London 1999
revisiting visits of the past

17 March 1999

The Vicadin experiment was a great success -- instead of feeling like I slept in the contorted position I did, I feel I slept in a warm velvet box. In fact, the whole flying experience has managed to be above par -- Virgin being the largely entertainment-based megalith that it is, its flight philosophy seems to be to provide plenty of free entertainment with which the masses may sedate themselves: above average "radio" selections and a little tv for each person on which one may select any of several tv programming options, eight movies, or several Nintendo games. I developed more skill at one called "Hagame" than I would have expected, garnering nigh-endless extra lives, pressing lots of buttons at once, and entertaining A. with my constant stream of muttering "Die! Die!" at the screen. Even the food began to approach acceptable -- which is more than I normally expect from an airline -- and on the way back we must be sure to avail ourselves of both the free mini bottles and the £9 full size bottle (duty free) of the Virgin Vodka. Plus: a fun pack in a sturdy plastic sack, including this fine pen, a sleep mask, colorful acrylic plane socks (all loopy-fuzzy on the inside), a shoe horn, and toothbrush and toothpast, much of which is labeled "wakey wakey."

And Postmodern Literary Theory is fairly witty and sane, not half bad. [added in different pen] Though as I read more, I find it pretty uneven. Oh well.

Later: Cadbury chocolate machines (some especially for cream eggs) at all Tube stations. Weird coin deposit... the one we tried ate my money. When we got to the Heathrow tube station and were examining the map, a student type came up behind us and asked if we needed a card. "Um, yeah," I said, and he gave us his pass, which runs out in two days. Too bad we won't be in a good position either to use it or to pass it on; having used it once (still a £3.40 savings or so) we immediately left London.

Meanwhile I was recovering from a swift and unpleasant sickness that arrived at the end of the flight -- maybe the Virgin breakfast was off? -- culminating in a well-timed vomit in the ladies' room at Immigration. Bleah. All better now, though. I think I'm going back to my old airplane standby of bread, cheese, and chocolate.

Gorgeous day, positively hot. The Liverpool St. train station is great, causing A. to moan, "Why don't they have any of these in our country?" Later, on the car ride to Aldeburgh, Ron and Grandad told us that the version we were admiring is a new, remodeled building, although the wrought iron and glass are from the original -- there was an initial proposal to get rid of them, but fortunately some preservationists stepped in.

Spring appeared to be well in gear, if not completely sprung. Daffodils, cherry blossoms, and forsythia are everywhere, and the grass is insanely green. In the hopes of staving off a capitulation to jet lag, A. and I took a brisk walk to the Aldeburgh high street -- as the evening approached and the temperature dropped, it grew ever brisker -- past the old, old church that seemed to actually only be part of the original building and whose age is unknown though the gothic arches and rough stones and my goodness this sentence goes on and on. Past the who-knows-how-old church, that is, and down to the street where we bought stationary and stamps, and searched unsuccessfully for contact solution. Wednesday, for some reason, the chemist's closes at 1 pm. Is this a universal phenomenon?

Dinner was at the Parrot and Punchbowl, a friendly pub my grandparents selected because of its vegetarian offerings, which were unfortunately not so tasty. A. had chestnut casserole, which I ordered too. It turned out that they only had one, so I switched to the mushroom stroganoff. In general, I probably would have preferred a big plate of chips to either one. The bread-and-butter pudding, however, was very nice. Mm, good.

Every service industry interaction has been slightly weird. Usually it's our American freakishness that seems to be the contributing factor, but at the train station, the ticket vendor was definitely bringing strangeness to spare all by himself. The window had a little sign reading: "Transactions at this window may be time-consuming." At first I decided that the warning was related to the fact that checks were accepted there, but the vendor's singing and strange happy comments soon convinced me otherwise.

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