Escape with Joan: Letter #4 from London

Escape with Joan: Letter #4 from London

I never knew I could miss the sun so much!  This is the third day (in a row) that the sun has actually shown its face for what seems like weeks on end.  Mostly, the weather here must be a little like Seattle–gray or white skies with intermittent rain.  I’m spoiled because the two places I live–Colorado and Florida–are known for having lots of sunny days.   Notice I didn’t say it was warm.  The temperature is in the fifties and sixties overnight, and gets into the low seventies (high 72) during the day.  I’ve come to know and love my pashmina scarf (I’m learning to tie it lots of different ways to keep me warm), and I never leave home without an umbrella.  Opinions vary about whether this is a “typical” English summer.  I believe sometimes it’s warm during the summer in England…and sometimes it’s not!  I got one of the “not” summers.  Which makes all those long walks around London I planned to take something I have a choice of doing in the cold and rain, or not doing.  One bright spot–this is great weather to stay indoors and write!

I’ve been to the theatre in the West End twice over the past week.   On a rainy Saturday, desperate for something to do with my grandkids in the rain (I had the grandkids for a week alone while my daughter & son-in-law did some traveling), I took them on the local bus (they think riding upstairs in a double-decker English bus is like a Disney ride) from Wimbledon to the “end of the line”–which was Vauxhall, thinking we’d get lunch somewhere around there.

 The “end of the line” turned out to be full of business offices, so we slipped downstairs and took the Underground to Victoria Station.  When we came out, we had the choice of two shows:  BILLY ELLIOT or WICKED playing at theatres a block apart.  The kids (six and eight) had seen advertisements for WICKED, so I got us tickets–at 12 noon.  The show didn’t start till 2:30 and it was still raining cats and dogs, so we went to a nearby restaurant, The Giraffe, and proceeded to have a very long lunch.  At the end of it, my granddaughter had a cup of de-caf coffee with cream so thick you could have served it with a fork.  Don’t ask me why she likes coffee (I hate the stuff), but she had her cup of de-caf while I had a cup of tea.

We had nice orchestra seats in the 9th row center  (Theatres often save good seats until the last moment in case “someone important” shows up, and if you buy at the theatre the day of the show, you can often pick up some of these seats).   I’d been taking the kids to see each of the Harry Potter movies at 6:30 p.m. every weeknight at the Odeon Theatre, leading up to the final installment on Friday (the day before we went to the play).  At least once during every movie (despite having visited the facilities before the movie started), my granddaughter would need to make another trip.  This was not a problem in the movies.  It was a problem at the theater.   Imagine it’s the very end of WICKED and the two leads are singing a quiet song about how wonderful it was to have each other in their lives.  You could hear a pin drop it’s so quiet.  And my six-year-old granddaughter announces, “I have to go to the bathroom.”  She was used to being able to just get up and go.  But we are in the ninth row.   If we get up and leave, we are going to ruin the climax of the musical for the other 500 people in the theatre.  I missed most of the quiet moments trying to keep a six-year-old quiet.   All’s well that ends well.  The show ended, the facilities were visited and the kids loved the play, especially, my granddaughter announced, “the green baby.”

My second trip to the theatre came last night, when I attended the Cambridge Theatre in Covent Garden with a friend I met in the queue at Wimbledon two years ago (yes, you are in line long enough to make lifelong friends).  He managed to get tickets from a friend in the show for himself, his girlfriend, his mother and me, to see CHICAGO with Christie Brinkley playing the role  of Roxie, usually given to celebrities.  To give her credit, Brinkley did what she was supposed to do–provide an interesting name to draw people to the theatre and perform adequately on stage. She sounded very Marilyn Monroe-like (breathy and quiet), and I kept thinking they should turn her microphone volume up.  She did the minimum of dancing, but she never looked ungraceful.  She might have come off better, except the rest of the cast was absolutely superb, proving that acting and singing are harder to do than they look.   The orchestra (band?) was absolutely wonderful, and the show was as good as (or better than) what I saw on Broadway with Bebe Neuwirth a thousand years ago.

Hampton Court

One of the cloudy days, I had a chance to visit Hamptom Court Palace, home to Henry VIII, which gave me the opportunity to visit with author Meg Gardiner, a Californian who’s been living in England for many years. (Okay, pause here to describe the absolutely indescribly delicious lamb I had for lunch.  If you’re at Hampton Court palace, check out the restaurant across the street.  It’s fabulous!)  Meg also was once a lawyer.  It’s amazing how many of us lawyers have found ourselves writing novels for a living.  I haven’t counted, but there are lots, for sure.   I saw her the day before she was heading to the U.S. for a book tour, so look out for her newest novel in your local bookstores.

I’ve now lived for a month without a car or a clothes dryer (and without a clothesline to hang clothes to dry) and only a few channels on TV.  I’ve figured out how to use the bus and the Underground to get around and I do a lot of walking.  I’ve learned to shop for only as much as I can physically carry home on the bus in a couple of bags.  And I keep an eye out for rain when I drape the laundry over the lawn furniture out back.  And I don’t watch much television (I’ve read most of W.E.B. Griffin’s large library of novels instead).

Everyone here (including the Underground) is getting ready for the Olympics in London next year.  With that in mind, a LOT of the Underground stations are closed periodically so they can be “refurbished.”  This means, they’re exchanging stairs for escalators.  Two years ago when I was here, I got most of my exercise walking the several flights of stairs from the Underground to the surface.  Almost nowhere, now, will you find a place where you must use stairs.  They have left the stairs, sometimes, between two escalators (for those who want to climb?) and they’ve left the circular staircase off the Picadilly Line at Covent Garden with 193 steps from the Underground to the street (with a sign announcing how many steps it is, so you don’t get halfway up before you realize how far it is).

However,  I was the “victim” of an Underground closure for renovation this weekend.  There is NO Underground District Line service from Wimbledon this entire weekend (service will resume on part of the line Monday at 5:00 a.m.).  I’d planned to go to Notting Hill Road to do some shopping Saturday morning, which is a short trip on the District Line leading to Edgeware Road.  However, I found out there’s NO SERVICE to Edgeware Road on the District Line from July 23 (yesterday) till August 23 (a month from now).  If I want to go to Notting Hill, I’m going to have to do it on a lot of buses.

And if you’ll recall, I needed to go to Covent Garden to the theatre last night.  I did this by taking a “Rail Replacement” bus for 45 minutes to Earl’s Court and then catching the Picadilly Line to Covent Garden–and doing the reverse on the way home.  It will be nice when all the Underground stations have escalators, and reallly, the “Rail Replacement” buses are FREE and run every five minutes, so how can I complain?  Except, I never made it to Notting Hill yesterday.  Will have to try another day when I get up earlier and leave more time for bus travel.

I have more company coming on Thursday and we’ll be doing some traveling around England where I can do more research for upcoming novels.  Can’t wait!
Hope you are all well and enjoying your (sunny?  warm?  excruciatingly hot?) summer!


1 Comment to Escape with Joan: Letter #4 from London

  1. The restaurant where Joan ordered the delicious lamb is Blubecker’s. It’s across from Hampton Court Palace. And we had a great time, though the staff probably though we were nuts, sitting outside under the awning yakking while the skies opened up.