keresaspa: (Diggory)
[personal profile] keresaspa
The short version of this is that London was rather good apart from the going and the coming, which were hell on earth. On the off-chance that anybody is still reading this (and I note in my extended absence that I am now down to one person submitting regular updates on my friends list) I shall expand at some length about what took place.

Fuck British Airways. I'll repeat that - FUCK BRITISH AIRWAYS. For no reason whatsoever the early flight I had paid through the nose for on the 11th July was cancelled and I was moved unceremoniously to an afternoon flight, which was itself delayed by an hour without explanation. All in all I lost six hours to their general bollockiness and my only compensation was a lousy ten pound food voucher to be used during the interminable sit-in in the waiting room at Sydenham Aerodrome. I say it every year but they are by some distance the worst airline I ever use and, suffice to say, I'll never go near them again. Even the sight of reborn radical-right rabble-rouser David Trimble in the queue for the plane had no influence, although perhaps that was down to the shockingly unsubtle brown hair dye he now sports. Up his bigoted hole with the proverbial big jam roll either way.

By the time I had arrived at my inevitable Kings Cross sump-hole (the European Hotel, a reasonable place all things considered, although presumably one that will be forcibly rebranded as the Great British Empire Kill All Foreigners Hotel by next year) it was gone six o'clock and the day was effectively over. With an air of resignation I tramped off and was pleasantly surprised to see Judd Books open and was able to kill a bit of time and waste a chunk of change there. Buoyed by this surprise turn of events I headed off in the direction of the bright lights. Anon I passed by Tottenham Court Road tube station where, as ever, the building project that never ends continued apace, no nearer conclusion than it was a decade ago when I first saw it. And lo Oxford Street had remained open, as if as a favour to me and me alone, and under the gaze of the emerald-eyed Queen Isis as she watched from the surface of Jupiter I tramped the old street in search of shoelaces, my own having decided to add to the farce by sloughing their covering and becoming tiny, unusable and yet unbreakable collections of strings. As if to soften the blow further the KFC I dined on as I made my way back included a pair of boobs rather than the usual breast and leg (chicken boob being the only bit worth the candle) and my otherwise stuffy hotel room came equipped with a ceiling fan to help me cope with the heat (which, inevitably given that a solution was available, was not an issue this time as temperatures remained unseasonably reasonable). In all a reasonable conclusion to an otherwise bastard of a day.

My usual modus operandi on my first day in London is to choo-choo out to Hampstead and stroll back down towards Kings Cross but by necessity I was forced to push that back to the Tuesday. It was largely accomplished, albeit somewhat truncated as the Underground fares cap and a stinginess redolent of my (presumed) Scottish heritage meant that I felt compelled to get my moneys-worth by using the trains a lot. It was largely uneventful, beyond being singled out for a demo CD by a chap called F Busy outside Camden Town tube station. I'm not altogether sure I'm really in the right demographic (I dabble in female rap but only very rarely and even then I suspect it's only for the perverse pleasure of hearing women with huge backsides swearing a lot) but he was a fine young gentleman and I wish him all the success in the world with his endeavours. Plus, if in a few years he ends up a big wheel on the grime scene (careful, old timer, you're straying past the edges of your knowledge there) I'll be quids in by selling on his ultra-rare demo CD. Nice.

My work done, I hopped the train at the storied Mornington Crescent and made my way to Gloucester Road, with my travelling companions including EastEnders legend Tilly Vosburgh, joining Trimble as my second megastar sighting of the week. Quite why I went there is anybody's guess as I actually wanted to go to Ladbroke Grove but they sound so similar that it's easy to get them mixed up. If you're a bloody nutter. Realising I had goofed I left in a huff to return to the Circle/District/Hammersmith and City line confusion (those three really are the Three Bastards in the Cabinet where the London Underground system is concerned) and settled for the altogether more accessible Notting Hill Gate as my destination. A mooch about Portobello Road (which had been my intention from the off) was finally secured although a sudden and prolonged blast of torrential rain hampered things somewhat, despite my having bought an umbrella in a Camden Poundland earlier during a previous bout of the diluvian. Quite fetching it was too, a pale blue thing with dark blue deer all over, clearly intended for a lady but anything goes in Gay London. Having finished in Notting Hill Gate (or not, see below) it was back to the tube and out to Shoreditch High Street via Whitechapel for a quick go at the hipster record shops. I banked on their opening late, it being well after six by now, and was proven right, allowing me to visit my old haunt of Rough Trade East and decamp with a Crude SS record. Sister Ray's branch was also located (for the first time actually) and had a decent, all-vinyl selection although I departed empty-handed as the London prices nearly gave me a cardiac arrest. A third one apparently existed but I could no more find it than Boris Johnson can the truth and time was against me so I beat a retreat and hopped the London Overground, a nice enough service but one plagued by far too many unnecessary delays for my liking, to head for Denmark Hill.

Those who recall last year's lunacy will know that means only one thing and sure enough it was a return to Dulwich Hamlet's Champion Hill ground, this time to watch them take on a Norwich City XI in what was a fulfilment of a duty on Norwich's part after they signed a Dulwich youngster for their own youth system. Plenty of fun as the Hamlet fans were their usual rowdy but non-threatening selves even if the match, a tepid 0-0 draw, was less than stellar. Still, I rather like the ground and the club and an annual visit is fast becoming a tradition. Getting home proved a bit of a bugger with one train cancelled and my missing another one by a whisker but I suppose that's all part of the fun.

The rain had largely done one by Wednesday (it would return later, albeit in a significantly reduced form) so I took a stroll out to the Waterstone's on Gower Street. An outstanding bookshop it is too and I was even able to secure a copy of The Prose Merlin, a book I've been seeking for nigh on thirty years, although it too rather suffers from the London prices syndrome and I was forced to reject a few things of interest as a consequence. Were [ profile] burkesworks still of these parts I suspect he would be salivating to know that they had the first four volumes of Asa Briggs' The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom in stock although at ninety quid they could whistle.

Deciding that I would concentrate on walking I headed north to arse about Islington, an area that was largely alien to me. Having spent time in it I reckon it should have stayed that way. Packed with people despite having seemingly nothing of interest in it, I went in search of a promised record shop but quickly found myself in slums and decided to bugger off sharpish, crossing Corbynland off my list of destinations from now on. In all my years in London I had never been on a bus before but it proved the only option so I jumped on, even though the payment system is confusing and badly explained. Inevitably it took ages and went through places I didn't know but eventually it landed near Piccadilly Circus and I alighted, glad of a bit of familiarity. I was rather distraught to see the building with all the stalls in Chinatown had been closed down, thus ending my chance to add to my kokeshi and Hello Kitty collections, but I was able to bounce about between Soho and Oxford Street anyway, as ever getting hopelessly lost in Soho including an unwanted diversion into Fitzrovia, an area where being a hateful little shit with far too much money appears to be compulsory. Well, I may be a hateful shit but I'm huge and skint so my presence was not required. My feet by now howling with pain (Oxford brogues really aren't made for walking and were a poor choice for holiday footwear on my part) I limped back the way I came.

After a quick nosh of noodles at Piccadilly Circus (where my fellow diners all seemed to be from Belfast, the local accent being the one I probably heard most all week bizarrely) I got my first train of the day out to Green Park. And what a horrid place Green Park tube station is, seemingly the size of a small city and involving huge forced marches from one train line to the other. Never again if I can help it. Still, it had to be done were I to make it for kick-off which, unfortunately, I didn't, missing the first four minutes of Barnet's match with Ipswich Town. My first match at the Hive last year had been a goal-fest but that wasn't the case this year, with Barnet winning by the only goal of the game, a rather soft penalty. Of course it's nigh on impossible to judge from these pre-season games but on this form I would have Ipswich as an outside bet for relegation as they were completely devoid of ideas. Barnet though should be fine. Getting home was again a bit of a job as the Metropolitan Line was closed and so I was again forced to endure the rigours of Green Park but I got there in the end.

A few of my usual haunts remained unvisited, a fact I decided to take care of on Thursday. It's a bit of a rumpus to get to from Kings Cross as the Docklands Light Rail doesn't integrate as well with the rest of the network as it should but Greenwich is a fine place to spend a summer's morn and in the end I lost about three hours just mooching about the place. The same was true of Brixton, where the time seemed to disappear at an alarming rate. Not only that but it was the first time I had ever managed to catch both Supertone Records and Lionvibe open, the former a very old school place like something straight from the 80s and the latter an all-reggae concern which, oddly enough, seemed to be frequented only by white people. I was disappointed not to be able to locate Blacker Dread but apparently it is gone and indeed was just a money-laundering operation the whole time. Well, blow me.

Having finished I crossed over the Circle Line, a section of the London Underground which apparently takes its name from being the previously undocumented Tenth Circle of Hell. Awful service and always rammed to the gills no matter what time of day it is. By and by I returned to Notting Hill Gate where the weather had previously disrupted play and was able to accomplish a little more this time. Normally I walk down Bayswater at some point and I did make a fist of it but the old feet let me down and I was forced to give up the ghost at Queensway, hopping the tube to Bond Street. Still, in London even the public transport involves long walks and it is little surprise that the so-called "obesity epidemic" seems like a minor irritant there given how much exercise everybody must endure day in and day out. Certainly compared to Belfast, with its highly centralised transport system and it status as one giant call centre, there seems to be a lot fewer massive people. Undaunted I managed another dander around Oxford Street and its environs, ending things off by tubing from Oxford Circus back to Kings Cross.

By now my feet were an absolute bomb-site and worse yet Friday saw Mistress Vertigo unleash her full wrath on me, having spent the previous few days as more of a background spectator. And yet I decided to make it another big walk and one train day. Hey, I'm an idiot. The morning took me out, on foot, to Kentish Town, an area that I rather like, combining as it does some of the good points of Camden Town with fewer of the annoyingly affected poseurs that litter that area. Always worth a decko. I eventually made my way back over to that area to the Stables Market where I partook in a noodles lunch that was every bit as disappointing as the current fashion in women's jeans. Call me a sexist pervert if you must but surely the point in women wearing jeans is to say "aren't my arse and thighs wonderful" (to which the answer is usually "why yes, madam") so these horrendous, shapeless, baggy affairs that are in now can bugger right off.

But enough deviance. Train time had arrived and I went from Chalk Farm over to South Kensington to do my usual walk through the posh areas. I stuck my head into the Victoria and Albert Museum for a while to gleefully view the plundered spoils of empire and even considered a jaunt into the nearby Natural History Museum before the queues dissuaded me. For whatever reason I then visited Harrod's but, as every year, I was seriously underwhelmed by it and took off for my walk down to Piccadilly. Having arrived I did a tour of the centre spots, even finally making it to Covent Garden but the crazed throngs I encountered put me off somewhat and I left it to its own devices. Time was Covent Garden was my default area in London but these days I tend to give it a swerve. Making my way home I even managed a vertigo-inspired near fall in Coram's Fields although fortunately, with it being London, none of the self-absorbed Londoners present noticed my almost pratfall. Ah, the dizzies - Hell roast ye.

One other thing, can shop assistants stop telling me to "have a great day" when I leave the shop? Buying a pint of milk and a string bag of mandarins in Tesco's is the very definition of gleichgültigkeit so the chances of my having a "great" day in the circumstances are virtually non-existent. Stop this creeping Americanisation, especially now that Britain has entered its most right-wing and narrowly nationalistic phase since the days of the British Brothers League. Mind you, I did manage my first ever success in a kakuro that same night so perhaps miladdo was on to something with his great day exhortation.

I was still there for Saturday and decided to make Stratford my destination for some reason. The huge shopping centre there is a bit of a pill really, although I usually end up there anyway. This time however I did a little exploring of the surrounding environs, even chancing upon another, smaller centre that included a branch of Poundland, then another branch two shops up. My kind of place. I suspect however that one may have been a 99p Store as I've just discovered Poundland have devoured that august chain. C'est la vie. With time getting on I took the train out to Plaistow for the afternoon's football. Not the most salubrious of areas, it reminded me of Bradford somewhat and included several houses where embittered chavs were flying St George Crosses emblazoned with anti-Europe slogans from their windows. Fair play to them, I can see why living next door to people with brown skin is so terrible for them given how perfect they themselves are and equally I can see why they detest the European Union for bringing in people from member states like Bangladesh. Still, they've got their "Brexit" (God, do I hate that contraction) and now the good times will roll for them and not for the merchant bankers that Nigel Farage really represents who will be free to turn the UK into one big hedge fund in the style of Iceland. And that ended wonderfully well. Joseph Goebbels you should be alive today because Britain would be yours within the week thanks to these Big Lie-believing, lumpen idiots.

After rather too much faffing around and a stop over in West Ham Park, where the surreal scene of a woman in full hijab having a kickabout was amongst the sights on view, I made my way to the poetically named Old Spotted Dog ground to watch Clapton play Cockfosters in a glamour friendly. Spotty Dog was a bit of a dump, a ramshackle affair that wouldn't look out of place in the NAFL but, like Dulwich Hamlet, they have a leftie following and four quid for a match in London is about as good as it gets. The Cocks had the better of it throughout and saw off Clapton 3-1 in front of a small but rowdy crowd. By now the heat had rather descended so much of the game was played at a sluggish place but it was still a nice diversion. Having witnessed the battle I high-tailed it out of Plaistow and wound things down with a last look at Notting Hill Gate and then Fopp near Leicester Square. Rounding things off with a bit of nosh from "Chicken" on the Caledonian Road, a cheap and cheerful dump that I discovered late on, I took my weary bones to bed to prepare for the journey home.

With time to kill and not much open I took myself off to the local church, St. Aloysius', and sat in on a Mass. With a mainly African and Filipino congregation it was all a lot less posh than my turn in Brompton Oratory a few years ago although I did baulk at the notion of praying for Theresa May, a lady whom I fully expect to be an even bigger disaster than that moron Cameron. Well what else can you call somebody who will be remembered to history as the man who took the UK out of the EU despite not wanting to? Note also, I don't fancy her any more and my admission that I did was in part to get laughs rather than a reflection of reality. Honestly. I rounded things off with a visit to the Wellcome Collection, a building I had passed umpteen times without ever visiting and, suitably unimpressed, I bade farewell to the soon to be no longer European Hotel and took the tube out to the horrendous Heathrow Terminal Five. I should have known something was wrong when I saw the massive, immobile queues for everything and the alarm bells really started when none of the self-service check-in desks would work. Then, after a half an hour of queuing to no particular intent the announcement came - flight cancelled. Just to reiterate - FUCK BRITISH AIRWAYS.

Hours upon hours in another queue followed with occasional announcement by some long-sideboarded, fat bastard of a prick who was supposed to be a customer services wonk but was actually one of the rudest dickwads I've ever had the misfortune to meet. Myself and a foul-mouthed Mancunian woman in front of me in the queue soon teamed up in our indignation and attracted some worried glances from BA staff as we grew louder in voice and bluer in language in our condemnation of some of the shittiest service in history. Well, both her names were Irish, resistance is in the blood. A garbled explanation of "new computer system" was all they offered and after a few hours of waiting I was hit with the bombshell that I would not be flown out until the following day. As compensation they paid to put me up in a hotel but suffice to say I was less than chuffed by the whole stinking ordeal.

My spirit broken I tramped onto the soul-destroying connecting bus that took me to the Holiday Inn T5, an Alan Partridge-style travel tavern of a place on the outskirts of the truly ghastly Slough, a place that could only have been more aptly named were it called Depression-Under-Shite. To be fair though the hotel itself was nifty enough, I was given a free dinner along with about fifty others, all of whom appeared to be old Germans, and after six nights in a shoebox a big room with a double bed and a settee seemed like paradise. After gorging myself at the breakfast on BA's coin I returned to Heathrow for another long session of queuing although at least this time it ended with my bag being accepted and I was finally able to get out of that dump. By now delirium had me in her grip and I convulsed in manic laughter at my in-flight read of R. Murray Gilchrist, suddenly deciding he was history's funniest writer, despite being allegedly a horror author. Just to put the tin lid on things the baggage carousel at Belfast Airport broke, resulting in a pointless delay, the bus out of it sat for twenty five minutes for no apparent reason and my bus home never turned up, but at least none it involved bloody Heathrow.

Overall a jolly good time was had, apart from the start and finish which were completely crapped on by the unmitigated total incompetence of British Airways. For such an expensive airline they are positively Clouseau-esque in their approach and if it means flying to Stansted or even bloody Luton in future I will never use them again, assuming I'm still permitted to move around in Der Grossebritische Reich once May fully establishes the police state she was always readily admitted she desires. All's well that ends well but the moral of this story is, and always will be, FUCK BRITISH AIRWAYS!
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