And so, as I write this on the return train journey, the weekend moves towards its conclusion, not quite home but getting there and by now we’re glad. We’re knackered. That London on a hot weekend, full of protesters and 10 km runners and roads blocked off and police sirens and no taxis and so on. It’s been quite an event, my 70th birthday celebration that is. But as they say no pain, no gain. The pain has been the money we’ve spent or, more accurately, our daughter has spent. Remember Harry Enfield’s character Loadsa Money. In his case it was having it and in ours, it’s been spending it. God London is an expensive place even when your daughter is paying for a goodly proportion of it. Our son in OZ is well out of it although he has promised me expensive presents via Amazon. We’ll see.
The gain? Well, we’ve done some nice stuff. One highlight was not being mugged when I thought I had. How can that happen you ask even to the point of cancelling all your credit / debit cards? You think you have but you haven’t really. No really. This tall guy bumped into me, flat front on, quite strange it was, this in the crowd of people at Trump’s demonstration. I was wearing my new birthday jacket with pockets and all. When he’d gone Mrs Summerhouse said where’s your wallet? Panic, search all pockets, no wallet. I’ve been mugged, cancel cards and give up on driving licence which needed renewing anyway, as did bus pass, AA card etc etc. No loss I reasoned but bloody annoying and they say people who have been mugged say things like I never felt a thing. Well in my case there was a good reason for this namely my wallet was still back in our hotel room. But I didn’t know that at the time – obviously.
There was a danger that the perceived theft would take the edge off our night at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club (see photo above). A place I’d wanted to visit for many years and this 70th birthday seemed like quite the right time to make the dream come true. It did not disappoint. A very creative and original black guy name of Randolph Matthews, did all kind of stuff electronically. He was tall but looked nothing like the guy who hadn’t mugged me. Did I mention the guy who didn’t mug me, he was black?
The main act was called Somi, a black woman from Harlem and her band. All quite jaw-dropping. She had a tall black man on guitar, as above, who would have caused me to set fire to my guitars had I had them with me. He was that good, they all were. Highlight of the weekend by Friday night but then there was pretty much only the imagined mugging and tea on the terrace to put up against it. Oh and the food, (miniscule) and the drink (expensive – is that the price for a pint? We don’t have pints, that’s for a bottle). Whatever, brilliant time at Ronnie’s. Huge embarrassment on getting back to room and finding wallet where I’d left it. I could positively have sworn, but too late for regrets now.
Next day another hot day in the city, back of my neck getting dirty and gritty (Lovin Spoonful quote). A ten pound fare turned into £20 by virtue of another diversion but that meant we got to Tate Britain exactly as it opened and what a pleasure it was, a practically empty gallery with excellent British art through the centuries. Can’t remember when I’d enjoyed an exhibition so much. And then onto the boat down the Thames, one of our go to activities. I had intended to stay on until Greenwich but we got off at London Bridge and did a bit of people watching. Then back to hotel and, in an effort to economise a bit, we caught the bus, three buses in fact, quite free and totally out of our way but the key thing is it was free. Eventually we got back to hotel and met daughter and son-in-law for wine and cheese on terrace as promised.
Continuing the birthday celebrations that night we had a quick pint in our local. Made even quicker by the presence of about 500 England supporters commiserating with each other about England’s second loss to Belgium. The beer and wine was in plastic glasses so you get an idea of the ambience. Moving swiftly on to the oldest, and our favourite, Indian restaurant in London. Name of Veeraswamys on Regent Street. Fantastic food and fantastic expense but again paid for by my daughter so quite cheap for me especially the lobster curry that, even though I didn’t pay for it, I can’t bring myself to tell you how much it was. Still one is not 70 everyday is one?
Actually I wasn’t 70 until the following day, the Sunday, when my daughter took us out for brunch at a restaurant in Covent Garden called Joe Allen. She’d chosen it because it had a jazz pianist playing at 12 o’clock. When she told me this I expected some cool, young dude to stroll in, not a grey-haired, old lady looking like Miss Marple, but she tinkled the ivories nicely enough and even invited me to join her at the keyboard but once again I bottled it even though we were probably about the same age. We compared our arthritis and sympathised with me struggling to play the guitar with crooked fingers. After brunch we strolled around a bit more but it really was too hot so we returned to hotel, picked up our suitcase and caught the tube to Kings Cross. Normally we take a taxi but there weren’t any on account of the day’s interference – a 10k run for cancer, still better than Trump I guess although some people might think they’re about the same.
So back to Leeds and then for the best and worst bit of the weekend – picking up the doggies who we’d missed, that was a good bit, the bad bit was worrying about whether they had forgotten us and would want to stay with Uncle Paul on the farm. But they jumped into the van happily enough and so home. Phew, just as well I’m not 70 everyday, we’re exhausted. A good weekend, spent loadsa money, some of it our own but all round a suitable way to enter, as a friend pointed out, my 8th decade. Must be well and truly retired now.