Time for the second part of my English odyssey!
To my amazement, we arrived early and customs was a breeze. I was met by a cheerfully efficient driver who took my suitcase and trotted off toward the car. I had gone maybe a quarter of the way across the parking lot when I realised that I was breathing like a winded nag. The driver, OTH, who was quite overweight, a good 15 years older than me, and dragging my heavy suitcase, was rapidly pulling away.
Oh my God, I thought, I can't keep up with that chubby little man pulling my case. I probably have a blood clot! I'm going to drop dead in Heathrow parking lot-- I wonder if my travel insurance will pay for shipping my body home.
Fortunately, my sensible side quickly reasserted itself. “You don't have a blood clot, you daft cow. You have 3 hours of a screaming brat on top of very little sleep. Man up and get your ass in the damned car.” And that's what I did.
On my first night in town, I had dinner with MS, SS, and their adorable daughter Jessica, who appeared to enjoy the puppet princess I brought her. It was fortunate for me that she accompanied her parents as I read the sign that said “ look left,” promptly “looked right” and would have walked into traffic if Jessica had not grabbed my hand and stopped me.
Auntie arrived bright and early the next day and we went off to the V&A for a look at whatever we could set our greedy eyes on in the brief time that we had – alas, there is never enough time to do the V&A properly. I had to be physically restrained from hieing off into the textiles collection, never to be heard from again.
We are with this tour group and after the V&A, we had our first dinner with the group. Everyone seemed very nice and they were all chatting politely about other trips they had taken with the tour company. I, of course, have never taken any sort of tour before and I found myself a bit lost for words to describe the kind of holidays I have enjoyed in the past.
I will pick a hotel in a place that I want to go and sort of stick there for a while,” I said.
But what do you DO?” someone asked.
Well ... I can't say exactly ... I look at whatever is around the place that I've chosen. Like with my trip to London – I called it 'shacking up at the Savoy--'” I meant to go on and say that I stayed at the Savoy and went to see everything in easy reach of the hotel. I wanted to know what it was like to be right THERE. That was the point of the trip. But I never got that far because when I uttered the words 'shacking up at the Savoy' there was a collective gasp – as if I had claimed to be shacking up with Harry Potter or something!
The tour guide said something witty about Winston Churchill liking to shack up at the Savoy but, with the exception of Auntie, who knows how awful I am, all the other ladies in the group looked absolutely scandalized. I tried to appear mortified, but I admit that I was secretly delighted – as long as Auntie wasn't offended, then being a bit scandalous is right up my alley.
The next day we visited Kenwood House and Hampstead Heath, and then, joy of joys, we scored tickets for Spamalot. We were packed like sardines on the tube, but it was well worth it. The performance was brilliant!
Yesterday we went to Flatford Mill, and stopped off for evensong in Norwich Cathedral. They had a bunch of visiting bishops on-hand in preparation for the Lambeth conference, which is happening this week. There was supposed to be free tea for everyone afterwards, but it's just as well I had my tea beforehand because I was ejected from evensong on a mobile phone violation – and it wasn't even my phone!
What happened was that I don't have a mobile that works in the UK, so I had given Auntie's number to DH. I was supposed to remind Auntie to turn off that phone before we went into the church. She forgot and I forgot and naturally, DH chose a moment about 1/3 of the way into the service to ring. Auntie dug in her bag for the phone and it took nearly 4 rings for her to get it. It looked like she was having trouble making sure it was off, so I asked if she wanted me to take it away and make sure it was off. She handed it to me, so I slipped out toward the aisle, intending to simply take a side chair, while I examined the phone closely to be sure it was completely off. Suddenly, it began chirping to indicate there was voice mail, and then, while I was trying to shut it down the rest of the way, the damned thing started ringing again – except it doesn't ring; it plays a song. A nearby usher opened the door and said, “Would you like to go outside? PLEASE!” It was not a question.
I went outside – the call was from DH, so I waited out the rest of the service chatting in the arcade. I could still hear the singing although I fear I missed the immortal words of the Bishops of ... somewhere, and ... somewhere else. Oh well. The lawns were pretty.
I am now at The Dales Hotel in Sheringham. Today we checked out the beach at Sheringham; we rode the steam train to Cromer; we looked at the shops at Holt; we went to see the seals at Blakeney Point; we did other things too numerous to mention. I am completely and utterly exhausted. Tomorrow I am off to Nottingham via Norwich.