Manfriend

It’s nice to have people to hang out with in foreign cities. Earlier I met up with Fenny again. I first met him on Monday and – like those interweb stranger danger guides recommend – we met in a well lit public place. But then we went to a cool Japanese restaurant and had noodles and beer. But tonight we walked around the nearby streets, and did a walk-by on Buckingham Palace. Fenny is very cool and he did not sexx0r me, despite rumours to the contrary. Photographic evidence is forthcoming.

Then I (eventually) met up with Ani, the well-travelled divorcee and Nick her special interweb manfriend. It just happens that we were both in London at the same time so we managed to meet up and had a drink at a gay bar.

Tomorrow I will have the pleasure of spending 24 hours on an aeroplane (yeah, yeah, yeah, it sucks, etc). But I’ll deal with it. I have my Walkman and my Girls Aloud CD.

Gay pillow guy

I went to the British Museum and saw Mr Wellcome’s collection of miscellaneous assorted old crap. It was interesting. There was an ancient Roman statue that was a horses back legs and tail, but with a penis at the front. Then I saw the Rosetta stone, a couple of mummies, then I realised that I was actually quite bored. Oh no, museum fatigue!

Then I got a bit lost and ended up in Islington, but managed to find my way to St Paul’s Cathedral. I walked up the 500+ steps to the top and enjoyed the panoramic views of London, etc, etc.

While I was having lunch in the cathedral’s cafe, a German boy, probably about 13 years old, said to me “Can you help me. I am very horny.” All the cool things I could have said (“OMG, me too!!!!!”) soon disappeared and I ended up saying “Oh… I don’t really know what to say.” Urgh, how English. Then his mother came and sat down next to me and I kept looking at him and get was getting all nervous and twitchy. Ah ha ha!

I need a few more days in warm ‘n’ sunny London, but I have to go back to cold and miserable New Zealand tomorrow. Twenty four hour flight, grrr, etc.

Class

I visited the Tower of London. It was just like a Paddington Bear story I remember reading when I was a wee girl. A Beefeater gave a guided tour and made lots of sexist, but funny jokes.

I saw the crown jewels (ooh!). There’s a conveyer belt that runs along the cases so it keeps the line moving. It’s like Disneyland, except with millions of dollars worth of jewels. It would have been cool if there had been animated heads of former (and present) monarchs wearing their jewels and saying a bit about it. “Hellay. We are the Queen Mother. We like drinking gin. Burp. Ooh!” Yeah, that’d rule. I can’t understand why they don’t do that…

Then I went to the Tower Bridge. It’s an interesting building in that on the inside it’s all steel and hydraulics, finest Victorian technology, but the two towers were clad in gothic styled stone to give it a royale look, fitting in with the near by Tower of London.

Walking back I passed through Leicester Square and saw a growing crowd gathering behind barriers outside a movie theatre. The “Charlie’s Angels” premiere is tonight. I would hang around, but I’m going to see a play (“Hitchcock Blonde”) instead. Besides, it would hardly top the time when my mother was living in London and she saw the stars arriving for the “Goldfinger” premiere. Shirley Bassey had painted one finger gold, and she was waving it at the crowd. Now that’s claaaas.

El listo

Three things that suck about my hotel:

1. Having a housekeeper person knocking on my door at 8.30 am asking me if I want my room made up. Well I do, but I’d rather have it done when I’ve gone out for the day, not while I’m in the middle of getting up.

2. No hand soap. I’ve asked and they won’t give me any. That’s bullshit, man. So I went to the toilet across the hall and filled up my Burger King drink cup with liquid soap.

3. Someone stole my euro cents! I put a handful of euro cents on the ledge above the sink and sometime in the last two days someone has taken those euros. Like, it would have only been about 20 cents worth, but still, someone stole them!

But apart from that, it’s an ok hotel.

Ok, now I will visit teh Tower.

Groovy

I went to Harrods. It was full of stuff I don’t want selling at prices I can’t afford. It was also packed with people searching for bargains. It’s bloody scary when an item is discounted by £100 and it’s still expensive. The women’s shoes and accessories section was on the verge of turning into a riot. Only a few well placed security guards kept things vaguely under control.

That was pretty boring, so I walked around to Oxford Street, which is full of big shops. I heart Selfridges. I went to this organic beauty place and had a 30 minute facial treatment. It was so nice and I think I needed it because travelling has been making my skin go mental. I visited the Oxford Circus Top Shop. It claims to be the biggest fashion shop in the world, and that’s probably right. It’s huge and possibly as exciting as a circus.

I accidentally walked down Carnaby Street. It’s really ordinary, just a street filled with top end clothing chain stores. Not a pair of false eyelashes in sight.

Art

First I made my way across the Thames and went on the London Eye/Millennium Wheel. When I was heading to the line to buy the £11 ticket, two old ladies stopped me and asked if I wanted one ticket because they had a spare. “You can have this for half price… or free.” In retrospect, I should have given her £7.50, but it was so sudden and unexpected that I just said thanks and took the ticket.

As a karma payback of sorts, the Wheel was rather boring. It’s almost like when you’ve seen one large city from a height, you’ve seen them all. But this at least had the attraction of being in a giant Ferris wheel. Though I was stuck up there as the wheel made its 30 minute rotation which such people as the man who video taped his family queuing and the lady with the big arse who always seemed to stand right in front of me where I was sitting.

Next I went to the Saatchi gallery. OMG HAWT. It was so excellent. I’m totally enamoured with the work of Damien Hirst. I used to think that the animal parts in formaldehyde were just silly “my five-year-old could do better” kind of pseudo art, but actually seeing it up close is bloody impressive. Seeing a cow sliced up and preserved in tanks of formaldehyde does made sense. The [thing] I liked the best was a room filled with used motor oil. There was a metal passage leading to the centre of the room. Walking in there meant being surrounded with a perfectly smooth, almost mirror-like reflection of the half of the room above the oil. It was beautiful.

Then I toodled along the Thames to the Tate Modern gallery. I made a £2 donation to make up for the Wheel freebie. The Tate’M was full of so much good art. I really liked one Jackson Pollack painting (“Summertime”, I think). There is a room dedicated to The Bricks, three groups of bricks by [an American artist] (They have a proper name, I just can’t remember it). When it was purchased for £6000 in 1976 it caused a furore because it’s just a pile of bricks. So along one wall was a selection of press clippings, a timeline, cartoons and other things relating to the public reaction to the bricks. I stood against a wall and while I was listening to the audio guide I watched people entering that room. Most people glanced at the bricks then spent a bit more time looking at the information display. Hardly anyone spent more than a few seconds looking at the bricks. After I looked at the bricks for a while they started to look like pebbles in a stream. Therefore, I am superior to the general public.

London still sucks, but I’m worming my way in.

Everything is related.

I found a piece of newspaper screwed up in the bottom of my bag. I’d ripped it out of the Sunday Star-Times’ travel section when I was waiting at the Hair Event. On it there was a picture of the tower that houses Big Ben. Next to it, the caption reads “Big Ben, just one of several historic buildings in London.”

Apart from the fact that Big Ben is the bell, not the building (as every good pedant knows), the way the caption suggests that London has “several” historic buildings is quite astounding. Hamilton has “several” historic buildings. Gore probably has “several” historic buildings. It’s not like in London there’s Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St Pauls, Parliament and – oh, that’s all there is. Everything else has been knocked down and replaced with cheap office buildings and Starbucks.

I stole the “as every good pedant knows” line from a book I’ve just read called “Do not pass go” by Tim Moore. It’s a personal exploration of all the streets and locations around London that feature on the British Monopoly board. He manages to skilfully combine historical facts, personal history and tales of his adventures.

Alert readers will recall my musings on 31/01/03 about the time when cigarettes were popular and socially acceptable, but before we knew how unhealthy they were. During his visit to Pall Mall, he discusses the history of tobacco and that part of London, and notes:

“It’s probably unhelpful to speak of a golden age of smoking, but in the thirties the pastime certainly reached its browny-yellow London zenith… In the thirties Britain had the world’s highest incidence of lung cancer, and by the war seven out of ten men and a third of all women smoked.”

It’s also interesting to note that the Phillip Morris tobacco company named one of its products after a Monopoly Street. Yes, in honour of their factory on Marlborough Street, the company brought out a new cigarette named Marlboro.

Eventually a roll of the dice will lead us to Trafalgar Square. I like the word Trafalgar. It’s as satisfying as Manhattan. Auckland almost had a giant roundabout called Trafalgar Circus. New Zealand’s first surveyor-general, Felton Mathew, had drawn up a plan for the city streets. Part of it involved the Trafalgar Circus roundabout thing being build kind of near the northern end of Albert Park.

Now, this is cool. Like the Octagon in Dunedin it’s an example of a big and interestingly shaped road feature. But the thing that Felton Mathew seemed to forget as he sat at his desk drawing circles with his protractor is that the land he was working with was really hilly. As far as I can tell, the only part of this that ever eventuated was a quarter of the inner circle, which is the part of Kitchener Street that goes along side the Northern Club – and that’s a really freaky steep street. Continuing on from that is Waterloo Quadrant, which has the planned name of one of the quarters of Trafalgar Circus, but has ended up being a straight road.

(I swear, I have no idea how I know all this.)

There’s a Trafalgar Street in Onehunga. I went there today. There’s a mural that proclaims “Onehunga – Something old, something new”. And that’s really what it’s like. There’s the giant outlet mall, and there’s the Hard To Find bookshop, both co-existing amid the tiles and murals.