The date of our flight is getting closer, yet so much remains to be sorted out. Finding temporary accommodation in Miami for example, before we can find a place to rent. Or getting one final visit in with our favourite trusted dentist in Birmingham.
Much more important things have been attended to today though: I bought a wireless keyboard for my iPad, complete with case that folds into a stand. Since there’s a lot of writing that needs to be done I thought this a worthwhile investment.
We caught a lunchtime tube from Seven Sisters down to Oxford Circus to stop by the Apple Store on Regent Street. I’ve used this slightly scary Self Checkout option that allows you to scan your own products, put them in your bag and just walk out without ever speaking to a shop assistant about this.
It works like a charm – but I was too scared to hide two hot off the self items I had just fondled with in my rucksack. Before doing so (but after paying mind you) I wandered over to the disinterested security guard on duty and told him this: “Listen, I feel ultra dodgy popping these two items in my bag without as much as a till receipt in my hand, but I swear I’ve paid for these online”.
In a thick African accent he pointed over to the main till and said that perhaps I should get a bag over there.
Following his instructions I made my way over but thought since this is an operation quite above board I decided to open my rucksack and put both keyboard and case inside, just when this young hipster in a blue t-shirt comes over and says, “Hey there guys, can I help you with anything?”
I explained the case again, and this time even offered to show him my receipt. “You can do that if it’ll make you feel better”, the hipster said but I declined.
We walked out of the store, waiting for the alarm to go off but it didn’t happen. Nice move! I could have swiped semi-expensive merchandise from Apple today – but I didn’t. And I think that’s why a system like that can work. Who cares about a £57 keyboard and a £20 case really, when every hour several tens of thousands of pounds are walking out of that shop?
Next stop: Camden Town – my first place of work in this country, and the first thing I ever saw of London town. We had arranged to meet Ray and Sue at The Diner on Inverness Street, one of my favourite places when I used to work regularly for MTV. Just across the road from Cafe Nero.
It was a rather mild day so we decided to sit outside. Not the best spot for four people to sit together, but just to make sure Ray and Sue weren’t inside waiting for us, I popped my head and checked the vicinity. No Ray, no Sue.
Back outside I was almost followed by an American waitress with the longest ever face I have seen on any person I’ve ever met. Her face had 117% pissed-off-ness written all over it. It was scary! It’s difficult to imagine why – perhaps it was the decor on the inside (they were getting ready for Halloween so there were plenty of cobwebs in the windows), or perhaps it was that we wanted to sit outside. Perhaps it was because I did not grab a menu when I was inside, who knows.
She slammed the menu cards onto our table and left without a word. Not exactly a gesture of a warm welcome. But the story gets stranger yet: what feels like only 30 seconds later she returns with the biggest ever smile on her face.
“Hey there guys, how you doing? Can I get you anything?” she said, as if the last 60 seconds had never happened. I replied while receiving a text from Ray saying they’re on their way, “Yeah, we’re waiting for a couple of otehr people, give us a minute here.” – “Sure”, she said and returned inside.
This was the cue for Julia and myself to get out of there and beat a hasty retreat from Freakesville over to my other favourite establishment in vicinity: a pub called The Earl of Camden on Parkway. I don’t think she saw us leave, or maybe we were just too afraid to turn our heads.
The Earl of Camden wasn’t always called this, in fact I remember it being The Hogshead when I first came to London. I have great memories of the pub, back then featuring about 20 draft beers – the most I had ever seen in a pub. It was also where I had a pint of Hoegaarden with the estate agent from next door (Black Katz) who kindly made my first flat in London possible. We literally had 2 days to get a flat that was a.) available and b.) affordable, and rather than giving us the laughing treatment like so many others have done, Black Katz’s attitude was: “We’ll find you a flat”.
Sadly I can’t remember the manager’s name, but I remember Raj driving us around (he was from up north, not Indian, and his name was most definitely NOT Raj, nevertheless thats’ what his contemporaries called him. He was on Orange, I remember that much).
With all this in mind, I was glad to see Ray and Sue. This place was almost a regular for Ray and myself, but we hadn’t met socially for some time so I”m very pleased that we did on such short notice before we depart.
We had some good rounds of Brother’s Pear Cider, great laughs and one of the worst burgers I’ve had in a long while. Hey, they were two for £10 – you get what you pay for.
We arrived in Euston by bus just after rush hour, to catch the late train to Birmingham. We’re only travelling first class these days you know… it comes with too many perks that I simply cannot miss anymore. The lounge for example makes a huge difference. I’ve been standing in front of boards waiting for my platform with nowhere to sit (let alone being comfortable) for too long. The Virgin First Class Lounge alleviates this pain, giving you private (and slightly better maintained) toilets, free beverages, sockets for your laptops and – need I repeat myself – a place to put oneself while waiting for the train.
Time and time again we find that no matter how long you have to wait, time melts away like the snow in the sun. The same goes for the actual train journey which is just as comfortable.
I think I saw Peter Carlton next to me in the lounge. He’s a producer whom I used to work with on Missing Live last year. But there was something different about this face, and not wanting to pat a complete stranger on the back I didn’t make contact – it’s just not done in First Class.