I’m a dedicated and sometimes not very subtle eavesdropper. When we were travelling on the London Tube a few weeks back, two hipster types were sitting opposite chatting away. Naturally, I listened in.
‘Called the doctor today to get my hands on some Champix. I really need to quit the fags. He asked me if I felt suicidal which I thought was a bit odd. I said no. I’d already had a G and T so I was feeling prettygood. Then he asked me if I felt positive about the future. I laughed. I said as we’re in the middle of a pandemic, with Brexit, more austerity and mass unemployment ahead, I found it hard to be positive. Fair enough, he replied.
I should be getting my pills soon. So, depending on how well I cope with the pandemic, Brexit, more austerity and mass unemployment, I should be smoke-free by 30!’
The tail end of August saw us in old London Town to commemorate what would have been the 59th birthday of an old friend who died unexpectedly in January this year. It was our first trip to the Smoke since lockdown and we were understandably anxious. It’s only about 100 miles from here to there but it might as well be another country.
The shiny new train wasn’t busy. We almost had the carriage to ourselves and most passengers complied with the ‘new normal’ – face mask-wise. Booking into a hotel for a couple of nights gave us the chance to test the waters. We rode the Tube and drank in familiar Soho haunts. It was fine.
The early August heatwave gave us hope that we might have a picnic in St James’s Park – a fun and fabulous tradition developed over many years – but, alas, the weather turned blustery so we made do with a restaurant as ‘Storm Clive’ passed overhead. We came together under the shadow of Eros on Piccadilly Circus – except of course, it’s actually a statue of Eros’ less well-known sibling, Anteros, but everyone calls it Eros anyway.
I can’t share any images of the actual birthday bash. Some of the assembled are social media shy and don’t want their images online. And who can blame them? Suffice it to say it was a joyous occasion – old friends talking old times through a jolly, drunken haze. And Clive was there in spirit.
As the sun sets on the Friendly Games (bring on the Paralympics), I bring you an accidental guest post from an ancient friend and co-host of the Olympic Opening Ceremony knees-up we attended. It’s accidental because it’s actually an email he sent to the good, the gobby and the inebriated who graced the penthouse pad party and emptied his wine cellar.
Hit it Ian…
Following on from the AMAZING opening, this last week just seems to have transformed London from the mildly aggressive and pushy city we all know and usually love, into something rather special. Just wanted to share some of my ‘all warm inside’ moments of this historic week.
One was my fairly usual 9am-ish District Line ride to work. Alongside the 2012 tracksuit wearing larger men and womenfolk who look like they could only win Gold in a pasty eating competition, 2 Austrian Olympians joined the carriage at Mile End in their matching white tracksuits complete with Austrian team logo and dangling Olympic passes. A young lad in his twenties and an older (well mid-thirties) tall guy with cropped hair (very Teutonic). As I glanced up from my Metro (could that paper be any duller?) the young lad had his arm around cropped hair and when they looked into each others eyes, they had that look that only people in the honeymoon period of a relationship have – a mix of lust, anticipation & hope. Of course no-one batted an eyelid in the carriage, and it was as normal as delays on the Central line..I bet they didn’t do that in Beijing.
Another transport trip earlier in the week saw us sharing a Docklands train with a mass of nationalities returning from the Greenwich Park Eventing. a middle aged Irish guy was using the blarney on some loud and tipsy New Zealand wenches and telling them that Ireland’s 5th place result was the best ever and to celebrate he’d been asked to a drinks reception at the Irish Embassy. Now that’s how to impress tipsy Antipodeans.
Then the most heart warming happening of all followed on the next day. A morning trip to Boots in Piccadilly Circus on the way to work to get some essentials (no, not those…). As I was perusing the men’s toiletries aisle a smart young lad with suit and badge asked me if I would like some help and then not only took me to the item on the shelf, he picked it for me and offered it in said basket all with some witty banter and winning smiles. He signed off by wishing me a nice day. I was momentarily stunned. Normally you could have collapsed in the feminine hygiene aisle in this Boots and been walked over for ten minutes before Security’s arrival to remove you. I almost skipped to work.
Add on to the above the smiling and funny volunteers who guided me through security at the North Greenwich Arena (02 to us) within ten minutes from tube to seat, the mix on the streets and shops of Olympics bods, fans and tourists, the genuine (and noisy) fans filling all the fantastic stadia even at 10am in the morning..and the fact I seem to be permanently glued to Claire Balding or Gabby Logan on the magnificent BBC (abuse it at your peril Jeremy *unt) and it all completes my warm glow for this beautiful city I call home.
Even the weather has been on our side.
Arise London for you are putting on a winning performance as I always believed you would, from the energy of the Olympic stadium, the noise of the Velodrome, the beauty of Hyde Park and the majesty of Greenwich. And you and your welcome are the true star of this 30th Olympiad so far.
Not like me to be effusive. Must be the warm glow (or the onset of senility). Back to Gary Lineker and Sue Barker’s helmet hair…