It’s the week before my birthday and I’m entering the last year of my forties. As if to make a statement, I get up early and walk to Trust Ford to book my car in for its MOT. perhaps I should have and MOT too. It’s usually quicker to walk but this morning there is less traffic and even the buses are running past me. I arrive out of breath.
I get back home in time to gather my books and set off for the Barbican. It feels warmer than I expected. Not too bad for November. I arrive early for the train. My friend phoned as I was parking in a side street. Now, while I have twenty minutes to pass, I can’t get her on the line. Funny how we say that. On the line. I’m on my mobile. The train is quiet as we pull away. My friend phones. We chat. I’m conscious of others listening and try to get my lips closer to the mouthpiece; not that mobile has one. We are just getting to a good bit when Liverpool Street looms and the prospect of disappearing under tunnels cuts us off.
I buy a cup of tea and ascend the stairs to the High Walk. A well spoken bag lady shares her opinion of the stairs in some rather choice words. As I puff my way up, I’m tending to agree with her. I sit down by a square pond avoiding a net and some wellingtons which have been left on a seat. It spits with rain. I revise my opinion of the weather with my friend who has phoned back. Tea break over, I make my way into the Library. I’m carrying Joan Littlewood biography which is so large you could go rafting on it.
The Library is quiet. I’m a little later and the Buggy Brigade has departed. I choose a few books on Mindfulness and detoxing. Then I stumble upon a book on Farce by Brian Rix. I was only a few months ago that Lord Rix died. My parents met him many years ago when the Revue group they ran went to one of his shows. Not only did they meet him, but he agreed to be the patron of the group and regularly sent messages of encouragement. I thought it time to read up a little more about his time in the theatre. Its while I’m by the ballet section I feel my phone buzz. Its Dad leaving a message to phone mum. Her mobile has no screen so she finds it hard to dial out. Yes, the stuff of farce. We speak in hushed tones in the theatre section as far from people as possible. She’s forgotten I’m on my trip out.
As I leave the centre, the weather has taken a turn for the worse. I’m in a cloth coat with no umbrella. I walk back around the centre following the covered walkways and end up at London Wall. I pass the remains of St Albans, Wood Street. This church tower in the middle of the road is all that is left after bombing in World War two. Apparently it is now a private house. Right opposite the Police Station.
The rain is making my coat smell of a wet dog. I find a bus stop in Cheapside and queue for a 252. There’s a lot of deciding who goes next to get on. The bus is full. I’ve not been on this route before. I’m hoping I’ll get to Tottenham Court Road. People are smugly walking past with umbrellas. How did they know it was going to rain when I didn’t. I’m using an app to follow my bus journey and its saying it will take 27 minutes to travel seven stops. I’m thinking that’s must be a mistake. The bus moves on in to High Holborn. then grinds to a halt. We inch our way in a queue of traffic until, eventually, the announcement comes that “This bus terminates here” We have arrived at St Giles which is as near to Tottenham Court Road as it get.
I get off and walk toward Cambridge Circus. The traffic is angry. Lots of hooting and frustration. It would be quicker to walk if the rain stopped. I enter McDonalds and exchange a voucher for a meal. Its worth complaining sometimes to get sent a voucher. I find a table and squeeze my way in between two other people. It’s very cosy. Just as I’m finishing a group of school girls get up to leave a nearby table. One girl has got her shoe stuck in the legs of the chair. She takes her shoe off so she can pull it out from the small gap she’s squeezed it in to. Her friends are in Hysterics. I’m trying to not laugh but it’s not easy.
When I get out, it is still raining lightly. Enough to soak you after a while. I spot this sign. It’s as though everyone is laughing at my lack of a brolly. Foyles had a soaking of its own recently when a burst water main flooded the store. It has a slightly damp smell when I enter today and the basement floor looks very clean. I browse the books but my heart is not in it. London looks drab today. You can see why Christmas was invented. We need a bit of “lights and glitter” to cheer the place up. I dash along Charing Cross Road, dicing with death across Oxford Street and into Tottenham Court Road. This has been spruced up lately and each time I’m here, something has changed. I do a quick shop in Sainsburys and then carry along.
At Goodge Street, and old lady passes me sporting the biggest pair of earphones I’ve ever seen. I thought they were earmuffs at first. She is carrying a cloth bag with Wigmore Hall written boldly across it. I’m imagining her to be listening to a Piano Sonata or Song without words rather than the latest rap. She certainly looks in a world of her own. I enter Waterstones in Torrington Place. Why I think this will inspire me more than Folyles I don’t know. I’m Cold and Wet. I pass a fourth oriental man wearing the same blue suede loafers without socks. It’s either a fashion statement that’s yet to come our way or someone has a job lot of the back of a lorry and they’re hawking them round Chinese restaurants.
I’m deciding I’ll get on the tube at Warren Street. I don’t walk along the top of Tottenham Court Road very often. I pass the Cost which has had a trendy makeover and now sells Hand Crafted food. Looks like the sandwiches are in a different box. It’s still full of students nursing the same cup of tea. Further along I pass Mantovani 1946. I’m thinking this might be where he came when he wasn’t playing his Violin. But sadly no. It looks like a franchise. On a corner, another building has been demolished. An NHS poster has a big face of a woman advertising the now building. Her eyes seem to follow and the look is as if to say “Look at that man who’d come out in a cloth coat and no umbrella”
Warren Street station is more Brash. I prefer Goodge Street where they play classical music as you wait for the lifts. Here you make you way down endless escalators. The rain is dripping from my fringe now. On the platform, I walk to the front of the train only to find the train coming from the other end and I’m at the back. My train takes me to Seven Sisters where I catch my Enfield Train home. Its been a day of wet and queues. I’ll be glad to get in.