Korea to London
Another 12 hours in the air – this time the end of Black Swan (I think it’s one of those movies I am semi glad I saw and never want to see again) Morning Glory, Love and other Drugs (both very enjoyable and slightly deeper than a puddle), a delightful English movie called Tamara Drewe starring Tamsin Grieg, and 30 minutes of Scott Pilgrim Saves the World. Sorry, I didn’t get it at all, and didn’t want to. My top score on Tetris was 25,000. I am razzed royally by Mr Eyelashes whose top score was 77,000. Most of our flight is over China and Russia but we keep the visor shut and time seems suspended.
We get off at Heathrow and I cannot wait to get out of Generic Airport Architecture into something that really tells me I am in London. It happens on the tube, which on the Piccadilly line is as above ground as it is under it. Out the window we see terrace houses, even allotments! The tube is crowded but people are chatting to one another and when I make conversation with a couple of locals, they smile and join in. Not like I was expecting at all. How to describe the impact of this landscape on me? It is something so familiar from TV and films, suddenly come to life. I cannot stop grinning and I just want to WOOT! For joy!!
Finally we are at Russell Square tube station, our exit from the line. It is straight out of a book –green and cream tiled walls curving overhead, I almost expect to see Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter huddled on a bench. I bet there were a few sing-alongs on this platform during the war.
There is one flight of stairs and then to our surprise, three huge lifts. The original stairs are marked for emergencies only. Having fared so well in Chinatown, I suggest we take them instead even with our luggage but David points out the sign that warns there are 175 of them!! We are about 40m below ground, which is about 10 storeys. We burst forth into a chilly evening in Bloomsbury, and head off along Marchmont St, which is flanked on one side by a hideous newish apartment block already turning to tack, and redeeming little shops in the bottom of four storey terraces complete with area steps. I swear I have walked into a set or maybe a dream, but it smells, sounds and even tastes like somewhere I have never been. Eventually we find the Goodwood Hotel, which is everything we hoped for! Our room is about 10 feet square with a chunk out of the corner, it has a bordered up fireplace and a hand basin in it, and a double bed. It is neither clean nor comfortable, but the sheets are real cotton and the shared organic bathroom is newly fitted out even if the paint is peeling off the ceiling. It’s a house of nooks and crannies, and I say organic because there are virtually no right angles anywhere, and ceilings curve in the stairwells as if they have had so many layers of paint, plaster and paper, the lines have been blurred into extinction. The floors and stairs are soft and nailsqueaky, and again no spirit level would register between the lines. It has CHARACTER, the kind you don’t have to pay for. At around 50 quid a night it’s all we could have hoped for.
We dump our bags and go for a walk – maybe for a drink. But the pubs while adorable, are filled with people and the noise is too much for our travel popped ears, the people shouting over music or televised football. We stop for a coffee at a Costa, which is like a Starbucks, instead. The girls serving are surly Eastern Europeans and we get the giggles thinking of Harry Enfield’s running sketch about such girls and the hapless middle-aged gentleman they exploit. Their service ethic is even worse than Harry’s Russian sisters! The coffee is a bit pricier I suspect at Costa than elsewhere, at 2.65 for a huge one, and 1.35 for a banoffee cupcake, yumyum. Same as Starbucks, even a bit cheaper. But the coffee is AWFUL; tasteless and weak. We were warned that the Brits haven’t got our coffee ethic, but we’ll keep looking!
So, impressions? I am so damned excited stepping onto a London Street, I just want to burst into song and dance! I can hardly believe I am really here on the other side of the world. WOOOT!!!