I didn’t quite go into detail here previously on the massive holiday I was planning, apart from the Thurston Moore squee, so I should state briefly for the record that I spent about 6 weeks from mid-October to early December trying to be young again across London, Montreal, New England, New York City and Berlin. A wise man would stake no money on the chances of me blogging about that in any comprehensive way, but I do usually manage the first few days! So here’s the first day I spent in London, and let’s hope I’ll get to a few more later on.
Russ picked me up at the airport at a sufficiently pre-dawn time to keep Alec’s hatred of him alive, and I got to see his apartment for the first time. It’s neat, pleasingly decorated in keeping with his aesthetic, and displays a photo of me, so naturally I loved it. After some breakfast and freshening up, Russ went off to work and I started my day. I wasn’t aiming for anything ambitious, just a banking errand and some leisurely bookshop research on how I wanted to spend my time in London, so it made sense to head somewhere I already knew had everything I needed: Bloomsbury.
After gnashing my teeth at my bank (nothing new there) I decided I might as well revisit more pleasant experiences from my past, so I pottered by Newman House, the student hall I lived at for two years and where I met Alec. This would be the first of many times I would feel thankful, over the course of this holiday, for the various relationships I made in London a decade or so ago which have lasted the test of time. It was heart-warming to say the least to walk through the doors of a place I’d lived in ten years ago and not only be remembered instantly, but for the nun that manages the place to even remember my room number! (No, it’s not because I trashed it.)
After tea, chats and a quick survey of the new ways in which Newman House manages to remain simultaneously the most irreverent and faith-forming Catholic community I have ever had the privilege of being part of, it was time for lunch. People who have always had access to a Marks & Spencer’s or Waitrose supermarket will not understand the rapture which overcomes me every time I come back to the UK and step into them. I have been known to wander through the ready meal aisles twitching and glassy-eyed, occasionally reaching a trembling hand out to stroke an especially tantalizing shelf. While my lunch choice below may not seem very glamorous after all this build-up, it was an unseasonably cold day for October so I decided I might as well exploit the Newman House microwaves and have a hot meal. Also, unlike other classic British comfort foods like shepherd’s pie, which is easy enough to get in most pub-styled places in Singapore, I think the only way I’d get fish pie in Singapore would be to make it myself. Anyway, my first bite of this had me trying to suppress sounds which would have been a little awkward to make in the administration office of a Catholic students’ hall.
After lunch I ventured into Waterstone’s to do some London research for the next few weeks, then visited the Grant Museum of Zoology, which I loved so much I already gave it its own post. After the museum closed I still had some time to kill before meeting Russ for dinner, so I wandered down Store Street on a whim and spotted The Building Centre, which was new to me. It is probably not of much interest to the average London tourist but very fascinating indeed to the average London junkie. I was thrilled with this model of London, and spent quite a while reading various exhibits about the redevelopment of the boroughs south of the river.
By now it was time to meet Russ for dinner before the Active Child gig we would be watching at St Pancras Old Church. I’d spotted this while doing my usual preparatory trawl of gig listings and had never heard of the venue before, so was very keen on attending a gig there. I also vaguely remembered the name Active Child from somewhere or other, did a quick Youtube check, and felt that the music was a decent enough match for the venue to make for a good experience.
I sat there in the tiny, gorgeous sanctuary of what might be the oldest church in Britain, drinking beauty into my eyes and ears with my best friend beside me, and marvelled yet again at this city of old, new and timeless wonders. And I felt there could be no better start to my adventure.