As we all know, London has a lot to offer in the way of culture, amusement, entertainment and delights of all kinds. However, there is a very big but to enjoying London, and my latest visit has brought this into relief. So, I have made a series of notes to myself regarding points to avoid when in that fair city. I only hope that I remember to take note of my notes on my next visit.
Note to self no.1: Try to avoid visiting London over the August Bank Holiday weekend. It almost invariably rains (which means disaster for my hair). The city is even more crowded than usual. Hotels and shops are full to bursting, as is the Underground, while the buses are few and far between. A stroll along Oxford Street requires elbowing one’s way through crowds of shoppers of all shapes, sizes and nationalities (as well as an inordinate number of ladies in long black cloak-like coats that cover every part of their anatonomy, leaving only a slit for their eyes).
Note to self no.2: Don’t go to a pub to enjoy the traditional meal of fish and chips on a night when a football game is being played anywhere in England. These games are shown on enormous TV screens placed at strategic points throughout the pub, and the eyes of all the occupants of the arena are fixed on them. To the frantic babble of the commentator is added the roaring of the crowd in the stadium, and this is further supplemented by the shouts of the people in the pub. This makes for a noise level far above my comfort zone and quite ruins my appetite – even that for fish and chips.
Note to self no.3: Avoid the customary temples of delights, such as the British Museum, the National Gallery, and all the other tourist havens, as they are too crowded to be enjoyable. Hopefully, the current labour unrest at the National Gallery will soon be resolved as the innocent visitor from abroad finds him- or her-self barred from entering many of the best galleries, and the usually informative guided tours given daily at 11.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. are not available at present.
Note to self no.4: Be very careful when ordering food of any kind anywhere. The influx of ambitious young foreign workers, many of whom are to be found behind stalls and tills in cafes, restaurants and shops, are not always at one with the quaint English expressions with which some of us grew up many years ago. Thus, when I asked for ‘a cup of tea’ I was presented with a….cappucino. The two beverages sound almost the same, don’t they? I was almost tempted to ask for ‘a cuppa,’ but I’m glad I didn’t, because the good Lord only knows what I would have ended up with.
Note to self no.5: Pack your carry-on luggage with great care. I was among the several passengers whose carry-on luggage and handbag were thoroughly searched by the security personnel at Heathrow airport. It is no great pleasure to have your intimate possessions extracted from their place of rest, held up to the light and examined for any trace of suspicious matter. And of course, there is general interest in the medley of objects that are brought to light. The security officials’ suspicions were aroused, I think, by the very small bottle of liquid soap I always carry with me. But then came the other delights – my medications, my creams, a tiny bottle of perfume, all of which were examined, dissected and deposited in one zip-lock bag, thereby ruining any order I had put them in. “Ooh, pink macaroons!” exclaimed the young lady with delight as she extracted the cellophane bag from my hand luggage, where I had put ot to try and protect the contents from being crushed. They weren’t macaroons, actually, but raspberry-flavoured meringues that friends had given us, and very delicious they were, too when I finally got to eat them.
Note to self no.6: Don’t get carried away by the terms of endearment that English people tend to use to just anyone and everyone. The bus-driver said ‘this is your stop, love,’ and a handsome young security officer asked me “Are you travelling on your own, darling?” For a brief moment I imagined he was offering me a chance at a brief fling but then realised it was just his concern at seeing my possessions strewn all over the table and the struggle of a no-longer-young lady to get them all back into her suitcase. Ah well, one’s entitled to dream, isn’t one?