Sunday, 19 October 2008

Backache and broom cupboard

I love being a tourist. The annoying kind that stops to take wonky pictures of bits of enormous famous landmarks to a standard that's a million miles away from those available-everywhere professional photographs where there aren't traffic cones, delivery vans or other grinning tourists, and where you don't spot that the handsome young cavalry chaps on gleaming horses have a steaming heap of manure underfoot. I had lots of opportunity to be that kind of tourist last Tuesday, and enjoyed it very much, although I'm sure the Lovely Son sighed inwardly now and again. But there were other treats in my little trip to London too.

Highlights included:

  • Squirrels, squirrels everywhere! And no need to report them to the warden, as we are supposed to do up here, where there are still red squirrel habitats to be protected at all cost. London abounds in grey squirrels, and I love them, childishly, extravagantly, for their looks, their enterprise and their sheer cheek. The Lovely Son once lived in a house where one would come into his room, ignoring the tabby princess on the bed, and try to bury peanuts in his house plants.
  • The Houses of Parliament, a riot of high Gothic ornamentation and steeped in our history, so much of which could only be recalled in fragments, to our shame. What a fascinating tour we had; thank you so much, Joyce, especially for the behind-the-scenes moments and the personalised narrative. The unexpected treat of being allowed into the broom cupboard where a Suffragette (Emily Wilding-Davison, later to die after throwing herself under the King's horse and leaving continuing controversy about her desire, or otherwise, to commit suicide by so doing) hid throughout the night of the 1911 Census in order to be able to give her address as the House of Commons, thus becoming the first-ever woman to be able to claim this distinction.
  • The little stretch of New River, a charming and green oasis in hot sunshine, which we entered through an unprepossessing gate off a busy Islington road. It was edged by enormous trees, and looked Victorian. We looked it up later, and found it to have been created in the 1600s. London never fails to surprise and impress in this way.
  • Watching in silent amazement, even awe, as the Lovely Son, never handy or interested in becoming so when he lived at home, deftly assembled a new coffee table, then, on finding that the drawers wouldn't fit as they should, more than deftly measured and re-positioned the runners so that they did. Now, Lovely Son, you have blown your cover. I have a hundred such jobs waiting for you on your next trip home. And if you proved able to plaster, I could keep you in work for weeks on the crumbling staircase....
  • The tabby princess condescending to sit on my knee. This was so astonishing that the LS took our photo.
  • Spending a couple of evenings watching DVDs projected onto the sitting room wall. This felt like having a private cinema, and owning a projector had the added advantage, from a worrying mother's point of view, of keeping the film-obsessed Lovely Son out of the pub most evenings.


  • The Lovely Son and charming flatmate B had hoped to have their boiler returned to life before my arrival. Sadly, this did not happen till an hour or so before I left (Boiler Man 1 hadn't been trained for that type of boiler; Boiler Man 2 wouldn't park on a meter; landlord had to make 2 attempts to acquire a parking permit; a part had to be ordered, boiler eventually working but pronounced as being on its last legs), so we had to pretend we were camping, heating up large pans of water to maintain basic hygiene, and wearing layers of clothes in the evenings. No, I didn't whine and complain, but modelled wartime stiff upper lippishness for the younger generation. Yes, there were moments when I thought about changing my train ticket and running away sooner than scheduled to my comfy home and hot shower....
  • The photograph of the tabby princess on my knee. Sadly, I had only just got out of bed, and now have a permanent record of my early morning horror look - mad hair, frightening eyebags. The princess looked lovely, as always, although she too is middle-aged and overweight. It's so unfair!
  • The lugging of a heavy case up and down stairs at Newcastle Central Station and Jesmond Metros, which hurt my back, and made me spend my first two days back home sitting propped up with cushions, full of painkillers and oozing self-pity.

Sort of middlingly interesting was the Hadrian exhibition at the British Museum. Too many big overbearing statues for my taste, and lots of busts, all revealing that the emperor looked strikingly like comedian Rory McGrath. We also realised how rich in Roman artefacts and history the North East really is, and how slow and irritating the queue of people in our timed-entry slot was, so we sloped off sharpish to the Egyptian gallery
instead, to look at the mummies, where I could show the Lovely Son just what had made it so hard for me to drag him away when he was a wide-eyed five-year-old on his first trip to London. Hmmm, mummified cats....very strange, but he really had been enthralled at the time.

Nice to be home again. I'm not going anywhere else for a while; all that excitement is exhausting.


laurie said...

well, except for no hot water, it sounds like a lovely trip.

Jeanne said...

Wonderful account of your trip! And why is it that boilers always breathe their last when a) the cold sets in and b) guests arrive??

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