Saturday, 31 March 2012

Profligate distractions

I was going to be so busy today. I had work to do, things I really needed to finish. Stuff. Which would be why, first thing this morning, I was on my hands and knees cleaning the oven in my nightie, after all, what better way to get in the mood for doing some work?

And this was almost how my flatmate found me when she came down, though, actually I was scrubbing by then, having been seriously diligent in cleaning the shelves from said oven. I am that domestic goddess. So over tea, naturally, the conversation went.

Her: What are your plans for today?

Me: Oh well, I've some work to do, and then maybe pop over to Covent Garden later to look for a guest book.

There, that was clear. And something to look forward to. Yes. A plan.


Which will be why, having thought about it, I decided that I should go to Covent Garden first to avoid the madness of late afternoon. I mean, that was sensible, it is, after all, epically awful there once the tourists get out to play. Even better. This meant that my flatmate would also come along for the ride and then wander off to the library at Birkbeck for a little research after we'd had a coffee. Perfect. What better way to organise a day.

Or so we thought...

You know you've made the right decision when you get to the underground station to find the train waiting for you and it leaves as you get on, having first carefully chosen a carriage. Obviously waiting for us. This could only bode well for actually achieving all my good intentions. Deluded or what? The only slight harbinger of distraction doom was me managing to draw cash from a machine and nearly walk away without taking it owing to yacking.

We decided it made sense to head straight for coffee and then search the market, which meant we could ignore the delights of Apple Market and head straight for an outside table at Le Pain Quotidien, what better way to pass time than a coffee and pastry as the sights walked by. And goodness there were some sights. Honestly, some people should invest in a mirror. Or glasses.

Fast forward... Coffee done, I went to pay and... Feck! The money. Could I find it? Could I hell. I was feeling decidedly sick. We both remembered me taking it, but after that... Blank. So after a quick PIN shuffle we stopped to search my out-of-control bag. Nothing. I had no idea, but presumed I'd lost it. That was until I tried my pockets again and... There it was. My pockets? I never keep things in my pockets. FFS. I did get that wave of relief that I hadn't actually lost my marbles. Just maybe misplaced them for a while. I really do need to get a grip.

Now keep in mind I'm here to look for a guest book. So we spent an age looking at the costume jewellery and other shiny, lovely things. Found some simply amazing things being done with bottles. The old telephones I knew I'd seen and we'd been talking about for the flat. And generally managed to not lose it with the bewildered tourists. Perfect. Having exhausted the Jubilee Market and finding it lacking in the delightful guest book stakes, we moved back to the Apple Market to check out what the artisans there had to offer. Nothing. More shiny stuff though. Trouble was, it wasn't achieving my goal.

Oh! But I did find the most gorgeous eau de toilette in L'Occitane, called Ambre, I am definitely going back for it, so me. After 15 minutes in there I still had no guest book and definitely smelled like a tarts boudoir. Or a teenagers bedroom just before going out for a hot evening standing in a bus shelter.


By this point my flatmate had decided that maybe the library wasn't for her today, so, we vaguely headed back towards the Holborn via Neal Street. There was bound to be something down there. Yes? Err, no. Lots of things to look at, but nothing guest booky. Oh well. By the time we got to Shaftesbury Avenue it wasn't looking good, so, suggestion the second, head for the National Gallery via Seven Dials, the gift shop was bound to have something suitable and over priced! Perfect.

So we marched purposely down Monmouth Street determined not to be distracted. That was until we reached Neal's Yard and its explosion of colourful loveliness. I mean, really, how were we supposed to ignore something like that?

The astonishing thing was that it felt like something utterly from another era. As if the march of modern conformity that existed outside had been idly forgotten. Possibly by somebody having dug up the end of the street the day the pantechnicon of Mega Corp turned up in Covent Garden and made it look like every other arty tourist trap the world over.

It was that or the merchants had simply got together and decided that it would be far more interesting to make the place have a funky feel and maybe brighten up some previously painted fa├žades.

Actually, come to think about it, that paint did look rather fresh...

Who cares. It was lovely and had a really buzzy feel. If it hadn't been for the fact that we were on a mission I imagine we could have spent many a happy hour nursing a coffee or two and giggling over what wandered by.

So. Onwards, to the National! Or so we thought.

The trouble is, we then, by chance, happened across a place neither of us had been to, the Thomas Neal Centre. What a surprise! Perhaps not the sort of place I would normally frequent, but an amazing use of space in what presumably had been a warehouse, or series of warehouses at some point. joining them, and giving that amazing use of space, was an atrium with a marvellous, modern, chandelier. Come to think of it, the lighting in there was generally, quite brilliant. The place was definitely built to convey a very distinct cool image. And they did it well.

Even in the mosaic floor of the observation platform we stood on was funky!

Perhaps a place to visit again, but, honestly, maybe a little young for me. And when I say a little, I mean a lot.

So off we marched again, on a mission and determined not to be distracted by silly little things like funky shopping arcades. Trouble is... Between us and the National Gallery stood my nemesis, Charing Cross Road. In particular Quinto Bookshop. Oh lord...

But I was strong. Probably because the basement was closed for their monthly restocking, but I could have been so bad, especially when I came across a wonderful tooled edition of poems by Robert Pollok. I might, just might, revisit... My flatmate though is weaker than a very weak thing and ended up buying two wonderful books, one for study and one which has kept us sniggering all afternoon, nearly. I hope she blogs on the subject!

So. Much time later. We marched off again. Avoiding all the other book shops we scooted round the back of the gallery and... Found a queue.

Sorry? So we ignored the Sainsbury wing, headed for the main entrance, found it closed, and wandered back to the queue. Pfft. But why the queue? It turned out, according to the wife of a man we befriended, that it was the new improved security. Oh great. We did last a good deal of time in the queue. We almost reached the door. But her patience is oh-so-limited. And we gave up.

The really worrying thing is that we have previously used the National as a pop in, look at one or two pictures for a while, then pop out again sort of place. If the new security was going to be there all the time it would then preclude local art lovers spending 30 minutes of a lunch break as only tourists would have the time to queue. She ranted. I ranted. We marched back to Covent Garden.

We would probably have ranted until the end of time about how ridiculous it was if we hadn't wandered across the silver lining in the cloud... St Pauls church in Covent Garden. Oh my. It's a beautifully preserved building which has been restored relatively recently. The interesting thing was how much it felt like a theatre! Inside there were a number of memorial plaques of the great and good of the acting world, with the unforgettable Hattie Jacques nestling over to the far right. It was lovely to spend a little time remembering some of the actors and the parts they'd played. Outside is also a delight, an oasis of a garden with the most astonishing number of benches! I get the feeling that on a weekday this becomes a haven for Covent Garden office workers to escape the tourists. I know for certain that next time I'm working there I'll be doing the same.

Now where was I? Oh yes. Still no guest book. By now it's approaching nap o'clock and we're wilting. So it was back to E14 in search of munchies and the inside of eyelids. We even decided to avoid hitting the Asda on the Isle of Dogs thus completely destroying any part of the earlier plan to do the weekly shop. Hey ho. A quick trip round the revered Maison Lidl, which is a bit like Fortnum & Mason, but with fewer tourists, ensured we had the absolutely essentials! There was a little drama in there. Which was keeping all shoppers entertained. And I imagine we could have hung around for a while to see how it unfolded, but seriously, we had part baked bread that needed baking!

So home for a later-than-a-very-late-thing lunch. My lovely flatmate had come up with the notion of splitting a roll, applying pesto rosso, mushroom antipasti, tomatoes and some garlic cheese we'd found last week to make a sort of mini pizza. It was absolutely gorgeous and I am now honour bound to say she is the best flatmate ever.

And then we had it again, without the tomatoes.

Fatal. The burst of calories and fats was enough to take me over the edge and send me off in search of a serious nap. Which would have been okay, except I'd not remade my bed after stripping it this morning. Pfft. I was past caring. I needed sleep. The emphasis on need.

Which brings us to now. A pleasant evening, with the gentle tick of the clock, mint tea cooling, click of the keyboard and a turning of pages. All interspersed by the marvellous words of Mrs Alec Tweedie in Women the world over, the words that I so hope my flatmate will write about. Hint Hint.

We really shouldn't be allowed out without adult supervision. We are utterly incapable of anything other than profligate distractions. Which writing this blog post has so ironically proven.

Now what should I do... Oooh, my toenails need painting!

Update: after much giggling there is now a Twitter account for Mrs Alec Tweedie. I blame the (much needed) champagne.

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