the cafe owner looked at me rather concernedly. If only he knew what it was like to be in a world where surging emotions are triggered by the merest musical suspension!
This afternoon I met my oldest school friend, Tammy. I met her off the bus from Bristol (although she actually lives in Italy.) Her bus terminated at Marble Arch, which gave me ample opportunity to explore what must be the most horrible area of London. It's a deeply soulless place, filled with wealthy Arabs, silly tourists and ghastly tacky-yet-pricey souvenir shops masquerading as convenience stores. There's nowhere to sit, and it's noisy, congested, polluted and rather pleased with itself. I shan't be returning there any time soon!
Tammy and I walked from Marble Arch through Soho (where we had tea) and Seven Dials (where we ate chips) to Covent Garden (where we got stuck in an horrendous thunder storm which made us both laugh so much we almost wet ourselves!)
It was so lovely to see her again. We've known each other for 29 years, but haven't spent any time together for at least three, so, in amongst the reminiscing, there was a whole heap of catching up to do. She has two children, neither of whom I've met...
From Covent Garden we walked to the South Bank with soggy shoes where we met my father who celebrates his seventieth birthday today. The birthday treat was a wine tasting "flight" on the London Eye for twenty of his nearest and dearest; a veritable rag-taggle bunch of warm-hearted people my parents have gathered during their combined life-time.
Seeing London from above is always incredible. Seeing it first against the backdrop of a glorious sunset, and then with its myriad lights twinkling and shimmering was almost too much to bear! The wine-tasting aspect was great fun as well, although God only knows why people drink wine. To me, I was sampling nothing but rather bitter tasting vinegar. Brother Edward and t'other Ted assured me that we were consuming the nectar of heaven, which I'm obviously happy to accept as a desperate philistine. (I went to school with a Phyllis Stein.)
The exciting drink experience for me, however, was a delicious hot chocolate afterwards in the little open air cafe underneath the Eye, where you can sit and admire the astonishing feat of engineering which created this epic London landmark. What a wonderful, wonderful day.