Saturday, August 20, 2011

Occasionally You Can Pass

Dear Jimmy,

After we left Scotland we had arranged for a few days in the Land of Dickens, where everyone wears top hats and carries chimney brushes. Imagine my surprise when I discovered this is untrue. Although certain buildings still appear to have their share of soot, I doubt the locals even notice it, much less pay an urchin to scamper up the flue to brush it all out. There are, however, a lot of people wearing impractical shoes, but that is the second thing I check for (soot being first and foremost).

John and I decided we'd each have a Grand Day Out - he chose the Imperial War Museum and a model aircraft supplier where he could buy all the appropriate colors for his model aircraft. I chose "shopping." I feel I must explain as everyone who heard I was spending my time in the Big Soot "shopping" assumed I was cashing in our retirement to buy many frivolous things. Au contraire! I am quite practical and in some ways quite frugal too (except with commas - they are free and I use them too liberally). My shopping actually consists of people-watching and sightseeing, with a stop or two at various shops (I am not made of wood, people!).

I began my day armed with a map and a tube ticket (go me!) and I proceeded to navigate my way through my limited area with ease. I could be heard mumbling about the ineptness (ineptitude? Must exercise my vocabulary!) of the tourists who have a tendency to just stop at random places on the sidewalk to gawk, act confused or look skyward as though to adjust their path based on the stars. Once I stowed my map away in my bag and continued on (with purpose! I knew where I was going!), I found myself being stopped by the tourists and being asked for directions. "Vich vay is Harold's?" "Excuse please, iz zis Sa-lone Street?" Amazingly enough, I was able to provide accurate, if somewhat vague directions because I knew where I was. Although I was not wearing wholly inappropriate shoes for my journey, I was still able to pass as a local. It was a proud moment and one I shall cherish.

I had a lovely luncheon on my own at a lovely French cafe - I cannot have too much in the way of cheese and baguettes - and while the service was a bit slow, it was grand to sit on a London street and observe. I also tried to figure out the stories of those around me - there was the businessman next to me who had wine with lunch (!) and read the paper. There were two French women who drank espresso, smoked, laughed very loudly, and then one of them abruptly stood up and hailed a taxi ("Tassi!") - I hope her friend knew she was going to do that, otherwise she got stuck with the espresso bill.

I realize there is a fortune to be made selling black business suits to those who work in shops. On my next visit I shall verify that all shops carry black business suits. If not, I do believe I've found a niche market.

Speaking of suits and shops, let me set your mind at ease about the potential for looting in the Knightsbridge area. All of the high-end shops had a very large, muscular man clad in a very nice suit (not always black) who would stand near the doorway of the shop. While some appeared a bit uncomfortable in their suit, the message was clear - one looking to start any shenanigans would find oneself catapulted to the other side of the road as though being tossed out of a roadside bar somewhere in the American West (ala Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse [without the suit, obviously]). Needless to say, all was quiet and well-behaved in Knightsbridge, so you can set your mind at ease.

One interesting fact we observed (audibly as you'll see - ha! see what I did there?), is that the police (coppers, filth, etc.) actually use the chase siren of old British movies rather than the "New York" version of today. John and I decided they do that for the tourists but just near Harrod's (aka Harold's) as it takes one back to a simpler time. As if.

I will soon be capturing my impressions of Edinburgh, Port Seton, Dunbar and The Cove, but like dessert they are best saved for last where one can savor and retain the essence.

All for now, more later.

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