Happily Ever After
Life in The Rural Retreat with a beautiful wife, three cats, garden wildlife, a camera, a computer – and increasing amounts about running
In The City
by admin - 15:05 on 24 April 2012
You probably guessed that we did get away after all, leaving Bess in the care of Soo and Tony. Copious notes, information and instructions on feline welfare were handed over before our departure by Matchgirl, who was still concerned by our picky puss's reluctance to eat. A text received not long after our exit assured her that all was well and that Bess was eating like a starved horse.
The reason for the lack of blog is that, unlike homely B&Bs and small rural guest houses, reasonably ritzy London hotels are unable to offer free wi-fi to customers. What a swizz. So here's the edited highlights of the long weekend.
Thursday: At Inverness Airport, Flybe had laid on a plane with seats for midgets so it was fortunate that there was an empty pair across the aisle from ours, otherwise the flight to Gatwick would have been even less fun.
We landed around 6.30pm, by which time we'd had enough travel. Matchgirl had earlier booked a room online at the airport's Sofitel – a wise move as the prices displayed behind the reception desk were twice what she'd paid. The hotel needs to charge this much to cover its heating bills – sleep was spasmodic in a room in which we could swelter or be kept awake by the air-conditioning.
Friday: Gatwick Express to Victoria; Tube to Tower Hill and another of Matchgirl's online bargains, the Tower Bridge Novotel, part of a French-owned chain with incomprehensible French receptionists and, as we learned the next morning, undrinkable grey French tea.
That apart it was a fine place and very handy for reaching the sights of the city – something I've not seen for years except on TV when Sralan gazes acquisitively across the skyline. Millennium Bridge is much busier in real life; his would-be apprentices must stride across it at three in the morning. Queues for the London Eye were even more thronged so we ambled back to the hotel and caught up on the TV's pre-Marathon news. Matchgirl took it well, with even less grumbling than I'd done outside the London Eye.
Saturday: Another overheated night meant a late start for our next destination, inspired by a free tourist magazine – a tour of the Houses of Parliament. Most interesting it was, too, especially for the visitor (middle-aged, English, so there's no excuse) who learned that Magna Carta was signed in 1215, not 1066 as she believed. Security there was much better than at Inverness Airport, where the small Swiss Army knife I'd forgotten was in my pocket had not been found. The Palace Police gave me a receipt to collect it when I left.
Our evening treat was The Woman In Black at the Fortune Theatre, its seats the inspiration for Flybe's aircraft designers. Despite that, it's a show worth seeing, as testified by a shrieking audience and Matchgirl almost leaping on to my lap at one point.
There was more excitement on the Tube back to l'otel when a passenger stumbled and pulled the emergency stop handle. He crept off in a markedly sheepish manner before the officials arrived.
Sunday: With friends Cathy and Paul we staked our spot, halfway round the sun-kissed Marathon route (rain had been forecast), then waited for the action to begin while our ears were assaulted by Mr H, the excitable DJ on duty in the area, and his Radio 1-style playlist. When the runners began to pass us (those elite women are tiny) Matchgirl was inspired rather than miserable – next year she'll be on the course, not beside it. I believe.
The latter part of the afternoon we spent in Tate Modern, where we saw a few brilliant paintings, a lot of rubbish ones and some desperately pretentious installations. The gallery Matchgirl was most keen to see was closed for re-hanging. Such is life. Outside, the rain was now falling on crowds dotted with red-faced, hobbling people clad in T-shirts that proclaimed "YES". Matchgirl will have one next year.
Monday: More crowds, Tube, train and plane to reach a welcoming cat (really), quiet and the sound of birdsong. London's a great place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. But we'll be back. Matchgirl has less than a year to prepare for the 2013 London Marathon. Time is running out...
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