10-13-1993 -Wednesday-London. I have been fighting off a cold or flu so then I have to fly to London. I arm myself with antihistamines, vitamin C, echinacea, and attitude. I am the ugly and sick American.
The first thing I notice is that besides the fact that everyone is on the wrong side of the road, the place is not that much different from Boston. American corporate – multi – culti has smothered the world.
My father and I are staying in an odd little place called the victory services club. They are very into security and want to see your membership card at the door. When we were checking in I couldn't help but notice them shaking down hapless member who just wanted to come in for a nip in the pub downstairs with his girl.
The room is Spartan with nothing on the walls, but it does the trick. It has a sink and a desk with a Bible. Aunt Pam came by for dinner and we went down to the smoking pub. In a case on the stairs going down there was a book about how Africa was changing but not for the better. I imagine since Britain got out.
The dinner was bland though elegantly served, as English food is wont to be. Before, we went down to Gran's and had a proper English tea with little sweets and tarts. We took a 40 minute bus ride on a double-decker to get there. What a great way to see London.
October 14, 1993-Thursday-London Woke up at 8:30, had breakfast in the "buttery" which is on the first floor of the club. A lot of fried foods, bangers, etc. Woman in front of me had fried bread with baked beans on top of it. There were fried tomatoes. I have two fried eggs which are sort of pre-fried and left on the steam table from while they are served. The meal came t£4to £4.40. I think I will stick with the croissant, which was excellent, and the grapefruit, which was good except for the maraschino cherry. Later went to the law courts. Had to pay a news agent outside 50 P to hold my camera since they wouldn't allow it in there. Saw three appeal cases, very interesting. Find points of debate.
Went down to Putney to visit Barney Miller, a friend of dads. His son plays guitar in Sting's band. Came back up to Covent Garden, which looks like Faneuil Hall, only the merchandise is more tasteful. Saw a magician, good but too cute, I thought. Went to dinner with gram to Italian restaurant. I am feeling a little better.
October 15, 1993-Friday-London.
This morning I got up late at 10:15. I had to meet Pam at 11 o'clock. I rushed to get up, went to the coffee shop down the street and got a coffee. It seems they insist on putting steamed milk into the coffee here. What I wouldn't give for a Dunkin' Donuts.
I was late to Pam's (who is notoriously punctual). I'm imagining what I would say to her car but I decided I would say I'm too old to change some things now and that punctuality was the least of my worries.
I met one of the other sisters in her community. Sister friend who works with AIDS. We discussed it for a bit and she gave me some literature.
Pam and I went to the Tate gallery. Very good museum. Had lunch there. The quiche was cold but serviceable in the lentil soup was hot good.
Now I'm in Westminster Abbey. They don't allow photos but I was able to sneak in a few. There was a Japanese tour just now so it was interesting to be sitting in this wonderful old Abbey with the Japanese tour guide going through his spiel in Japanese.
Behind Westminster Abbey there is a little square where I went and took a couple of pictures. From there I went up to Victoria Street to the post office, got myself set up with stamps and mailed Maura's postcard. I then started walking randomly, saw these little steps, went down them and found myself in Birdcage Walk across the street and went in to St. James Park. In the middle they have a royal duckpond with all kinds of birds-storks, geese, golden ducks, and many I couldn't identify. Took several pictures. Went through the house guards parade grounds, saw no Busby's, and went up to Trafalgar Square. There were pigeons galore and they sell seed and the pigeons sit on everybody and eat the seed. I decided that if a pigeon sat on me, Aja would have something to say about it. Went up to so went up through Soho and Charing Cross Rd. Went to Waterstones, Foyle's, and a couple of music stores.
That night dad and I went out to see "The Inspector Calls" by JB Priestley. It's about an inspector investigating girls suicide who shows how an entire upper-class family are in some way responsible for her death. Very socialist. I'm surprised dad liked it, but he surprises me sometimes.
Afterward we went out for Indian food finally. I had chicken saag which was not as broths as it is in America, but good.
Went down to Peckham to pick up the rental car. Wouldn't you know it, but the first time I don't bring a detailed map with me is the first time I really need it. We kind of got lost in Peckham but eventually found the place. Then we went to Gran's to drop off the car. Then we took the three bus up to just before Westminster Abbey and walked back through St. James Park, Pall Mall, Buckingham Palace, Greenpark, Mayfair, north of Oxford Street (Marylebone?) and stopped in at a pub called the Black Horse and had lunch, ham sandwich with cukes and tomatoes, and a half pint bitter. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a pastry shop and had some cheesecake and a cream bun. Yum.
October 17, 1993-Sunday-London
There's not much to say about today. Had breakfast at McDonald's, went down to Dolich for drinks and lunch with Karen, Pam, cousin Joy and cousin Angus. Very nice people. It was an Italian restaurant called Bella pasta. I had penne albalone or something. Penne with prawns and salmon. Afterward came back up, went to speakers corner but they were really only evangelists besides a couple of silly people. Got the Sunday paper, went out for Indian food, walked around, read the paper, went to bed.
Oh, yes, last night I went up to Chalk Farm Road in Camden to a pub called the Monarch and saw a band called Chrome Slug. They were a blend of hip-hop and noise guitar and really very good. There were a lot of kids in the pub. Blacks and whites getting along very well.
October 18, 1993-Monday-Hook Norton, Oxfordshire
Took us 45 minutes to get out of London from Gran's house. The country crept up on me; it was much more industrialized than I remember it. Last time I was here they weren't all these motorways. Now they have contributed to England's being much more built up out in the country. But not as much as the states, fortunately. Hook Norton is charming. The house we are staying in (owned by Giles and Rachel Caldin, cousins), is an old Cotswold cottage which they have added onto. It is a farm with sheep and some beautiful land.
Today dad and I went down to Chipping Norton, bought some prints, then went for a short walk on a Bridle path on the way back.
Rachel went into London, so we were left to fend for ourselves for dinner. Gran, dad, Pam, and I all ate shepherds pie in the kitchen. A real family meal. Then we had a fire in the drawing room, watched the news, and read .
Lunch-Borscht, cauliflower cheese casserole.
October 19, 1993-Tuesday-Hook Norton
This morning there was a beautiful frost in the dawn. I took a couple of pictures. Dad and I went to Cath and Martin Middleton's for lunch. It was so good to see Cath again. I always get the feeling that she's really glad to see me. Martin's father and mother were there and they really dominated the conversation with lots of talk about the Argentine. Lunch was chicken and rice with a scrumptious lemon surprise for dessert.
Afterwards we went to Stratford on the Avon, a little too touristy for me. Then dad recommended we go to Broadway, which is a beautiful little Cotswold town. The drive was absolutely stunningly gorgeous. A true mixture of man and nature, the Cotswolds are. Views across fields with little towns made out of the golden, lichen covered Cotswolds stone. I navigate while dad drives and I direct him on to all these little off-the-beaten-track roads. We went through an English woods and it almost felt medieval. Just before we got back to Hook Norton, we stopped at some ancient stones in a circle called the Rollright stones.
Back at Hook Norton it was all beef stew, politics and gooseberry fool what with Giles Home. He is an Englishman (lawyer) who is dreadfully entertaining and a lot of fun. We are grateful to him and Rachel for their hospitality.