Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Streets of London.

To the wonderment of my now 15 year old daughter, her birthday present was a trip to London. With her mother. She took the train tickets out of her card.
“Oh wow mum! How fab! When are we going?”
“Read the ticket”. She scrutinised the information written on it.
“Tomorrow? Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow”. Hubby was less than enthusiastic.
“Alice”, he hissed, “How the hell can we run to it?” Not wanting to spoil the moment of gift and card opening, I hissed back in whispers.
“Tickets were bought with my rail card; Mag’s parents have gone away and not only offered us the use of their flat but they’ve also lent us their Oyster cards.”
“Their what?”
“Oyster cards you dim, provincial hick. You can’t actually hand over money on London’s public transportation service anymore. You have to use an Oyster card. You swipe it before you ride a bus or a tube train.”
“Well I never”.
The flat was stunning, especially given the fact that it had an old fashioned lift where one has to crank two metal, concertina style doors open and shut. I could have ridden up and down it all day.
“C’mon mum” called my daughter after the fifth time, “And you had the temerity to call dad a provincial hick”. She had a point.
We walked miles and miles and miles. We visited every market. It both heartened and depressed me at the same time. The quality of produce was stunning. Each little market stall run by a ferociously proud artisan. At Borough Market we sampled every imaginable foods. The fish stall was breathtaking. Why can’t we have the same here? Do we care that little what we put in our mouths in the South West? Must our fish be fried and served with chips? At Spitalfields we meandered around stalls selling inconceivable quantities of handmade shoes, hats, bags and witty, sloganed t-shirts. At Covent Garden we marvelled at the performers and yet more gorgeous shops. My daughter drew the line at Camden Market.
“There will be too many people mum. Let’s do a museum instead”. I groaned. To my eternal shame I have come to the realisation that I’m not cut out for museums. We had nipped into the National Portrait Gallery on our way from the London Eye, via Westminster, St James’s Park, Horse Guards Parade and Whitehall. By the time we’d arrived at Trafalgar Square, my legs were columns of lead. I was looking forward to a few minutes peace and a bit of a sit down. My daughter was having none of it.
“C’mon” she said, heaving me up from a wooden banquette. Whilst I marvelled at the works I was secretly longing for an extra large glass of wine. I finally got my way after searching for and finding a portrait of every teenage girl’s favourite pin-up, Tom Daley. Even in my advanced years I could appreciate what all the fuss is about.
Sitting outside the Soho Bar, twenty minutes later, I was kicking myself. A large glass of wine and a coke had cost three quid. I thought the bar girl had made a mistake until I realised it was happy hour and all the drinks were half price. Damn it. I’d denied myself a cocktail for fear of Hubby’s wrath. After being chatted up by a dubious young man who loved the idea of a mother/daughter combination we fled, only to run across a gay, pole-dancing bar. The men were in the window, winking at us. It was hard to avoid.
Still giggling, we had dinner in Chinatown before meandering through Shaftesbury Ave to Piccadilly Circus and up Regent Street where we capitulated and took a tube to Baker St and finally the lift to the flat where we literally fell into our beds.
So, when the idea of a museum was bandied the following morning I was less than enthusiastic. I’m not quite sure what it is about them. I’m obviously aware of the rare treasures held therein but to be honest, they leave me cold. Perhaps because it’s all so static? But, not wanting to be like the heathens depicted in the museums dioramas we caught the bus to the Victoria and Albert. Nice.
“Nice? For God’s sake mum”. I shrugged my shoulders. After an enormous ice-cream of appeasement across the road in Harrods, I promised I’d take her to the British Museum. The building was impressive but I was disappointed by its contents.
“Disappointed? Mum, you beggar belief”.
“The British Museum was a misnomer”, I said with certain haughteur “More like the bloody Egyptian Museum”.
“That was the Rosetta Stone”, she said aghast but then, and not for the first nor last time that weekend my daughter, in ever exasperated tones of role reversal, shook her head and said, “Let’s take you to your favourite Museum. Selfridges”.

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