It’s been an interesting few days, three days that have seemed like a bunch of brand new experiences, and also a bunch of things that I’m so used to, they’re not new or interesting or special or anything like that.
You see: I actually got to go away. To go on a holiday of sorts. It wasn’t just going away for a night to get out of Dublin, it wasn’t going to visit my in-laws. This was an actual holiday. And oh, how I loved it.
About ten years ago, myself and Dan (my fiance) went to London for a gig (the Give It A Name festival, to be precise. We were only just getting to know each other, and had even booked the holiday as nothing more than friends with similar music taste and stuff. While I’ve been to London since on business, it seemed appropriate that ten years later, we go back (we both turned 30 this year, and after recovering from treatment for a brain tumour, from chemo and radiotherapy, it seemed right to treat ourselves.)
London. You haven’t changed much. And yet, you’re so different, I don’t even know where to start.
Ryanair flights to Stansted were our friends, and the Stansted Express proved the easiest way to get back into town. That had actually been one of the things that influenced our choice of hotel: the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green was but one tube stop away from Liverpool Street Station, so shouldn’t have meant too much lugging around baggage and the like.
So we got to Liverpool Street, we got to Bethnal Green and we got to this amazing hotel that is both trendy and cool and very fucking in-keeping with every single design sentiment that we have. See this picture right here? Yeah, that curtain is actually the window into the bathroom so you could let the light in and leave it open in the shower…stop thinking those thoughts. The wall to the right? Yeah, the other side of that was a full kitchen and seating area and another TV and a fridge and a dishwasher and…yeah, this place was kind of bigger than our apartment.
Apparently, staying in converted town-halls is pretty on-trend.
We went back into central London for a few hours, wandered around a few shops and pretended like we knew where we were going. Which is ironic, because London isn’t all that hard to find your way around, and when you’re walking around behind some tourists getting completely lost paying more attention to their guide-book than the thing they’re looking for (which is right in front of them) then that sort of annoys me. Just like a real Londoner…
We did Hamley’s and I really want to buy magic tricks, but I don’t know if that’s me thinking it, or if I really want to get back involved in all things sleight-of-hand and psycho-kinetic. (Seriously, one of the magic kits on sale is on PK magic and using apps and I really fucking wish I’d bought it.)
We wandered around Regent St and Piccadilly for a while. Took a selfie in the lift in Fortnum & Mason’s. I’m somewhat disappointed to announce that Waterstones didn’t have any of my books. As a matter of fact, they confirmed that none of the Waterstones’ in central London had any of my books. Umm…thanks? No, really…thanks. (London, what’s the fucking problem? GO ORDER IN MY FUCKING BOOKS AND BUY THEM AND SUPPORT SHOPS AND STUFF.)
Wanted to have a look in Hatchards as well, but I am apparently forever damned to never get a chance to go into that shop. Hey, Hatchards, when someone is walking out of your shop and decides they’re just going to stop to sort their bags out, it sort of stops people from walking into your shop. That person who did that? Yeah, they were the reason I didn’t come in. Don’t take it personally.
(I should stress, I kinda wanted to go back the following day where Steph and Dom from Gogglebox would be signing. But, we also had tickets for the theatre, so that wasn’t going to happen.)
Wandered around some of Soho, picked up our tickets for the following night’s entertainment (more to follow) and boom, off to dinner (we’d pre-booked a table in Planet Hollywood. Which is smaller than I remember it. That’s possibly because they’ve moved to a different location, and this one is smaller.) Food was good (but salty, nothing at all to do with the really expensive soft drinks, I’m sure.) I seem to remember there being a lot more ~stuff~ in Planet Hollywood. Where has the ~stuff~ gone, people? WHERE IS THE ~STUFF~?!?!
We did some more wandering, walked around Trafalgar Square, didn’t get attacked by pigeons (because it was dark at that stage. Fuck you, pigeon overlords. I escaped you this time!)
The next day: DINOSAURS!
I think they were following us, or something.
But before we get to the dinosaurs, let’s discuss the other people who were staying in the hotel and were sitting nearby for breakfast. Because when you go to get some juice and you look at a guy and go “hey, doesn’t that look like model and gay-icon Colby Keller” and then you check the internet and discover that yes, it is really him.
That’s a bit weird, eh?
Went to Harrod’s. Um…it’s sort of big.
And I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing. Okay, the size is a good thing, but their Christmas shop wasn’t any nicer than Fortnum’s. And their food court just sort of made me feel like a posh-Tesco where I can’t tell where anything is, what anything is and why it’s there, so I just wouldn’t buy anything at all.
Went to the V&A and took a few pictures (too much culture for me. I like a certain type of aesthetic, don’t get me wrong, and I can appreciate those arts, but…y’know…~culture~ can sometimes feel so…so forced.)
But I like sculptures. Sculptures are my friend. I can handle sculptures.
The Natural History Museum has DINOSAURS, yo! DINOSAURS! Bones and animatronics and DINOSAURS. I don’t think I can labour that point enough (despite my efforts to…y’know, labour that point.) There was also a pretty cool explanation of earthquakes with an in-shop simulator from the Kobe earthquake of 1995 that freaked me out but was awesome.
Y’know what’s across the road from the Natural History Museum?
This is important, because we were going to see The Book Of Mormon that evening. That feels like something worth commenting on (I’ll discuss the show in a minute, but c’mon, there’s a certain element of fate in deciding you’ll go to the museums right across the road from that sign with the knowledge of what you’re going to that evening?) FATE, YO! KARMIC DESTINY AT WORK!
(Didn’t get into the Science Museum and am now a bit heart-broken. I was tired, okay? Tired and sleepy and couldn’t really walk any longer, so it was easier to just go back to the hotel and take a few hours of rest. Before…)
This is Jamie Oliver’s Diner and there was food and it was yummy and there were cocktails and they too were yummy. I’m sort of surprised that the place wasn’t bigger (it’s just a pop-up…for now, I assume) or more expensive.
And then…to The Book Of Mormon.
I’d seen/heard some of it already (mostly first-act.) Seriously hilarious. Loved every minute. Second act was better, and Spooky Mormon Hell Dream has become one of my favourite things ever. If you don’t know what those words mean, you should go see it and find out why Ken Mooney calls this “one of the greatest visual experiences of my life.”
That was Thursday.
On Friday, we had breakfast once again, closely joined by Colby Keller, and yeah, that’s us with Colby Keller.
Really nice guy, really good chat about life and all things life-y. And also, this is a great opportunity to point out the design in this hotel, which was really cool and made me want to stay far longer.
From there, we headed north, walked up Highgate Hill (DON’T DO IT, KIDS! GET THE FUCKING BUS!!!!!!) and went to Highgate Cemetery. Not just any visit to Highgate Cemetery, though. We actually did the guided tour of the West Cemetery, full of Victoriana and cult-of-death drama and design that was literally breath-taking. What’s more, the lighting was so amazing, that none of those pictures have been edited (I’ve played with the focus, but not a single filter.) (Couple of pics, because wow.)
Yep, we were followed around the cemetery by a fox. For a place that is all about death, Highgate Cemetery is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life, a place of natural beauty, and somewhere I would recommend anyone to visit. Martin was our guide for 90 minutes of fascinating insight into design and thoughts on death and burials in the London of the 19th century, and how some of those practices continue up to today.
Also, let’s be honest, the place is a creative dream. How fucking inspirational are these pictures? Just imagine what it’s like to be there, walking around these spaces, and feeling that sense of history.
We went back into central London for a walk around Victoria, past Buckingham Palace, past Downing St, Big Ben and the London Eye (we actually sat on the Embankment watching the sunset, hence the cover photo.) Interestingly enough, there was a guy being arrested (or maybe just creating a fracas) outside of Downing St wearing a Peppa Pig mask. I’m sure there’s something political there… (For reference, I don’t think he was being arrested, that was entirely Dan’s reading of the situation. I just think he was a bit…crazy.)
Then we went to the Rocky Horror Show.
With Richard O’Brien in the role of the narrator (that’s him there on the left.) A couple hundred people (I dunno the capacity, but the place didn’t seem that big) all doing the Time Warp with the guy who created this cult? That’s pretty fucking magic. David Bedella played an amazing Frank (apparently he’s been doing it for years) and I don’t think I can ever watch the movie version again without feeling wistful for this fucking awesome day of my life.
The next day…we came home.
BOO I SAY.
This was London. This was our first holiday in a long time, a well-needed holiday after 18 months of cancer and brain tumours and stress and shit and nonsense and things that we couldn’t control.
This is what we needed. And it was fucking magical. It was amazing.
Now, if you’ll excuse me…we have a wedding to plan.