Passing time in London

A retro-blog by Pat the Chooks
Sunday, 21st January 2007
Flew down today for a meeting tomorrow in London. Currently sitting in the George Inn, Borough High Street in Southwark, enjoying a pint of their own ale (brewed by Greene King) and the warmth of a hot radiator beside my leg.
Sunday night in London doesn’t feel like a weekday night – more places are closed, this pub’s not doing evening meals and the suburban trains aren’t running because of maintenance work on the lines.
With a lunchtime flight from Glasgow, and checking-in for the flight on-line, I didn’t have such an early start as I might have done usually, except that the roads in the village were covered with snow and ice from overnight showers. Very picterskew, but a sod to drive on. Decided to give myself an extra hour for the drive, but only took about five minutes longer than usual in the end. A lot of snow and slush on the road as far as Inveraray, but the roads after that were clear, even if the mountains were cloaked in snow coming through the Arrochar Alps.
I find checking-in on-line for the flight rather cool, actually. It’s a pleasure to avoid the check-in counters and just meander into the airport, get some food and toddle on to the plane when it arrives. Unfortunately, I didn’t print out the boarding pass for tomorrow’s flight back from Gatwick – I thought I had, but I’d just printed today’s twice.
Stopped off en route at Loch Fyne Oysters to get some goodies for my Aunt Liz who lives in south-east London and whom I hadn’t seen for several years. I found her in very good form and we swapped stories of family for an hour or so. Her assorted grandchildren are all astonishingly bright and getting good degrees from good universities. Nice to know I was adopted into a family with such brains. She liked the smoked salmon and Scottish cheese, so they’re definitely a good option for gifties in the future.
Public transport in London is a world away from Argyll. You see the weirdest-looking people, but here they seem to fit in so much better. A young man on the station at Lewisham was raging into his mobile phone to his girlfriend about some useless decks he’d been given when DJing a gig – he felt insulted and outraged because (a) this was his business, (b) he’d got a great set organised and (c) he was actually passionate about his art and he’d been let down. Now, never a fan of the mixing stylie thing, it was fascinating to eavesdrop on a man who clearly knew he was good and was building his business around his talent. Perhaps artistry is less about the medium and more about the application.
It’s still weird sitting in a smoky pub after nearly a year of Scotland being smoke-free. Somehow I feel that England will have to be dragged kicking and screaming come July 1st next year. On this point, I heard Tim Martin from J D Wetherspoon discussing the smoking ban and the effect on the licensed trade in Scotland. The interesting point he made was that, prior to the ban coming in, pubs were becoming the last refuge for smoking in public and that they had probably concentrated smokers up to the ban, with the consequence that it took a little time for the clientèle to adjust and re-balance after the ban came into force. At least, that was his view of the situation in Scotland and he anticipated much the same for the rest of the UK later this year.
Later …
Back to the hotel for supper. After all, they do serve food on a Sunday evening until nine o’clock. Well, not tonight. Back at quarter-to-eight to find the kitchen closed and the chef away because they’d “run sold all the food” – a surprising admission with only six people in the bar. So, off out again in search of something to eat. Fortunately, only a short walk from The Cut and the cluster of restaurants around the New Vic theatre. Several were open and I had a choice of Turkish, Indian (twice), Chinese, Sushi and (ef)Fish. Decided on the Spice of India where I had a fabulous prawn rezala and sag aloo. Also a wicked lime pickle and a coughing fit which drove me into the street to recover. Starter was a simple dal soup served with a slice of lemon in the bowl and a garnish of finely-chopped coriander and red chilli – simple, but very effective.
Back to the hotel to catch up with a chum down for the following-day’s meeting. Bar now thinning out from the earlier crowd of six people to just the two of us and the hotel decided to put cost before customers and close the bar at ten o’clock instead of half-past. Och well, early to bed on a Sunday night never hurt anyone, but it would be nice if the hotel delivered the services they’d promised only earlier that same evening.

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