An enjoyable, if rather breathless, weekend trip down to London is coming to an end. Yesterday, after possibly four hours of sleep overnight, I took the 8:10 coach down from Middlesbrough to London, collapsing over the whole of the double seat after Woodall services and shutting down for (most of) three hours.
Upon arrival, I visited Red Veg in TV-land's Dean Street, between Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road; daweaver had posted about enjoying the sister branch in Brighton, so I resolved to give the London operation a try. It's a small vegetarian fast food restaurant. My Greek salad wrap was full of fresh and tasty ingredients; happily, not too much feta cheese. I also had a portion of chips; I will concur with my learned colleague's opinion of "hotter and crunchier than most", though adding that they manage to avoid the Burger King pitfall of tasting too much like potato. The fries tasted like they would have been much heartier with salt and vinegar, though I discovered towards the end that little packets of salt and ketchup had already been placed in the bag, which livened things up appropriately. Recommended and likely to become a regular haunt.
Afterwards, the next stop was Greenwich to meet up with 2ndavemusic for the afternoon. A slight confusion arose between Greenwich overland train station and Greenwich DLR station and I got caught in a shower, but we met up and recognised each other without problems. 2ndavemusic is a truly gentle man, impossibly fresh-faced and I am jealous of how clean a shave he is able to obtain. He is in the country because a production for which he wrote the lyrics, I am Star Trek!, transferred from New York via the Edinburgh fringe to London, so he is in town to see his baby all grown up.
Over the afternoon, we caught up on the last almost-two-years since we had met; we met last just before Nimbus - 2003 so that I could claim a Greyhound ticket from him, and now we're meeting again just before The Witching Hour. We ate the British form of Tex-Mex (his burrito surprised him by including stealth lettuce, and the "Mexi-Beans" were distinctly baked rather than refried), walked around Greenwich and set up a camcorder in the theatre, having bought an extension cable for it.
The show was very entertaining, being an apparently less-fictionalised-than-I-was-expecting account of the life and attitudes of Gene Roddenberry and his involvement in the Star Trek project, up until circa The Next Generation. Cast of eight, 50 characters, lots of cursing (but good cursing), energetic and talented dance routines and surprisingly few musical numbers as the show straddles the musical-prosaic divide. Someone with little previous interest in Star Trek, like me, might struggle slightly with some of the details, but it's a happy show, the central character of Gene Roddenberry treads a fascinating line between idealistic optimist and cynical showbiz hack and there are lots of good gags. The story of how the show came to its present form is a fascinating one, though not mine to tell; the show does have a slight not-the-finished-article feel to it and the ending surprised me by coming out of the blue. If this had played in Middlesbrough and I didn't know the lyricist, I'd have felt I had got my money's worth.
After that, I bade 2ndavemusic a fond farewell and navigated to Hyde Park Corner station, where malachan surprised me by recognising me on the platform. He lives way up on the branch of the Piccadilly line which isn't the Heathrow one that most trains follow; accordingly, we waited and waited at Hyde Park Corner. The first train was very busy indeed, so we waited for the second - which did have some consecutive seats free, but only because someone had vomited on the floor. The third train to come along was for the correct destination, avoiding a change at Acton Town, but it was out of service, inhabited by only the driver. Trains four and five were jam-packed too, but train six, the first we could get heading to the right place, was fine.
malachan and titanic_days' flat is a distance from the tube which will keep them fit, especially as there is a decent hill to navigate along the way. (I wonder if there isn't a more direct - or, at least, more flat - route along the hypotenuse of the triangle, lads? Or, at least, involving turning off at the roundabout.) It is a decent size and in a good area, though by a fairly noisy road. It is well-appointed, has both some excellent and some inappropriate floor coverings, with a good assortment of mod. con.s. It also has a coffee-maker called Meg, to which naturally enough I gave a loving peck, only for it to stop producing steam the next day. I hope that's not a bad sign. (Also I hope I have managed to browbeat malachan into commiting the tales of a Roving British T00b Greyhounding Around the USA to LJ. Hint, hint.)
A quick e-mail check followed, as did Witching Hour accommodation plotting and watching a couple of episodes of Brass Eye. Public figures have probably become used to what Chris Morris looks like in disguise; I wonder whether he will be restricted to radio for the rest of his career? After that I was summarily mummified in a pleasantly snuggly sleeping bag, with associated washable sleeping bag liner, to sleep atop a comfortable sleeping bed with a nice, thick mattress. A very decent night's sleep followed, not least to catch up from the night before.
The plan for today had been to get up bright and early in order to go and visit possibly two of London's more architecturally interesting buildings, open to the public (for a change) for the weekend under the Open House Weekend scheme. We failed. Dismally.
We woke up at 11 and grabbed showers, deciding to try the all-you-can-eat £5.50 lunch buffet special in the local Sri Lankan (!) curry house. This offered an all-you-can-eat selection of five curries (chicken, mutton, okra, lentil-and-spinach and tofu) with two types of rice to choose from plus unlimited roti bread, which is effectively very thin naan. It wasn't spectacular, but I'd visit again. The tofu was unusual and excellent; the okra in the okra curry were not completely edible - though, not knowingly having had them before, I'm not sure whether they were meant to be. (Is it like trying to eat the cob as well as the corn on it?) The mango lassi was barely passable, too. Sri Lankan cuisine does seem to be indistinguishable from Indian, as malachan had suggested, except that it also offers dishes called "toppers", in plain, milk and egg varieties. I suspect these are desserts but wasn't brave enough to investigate.
Accordingly, after taking things very easily, we made it to the centre of London and selected the Lloyd's Building, near Bank, as being worth a try due to its 'chemical plant in the middle of the city" joy. There was quite a queue, though, and I knew it would take me a good 30-45 minutes to make it back to Victoria to catch my coach, so we decided to abort the proceedings. I had previously said that I was more interested in good company than in particular buildings, which is just as well, as we achieved a score of 0 out of 2 buildings. Better luck next year, along with better planning and a better night's sleep beforehand. (Nice view of the Gherkin, though - the Swiss Re building at the strangely-named "30 St Mary's Axe".)
A quick trip to Covent Garden for Cyg to pick up some tea and to grab a drink amid the coin-activated human statues, jugglers and miscellaneous street circus performers, passing a purported Krispy Kreme doughnut shop that mysteriously seemed not to possess a "HOT" sign to be turned on or off at all, then we t
(One other thing: on my return to Middlesbrough coach station, I helped out a struggling South African student who had been given instructions of "take a coach to Middlesbrough, phone me on this mobile phone number and I'll come and pick you up", only to have been given a duff mobile phone number to call. I recognised there was one digit too many, and my second guess - that a double 1 should really only have been a single 1 - fortunately proved correct.)