Since it takes me forever to update my blog with funny, insouciant takes on life, including such things as my recent UK holiday, here's a quick recap of how things went.
May 3, Sunday: Take off at 5pm in Malaysia, arrive at 11.55pm local time, Stansted Airport. Having not been to many really busy airports in the past oh, seven years, I'd forgotten how crap waiting can be. Rush out of the plane, only to have to wait for the rail shuttle to the main terminal. A small two-carriage shuttle means a long wait for the packed commuters on our AirAsia X flight not to mention other planes arriving at around the same time. Another wait to clear Immigration – look at the lines for UK passengers! And a snaking queue for non-UK and non-Euro visitors, luckily I was a ways way up front. Hi there, I'm here for a holiday, not to overstay, yes here's my ticket home, thank you! Bag's waiting for me on the carousel, cool, and I exit to find Carl (right) waiting for me. Easy enough to spot him, he's not changed at all in 11 years, and he says neither have I.
Exit airport into the cold – 7 degrees Celsius it says: a warm welcome by the British weather – and Carl faffs about a bit looking for his car. I guess he could do with a pedestrian satnav. We find his Aston, get in and the car satnav says getting to his house will take one and a half hours, which doesn't take into account some diverted roads, a few U-turns and a stop at a kebab shop because the little one is a bit peckish. We get to his house on Abbey Road near 3am, he gives me a little tour of the place, we polish off the kebabs, decide who gets which bed (I take the guest bed in the second-bedroom-cum-dining room) and go to sleep.
May 4, Bank Holiday Monday: Despite not sleeping on the plane in the 13-hour flight, I'm up by 6am. Go back to sleep, up again at 7, then again at 8ish and 9ish. Go bug Carl by jumping on his bed, but he wants to sleep some more, so I make myself some breakfast by toasting crumpets in the oven and smoking out his kitchen. Tea and telly, then a shower and some Internet surfing until Carl feels ready enough to face me and the world. Luckily he doesn't have to work, so we go out walking in London, even though it’s a bit cold and rainy.
Tube to Bond Street, then hours and hours of walking, stopping for pictures, food, coffee and hot chocolate (and ice cream) in a meandering route – past the shopping areas, Carnaby Street, Soho, Chinatown, Piccadilly Circus, (he points out Trafalgar Square but we give it a miss as I’ve been there, and there are no more pigeons to feed) the Mall, St James’s Park, Buckingham Palace (above), Westminster Abbey and South Bank. Take pictures of the London Eye but don’t bother to go up, cuz it takes forever, walk along South Bank where there are many unemployed people playing at being statues and artists trying to make a living, have a cotton candy, end up at the Tate Modern, where we had tea but no cultural revelations as the place was closing.
Cross the river and walk aimlessly some more, decide not to try to go back to his place before the start of the evening’s Jack the Ripper Walk, so sit in a coffee shop (more hot chocolate for me and a choc au pain) and then walk to Tower of London, which is closed, for the start of the London Walking tour outside the nearby Tube station at 7.30pm. Walk hosted by Donald Rumbelow takes us from the original City of London to the East End, ending at Spitalfields (formerly a hospital, then a market, now a high-end market-y place). Little Devil sees a Routemaster, has to clamber onto Routemaster (of course) then we go home, discover I’ve had my pocket picked (crummy!), Carl goes out for a bit and brings home fish and chips for supper.
May 5, Tuesday: Carl has to go out of London for work, so I have to entertain myself. Meet up with my friend Az’s youngest sister Azyan Syahira, who’s studying at LSE. Meet at Baker Street Station, she’s worried that she won’t recognise me, but it’s okay, I recognise her as she’s also friends with my youngest brother Emirin and I had seen a picture of them with some other friends on holiday in Austria. Deliver her goods (Maggi mee and three-in-one Milo) and have brunch. She has revision class as she’s taking her final exams, so I’m off after a chat.
End up on the shopping street again – Selfridge’s! My calling! – but I’m too skint to buy anything. Wipe up drool and head out again, go to cheap store Primark but don’t find anything I fancy, end up with a hot chocolate and decide to go to Notting Hill to look for the house with the blue door in the movie or the famed Portobello Road Market.
Wander around – I’m not lost, the market is that way, or is it this way? – until my feet ache and find the road nonetheless. Not that many sellers on a week day, but it’s okay. Look in the window of some shops, then end up at a shop selling Malaysian food – samosa and karipap, but the teh tarik is a bit sweet. End up buying shoes.
Then it’s back to Piccadilly Circus to have a bit of cultural adventure… what shall I watch in my first theatre experience? Too many to choose from, gah! So I go for the safe Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Such a cool performance, from the stage-set point of view. I’ve only been to one theatre performance in Malaysia, at the Istana Budaya, and I’m afraid we still have a long way to go. It ends near 10pm and walking out of the theatre, into the crowd of other theatre-goers, gives me a weird feeling of culturalness. Tsk tsk. Cheap thrills. Back to Carl’s place to pack for my journey to Bristol to see cousin Rozi.