Would it be as good as we’d hoped? A gift of experience/adventure. Not quite an Aston Martin around Silverstone. More your Blenheim. Last minute hitch as older brother needed to get his heart back in rhythm, which he did without help from the medics. Kings Cross by lunchtime, first stop The Masons Arms. A traditional city boozer with a barmaid who wasn’t. Rather, she was tall, slim, graceful, pleasant, efficient, and coffee-coloured. As we stood she said “Are you going?” What had we done? We’d paid. Steve’d tidied away the menu. What could we be guilty of? “You’ve left your glasses.” Relief and smiles all round. A small glimpse of several simultaneous cultural mixups. Young v. not so young; certainty and confidence v. making wrong assumptions based on a lifetime of cock-ups; London smooth v. Northern edge.
Next mistake, not having a map. Sandwich in rainy Regent’s Park. No wi-fi signal. I know the general direction and a violin player at the Royal Academy has satnav. No worries. The traffic is nose-to-tail. A tickle in the back of the throat. Mind your back. Finally, a no-frills hotel next to Marylebone Station. The one concession to luxury was a bottle-opener, heavily screwed into the side of the bedside furniture.
Let’s go for a walk on the canal? My rather pathetic way of having a good time. This is a top canal - no scummy film on the water, no floating bodies, no traffic cones or plastic bags and bottles, no alcoholics or drug addicts. It is overlooked by several imposing seemingly empty residences, each of which would look perfect in a country park. Presumably one of them used to own the canal as well. Nearby is the American Embassy complete with policeman and conspicuous firearm. Little Venice was empty water, just a bit bigger than a big cricket oval. You cannot moor. There was I expecting a buzz of cafes and bars and street entertainment. What a plonker. The nearest lively and popular spot, under a flyover, charged me £6 for a pint of Stella. We mined the back streets for normal prices and found one with a Thai menu, a loud juke box and a mosh pit next to the bar. Whatever. Two corporates picked us up. Yes, we’ve had some great days at Lord’s. One with Thommo who turned up in casual clothes - what a character. “That’s an expensive camera”, when I asked for a portrait. The book was mentioned followed by a short tutorial on selling and marketing. Not sure cricket was discussed. The chicken-fried rice was excellent. I fell asleep watching Chelsea on TV, nearly falling off my barstool.
Coffee for breakfast on Marylebone Station. A rare chance to talk and listen. We arranged our pills on the table, made sure we knew where the toilets were and racked our brains as to what we’d done the previous evening. Then to Lord’s which was brilliant in the autumn sun. Its third site, last move brought about by the building of Regent’s Canal (1812-1820). What a tussle that must have been. Thomas Lord was a wine merchant who ran the club on behalf of its members, back in the late 18th century (opened 1787). Despite being a private club, during the late 19th and throughout the 20th century, it ran the global game. It still has copyright over the laws, but no longer picks the English Test team (now ECB) or decides what happens generally (now ICC). Too much to cram in. There was The Urn that contains The Ashes (courtesy of Ivo Bligh), the media centre which is actually a boat and the changing rooms with their honours boards. Best were The Long Room and The Committee Room. Neither of us care about the rich and how they spend their money, but there is a passion about history. Jardine’s bodyline tour of Australia became a diplomatic incident, only calming down after the start of WW2. The MCC made Larwood’s future Test selection conditional on him formally apologising to Australia, despite, he claimed, that he was only following orders. He didn’t and wasn’t. Then1968 and the everest-sized hypocrisy surrounding D’Olivera. Finally giving the TV rights to Sky. These guys do take the biscuit. The tour was great. The guide was a buffer, but didn’t take himself too seriously.
Then to the library to hand over my book for posterity. And a pint in The Tavern which had nothing to do with cricket or taverns. What do you do until your train? Museums and galleries maybe? No. Lunch in The Nag’s Head, Covent Garden, where we met two ex-pats, visiting from Australia. A walk round the street entertainment and a coffee. Quick peak in the Opera House. As I’d hoped. Just the best way to spend time.
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