London, United Kingdom
I was up and out by the crack of midday to meet Elizabeth near her new workplace for lunch amongst the suits of the Bank district. We discussed the Penske file at great length just so we weren’t outed as fakes as we took our time over our organic, vegetarian shepard’s pie. By the time we finished, we had that Penske file finalised and shipped off!
Back on the street, I was so amused by a sign for a small cafe boasting of their Australian trained baristas, that I had to go in. The queue was out the door and for good reason, the coffee was great! I have to admit, it delighted me to see a bit of back flow in the cultural stream especially in such a round about way. There’s no doubt that we antipodeans take our coffee seriously to the point that there’s more pride these days in being a barista rather than a barrister (curse those 5 coffee-fuelled years getting my law degree – I should have just studied the coffee!). But I think we have to acknowledge that our coffee drinking style is Italian in origin and no doubt a result of post war immigration to our sunny shores. Over the years we’ve managed to complicate and make pretentious that which is still so simple and straight forward in Italy and yet London is importing it from us when it’s practically been on their doorstep for years before they even contemplated invading the great southern lands. Having almost circumnavigated the globe myself in recent months, I can tell you that there is a Flat White* revolution going on and it won’t be stopped!
I meandered through the streets of Old London town and popped into another Trailfinders to see if there was an update on travel advice for Thailand and how I might divide my time if I’m still able to go. At this stage, Bangkok is still open for business as is the north and the south but the centre is sadly still suffering. Her advice, get a raincoat!
With that in mind, I headed towards St Paul’s Cathedral to find a travel shop in its shadow. My choice was limited to super expensive professional explorer gear or bargain basement sales scraps. No prizes for guessing which I chose for my potentially not-going-to-happen three week trip! The only thing left in my size was a mega pink floral number. I don’t know what possessed me but I bought it knowing there is no way in hell I will ever wear this thing! I tried squinting my eyes and telling myself it’s kinda cute but no, it’s undeniably and irrevocably ugly and I ain’t wearing it! I’d rather be soaked to the bone!
In the more immediate shadow of St Paul’s cathedral, I had a walk in and around the tent city that is still going strong in support of the Occupy movement protesting social and economic inequality. I was at once heartened by peoples proactive involvement and ashamed at having not lent my own voice in any meaningful way. The least I could have done was donate my new raincoat – why didn’t I think of that? I suppose they’re suffering enough.
I jumped on a tube across town to meet Erin for night of high entertainment. We started in a pub at Seven Dials in Covent Garden where we negotiated a music swap before moving down the street to Kopapa for a delicious dinner and bottle of Malbec. Sufficiently sedated, we continued down the block to St Martins Theatre to see London’s longest running show, Agatha Christies The Mousetrap. We took up our seats in the upper balcony where we had unobstructed views of all the empty seats below. During the intermission we gave ourselves and upgrade for the second half of the performance which, though compelling, I struggled to keep my eyes open throughout, the Malbec working its wonders. But I stayed awake and enjoyed the show. I’d tell you how it ended but we were sworn to secrecy in the same way audiences have been for the past 60 years!
The cool night air revived us and we headed from London’s longest running show to its oldest wine bar – Gordons down by Charing Cross station. In all my years in London, this place had stayed under my radar until Dan pointed it out the other day. I didn’t think I’d get the chance to go so when Erin mentioned the exact same place, we made a bee line for it. Inside it was candlelit and cavernous with people crammed into every corner. We found a place to perch with another bottle of Malbec until we were able to nab a couple of seats under its ancient arches. It was very cool. We stayed until closing time. This isn’t my last goodbye with Erin but like the people back at St Pauls, it’s getting in-tents (get it, in-tents/intense – see what I did there?! Ah, I kill me!)
*For the uninitiated, a flat white is basically a latte with slightly less milk. In a takeaway coffee cup, it’s the same thing. It originated in either Australia or New Zealand – this issue is hotly contested so let’s just say it’s ‘antipodean’.