I complain about retirement and a lack of travel and yet only a couple of weeks ago I was giddy as a kipper (no I don’t understand the saying either but a friend of mine uses it a lot) because we spent a night in Scarborough and this weekend just gone, as you might guess from the title, we spent the weekend in London. And they say we don’t travel. You’ll remember the reason we don’t travel is because of the dogs, but this last weekend we put them in kennels. I don’t like doing this but it’s the first time this year so we’re hardly psychologically damaging them. Therefore it’s the first time this year we’ve been to ‘that London’, as some people up north put it. We usually go in the spring and I try and co-ordinate it with a Guardian course (one of those learning opportunities I like to write about) but this year I couldn’t find anything that caught my fancy, so no course but pleasant nevertheless (we met up with our daughter and son-in-law, so a little pocket of northern-ness in the big city, and much needed, God, the overwhelming impression of the big city, not that it is big, but that it is very, very crowded. Bloody people everywhere.
We went down to crowded London on the seven o’clock train Saturday but the pups had to go to the kennels on Friday morning, on account of this early start, so we decided we needed to make the most of a dog-free Friday by doing some pre-Christmas shopping in Leeds – mercifully not crowded. We visited the new John Lewis store, great thrill. So thrilled that we managed to spend getting on for £1,000. Half of that on an iPad for Mrs Summerhouse. I’m not completely convinced that a committed technophobe as Mrs SH usually is, will get full value from her iPad (she believes she will use it for her burgeoning garden design business – one job so far, I will keep you informed), but given that she is a nightmare to buy Christmas presents for, made 100% worse by the fact that her birthday is on the 14th of December, so if she actually says she wants something then so be it. What do you buy the woman who has nothing? I, on the other hand, provide her with a list of required books, carefully put together throughout the year. The other item from JL, as you ask, was a cooker for the Derbyshire cottage. I’m glad we decided to do it up as cheaply as possible. That plan seems to have gone out the kitchen window.
So Friday went well apart, that is, from one small blemish. We had lunch at a nice, old city centre pub, food good, nice bottle of Rioja etc. All good then… We spotted a woman who we frequently see with her partner in our local. So I said hello, this is not your usual drinking spot or some such drivel. Not with your partner / husband? I wasn’t sure which so I thought I would cover both bases. Oh, he’s gone, she said. Ah, we must have just missed him. No, he’s gone, she said. Oh, I thought, you mean your relationship has finished? No, she said, he’s DEAD, and proceeded to tear up. Oh bugger. So sorry to hear that, good Lord is that the time. I left her with Mrs SH, woman to woman and waited outside. Another outstanding job social interaction-wise. So money spent, woman in tears, job done, we went home. My son-in-law suggested I had been exceedingly dense in not recognising that ‘gone’ meant ‘dead’ in the first place. My daughter was kinder and said that if people meant dead then they should say so and end all ambiguity.
So, get to London, walk to Tate Britain to take a look at the Paul Nash exhibition (see above). I’ve included a painting from exhibition poster to give you an idea of his work although this is not easy because his style changed from landscape painter, surrealist, still life painter, and war-artist. Good though and, whisper it, not too crowded, unlike the last exhibition we saw in London – Lucian Freud at which you could barely see the bloody paintings. Met up with daughter and son-in-law, had a pizza and then set off for Churchill War Rooms or Cabinet War Rooms if you prefer. Fascinating, second time we’ve been, first time for daughter and partner, but so bloody busy. If there’s one thing I dislike more than being in a crowd it’s being in a crowd in an underground confined space. Quite claustrophobic I found it. Back to hotel to recover, meet for a drink, then evening meal at Indian restaurant, wine punch and macaroons back at our hotel and so to bed, completely knackered.
Unfortunately Sunday breakfast was not included in price of hotel so we eat out, instead of spending £48 on breakfast at hotel we spend £7.60 at McDonalds. Then walk to Trafalgar Square on a beautiful sunny morning. I take this photo of the spire of St Martin’s in the Fields church and, because we like churches, we go in and join in the service or rather Mrs SH does, it’s her lot. I feel a little uncomfortable, even more so when the apparently new inclusive Catholic style during the service, features shaking hands with the rest of the congregation and saying peace be with you, but then we did choose to be a part of this by entering the church so no use complaining about feeling a little embarrassed. And the service did have its lighter moments. Mrs SH told me afterwards why they read out two lists of names – the first list, quite a long one, of the soon to be gone (i.e. the dying) and the second list of the already gone (i.e. dead, just to remove any ambiguity). I had to smile at one name on the first list – Del Boy Taylor – for making me feel less uncomfortable I wish Del Boy eternal peace, if that is what is on offer.
So bookshops on Charing Cross Road (couldn’t find the book I was looking for), National Portrait Gallery, the fountains Trafalgar Square, (see below) and then to station to hear that our train had been cancelled and we should travel on Edinburgh train (which goes to York and then we were to catch another train to Leeds) which was leaving in 10 minutes. We were a little anxious because we had to get to kennels before 6pm or they would keep the pups another night. We didn’t want this to happen, so a bit worried. In the end Virgin trains got another train fixed up for us in Doncaster so the Edinburgh train made an unscheduled stop in Doncaster, we walk across the platform to our new train and then, for us, on to Leeds. Having made this diversion we arrived in Leeds about 25 minutes earlier than we would have done had we caught our intended train. The train guard apologised for any inconvenience and explained that we could claim a refund from Virgin if our train hadn’t arrived on time. We vaguely wondered if this included arriving early rather than late, but we were too excited about going to pick up the doggies to think any further about this. They were delighted to see us and us them and that was our retirement trip to that London. Phew.