Hello from Swinging London!

Border Control at 7:00 AM!


Well hello from SWINGING LONDON!

It is just after 8:00 AM (3:00 AM in Philadelphia) here on what will clearly be a beautiful day.  We got into the city yesterday by about this time after an on-time flight followed by a long wait in an enormous passport control room with a thousand or two other people.  Giant signs all around announcing that this was the “UK Border” and that if we had any intention of seeking asylum- this was the time and place to do it.

We briefly pondered that option, figuring that the British authorities would likely grant us asylum based simply on the results of last November’s election in the US, but ended up just telling the border agent we were on vacation.

We were a little bit zombiefied yesterday but we did get fairly well oriented.  Our host met us at the flat we have rented for our 5-nights and gave us some tips and directions.  We walked the neighborhood and did some quick grocery shopping and had a snacky lunch with wine on our lovely little 5th floor terrace deck.  We have what appears to be the penthouse apartment of a small but somewhat upscale apartment building on Great Suffolk Street in the Southwark area of London.  We are south of the Thames River that divides London (pronounced TEMS), and about a 10-minute walk to the Tate Modern museum and about 15 Minutes from London Bridge.  In general, it is a very old part of the city with some saucy history, but largely quite gentrified.  Walking down some of the main roads north towards the river, the area seems much like New York or other large international cities.  Little grocery stores, coffee shops, currency exchange, and cheap eats of all manner abound.  Otherwise it is a fairly residential area and is full of apartment buildings of between 5 and 10 stories tall.  Much of London appears to be under construction and this area is no exception.  Lots of hammering and sawing going on.

I have been researching this trip and this city for months and we have a sort of “potential to do” list.  (Though we have NO intention of rushing around trying to do everything!)  The main thing that we did yesterday was to hit the London Film Museum to catch the long-playing James Bond exhibit – “Bond in Motion”.  As the name of the show implies, the exhibit largely centered around the cars, boats, and motorcycles from many of the Bond films.  There was Goldfinger’s huge Rolls Royce, the speedboat the Roger Moore drove in Live and Let Die, and of course the beautiful Aston Martin DB5 that appeared in several of the films.  Or one of them I should say, as the original car that Q gave to Bond in Goldfinger has long been lost to the misfortunes of history.  The show was great fun for both of us and I will post more about it when I get the pictures sorted out.

The film museum was right off Covent Garden, which essentially is a several-blocks wide area of touristy shopping and entertainment.  It is centered around a main historic market building which housed a mix of trendy and fancy shopping (Chanel, Godiva, L’occitane, Rolex), and a large number of antique and flea-market type stalls.  We had a wonderful Italian lunch at a sidewalk café with the un-glamorous name of “Spaghetti House”.

One crazy and wonderful thing that happened as we were almost back to our apartment at the end of the day, sore feet and all, occurred at a quiet little corner pub called The Gladstone.  We were close to just packing it in for the day but opted to pop in there for a last glass of wine.  It is a small place and was mostly empty.  A dozen or so locals were spilling out onto the sidewalk with their pints.  Note that spilling out onto the sidewalk is very common with London pubs.  It seems to be because they have to go out there to smoke but also because, I don’t know – they like to spill out onto the sidewalk.

Anyway, the place was mostly empty with just the two bartenders and one other table of four twenty-somethings who all turned out to be Americans.  A very friendly young man by the name of Kieran Finnegan (good golly that is Irish!) was running a trivia game.  We joined in promptly and found ourselves playing against the group of Americans, who themselves had split into two teams.  The game had just started and Kieran caught us up quickly.  Fortunately, there weren’t many sport questions because neither member of The Working Stiff family knows beans about sports.  There was only one James Bond question which of course was a Gimme for me.

Cut to the end – we won the trivia game.  Our first tired night in a different country and we walked into a pub and won the game.  My second Major Award in recent times!  If I had to pick two major factors that contributed to our victory, I would say that one of them was that we aced the song lyrics section, because that is something we know.  The other factor, as amazing as it seems, is that the group of younger Americans, between the four of them, didn’t know what the group of Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo…………..  were better known as.  Yikes what is the world coming to!  Our Major Award was a 25 pound gift card for the pub, which we promptly spent on a bottle of wine for us and a pint for our trivia host.  Kieran sat with us for a half hour and chatted about movies, music, and London.  A great first night in the city!

More to come.  I will certainly spell-check but probably will not spend quite my usual amount of time composing, so please forgive.  Today we are planning for the Tate Modern Museum and a stroll along the Thames Walkway.  Till waiting to hear from the Palace as far as our time for lunch with the Queen, and Late drinks with Sir Elton seems iffy at this point.

The Working Stiff