Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Tea with a prince

An intensely blue light was rolling in through our sitting room window when I got up this morning. Cutting through the blueness was a contrasting strip of orange which came from the halogen light outside. It was really quite beautiful in an intensely urban sort of way. I went to get my breakfast, and by the time I'd returned, the lamp had gone out and been replaced by an even brighter orange light, which I suddenly realised was the rising sun. A spectacular sight.

Highgate Station was in a hopeless mess when I passed through, with a queue of people snaking around the ticket hall, attempting to top up their Oyster cards. A sign in the window of the ticket office informed the passing world that no one was manning the decks due to a "shortage of staff," and, to add a sprinkling of gold dust to the catastrophe, only one of the three ticket machines was working. I've no idea how the station coped at the peak of rush hour. Chivalrously and with great panache, probably. People don't tend to go for angry displays in Highgate. A well-placed tut, or a carefully considered philosophical one-liner is enough to make one's feelings more than felt in this part of the world!

If I thought Highgate was crowded, my experience of the Victoria line from Euston to Oxford Circus was hopeless beyond words. I ended up on a crowded platform perilously close to the tracks. At one stage, some sort of surge pushed me within about an inch of falling into the path of a tube train. It suddenly struck me how likely it is that at least some of the people who are regularly reported as a "person under a train" are people who were actually pushed or tripped in these sorts of situations. My previous assumption was that they were always suicides which felt a little easier to accept.

We were sandwiched into the tube carriage itself like olives in a jar. The politeness of Highgate had melted away and was replaced by people shoving, nudging and elbowing, and the odd sex addict having a subtle little grope of a conveniently-placed thigh!

Every time I get onto a rush hour tube I think about 7/7, and the panic which must have passed through the tube trains which were bombed on that dreadful day. The underground system is almost certainly going to be the scene of the next awful terrorist attack and the thought upsets me greatly.

I had a meeting with Prince Edward again today in the sitting room at his home in Berkshire. Both NYMT Jeremys were present, alongside the wonderful poet, Ian Macmillan, for whom I have almost endless respect.

The meeting, which lasted about an hour, went really well. Prince Edward is a kind man: erudite, charming and really rather witty. The surroundings were beyond surreal, however. I found myself at one stage staring at two enormous portraits on the wall, which I suddenly realised were his great grandparents. On the side board sat a lovely informal photograph of Edward's children on two little horses, flanked by an older lady with a great big smile on her face. The Queen. The whole experience was an extraordinary blend of the informal and the ultra formal; a lovely reminder that people are people regardless of which social echelon they were born into.

The house itself continues to intrigue  me with its Indian oak panels and dark, winding corridors. I complimented HRH on the glass work in some of the doors leading off the central hall, and he took me for a closer look to demonstrate that they were actually all the stems of wine glasses.

I spent the afternoon working in caf├ęs in Soho, and in the process heard every cover version of every single Christmas song ever written. One version of Jingle Bells was so insanely upbeat that I thought I might be having some kind of seizure!

We had a late lunch in Stock Pot, having discovered that the other actor-friendly cheap-grub institution, West End Kitchen, has closed down. Stock Pot itself had been closed for restoration for some weeks. Oddly nothing in there had been repainted or rebranded in any way, begging me to wonder whether the "refurbishment" was actually some kind of environmental health issue.

I returned home in my second rush hour of the day to find our internet not working. Nathan is still on the phone to them right now trying to sort the matter out. Tonight was meant to be the night we put our Christmas Tree up. Bah Humbug Talk Talk!!

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