Our train got in at 10:30 last night so I went to bed late (1:00ish I think), which was a bit unfortunate as the smoke alarm went off at what my watch told me was 9:30 in the morning.
It is a feature of my relationship with smoke alarms that my first thought upon awakening was not ‘Oh God where’s the fire?!’ but ‘Fer chrissake where’s a chair so I can turn that damn thing off.’
This is a thought that has not failed me yet; there was, needless to say, no fire.
It could have been so much worse. It COULD have gone off at 6:30.
Or, you know, there could have been actual smoke involved.
As it turned out, it wasn’t actually 9:30 anyway; I thought I’d escaped daylight savings time when I left the US but no, when I got on my computer I discovered that for the second time this year an hour had been rudely taken away from me.
I like my hours. I want to keep them, thanks.
After doing rubbishy necessities like showering, eating, and doing some packing for our trip to Yorkshire tomorrow, I left my mom to her own shower and headed out to do some shopping. The swag bag from the convention yesterday had contained a flier for the Forbidden Planet megastore – which was just around the corner from me. Not an opportunity to be passed up.
I had something specific in mind. In one of the panels yesterday there had been a little boy sitting a few rows down from me who was playing with a light-up Timelord distress beacon. It changed colors when you tapped it.
How could you not want that.
Needless to say, it was not available in the single vendor tent. But I had hopes for Forbidden Planet.
Well, I think my definition of ‘megastore’ is a big different. It wasn’t very ‘mega’, but it was certainly packed with all and sundry manner of top-class geekery. Oh, how I wanted to take certain people there! (You know who you are.)
The randomness made it even more fun: I saw Doctor Who T-shirts in three different places, Star Wars figurines stuck anywhere they would go, the new Star Trek movie bridge face down on a jumbled box of yet more Star Wars figures with some Cybermen and Silurians hanging above. Oh, and then there was everything else, from World of Warcraft and Mass Effect to Nightmare Before Christmas and a smattering of Hello Kitty.
I did not buy one of the beautiful steampunk guns. They were in a locked case; I didn’t even look at the prices.
I did find the Timelord distress beacon, which was even cooler than I’d realized as it had the Corsair’s ourobouros sign on it. It needs batteries, though, which is probably a good thing as otherwise I’d never stop playing with it.
And, okay, one impulse buy: a bottle opener in the shape of the Enterprise.
You’d never realize I’m a nerd if you met me randomly; but I have my moments.
The day was getting on but I had promised myself that if I was still thinking about the stuffed triceratops at Hamleys after a few days I would go back and get it. I was and I did; then booked it back to the flat to meet my mother.
It must have been my confidence in barreling down the Soho backstreets that made the gal with the Russian accent mistake me for a native and ask for directions. My confidence was strictly due to frequent map-checking but her path was an easy one that even I could manage (‘Turn left, walk straight and you’ll run into it’). Flattering to be mistaken for a local though.
Then it was off to the National Portrait Gallery. There was nothing in specific I wanted to see except I hoped to run across one or two of their 68 John Singer Sargents.
|The gallery entryway.
The funny thing is that going to museums with my mother is the easiest thing in the world as we have nearly identical taste in art. We’ve never discussed it particularly so it wasn’t some childhood influence (and that theory would be shot to threads anyway if one ever compared our tastes in music). Whatever the reason, it saves a lot of time because there are whole wings we can ignore to no one’s disappointment.
After a bit I was starving – I am always hungry but there’s hungry and then there’s starving – but after dredging the bottom of my bag of smuggled macadamia nuts I survived until after we’d finished. Before moving around the corner to the National Gallery we stopped at the NPG café where we had this:
|Smoked mackerel salad with tarragon-and-mayo potatoes.
Another reason why my mother is a lovely traveling companion is that she is culinarily brave. I can think of no other friend to whom I would say, ‘Hey, let’s try this, it’s weird’ and get a response of ‘Okay, sure.’ (And also, equally nice, ‘I’ll pay, I need to get some change.’)
An aside. If the HR director of the National Portrait Gallery is for some reason reading this – you need to fire that woman at the café. You know who I mean. And if you don’t know, then fire yourself while you’re at it, because you’re not paying attention.
Also, £4.60 for tea for two is a no-go. Either you’re nuts, or you’re trying to gyp the tourists who can’t figure out pounds sterling. Either way, it is (to borrow an old idiom) not quite the thing.
And while I’m complaining: get some real cream for heaven’s sake. What is it with you Londoners and your ‘we only have milk’? Aren’t Brits supposed to be the the West’s supreme tea drinkers? Milk is for babies.
Anyway. After our tasty fish salad and no tea, with cream or without, we headed over to the larger museum with about two hours before closing. And that’s a good thing really, because without a time limit I would have stared into Rembrandt’s eyes all day. How does he do that?!
I am no good at writing about art so I won’t. So let me tell you about dinner, which started with steak tartar (AMAZING) and went on to poulet et frites (chicken and fries) with aeoli (garlicy mayonnaise). Doesn’t food sound fancier in French?
|A scene from the bustling Café Boheme.
It certainly tastes fancier.
Since it was our last night in London I made the walk down to Leicester Square one last time for some tiramisu gelato. Oh. How I shall miss it.
|I shall remember you forever, dear gelateria.
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