Although, in a way, it's good to be home again, I must have been mad to decide to come in to work the day after returning. I always do this. I always forget that it would be nice to have an extra day off before turning up at the office all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed - and jetlagged. I can't claim the latter this time, but the fact remains that I am, actually, bloody tired. It's only just gone 1pm, but I'd love to take a nap right now. Oh well...
Of course, I did almost the same thing on the way out - greedy for as much time in the Smoke as I could possibly get out of this visit, I'd booked myself on the stupid o'clock flight...forgetting that in order to catch said stupid o'clock flight, I had to get up at bloody ridiculous o'clock and make my own arrangements as to how to get to the airport. Holland's a lovely country, but unfortunately it takes about 50 years to catch up to rest of the world, and a 24/7 train service is still a thing of the dim and distant future.
Though I don't know where I'd be without easyJet. I remember in the 80s and early 90s, before the arrival of the budget airlines, getting to London would take all day (or night, as we usually took the night ferry); getting there in a hurry would take a fortune. I also like that you can book your ticket online and you don't have to worry about picking it up or bringing it to the check-in counter with you, because I'm always losing it -- and in more ways than one, too. Believe me, you do not want to be around me when I can't find my ticket or passport -- especially when you're trying to be helpful and make the mistake of suggesting places where I may want to look!
I never understood the reason why we switched to CET in the summer of 1977; I'd been perfectly happy with our GMT clock before that date - but I do like arriving before I left on the short hop over to England. I'm not a great fan of flying for the same reason that I'm no great fan of sailing either (other than recreational): I don't like to be in an enclosed space. This has nothing to do with being claustrophobic, which I'm not; it's just that I don't like to be restricted in my movements. I always want to go places, explore -- when you're in a plane, or on a boat, your choices are fairly limited. I'll never book myself onto a cruise liner; I'd be bored out of my skull in hours. But I'll take the plane over any other mode of transport to get me to Blighty. It's so little fuss, and you'll land before you're well and truly airborne.
There is one aspect of air travel I enjoy though: I love the roar of the engines and being pushed back in your seat when the plane prepares for take-off. Thundering down the runway, I feel excited and alive, and I wish the moment could last a bit longer...but inevitably, the wheels leave the tarmac, and the boredom sets in.
I'd arranged to stay with friends in Edgware (which is part of Greater London), so Luton was the best choice of airport to fly into, and from there catch the train to Sutton, getting off at Mill Hill. Usually, my friend's waiting for me to pick me up in the car, but this time, for the first time in the seven years we've known each other, she wasn't there. It turned out that, having picked up a nasty bug while on a family visit in Israel the previous week, she was too sick to venture out of doors; and besides, her daughter had borrowed the car to get to work. Luckily, there's a very good bus service between Mill Hill Broadway and Edgware Station, and for an added advantage: I always travel light.
I made good time and arrived on the family's doorstep well before they were expecting me, and over tea and biscuits, commisserated with my friend over the fact that she had to cry off most of the things we had been looking forward to doing because of her being ill, and was there when a panicked call came through: one of the artworks on display had fallen down and had been heavily damaged in the fall. The gallery assumed full responsibility and were willing to pay to have the work replaced at their cost, but how was Anneke going to get the photograph redone, mounted, and back on the wall that same day or the following feeling the way that she did? Gamiila unto the breach!
Within half an hour, I found myself en route to Farringdon, and because I'd just missed the bus and the deadline was set for 'lunchtime', I walked the 2 1/2 miles back to Mill Hill in my high-heeled denim boots, which started to pinch something awful about halfway to the station. I may be able to wear them with no problems in the flat Dutch countryside, traversing hilly country at a trot in them is quite another matter!
Got to Farringdon and the gallery in Cowcross St, dropped off the picture and detailed instructions, and after a short meeting decided from there to walk to Blackfriars and see what was going on in Tate Modern. Being the architectural historian that I still am, I concentrated on the installation art by Olafur Eliasson in the Turbine Hall, then had lunch in the Member Room and afterwards had a nice stroll along the Embankment.
By this time, my feet were killing me, and I was mentally berating myself for travelling so light this time that I'd omitted to bring my trainers - what could I have been thinking?
Still, the afternoon was young, and a poster on the Underground had informed me of an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite art being held at the Royal Academy, so I wasted no time in getting there.
The exhibition was subtitled 'The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection' and if that means that all the works in those rooms were his personal property, then all I can say is: ALW is one lucky blighter. I wandered from one beautiful painting to the next for hours. They were absolutely marvelous, the lesser-known pieces as well as the more famous images; and all well worth the 9 quid entrance fee (Anneke's membership unfortunately having expired earlier this year).
It was dark when I came back out, and there was nothing else for me to do but to hobble painfully back to Oxford Circus and onto the tube, the train and the bus to get me back home in time for dinner and the meet&greet with the rest of the family.