Tuesday, 3 February 2015

London odyssey

I hauled myself out of bed fairly early this morning to make the most of a day which I knew was going to be jam-packed with all sorts of fun. I opened the bedroom door to be greeted by Fiona, who stayed with us last night, and the news that it had snowed. I love snow. We looked out of the sitting room window at a winter wonderland. Snow was clinging to all the trees and people on the street below were shuffling and sliding their ways to work.

Fiona and I instantly headed to Highgate Woods. It's rather strange: Fiona is often with me when it snows in London. I think she's a harbinger of snow, which, for a woman whose name is an exact anagram of "brain of ice," is possibly unsurprising!

I had my camera with me and we took pictures between the trees, whilst excited dogs rushed about wondering what this glorious new substance was...

I returned home and spent a couple of hours working on my synopsis before heading into town with Nathan, carrying the enormous card which the kids from NYMT had made to thank Cameron Mackintosh for his generous donation to the Brass recording pot. It proved to be a somewhat cumbersome item to carry on the tube, especially when gusts of underground wind caught it, and it acted like a sail, guiding us through the corridors.

We deposited the card at Cameron's offices and the two charming people on reception made all the right noises. As cards go, I think it's a thing of very great beauty, but I was chuffed when someone else validated the fact!

At about midday, I ambled my way from Tottenham Court Road to Somerset House, determined that, if this wasn't destined to be a gym day, it would be a day which featured an obscene amount of walking!

I had tea in the little cafe on the courtyard at Somerset House. It turned out to be the most expensive tea I've ever consumed - £2.75 - but at least I got an hour of work done before meeting Michelle of the Turkie for lunch.

It was so lovely to see her. She's had some dreadful news, which actually made me physically hold my hand up to my mouth. Fortunately, she's being incredibly brave and choosing to look for the chinks of light rather than allowing the gloom of the situation to engulf her. She's well. Her family is well. And that's really all that matters. I felt incredibly proud of her, and somewhat humbled by her response to the crisis.

I guess, when we feel the world has bowled us a googly, we occasionally need to look around us to find out how others are doing. As if to prove this particular point, just as I wrote that very sentence I passed an elderly couple on the tube. He had withered legs, a calliper and was stumbling along with a stick. She was as bald as a coot, but for a few wisps of hair on the nape of her neck. Life is never as bad as we think...

I walked across Waterloo Bridge on my way to the osteopath. It was bitterly cold, but the sun was shining and there was a powder blue sky filled with scores of tissue paper clouds in delicate shades of grey, white and brown. The Thames itself was swollen, yellow and angry-looking. I guess all that melted snow had to find itself somewhere.

The osteopath session was good. He did a lot of manipulation on my upper back and then put me into a coma with some dorsal springing. I was mortified at the state of my boxer shorts however, which fell down as I took my trousers off for treatment, causing the osteopath to go a little red-faced. I must throw them away. That's twice within three days that they've embarrassed me. Naughty boxer shorts.

I took the tube from Borough to Old Street. It is Philippa's birthday today and I wanted to pop by with a little gift, see the god children and have a nice natter.

She wasn't there when I arrived, so I wandered back to Columbia Road in search of somewhere warm to have a drink and do some work. That place is a veritable ghost town on a week day afternoon. It's really rather strange to see an entire row of shops, including two, pubs closed on a Tuesday afternoon. I guess the flower market on Sundays is so successful it actually only makes sense to open up at weekends. I eventually found a pub and happily sat inside working, coming within an inch of finishing the second draft of my synopsis.

I spent two hours with Philippa. We made cup cakes and fuzzy felt circus scenes, whilst little Silver ran around like some sort of remote-controlled gnome on acid. I had no idea that a two-year old could move so swiftly. I simply don't understand how parents manage to keep their children alive at that age!

From Columbia Road, I walked to Liverpool Street, skirting between Brick Lane and Shoreditch. The whole district almost throbs with energy these days. Even the little side streets, which ten years ago were no-go zones peopled by drug dealers and gangs of Bengali yoots, are now filled with caf├ęs, artisan bakeries and chi-chi boutiques selling reconditioned Ercol furniture. These were the slums of the 19th century; sickly ghettos filled with Jewish immigrants fleeing pogroms in mainland Europe. In the 1960s the Jews moved to the fancy suburbs and were replaced by a whole new wave of immigrants from Bangladesh. Concrete slums replaced the ones made of red brick. The stalls started selling popadoms instead of pretzels, and the cycle of life continued...

Now they say the Somalis are replacing the Bengalis. I disagree. The young professionals have moved in...

And then within a blink of the eye, you emerge in the shimmering lights and steel skyscrapers of Liverpool Street. It's a fascinating journey through time and taste.

From Liverpool Street, I travelled to Holborn, and watched the tourists outside the tube station dicing with death to hail black cabs in the middle of a pedestrian crossing.

I had a Subway sandwich for tea on Shaftesbury Avenue where I finished the draft of my synopsis and met Nathan before walking into Soho to meet Richard Fisher, a Broadway agent, and friend of Nathan's. We had a drink in the upstairs bar at Compton's, which is always surprisingly empty, and a great deal more salubrious than most of the gay bars in Soho. Purely by chance we also managed to bump into Philip and Darryl who came into the bar saying they were having one for the road... One bottle of champagne that is!

So as we travel home tonight, my feet feel like blocks of lead, but I have a great sense of both achievement and pleasure. I've seen friends. I've worked hard. I've walked the streets of our beautiful city. All days should be like today.

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