Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Sapphire and I have just returned from a magnificent week in London which might explain my absence on this blog, as a reader/commenter on other sites as well as updates on Facebook.

Y'see I don't own an iPad, iPhone or any form of magically instant photograph-to-website device. Stubbornly and miserly old fashioned, I managed to get around the most exciting city in the world with my thirteen year old daughter using only a five year old mobile (still giving me Swiss phone messages in German) and a *gasp* separate camera. A cumbersome device that had to wait until we returned home before being able to download the photographs taken on holiday.

We 'did' Buckingham Palace, Victoria & Albert Museum, double decker bus tour, National Gallery, Trafalgar Square and Westminster last year, so this visit - tinged with a few dollops of guilt leaving Love Chunks hard at work back in Geneva - was about eating, shopping and different sights.

First meal? Sushi. Fresh and affordable.

Second meal? Indian, at our friend G's favourite restaurant. Spicy, authentic and gob smackingly cheap. Surely only a Swiss-dweller is thrilled by the size of the bill at London eating establishments.

Third meal? Porridge and fresh blueberries, before accompanying G and her dog Alfie for a walk along the Thames.

The place was understandably buzzing with pre-Olympic fever but it was rather noticeable that most tourists and locals were buying anything and everything with the Union Jack on it and not the puzzling pork-scratching 2012 logo or the stuffed (literally and figuratively) versions of the mangled one-eyed mutant mascots.

The Thames cruise from Big Ben to Greenwich was the best way to get a different view of the city but GMT itself was completely obscured by white catering tents and scaffolding ready for a music festival. That didn't stop us from eating our Marks and Sparks sangers in the drizzle by Cutty Sark and enduring Dad jokes from the coffee maker. "You want a flat white, luv? I'll give you a white coffee and squash it, how does that sound?"

We wondered what Nelson thought of his permanent view of the pin cushion Millennium dome, so Sapphire decided to take his mind off it for a while.

Shopping for clothes in Oxford Street and Notting Hill was eventually completed to Sapphire's satisfaction. It was then time for her old mother to force some 'must sees' on her.

I confess to getting tearful at St Paul's - a place that was regularly visited during my two year work visa residence during church services to hear the choir, feel the immense pipe organ so powerful that it rumbled in my chest and to gaze up at the dome in an acceptable imitation of spiritual enlightenment. This time around, we spent more time up on the top of the building taking photographs for other tourists. "Are you from London?" asked a young Italian bloke who'd left his elderly parents below. Clearly Sapphire's international school had softened her Aussie twang.

I confess also to getting tearful in the drizzle at Hampton Court Palace. "Do you see how wonderful this place is, Sapphire? Why I loved it so much and needed to take you here?"
"Yes Mum. Now shoosh."

There are many more confessions to make, including:

Being far too audible in my appreciation of bacon sandwiches;

Poking my nose in the 'Temporarily closed for new display' at Kensington Palace but then being invited in by the curator so that we could see Queen Victoria's Great Exhibition dress and Albert's toiletry box that included a tongue scraper. "We're thinking about having it tested for his DNA";

Chatting to many strangers on the tube: "Your tattoo of 'Carpe Diem' there on your chest, that's what we were talking about last night, weren't we Sapphire. .......Sapphire?"

Kissing G's dog too many times;

Causing more embarrassment by making my child pose in front of the Victoria Palace theatre after we'd seen and loved Billy Elliot;

Overhearing a job interview being conducted in a Teddington coffee shop and giving the candidate a hearty 'thumbs up' as we passed by;

Laughing inappropriately at this sign and puzzling the nearby drinkers at the King's Head:

.....and feeling mortified that I couldn't remember the actual street number of the building I lived in for nearly two years until I saw the boot scraper and the 'Diplomatic car parking only' sign for the posh place next door.  W1H 1FF - a helluva postcode; and if I had a spare 3.25 million pounds, a flat in the next street would be nice.

And tears again because I was privileged enough to be able to do it all with my beautiful, funny, insightful, clever and appreciative daughter.  A week sprinkled with laughter, hugs, witty insults (hers) requests to use the camera, wondering how our paper tickets survived the gates of multiple tube lines, becoming adoring fans of Alfie the dog and getting sore necks from constant head swiveling at the sights.  

Thank you, dear one.


Fen said...

Awesome, you've made me totally nostalgic now with those pics and your story. Thanks for sharing.

Elephant's Child said...

And thank you for taking us on this tour with you.
I also own i nothing and have a separate camera and a phone wot is more than five years old.

Re your 'beautiful, funny, insightful, clever and appreciative daughter' I think that you and Love Chunks have had some part to play both her creation and her nurturing. Pats on the back are clearly in order.

Anonymous said...

London. I can't explain what I felt when I was there, but you got a pretty good handle on it by what you saw.

River said...

Such a wonderful week you've had!!
did I read this right? 3.25 million for a flat? a flat, not a whole house? Is it gold-plated?
I loved the flat white coffee comment, I have to try and use that somewhere here.
My five year old phone takes photos, but I rarely use that function, I much prefer my camera.

Red Nomad OZ said...

Your blog is the secret location for the AA equivalent for recalcitrant, non-recovering technophobes, right?! I own a 'dumb phone' (well, it's NOT 'smart'), a totally separate camera and a netbook. And that's about as complicated as it's ever going to get!

Oh, and I use paper maps.

MedicatedMoo said...

No worries, Fernstar. I said 'no worries' quite a bit this past week and was relieved to have it understood.

E-Child, you are too kind. I see pretty big dollops of my parents in her.

Thank you Andrew. It's my favourite place in the world. Who said 'if you're tired of London, you're tired of life' ?

Yep River. 3.25 million. In pounds. I kept saying to Sapphire how one half of one floor can cost that and yet my 'dog box' (one room only with a shared bathroom) in a building that housed several dozen of us, was sharing the same street frontage and postcode.

Dumb phone for me too, Red Nomad and 'paper maps' that I'll admit are found on the computer at home (googlemaps) before being printed out and folded and refolded in my handbag until they disintegrate.

Nuttynoton said...

Sounds like you had a great time and the nostalgia, brilliant! Oh and I have a bog standard phone that i speak to people on and text, and 5 year old camera. Oh and we think food in London compared to up north in England but cheap compared to Switzerland!
I still remember doing wild thing at the M Ex karaoke with Chris J and then walking back through Hadley Wood! Great to have nostalgia

Pandora Behr said...

What a fabulous, fabulous trip - and you've made me feel very homesick too. Glad you had a great one.

Elisabeth said...

You describe an amazing trip Kath, joy and poignancy laughter and love all rolled in together in London, that place that Australian youngsters once hankered to visit, perhaps a little less so now.

franzy said...

I am quietly collecting non-smart phones because I know that one day my 6 year old, camera-less, non-photo-displaying, non-web-surfing phone will die.

Besides, look at it this way, give it a little longer and it'll be tre retro and everyone will want one.

You inspired me to go back and Google Street View my own little UK living arrangement from when I was a traveler ... and it's still got gray stucco.

drb said...

Very pleased that you had a fabulous time!

drb said...

When we were in Houston, I was told off by Rob that I didn't bring my iPad!!!! Because he had to google is way around and was sick of dragging my miniDell (1kg)around. I was totally surprised by his deviation from the Read's aversion to new technology! ;-)

JahTeh said...

Good for you for getting the sneak preview at KP and for looking at London before the Olympic invasion.

As for iPhones, remember how chuffed we all were when a 21 inch television came on the market? Now we're back where we started, looking at a tiny screen and thinking "isn't this great?".

diane b said...

Sounds like you had a fun nostalgic visit. sapphire is getting a great education in geography and your past. It is great to hear of a mother and daughter having so much fun together. Stuff that will bond you closer and be great for the future.

Remember, be kind to your kids now, they choose your nursing home later.

River said...

P.S. I can't believe you ate porridge. You hate porridge.

MedicatedMoo said...

Nutty, I think everyone needs to have a few fun weeks/months/years in London :)

Thanks Pandora - every trip to London is a great one.

Elisabeth, we still heard a lot of Aussie and Kiwi accents, so I think the two year visa for under-27s is still highly coveted.

Where did you live, Franzy? Fling me the postcode. I like your idea of 'retro' phone and Sapphire had to keep reminding me to stop using the word 'SMS' and replace it with 'text.' The shame of having a wilfully outdated parent.

drb, we Reads take our time adapting to new technology. This can be troublesome when, like my good self, I share a house with two 'early adopters'

You're spot on, Jah Teh. So many people with crooked necks looking at 4 inch screens and forgetting the scenery around them (even if it's just the other passengers on the tube)

Thanks dianeb. I've made Sapph promise me that, no matter what nursing home I'm shoved in, I'm NOT to be allowed to grow a beard. I can handle many indignities, but sitting in a rocking chair looking like a human schnauzer is not one of them.

I do, River. But G makes her own and crams it with crushed mixed nuts, seeds and blueberries and accompanies it with freshly made Italian coffee. It was a rather nice way to start out our walk along the Thames with Alfie the lab.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Kath,

Sounds like a grand trip. Mrs PM and I had a weekend there earlier this year, before the Olympic hullaballoo kicked in.

Two hours on the train from Manchester; not bad at all.

I'm not surprised all the Union Jacks are out instead of the dreadful Olympic logo; most people were utterly shocked when they saw it because:

(a) Somebody designed it that way.

(b) Somebody actually LIKED it.

(c) Somebody actually PAID for the thing.

I feel shame whenever I look at it.




Hannah said...

A week from this very moment, I'll be up in the air, and reading your post has made me cry a little bit because the happiness! the travel! the not-having-a-fancy-phone-or-mobile-device! the mother-daughter love!

It all just sings to my heart, and I'm full of THE EMOTIONS ALL THE EMOTIONS.

Thank you Kath. xo

MedicatedMoo said...

Don't feel shame, Plasman. The committee who LIKED it and PAID for it should feel shame. Just feel relieved that your flag is so attractive and seems to be in 'fashion' all over the planet right now.

Aw Hannah, you've made me cry a little bit too. In your case, I hope you *do* have all the techno wizardry magic mobile phone stuff in order to keep us posted throughout your travels.

ropcorn said...

Looks and sounds like you had an amazing week in London with your daughter. I would love to go there too one day, even more so now after reading your post. Hehe. There are just so many things to see and do there! :p

Thank you for sharing Kath.

Louise said...

What a wonderful week you had, and what a wonderful post you made, even without an i-gadget. I've not been to London (yet) but will hopefully get there one day. I know I'll love it when I get there.

MedicatedMoo said...

Ropcorn, you must go. Any time. But go - best city in the world.

MedicatedMoo said...

Thanks Louise. You go to London and I'll go to Paris! (eventually.....)