Paul told me a joke on Sunday whilst we were playing a hand of Yahtzee. I say Yahtzee but it was Yahtzee with a twist. The twist was that I made disparaging remarks about all the throws he made and insulted his choices. I was losing and I’m not so good at that so added an embittered spin on it. Paul joined in too and parried a few cutting remarks back.
“Maybe it’s a big horse”
“Maybe it’s a big horse who?”
“Maybe it’s a big horse I’m a Londoner.”
I liked the joke and it was very fitting as we were about to go for a day out in London.
I woke up too early. I think it was Paul’s neighbours’ children. They seem to have to wear hobnail boots like Victorian waifs; either that or they’re very inconsiderate heavy footed little fuckers. Paul and I dressed and he didn’t disappoint me. Paul was decked out like an eccentric English professor in a striking ensemble of red trousers, green shirt, tie and jumper and a few layers of tweed. He looked fantastic. He’d ignored my advice to wear sensible shoes and was wearing smooth soled brogues. I prepared my “I told you so!” speech in my head.
It was one of those February days which I hate. Old snow had melted and refrozen but not before acquiring the hue of dirt. The roads were flecked with piles of brown and grey slush. Whoever thinks snow is pretty has a short memory. It soon becomes grubby and perilous. I’d fretted for 48 hours that we wouldn’t get to London due to the snow, not because I’d be horribly disappointed but because I was worried I wouldn’t get my money back. I do hate to waste money.
The train was crowded but pleasant and I settled down to read my novel whilst Paul did a Sudoku. I could read in the middle of Piccadilly Circus and not be distracted but the first few minutes of the train journey always prove difficult. I’m easily distracted by the fellow passengers getting on. I hope for eccentrics and oddballs or at the very least fine looking men. I wasn’t disappointed.
Sitting across from us was a very tall lady with an immense Roman nose. She was perhaps six foot two with size 11 feet and hands like shovels. Her nail polish was immaculate though, as was her makeup and hairstyle, a huge pile of russet tresses. She was clad entirely in black, in a short skirt and heels and was escorting a foreign businessman who had limited English. This set me thinking. How would I react were I to be travelling abroad and expecting a lady called Joanne to greet me, only to be confronted with someone who had clearly once been called Joe? Would I manage to hide my surprised expression? What was the businessman thinking about his companion? This kept me occupied for some time which was good as my novel was rubbish. I decided to give it till page 100.
The train arrived in London and the transsexual tapped my arm and I looked up at her. She complemented me on my bag (a 1950s leather satchel) and I felt instantly guilty for not just accepting her without a second glance and for feeling wry amusement at someone with such manly features who was decked out in such dainty garb. She was sweet.
London was fun. I enjoy the tube trains, the crowds and the architecture. They never fail to entertain me even when I’m in the dreariest mood. We schlepped to the Victoria and Albert Museum which was a little disappointing. I do this all the time. I imagine places to be spectacular. In my head the Eiffel Tower was amazingly high and granite grey. I was gutted to find it was a dull brown colour and covered in wire netting. Saint Paul’s was too small, The Coliseum too derelict, the Louvre didn’t have enough paintings I liked. In my head, the museum would be crowded with gorgeous artefacts. In reality it is crowded with gorgeous artefacts but I’d set my bar too high as ever. We enjoyed it nonetheless. The odd thing about my expectations is that I’d been there before. I forget quickly too. The thing that made me smile most (apart from the Art Deco treasures) was seeing a man wearing a lovely coat which had a detachable cape.
I did get one of my urges. There was a row of busts on plinths just waiting for someone to push them down. I loved Domino Rally as a child. It was tempting but maybe not a good idea. Standing outside for a cigarette, a man waved a newspaper dramatically at me to waft away the smoke as he passed. It was a faint plume of smoke. I was restrained enough not to chase after him and shove the aforementioned newspaper up his arse.
We walked a lot, stopping off at Harrods just to laugh at the exquisitely tasteless memorials to Princess Diana. I was inclined to adopt a Lady Di cow-eyes pose for a photo but resisted for fear of being ejected. We walked more, drank coffee and ate in Soho before going back to the station. The time goes quickly when I’m with Paul. I like that. Paul took my photo outside the Victoria and Albert. He asked me to move slightly and by doing so framed the shot, unbeknownst to me, under a sign saying “Beautiful and Interesting” I like that he thinks that. I’m not so sure I am. I posed for a photo in a seedy alleyway in Soho under the neon signs, cigarette between my lips and pelvis tilted forward. I think it suited me.
I pondered about how London is no longer such a spectacle but has become familiar and is as such tired in some ways but more interesting in others. It reminded me of relationships, the initial novelty wearing off to reveal something hopefully more solid and fascinating but in different, less showy ways. I recalled the first time I came to London on a school trip. It was 1986 and I was 14. We were dragged round the stock exchange and the Imperial War Museum, before being released to entertain ourselves for 4 hours before meeting up back at the station. I can’t imagine that happening now, sadly. We all scurried off, released to wander about and do whatever we wanted. Unfortunately our imaginations were limited and we traipsed round larger versions of the shops we had back at home, but in Oxford Street. We all got back to the station on time.
The journey home was spent playing cards. We only know one game, Rummy. I reached page 100 of the dull novel and came to the conclusion that I often reach, which is that life is too short for bad novels. I abandoned it as promised and felt a shiver of panic at having no decent book to read. The card game clamed me down and we came home. I love a day out.