I was going to save this for last but you may as well know right away. Kathryn and I have both found employment – with Foster and Partners and HMV, respectively. This is a good thing as the credit card was maxxed out we were down to our last $50 – which will almost buy you lunch in this town. Kathryn has been doing temp work this week at the UKCC. They wanted her to come back next week but since she has permanent employment they are going to have to find someone else.
Rewind to Monday
After my first interview with HMV I strolled down Bond St looking in stupidly expensive shops and wondering what to do with my day. I decided to take in a concert at St James’s – supposedly Christopher Wren’s favourite church – which was quite good. Well, for a £2 donation anyway.
As I have mentioned, I had previously been to the National Gallery to see the Rembrandt exhibition. I decided to see the rest of it now. It was free after all. What an amazing place! I spent two hours in the Sainsbury Wing (1260-1510) alone. I had never seen so many beautiful paintings before. I saw the Leonardo Cartoon (I can’t see what’s so funny) and Boticelli’s Venus and Mars. The portable CD guide is very good and was well worth the donation (I have found that all these ‘free’ attractions manage to swindle me out of as much money as the fee-charging ones). After the Sainsbury Wing there were a couple of other paintings I wanted to see before leaving: Pope Julius II by Raphael, Constable’s painting of Salisbury Cathedral from the meadow (not as good as the real thing) and Bronzino’s An Allegory with Venus and Cupid. This is my favourite painting. No print can do it justice. The colours are so bright and vivid. Closing my mouth with my hand I walked with sore feet to meet Kathryn.
After a $45 pizza (NEVER convert to AUD) we walked to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket to see the Importance of Being Earnest. It was a brilliant production and Patricia Routledge was perfect.
After days of hot weather and stinky tube rides, the weather suddenly turned cold and wet. Much better.
In search of coffee
There is a dearth of good coffee shops in London. In fact of all the cities I’ve been to (admittedly none in France or Italy) Adelaide is by far the best for coffee. I found a decent place in Soho one morning called Patisserie Valerie where I spent a pleasant half hour reading the Guardian and having a coffee and danish. Of course this cost me £5. Trust me, you’ve got it good in Rundle Street. PS. never go to Starbucks. They suck.
The biggest bookstore in Europe has just opened on Piccadilly. It is six stories high and has a lot of books duh). You could conceivable spend a whole day there. In fact if they didn’t shut you wouldn’t have to leave. You could have breakfast on the third floor, check your e-mail on the second floor, have lunch and dinner in the restaurant on floor 5, check your stocks via the internet (2nd floor) have a cocktail on the sixth floor at the bar before retiring to one of the many couches with a good book. It’s big.
Hamley’s is the biggest toy store in the world and is a place I could spend lots of money in on such things as radio controlled, petrol driven Subaru WRXs, model trains and Darth Maul costumes. It’s like Santa’s workshop, only warmer and without all the crappy wooden toys.
St James’s Park
Past St James’s Palace is his park. It is quite lovely. I imagine the Queen likes the view. On this day a light rain was falling and there weren’t many people about (can’t stand ’em). I don’t think I shall ever get bored of squirrels. They are so cute, the way they bound along, bushy tail twitching, then stop and sit up to have a look. As I was standing outside the cafe wondering if I wanted a coffe (no doubt bad) a squirrel scurried up to me and sat on my shoe. For a moment I thought he was going to climb up my inside leg, but then he scurried off again. So cute.
Papa bear this is Goldie Locks, come in please…
The Cabinet War Rooms are and amazing place. They are preserved the way they were left in 1945 and it is very atmospheric. I walked around with my mouth open as I saw the very maps Churchill used and such signatures in the guest book as Elizabeth R and George RI. There was the hotline to America that had encoding equipment so large and complex it had to be housed in Selfridges basement. It was a very enjoyable couple of hours. I was surprised and impressed to note the airconditioning puffing out cool air.
I made my way back to Oxford Circus by way of the Horse Guards Parade. The Queens Life Guard were always my favourite as a boy and I was pleased to see them patrolling with tall helmets and drawn swords gleaming. I tried not to look suspicious as I walked quickly by.
Old stagers confound stately home researchers
There was an article in the Guardian this week about Wilton House, a nice place I went to near Salisbury. Only in England could you have a bit of a spring clean and find a play by Ben Johnson and Inigo Jones written 370 years ago!
The Wallace Collection
I spent a couple of hours at the Wallace Collection, another ‘free’ attraction. Mr Wallace was certainly very fond of clocks and barometers, not to mention the paintings that covered every spare inch, although they were a bit romantic for my liking. The most interesting rooms were the arms and armoury collection. There is an astounding number and variety of deadly weapons and armour from around the world. Most impressive is the armoured knight on his fully armoured war horse. With his sword raised above his head he towers over you and is quite terrifying.
I decided to take a shortcut from the Wallace Collection and I ended up on Queen Anne St walking past the house Hector Berlioz stayed in in 1851, and JMW Turner’s old house. There were a number of other little blue plaques on houses and I suppose if I had the money I’d live on Queen St too.
Ok. I have got a job at HMV on Oxford Street selling CDs in the classical dept. Now to get paid I need two things: a National Insurance number and a bank account. Kathryn has both of these. She is lucky.
1) The DSS at Tavistock Square in the West End is a much friendlier place than the one at WHitechapel we went to for Kathryn, although the entrance still smelt like urine. Once there I discovered I needed an appointment and I was very lucky to get one for three days hence.
2,3,4,…)The rest of the day was one rejection after another. I tried every high street bank and none would give me an account. Citibank wouldn’t speak to me unless I earned over £20,000, Abbey National wouldn’t give me an account unless I had lived in the UK for 3 years, but most just wanted a utility bill in my name for my address – something I will never have. I think the motto of the London banks is “Trust no-one”.
More film work
While on my quest to find someone to take my money I was accosted in the street bny a man in a pin-stripe suit and a camera crew. He thrust a little award into my hand and told me to say thankyou. I mumbled thanks, at which he stopped the camera and told me to be more excited. Being the fool I am, I obliged. He then took the award away and went in search of new idiots to harrass. I have no idea what it was about.
What about Kathryn?
Ok. Kathryn has a job at Foster and Partners working as the Project Secretary for the McLaren Team. Yup F1. I’m hoping for some tickets to Silverstone. Foster and Partners is a major architectural firm. Headed by Sir Norman Foster they designed the new Hong Kong airport. Impressive, hey? She works in a huge modern building right on the river and right next to lovely Battersea Park. We are hoping to get a flat in the Battersea area.
On our way to Waterloo station to go to Salisbury we were entertained on the tube by a busker and a religious fanatic. They both got on at the same station and for a while I thought they might be a team, although I couldn’t see the funny side. It was only after the religious nut got off at the next stop that I realized he was for real. It was actually a little scary. He got on (the nutbag) and proceeded to shout at the top of his voice passages from the bible which he read from notes. He was of middle-eastern descent and had a crazed look in his bloodshot eyes. He looked like one of those men you see on CNN, riding a tank and firing an AK-47 in the air. The busker was quite good (once I could hear him) so I gave him some money. When they both got on and Saddam started his ranting, the busker shouted something like “Shut the F*** up, I’m trying to work here”.
Life is never dull in London.
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