Dateline – London, United Kingdom
After being delayed for a year by Covid, specifically the omicron surge of last New Year, the long promised and looked forward journey to London for the New Year has begun. The seven intrepid folk whose common denominator is a background in Birmingham theater circles have all made their way by various routes and redeyes to reunite at the Dorsett Hotel in Shepherd’s Bush. (Holland Park I hear some of you Absolutely Fabulous fans shriek in unison but this is definitely Shepherd’s Bush as the hotel fronts on the Shepherd’s Bush Green on Uxbridge Road.
My personal journey was rather uneventful. Despite the subfreezing temperatures of this week and the complete and utter meltdown of Southwest Airlines, my flight from Birmingham was on time and a reasonable 11 AM hour so I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and stumble blearily through the concourses of Birmingham’s Shuttlesworth International Airport. (A misnomer as I don’t believe an international flight has either departed or landed in the quarter century I’ve been in residence in Aabama.) I met up with old friends, the McMullens who are the other folk still in the Birmingham area and we passed a pleasant afternoon catching up while waiting through a four hour lay over in Atlanta.
That flight wasn’t quite as smooth. I had a prognostication of bad juju when I was stuck on the jetway behind a very zaftig lady who’s idea of proper travel attire was skin tight leggings in a flesh tone so I felt like I was staring at her unclothed derriere for the ten minutes it took to get down the jetway and on to the plane. The flight was delayed an hour for little things like ground crew carrying paperwork away with them and someone having to run fetch it back. But we did eventually take off. And I found myself the only passenger in my row of three seats so I was able to stretch out and doze off and on as we winged our way east.
Deplaning was uneventful at Heathrow although there were still signs of recent baggage handler strikes. There were. piles of luggage standing around in the baggage claim area. The handlers had refused to unload it when the planes landed. It was unloaded some days later, and stacked. Where it has been sitting for some time until the airlines can figure out how to reunite it with passengers long since scattered. I imagine some of them will eventually end up in Scottsboro, Alabama – home of the only thrift store specializing in unclaimed airline luggage.
The weather was pure Seattle when I emerged from the terminal. High forties, gloomy and intermittent showers. A nice suburban was waiting to ferry us from the airport to the hotel as we all straggled in from our flights over the next few hours. First small disaster was finding that I had packed by European plug adapters rather than my British ones. Fortunately the hotel is two blocks away from the biggest shopping mall in the British Isles and that problem was quickly fixed by a trip to Boots, the chemists. Then, as it was still only noon, on to the Underground and off to Central London to do some walking and reacquainting of self with surroundings. This is my fourth trip to London and I know it fairly well but it never hurts to spend some time getting ones bearings again. So walk we did. Oxford Circus to Picadilly, Picadilly to Leicester Square, Leicester Square to Trafalgar. Then down to parliament, the Embakment, down the Mall past Buckingham Palace and a stop at Harrod’s and the food halls before retuning fro nine and a half miles of rambling.
Some dinner and so to bed early, thoroughly warn out to try to sleep my way into the correct time zone. We shall see how I am in the morning.