Tag Archive | London

Off and Away! Blissfully Homeward Bound Again!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Essex-London-New York

Finally the day dawned for my departure home again to the USA. I could not have been more ready! Indeed, while usually, I am sentimentally and nostalgically taking my last looks of my surroundings with wonder about when I will return, this time, I was so mentally set to leave that I did not wish to look back.

Preparing for Departure:

I awoke at 5.30 am and decided to have a very early shower. So before the rest of the Fradley household was up, I was done with the upstairs bathroom, had washed, dressed and had my backpack ready. By 7.15 am, I was downstairs joining Matt and the boys Jacob and Daniel who were deep into their breakfast bowls. I had Dorset muesli with skimmed milk and honey—a really hearty breakfast—when Rosa joined us. Matt said his goodbyes to me and left shortly for work.

Rosa and I continued our chatter over breakfast and the boys watched telly. But by 9.00, am, she was driving Jacob off to school, leaving Daniel with me. Fifteen minutes later, we were all in the car and she was taking me off to the station at Stanstead Mountfitchet to say goodbye to me before dropping Daniel off to his nursery. It had been a heartwarming two nights with his delightful family and I had enjoyed every second of it. My life away from home and in the UK was coming to a slow end as I had unwound fully with this family, enjoyed their family life, had partaken of their delicious generous meals and had found a way to start thinking of my life back home in the USA while in the serene bosom of their quiet ,almost-rural hamlet.

Back in London:

I caught the 9. 24 am train that came bang on schedule to drop me at Liverpool Street Station. There was a mistiness to the entire journey that allowed me to call several of my UK friends to say Goodbye and Thank-You. They all wished me a happy journey and safe return home. When I alighted at Liverpool Street, I went straight in search of Marks and Spencer to buy tinned Ox Tongue. Alas, they had only 3 cans, but I bought them all. Had I wanted more, I’d have had to go to the one on Bond Street and I decided I could do without the stress. I bought a few more biscuits from Tesco Metro at Bishopsgate (where I had a horrible experience with my credit card that I almost left behind in the store and got told by the clerk Monica there that it was not in the drawer—when all the time, it was!). Armed with my goodies, I took the bus back to NYU—an excruciatingly long and slow drive as there were some traffic issues .However, reach there I did.

The immediate business of putting away stuff from my backpack into one of my two suitcases and, at the same time, dividing the weight was far from easy. And although I have become something of a pro at it, it is still always stressful. Thankfully, this is the last time I will find myself in such a situation for a long time to come. About an hour later, after I said goodbye to my colleagues at NYU, I called an Uber cab to Bedford Square and went directly from Bloomsbury to the airport at 1. 30 pm—right on schedule. I had a very chatty Sikh cabbie who dropped me to Heathrow airport at 2. 30pm—Uber is so much cheaper and I ended up paying under 35 pounds.

Off Home—At Last!

All went well at Heathrow. Since I was a half an hour early and before my check-in counter could open , I indulged in one more treat–a Chocolate and Caramel Sundae at Carluccio’s (how could I leave the UK without one visit to Carluccio’s, right?). It filled me up and prepared me for the ordeal of checking two bags in and going through the strain of finding out whether I’d have to pay for extra baggage—fortunately, I had no such issues as I found myself a male traffic assistance called Stuart Brock with whom I flirted shamelessly so that he would overlook my excess weight. Well, my strategy paid and I was off without so much as paying an extra sou! There was then time enough to visit Jo Malone and spritz myself for the journey ahead as also the Lancome counter at Terminal 5 which has developed into a classier mall than most British high street malls. Sadly, there was nothing on sale at Harrods’, so I bought nothing. About an hour later, I was juicing up my phone and then making my way to my gate and in no time at all, on a very light flight, I had a most comfortable ride home. Throughout the flight I watched a TV series called Marcella, about a British detective, in eight episodes. I finished them all before we touched down. Talk about superb timing!

In Conclusion:

I could hardly believe that six incredible months in my life had passed just like that. I had done so much, seen so much, achieved so much, met so many people, changed house so often, moved far more than I had intended to, ticked off most items on my To-Do List and am living with a gigantic sense of fulfilment that will see me through a very long time to come with little longing to return.

So goodbye London and thanks for all the good times. May they roll again—but not too soon.

Thanks to all of you for following my blog posts and for armchair-traveling with me.

Until the next time when I am footloose again, cheerio…

Bye Bye Bombay (Sob! Sob!). Hiya London (Yes, Again!)

Friday, January 20, 2017


On a red letter day for America (although many I know associate it with black for mourning), when Donald Trump got sworn in as 45th President of the United States of America, I arrived in London. It was one of the saddest flights I can ever remember as I sobbed bitterly through half of it. It had been a very painful departure from my brother Russel and my Dad and the two of us had wept freely—since our partings in the past have never been anywhere as tearful, I was left with a very fearful feeling that was rolled up in all sorts of dark premonitions—God forbid that anything should happen to either one of us. When Shakespeare said that Parting is such sweet sorrow, he had not seen our parting. There was nothing sweet about it—just hard raw painful grieving at saying goodbye.

Which, when you come to think about it, means that I had a splendid time in Bombay and made the very best of my time with my loved ones there. The young man who was seated besides me and whose heart broke for my loss said, Your father is so blessed to have a daughter who loves him as much as you do. As you can imagine, this only triggered more tears as my shoulders shook with the enormity of my loss. Still, that said, the flight was comfortable and being that it was in the middle of the night, I as glad I snatched about 6 hours of sleep—when I wasn’t crying, I was asleep!—which left me fresh as a daisy when we alighted in London after flying over the beautifully illuminated monuments of the Thames—Tower Bridge, the London Eye, The Shard, etc. On a cloudless night, they glittered like jewels just before we touched down.

Immigration was the worst I have ever been through—it took a whole hour and twenty minutes. But there was no wait for my baggage. I grabbed it, walked briskly to the Tube, hopped into it to Holborn and was delighted to have a young man offer to assist with one of my cases as we negotiated a few stairs. Then I was in a black cab heading to NYU where my other case had been stowed. I spent the next hour sorting through my stuff, emptying the little carryon case that my friend Raquel had lent me, putting together a back pack with the few things I would need for the next week while in Oxford and Essex and then I was off. I stowed off some of my things in the Porter’s Room and left to meet Raquel.

Into the Tube I hopped again on a very chilly day. But the sun was out and flooded the city with golden light. It was glorious. In about half an hour, I was in Maida Vale, taking the stairs up to Raquel’s place where I met her and was sorry to find that her son was unwell and had stayed home from school. We spent about half an hour together, exchanged the gifts I had brought her from India and took possession with delight of the gift she had bought me—Michael Chabon’s new book Moonglow, which she had got signed from me by him. I did not stay long as I had heaps to do. We said our goodbyes and I left on the Tube again and back to NYU.

I spent the next hour in my office, eating lunch (Curried Laksa Soup from Sainsbury’s) and getting some work done on my computer and then I left with my back pack to check into my digs for the next two nights—the Youth Hostel at Bolsover Street in Fitzrovia, not far from NYU at all—which is why I picked it. I found it soon enough (after a twenty minute trek) and found my bunk bed in a 6 bedded female bunk. It was all very next and clean and comfortable and after stashing my backpack in the cabinet with a lock, I left for my next appointment.

I was headed next to Victoria where I reached on the Tube from Oxford Circus (to which I walked from my hostel). I arrived at Elizabeth Street to buy a bottle of perfume from Jo Loves and then I walked to Chelsea for my next appointment—Tea with my friends Michael and Cynthia at their home. They were waiting for me with hot lemony tea and slices of stolen—one of which Cynthia gifted me. We had a lovely visit indeed but I left them at 5.30 to keep my next appointment. A 6.30 pm coffee meeting at Café Veragnano on Charing Cross Street with Natalie Golding whom I was meeting for the first time after following her on Twitter for a couple of year. She turned out to be a lovely bubbly person and our chatter was constant and fun. I had the mocha latte and we split a chocolate tart—which was really delicious. I chose the place as my friend Rahul had told me that it was London’s oldest coffee shop and one of the best renowned.

An hour later, I left with her on the Tube again to get back to my hostel where, being deeply jetlagged, I fell asleep after brushing my teeth in exactly half an hour at 8. 30 pm.

Until tomorrow, cheerio…

Research at Queen Mary College Library and in Theaterland


Resuming Daily Mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral:    
Seems I am quickly getting over jetlag for I fell asleep at 12.15 and slept almost right through to 6.45 am. There was enough time for me to get ready and leave for 8.00 am Mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral. If you get the right bus-Tube connections, I realize I can get there in under 20 minutes. And that was where I found myself in good time for the start of the service by the Rev. James Mille. As always, it is a great thrill to walk through the great pillared portals of Christopher Wren’s Neo-Classical masterpiece and to make my way to one of the side chapels. I chatted with Rev. James when Mass was done and took myself out again into a grey and drizzly morning. As always, I missed my friends Michael and Cynthia with whom I have often attended daily Mass at St. Paul’s. Back home in Connecticut too, I am a daily Mass goer but there is no way the quiet little church I attend can compare with the magnificence of this edifice and it never fails to evoke in me an even deeper feeling of devotion.

Research at Queen Mary College Library:
After having made inquiries yesterday about obtaining a Visitor’s Card for Queen Mary College (QMC) Library, I figured that on a rainy day a library would be the best place to spend time. I decided to start research for my paper on Indentured Labor from the Indian Sub-Continent which I will present at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland at the beginning of next month. So, after breakfasting on Sainsbury’s Fruit and Nut muesli in yoghurt and a decaff coffee, I showered and shampooed my hair and set out for a morning of research.
QMC, part of the University of London, is only two stops away on a bus down Mile End Road or a 15 minute walk. I took the bus and soon found myself presented with a Day Card at the Main Reception area (until a permanent Visitors Card with my picture on it is made available to me). In no time at all, I was on the second floor at the stacks seeking out the books I wanted. It was about 11.00 am when I arrived there and it was exactly 3.00 pm when I wound up–having made about 22 pages of notes! Certainly a morning very productively spent and such a great way to have beaten the rain.

Home for Lunch:
By the time I got back home, it was 3. 15 and I was starving. I rustled up a grilled cheese and ham sandwich which I ate with something called ‘pickle’ (Cheese and Pickle sandwiches are very popular in the UK). Except the ‘pickle’ is not the kind we eat in India (hot and spicy and highly salted) nor is it the kind of pickle we eat in America (cucumbers in brine). It is something known as Branston Pickle–and I was introduced to it for the first time. It is more like a chutney with some chunky, crunchy bits in it (I am not sure if these are onions or mango!) Very likely this was an Indian chutney recipe pinched by some ambitious colonial named Branston who marketed it to his compatriots as a ‘pickle’ with much success. Anyway, the combination of chutney and cheddar was superb and I can see why ‘cheese and pickle’ sandwiches are such a hit here. I also ate a bit of salad and, because I could not resist it, a thin slice of tiramisu. It made a very delicious lunch indeed and yet required minimal cooking.

Off to Theaterland:
Since I am not comfortable at the thought of coming home alone late at night, my friend Cynthia gave me the idea of getting to the theater for the matinee shows–a brilliant idea, methinks! And since Matinee shows are only on Wednesdays and Saturdays, I think I will try to see a matinee show each Wednesday by obtaining ‘Day Tickets’ which are sold at 10.00 am on the day you wish to go (provided tickets are still available, they sell no more than 2 per person in the queue).
My aim was to find out if Day Tickets would be available tomorrow morning for The Go-Between at the Apollo Theater–a musical that stars Michael Crawford (whose voice I love) and who is a very well-reputed actor (he played the Phantom in the original London version of the play The Phantom of the Opera!) Well, yes, tickets were available for tomorrow and I was advised to get there at 10.00 am but with no need to rush.
That done, I wandered around the heart of the theater district around Shaftesbury Avenue and Cambridge Circus to make my way to the Palace Theater where there is a great deal of hoopla with the staging of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which opened yesterday. I understand that all tickets have gone until December and that there are none to be had at the Box Office–a fact that was confirmed by the Box Office clerk when I arrived there. I took a picture outside the theater as that is probably the closest I will come to seeing the play!
A little later, I arrived at the Garrick Theater as I found out that another one of my favorite actors is soon going to be on the stage there. As Chriselle will be here in September-October, I decided to book tickets for us for the show–but I would like it to remain a surprise–so I am not saying which show or who the actor is; but I feel certain that she will be pleased. With the tickets and receipt in my bag, I walked off and made my way to the Strand to find out if Day Tickets were available at the Vaudeville Theater where another favorite actor of mine is currently to be found–Martin Shaw is in Hobson’s Choice. I loved him in every TV show in which he stars (not the least being as Detective Inspector George Gently which is still running). In addition, Christopher Timothy also has a role in the play–he played James Herriott in the TV series All Creatures Great and Small. It was confirmed that Day Tickets are available; so, I shall probably come back next Wednesday for the matinee. It seems as if I have a wealth of quality theater from which to choose–I will need to plan judiciously and make certain I see all the ones I want to without breaking the bank.

Exploring Foyle’s, Covent Garden and Stanford’s:
In-between weaving myself through the maze of streets that make up Theaterland, London, I popped into two book shops: Foyle’s on Shaftesbury where I was delighted to find Owl Song at Dawn, a wonderful memoir by my friend and NYU (London) colleague Emma Sweeney. I will be accompanying her later this month to a reading at the sea-side in Margate–so I had better read the book before that day. What a joy to find a book by a good friend on the shelves of a well-known book store!
And then, one floor up, I found The Tree-Climber’s Guide to London by yet another one of my friends, Jack Cooke, whose work has become a bestseller and for whom I am absolutely thrilled as this kind of great success could not have come to a nicer person. Splendidly produced as a hardbound edition with the most exquisite accompanying illustrations by his wife, Jennifer, I was so struck by the quality and contents of the book that I wanted to buy it right away. It is only the fact of not being able to carry any extra weight back home that deterred me. I am sure I will find it at a local library and will enjoy exploring London with this tome in my hand. I still cannot get over the delight of finding two great books by two good friends in a major book store in a major city in less than half an hour!
The second great book store I entered was Stanford’s, on Long Acre Road, which seemed like a practical idea as I needed to do some research on a trip that Chriselle and I are planning to take in Central Europe late next month. I have bought books and maps galore from this specialty book store that only carries books and articles pertaining to travel–so it is a globetrotter’s dream–and one of my favorite venues in London.
After I found what I was looking for, I decided to try to get the books from a local library–again, I am loathe to buy books that will only add to the weight of what I am already carrying.

Back Home for Dinner: 
It was about 8.00 pm with a slight spritz of a drizzle still in evidence when I jumped into the Tube at Leicester Square and headed home. Just a half hour later, I was inside my door and thinking about dinner. It was going to be a salad with a curried yoghurt dressing, a slice of toast with mushroom pate and a cup of asparagus soup. As I rustled it up, I thought of the folks I need to call as I now start to make plans to meet up with friends.
I watched a bit of Mary Berry’s show on TV on her family’s favorite dishes and after writing this blog, set off to go to bed.
It has been a swell day–so much work was done and so much fun was had while crowds of tourists swarmed and swirled around me, undaunted by the weather, in some of the most crowded parts of London. It was grand to feel part of that energy.
Until tomorrow, cheerio…

Seeking my Inner Kid at the Museum of Childhood and Top Deck of Red Bus


Somewhere in the middle of a fretful night, August 2016 arrived. I was awake until at least 3. 15 am–horribly jetlagged and counting sheep, switching on the light, doing a bit of mindless reading–anything to bring on the zzzzs. No such luck. Little wonder that when I awoke it was a little past 9.00 am! Springing out of bed, I hurried to wash and dress and get down for brekkie, sorry that I had not managed to wake up in time for 8.00 am Mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral (which had been my intention).

First Brekkie Chez Moi: 
I had a fancy schmancy brekkie this morning–my first in my new digs. And co-incidentally, it was a close repeat of a first breakfast Llew and I had in my former flat in Holborn on our first morning together many years ago: an almond croissant from Paul’s Patisserie (which I picked up from City Farm yesterday) and a cup of decaff coffee. While my kettle was humming, I pulled out my pork sausages and began to cook them as well as prepare the cauliflower I’d bought the day before.  While I was munching my goodies in my adjoining breakfast room, my cauliflower boiled. With the addition of grated cheddar cheese, salt and pepper, I made a fine mash and voila, dinner for tonight was in the bag!
Back upstairs, I responded to email and decided to call my Dad in Bombay as I now have my UK phone in my possession. When I had reassured him that all was well with me, I got dressed.

Planning My Week Ahead:
Not long after, I was leaving the house to travel to the Museum of Childhood which is the nearest major museum to my residence–just a 15 minute walk away. I have decided that Mondays will be designated Museum Mondays–meaning that I will visit a museum that day.
Here is what I intend to do with the rest of the week:
Museum Monday, Theater Tuesday, Working Wednesday, Trekking Thursday, Farther Afield Friday (meaning that I shall explore a place outside London on a day trip), Slick and Scrub Saturday (meaning that it shall be devoted to chores–grocery shopping, laundry, tidying, etc.) and Suit Myself Sunday (meaning that it will used in ad hoc fashion as the mood takes me). Much, however, will depend on the weather. This Thursday, for instance, it promises to be wet while Friday will be cloudy but dry. The trek might will be postponed to Friday and rainy Thursday might well call for another day spent in a museum. Once I get over jetlag and awake at 6.00 am (as I usually do), I intend to spend the first three hours working–that will allow me to feel no guilt when I goof off for the rest of the day.  Hopefully, I will be able to stick to my plan.
So, there I was, waiting at the 309 bus stop just a few steps from my house. It deposited me at York Hall, right opposite the Museum which I reached at 12. 15 pm.

Exploring the Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green:
The Museum of Childhood is part of the famous Victoria and Albert Museum at Kensington. It was founded in 1872 by Albert, Victoria’s oldest son, then Prince of Wales who became Edward VII. Its design was based on the great iron structure that had become part of the Great Exhibition of 1951 held at Crystal Palace. Since the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington was too far away and out of the reach of the poorer East Enders, it was thought fit to create a branch of the museum in Bethnal Green using the same iron structure as its foundation. This was subsequently covered on the outside with red brick.
Hence, the visitor is not prepared for the sight that hits when one goes past the brick exterior. The double-storeyed iron structure, painted white, reminded me of different things at the same time: double tiered prisons, the decks of a ship, hospital corridors, the hangar at an airport, the vast platform of a railway terminus. But, most of all, it reminded me of Bhau Ladji Museum at the Victoria Gardens in Byculla, Bombay, whose structure was also erected in the reign of Victoria in the exact same style. I was taken aback at the first sight of the museum but I quickly adjusted myself mentally to the task ahead: to try to figure out how to see it most efficiently as it was my first time inside.
The girl at the Information Desk provided me with a floor plan. It is simple enough with exhibits arranged not chronologically but thematically. I asked if there were any guided tours–there were none. I asked if there were any highlights I ought not to miss–she was unable to respond, but suggested I do not miss the Dolls Houses on the top floor as they are most popular. Thus, I decided to begin with those.
And so it was that I spent almost two hours in a place that was most un-museum-like. It was not a quiet space designed for dignified contemplation. In fact, it was noisy and hectic as it is summer and the museum is free. The place was, therefore, crawling (literally!) with kids. Of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers, they were present. The Dolls Houses sre indeed striking as are the furniture and fitments that accompanied them. There were also a lot of active play areas–games corners where patrons were playing Monopoly and Snakes and Ladders, sand pits where babies were attempting to make sand castles (without any water), crafting corners, etc. All exhibits are in great glass vitrines and the majority of the items inside were toys. I loved the vitrines devoted to childrens’ clothing from the 1700s to the present day. These cases included childrens’ shoes. There were toys galore–of every possible kind from dolls and stuffed toys to mechanical ones.
For me, the highlight of the entire museum were two Chinese Rock Gardens made of jade, ivory, enamel and embellished with pearls. They were presented by the Chinese to Queen Mary who presented them to the museum. They really are extraordinarily detailed with porcelain human beings present in them as well. The Museum has a very nice cafe and gift shop and I found a lot of young folks shopping. What is most interesting is that the museum is designed to entice children–which is why all curatorial notes are at a kid’s eye level!

Back Home for Lunch:
On my way home for lunch at almost 2.00 pm, I decided to walk it out. This took me to St. John’s Church at the corner of Bethnal Green and the Roman Road–one of only three churches in London designed by the great Sir John Soanes whose style is very evident at first glance–there are his signature pillars with what look like classical urns sitting atop them (similar to what one sees at Dulwich Art Gallery which is also his creation and the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street). I noted that there is daily Morning Prayer at 9.00 with Eucharist Mass at 1.10 pm most days. One of these days, I will try to attend so that I can see the inside of the church as I am quite fascinated by Soanes.
Spying Sainsbury catty corner to the church, I hurried in to buy one of my favorite desserts–their Tiramisu–and a packet of their Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger Biscuits as I had nothing for tea. Then crossing Bethnal Green Gardens, I spied the Bethnal Green Library and asked if I could become a member. Yes, I was told–if I brought along my tenancy agreement. So, one of these days, that is precisely what I shall do.
Leaving the gardens, I used my instinct to find my way home and arrived at my doorstep by an interesting route that took me past vast residential ‘estates’. It is rather a novelty for me to be living in the midst of a sprawling residential area–mostly populated by Muslim Bengalis from Bangladesh with loads of Somalians sprinkled in too. I hear Bengali all around me all the time in these side streets. On the main roads (Mile End and Roman), there is a vast mixture of ethnicities with people of every skin color visible. My street should truly have been named Global (not Globe) Road!

Lunch in my Dining Room and the Longest Nap in the World:
And so I sat down to eat my first lunch in my home: Toasted Olive Bread with Mushroom Pate and a salad of lettuce, apples, avocado, strawberries and cashewnuts with a balsamic vinaigrette and a thin slice of tiramisu for dessert. It was all very delicious.
Lack of sleep then became obvious and although I had decided to make a trip to Queen Mary College Library, I simply could not drag myself out without a quick shut-eye. So up I went to my room to do a bit of bibliographic research for the conference paper I need to present at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland about five weeks from now. I found the books I would need at Queen Mary College Library which is just down Mile End Road about a ten minute walk away from my home. I called the library and found out that I could be issued a Visitor’s Card but I would need to fill a form and provide a passport photo. Deciding to do that first thing tomorrow, I settled down for a much-needed nap of 20 minutes…but did not awake for two and a half hours!

Tea and a Long Joy Ride:
It was 5.30 pm when I awoke and decided to take a shower and have a spot of tea. Downstairs, while munching Date and Walnut Cake and sipping lemony tea, I watched Beck on BBC I-Player (a Swedish detective program). Then, back upstairs, I climbed into my clothes and decided, while there was still light, to take a long bus ride through Central London. There was a drizzle out the door and grabbing my brolly, I walked to the 309 bus stop and from there to a No. 8 at Bethnal Green that took me as far as Tottenham Court Road past all my former haunts, including my two former residences at Farringdon and Holborn. Awash in nostalgia, I was sorry for the rain that fogged up the windows on the upper deck as darkness swiftly descended over the city. Bus No. 73 then took me forward to Victoria from where I jumped into the District Line Tube that brought me back home at 9. 15. I had enough time to get to the Co-op for packeted soup as there was a distinct nip in the air, brought on by the rain. I had an urgent desire for a warming brew.

Dinner at Home:
Needless to say, my pork bangers and cauliflower mash formed dinner together with another helping of salad. Oh and a cup of chicken and vegetable soup, all finished with another thin slice of tiramisu. I am hoping to keep my weight stable and to balance not-so-healthy meals with a healthy amount of walking to give me the exercise I need. For today at least, I seem to have succeeded. As I ate, I watched a part of Celebrity Masterchef.
An hour later, I finished this blog and decided to call it a day. Hopefully, jetlag will not keep me up half the night.
Until tomorrow, cheerio…

Back in Londinium! And First-Day Flutters!

First Day Flutters! I felt them big time. Flutters of trepidation as I wondered how I would handle my mountainous baggage alone! And flutters of exhilaration at walking the lovely streets of London again!
So yes, here I go blogging again! Or rather, here I come! Back again in Londinium. Or T’Smoke–whatever you might wish to call it, I am in Blighty now–for the long haul! And no one could be happier! For as firsts go, this day was fab.

Journey Outward:    
Bidding goodbye to the family this time round was harder than I expected. Excitement was tempered by a twinge of sadness as I hugged and kissed the Smallies who are now part of our family in Southport. Llew dropped me to JFK–all the while more concerned than I was about the load I was carrying: two cases of 50 lbs each, a strolley backpack with not one but two laptops (don’t ask!)–a PC And a Mac–and a crossover pocketbook. I knew I could do it–maybe even in my sleep for London, as you faithful readers of this blog know, is my second home.
I couldn’t have had a more comfy flight for, as luck would have it, I had a window seat with no one else occupying the two seats besides me–truly, the angels of international travel had my back! After a picture-perfect takeoff (the skyline of Manhattan silhouetted against a gorgeous coral sunset), I moved like lightning to the end aisle seat to hog it all, stretched out with three pillows and a blanket and ordered a G&T to celebrate my return to the UK. Dinner swiftly followed (and as airline meals go, this wasn’t half bad for the chicken with orzo they presented me was far more than merely edible). Then, as is my wont on trans-Atlantic flights, I popped a sleeping pill into my mouth and was out for a whole four hours. By the time I surfaced, we were preparing for landing. And, once again, I hope you will believe me when I say that I got a brilliant picture of Buckingham Palace from my window as we made a smooth touchdown at Heathrow.
Llew needn’t have chewed his nails off in worry, on my behalf, for I sailed out of Immigration, loading my cases on to a trolley and hotfooted it to the Piccadilly Line in under ten minutes. After loading my Oystercard with a monthly Travelpass, I slid into the elevator that sank me down to the platform and, five minutes later, voila! I was in the Tube and changing at Hammersmith for the District Line right across the platform. A quick call to inform my ‘pick up person’ that I would be there in about 40 minutes and, like clockwork, an almost empty train dropped me off at Stepney Green where I connected with him.

Getting to Know Bethnal Green and my New London Digs:
My landlord and landlady (whom I shall refer to from now on as Mine Hosts) couldn’t be nicer. N was there, as promised, and with all the gallantry of the Middle Ages, hauled my cases up as if they were featherweights, as he led me to the surface–of Mile End Road. The neighborhood was still in the throes of its Saturday Lie-In as we dragged my cases down two New York blocks to my new digs on Globe Road–and a more appropriate name would be hard to find for someone who does as much globe-trotting as I! His wife, C was awaiting my arrival indoors as we opened the lime green door to my new home, a charming Victorian three-story semi-detached house with a front and back garden! As my eyes scanned my new abode, I thought, “Have I lucked out once again, or what?”
We spent the next two hours getting to know each other and my new home. They put me through the paces as they shared wifi codes with me, pointed out light switches, security measures (locks, latches, and the like), discussed rental payments with me, walked around the garden with me, gave me the Grand Tour of all three floors, showed me how kitchen appliances, shower and heater worked–all over a cup of coffee and a bowl of muesli as I suddenly discovered that I was starving.  They told me to help myself to any of their pantry staples (oils, vinegars, spices, condiments), introduced me to their storehouse of a gazillion teas (only to discover, much to their chagrin, that I drink decaff!) and made me feel fully at home. They had also drawn me a cool diagram of the neighborhood with landmarks like museums and markets, favorite restaurants and bus and Tube stops all highlighted. How unbelievably thoughtful!

Off to the British Library:
Two hours later, all formalities ironed out, I set out to find my way to the British Library at King’s Cross as my Reader’s Ticket expired yesterday! How was that for timing??? I jumped on to the No. 8 bus at Bethnal Green, hopped off at Liverpool Street and took the Tube. From there, it was only a stroll to the Library on a glorious day, temperature-wise. After the heat wave we’ve had Stateside, it felt heavenly to wear a light jacket! Reader’s Card safely in my pocketbook, I browsed around an exhibit called Punk–but found little in it to arouse my interest.

Crossing Regent’s Canal:
Having used wifi at the library, I set out in search of the nearest Waitrose as I needed a few urgent groceries. And so it was that I made another charming discovery. There is a huge Waitrose behind St. Pancras Station (one of my very favorite buildings in London with its splendid Victorian Gothic facade by Sir Gilbert Scott for whom I have a soft spot as he also designed the library building of the University of Bombay). I can never pass by without saying a silent Thank you to Sir John Betjeman who saved it from the wrecking ball! (How could something so grand ever be slated for demolition?) And what’s more, that Waitrose is hidden in a vast warehouse behind a pedestrian plaza that sits astride the Regent’s Canal to which one is led by steps going down–like getting to the banks of the Seine in Paris at St. Michel! It was enchanting. I can see myself actually strolling along the canal tow path in the very near future.
But for today, I was not to be distracted from my mission…and discovering that I can get a free coffee every time I use a Waitrose card, I signed up for one and began shopping. I got Warburton’s multi-seed bread (which I love), honey yogurt, honey ham, mature cheddar cheese, a lemon for my tea, decaff tea bags, Lavazza decaff coffee (because C recommended it), a date and walnut loaf for tea, pork sausages (which I shall fry for my dinner tomorrow), a cauliflower to make a mash to accompany the sausages, a bag of fruit and nut muesli and a ton of free magazines! Did I ever tell you how much I adore Waitrose? After paying, I obtained a free latte and sipped it in the cafe with a slice of my cake–as I hadn’t really eaten anything since that bowl of muesli at 9.30 am. At 5 pm, I left Waitrose, with a grocery load far less weightier than it sounds.
At King’s Cross, I took the Tube home and within twenty-five minutes, I was testing my new skills with the new keys I’d been handed. Easy peasy!

Unpacking and Getting Settled:
It is a thrilling process–unpacking and deciding where to put what in a new home. My room on the first floor (American second) is darling. It has a double bed, a night stand, a carved wooden armoire, a very modern desk and ancient chair. My bathroom is just outside the door and rearranging my toiletries and cosmetics in it was also a blast. These flutters of delight I feel are priceless. My window has double glazing–so busy Globe Road is not a concern.
I then got down to setting up my laptops with wifi connections and suddenly felt fully in sync with my family members again. Arranging my groceries was also an opportunity to rearrange the kitchen cupboards, discover where everything is kept, and make an open toasted sandwich for myself with fig jam, ham and cheddar washed down with lemony tea. I listened to Radio Four as I munched because there is no TV in this house–not an issue as I have BBC’s I-player here and Netflix!!! The evenings will be a good time to catch up with the movies and TV series I love. I am pretty sure that it will not be long before this old home, that was built and has been lived in since the time of Queen Victoria, feels very much like home to me.
So much has changed since the last time I lived away from Llew in London. There was no Facetime or Imo then–although there was Skype with its rather spotty reception. Now Llew and I intend to videochat daily. Just as I did today with him as well as with my niece and nephew.
So there you have it! A Fab First Day! And a few fine flutters! Thanks for following me again. I would love to have your comments. Please do read my posts, but please do also respond.
Until tomorrow, cheerio….