Saturday, August 13, 2016

Maybe I should've stayed in bed

August 13 (the 13th!)

As most of you know, my life has basically been a pie chart of stupid decisions. You can add in a wedge for deciding to come to London in August instead of May: cloudy and chilly 80% of the time. It feels like I've gone back to March in Dallas. And I don't like March in Dallas. (I also dislike most of October, November, December, January, February, April and May in Dallas. June and September are iffy.)

Lou might be pleased with me for actually getting an Oyster card today--for the bus and subway. I actually took the bus from Queensway to Westminster Bridge, my original intention being to walk in from there to the Tower Bridge and Southwark Cathedral. Then I thought, Well, since I'm here at the pier where the boats leave from Greenwich, why don't I check that out instead? So I got a ticket for the boat, waited and waited and waited for the boat to come, then got on. Did you know the boat spends as much time stopping and letting people off as it does going downriver? I didn't. Finally I got too antsy and claustrophobic (you all know I can hardly sit still), so I got off the boat at the Tower Bridge stop (a waste of several pounds in ticket price) and said "Phooey!" So I'll probably never see Greenwich unless I go by train.

The Tower of London is rally really crowded, so if you want me to ever join the claustrophobic throng of tourists and go inside, you're going to have to come to London with me and go in with me or I'll pass out. I roamed around the outside of the Tower (after tea and croissant at Pret-a-Manger) and took some photos (posted at Facebook), and also took a look at a stretch of the remaining London wall, part of which goes back to Roman times and part of which is medieval. Aft crossing over the bridge (and taking a couple of photos) I wandered along the embankment toward Southwark Cathedral (pronounced something like suth-erk) and visited it, a large lovely Gothic structure with tombstones in the floor--which I always think is pretty cool. Coming out of the cathedral I wandered into Borough Market, where Lou said I might find a jacket potato (baked potato) for lunch, but I didn't. Instead I found a Sainsbury's grocery and bought some chips, ham, Coke and a copy of the International New York Times. I had my little picnic and some news reading in a park/playground on Little Dorrit Court.

Then began my second batch of unerring and sequential stupidity. Even with my map in hand for consultation I got repeatedly lost, trying to find my way back to the riverbank. I kept ending up farther and farther south, and the people I asked for help couldn't help enough because no street anywhere in London goes straight anywhere. Finally, with the help of a group of middle-aged women and, a few minutes later, a young man, I made it back to Westminster Bridge, a long way from where I intended to cross the river, but at least it was familiar territory. I was so heartily disgusted by this time all I wanted to do was get to Foyle's enormous bookstore, pee, and then look at books. Which I did. By this time the sun was beginning to be glimpsible from time to time, but it was still in the 60s, I'd guess. I finally bought a copy of Falling Awake, the new poetry collection by Alice Oswald (whom I first discovered in a London bookstore in 2010, I think).

Leaving Foyle's I went on the the "eastern" Marks & Spencer to get cash and to have an early supper of jacket potato and apple. I browsed some jewelry here, looking for a couple of gifts, and also at John Lewis, farther down the road, but didn't find anything that convinced me. (In England, by the way, it's jewellery.)

Finally! An appreciable amount of sunlight, and maybe the temperature soared up to 70 or 71. I was warm enough walking to take the windbreaker off! I'll never understand why May should be warmer and sunnier than August but that's my experience of London. Maybe this coming week will show me something better. It was pleasant enough that I stopped a couple of times to read or draw as I walked through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

And for those of you who may be confused by my lack of enjoyment of cool temperatures in August, let's be clear: I hate to be cold. I'm skinny. I'm cold a lot. I don't really even like air conditioning much. There are, at best, ten or twelve weeks a year, even in Texas, when I can reasonably expect to be warm every day and maybe even see more sun than cloud. I spend the rest of the year wondering two things: 1) will I ever be warm again? and 2) do I really have to live through another nine months of sunless cold?

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