Leaving our hotel for the third time today, I made my way to the Sloane Squaretube station and topped up my Royal Wedding Oyster Card before getting on the District Line to Victoria Station. I changed to the Victoria Line and rode that up to Green Park, where I exited the tube station to find myself in the Park, bathed in glorious sunshine as I surveyed the rows of sunbathers in their blue and white striped rental chairs. I, you may recall, was wearing fur topped boots, whilst all around me people were stripped down to the barest minimum of clothing as they enjoyed the sunshine. “Look!” I told myself, “A British park!” I walked the short distance to the path that runs behind Spencer House from the Mall up to Piccadilly and took that up to the street. I looked down to the left to where Apsley House stands. A mere four blocks away (approximately). Home! At long last!
I was beginning to feel a tad tired and so decided to do Hatchard’s, followed by Café Nero, before strolling down to No. 1. Oh, Hatchard’s. Someone should write an ode to this bookshop. Someone probably has, as there’s much to wax lyrical about. On this particular day, the thing I most appreciated about Hatchard’s were the chairs they had scattered about. After finding the latest title in the 44 Scotland Streetseries, I carried the book over to a chair and took the weight off my aching feet. Sitting there was like Heaven. Hatchard’s was Heaven. Bertie’s latest adventure was Heaven. Being in Londonwas Heaven. The only drawbacks were that my feet were absolutely killing me and I was beginning to feel rotten. Really rotten. Tired and achy and hot.
“Look! You’re in London! At Hatchard’s! Just down the street from Apsley House!”
“What!? Blasphemy! Hello? London. When a man is tired of London, a man . . . . . “
“Do shut up.”
“Maybe you should have a coffee. Café Nero is just next door in St. James’s churchyard.”
“Yes, I know where it is. This is not my first rodeo, thank you. I have been there before. Once or twice. At the very least. Thank you. Ever so much. Have you any further nuggets of redundant information you feel compelled to share with me or may we simply repair now to the spot in question?”
“Well, excuse mefor breathing.”
One knows that one is not feeling at one’s best when one can’t even summon the courtesy to be civil to oneself.
I fought my way out of the chair and onto my feet. Sitting down had been a bad idea. A truly terrible idea, as now my feet positively screamed with every step I took. I hobbled over to the check-out desk and paid for my book, feeling slightly cheated when the clerk thanked me for my purchase in an American accent.
Using what felt like the last of my reserves, I found my way into the churchyard, through the market and to Café Nero, where I ordered a coffee and a raspberry muffin. Taking these outside, I sat at a table, cracked my book open and sipped my coffee. Thank God for small mercies.
“I don’t know . . . . you should be a lot happier right now. I mean you’re in London. On Piccadilly. Having a coffee from Café Nero. Down the road from Apsley House. Within crawling distance of Fortnum and Mason and the Burlington Arcade. Brummell’s statue, even.”
“You’re right,” I agreed with myself. “I knowyou’re right, but somehow I can’t summon even a scrap of enthusiasm for any of it. To be honest with you, I don’t know if I’ve got the wherewithal left to get ourselves back to Sloane Squareon the tube. It suddenly all seems too much.”
“Hold on . . . . does this mean we’re not going to Apsley House?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“What? Am I hearing this right? We’re finally here, it’s just down there, and yet we’re not going? Is that what I’m hearing?”
“I can honestly say that I shouldn’t enjoy it if we did, strange as it is to hear myself say that. I might be able to summon up some enthusiasm for the place if, say, you were to tell me that the Duke of Wellington was there, waiting to greet us. The first Duke, mind. Otherwise, I have no wish to take the chance of embarrassing myself by passing out cold in the Piccadilly Drawing Room. Not that I’d actually be able to climb the stairs to the first floor.” So me and myself sat reading for a bit longer whilst we finished our coffee, people watching from the comfort of my chair. At last, I dragged my way out of the churchyard and along Piccadilly, sparing not a glance at the glorious window displays at Fortnums nor the merest peek at the Burlington Arcade. My eyes were fixed upon the Green Park tube station as I prayed I had enough gas left to find my way back to Sloane Square.
If I got out at Victoria Station, I’d be able to secure myself some Coke and so be able to make myself a rum and same once back in our hotel room. However, that would entail my climbing many steps out of the tube, through the Station proper to the nearest shop and then doing it all in reverse order to board the train again. It was simply beyond me. Besides, I honestly felt myself too tired to be bothered with drinking the demon rum. The situation was dire, indeed.
Thank God (and I say that sincerely) our room was ready by the time I returned to the hotel. I carried the bag with my laptop in it to the room myself, leaving Big read and my other bag for the staff to bring up.
It must be said that I’ve stolen the photo above off the internet and this is not exactly what our room looked like – we had twin beds, but the rest is fairly spot on. We had a window just like this one, overlooking Sloane Square. I got out my book, pulled off my boots and sank gratefully onto the bed. Then I sat bolt upright. I had two hours before Victoria arrived at the hotel. If I lay on the bed, I would surely fall asleep. I could have sworn that I’d slept on the flight over to England, but you couldn’t have proven it by me. I felt exhausted. If I fell asleep now, I’d be out like a light. And up again in just two hours. I’d only feel worse by the time Victoria arrived. Oh, how the two of us had looked forward to our meeting – finally – in Sloane Square. I couldn’t screw this up. I had to be awake, at the very least. So I pulled the desk chair over to the window and sat bolt upright upon it. Then I began to giggle. I was sitting in a London bow window, surveying the scene before me a la Brummell, my feet sore, my body beyond tired and my mind, obviously, deranged. I definitely should have stopped for Coke. I already had the rum. I’d packed a bottle of it in my suitcase. Which, come to think of it, may have gone some way towards the overage in the weight of my luggage.
Reader, you’ll understand that as far as I was concerned, Victoria couldn’t arrive soon enough.
Part Three Coming Soon!