Oh, Mary, this London’s a wonderful sight,
With people all working by day and by night.
Sure they don’t sow potatoes, nor barley, nor wheat,
But there’s gangs of them digging for gold in the street.
At least when I asked them that’s what I was told,
So I just took a hand at this digging for gold,
But for all that I found there I might as well be
Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.
(Percy French, 1896)
Friday last, I found myself in London for the day, courtesy of my work. I had the luxury of travelling down by train, in first class, which was very pleasant. Free tea and biscuits only takes you so far, however, so just outside York I headed for the restaurant car. One lucky and unsuspecting lady got a high-definition close-up of me on the way, as the train rounded a bend suddenly and I lurched into her lap. I muttered my apologies and carried on without looking back to see what her partner had made of our close encounter. In the restaurant a nice Aussie waitress took my order for breakfast.
“How would you like your eggs done, sir?”
Unprepared for such a question outside of the USA, I was just trying to remember how I liked my eggs done (Over easy, as I recall), when she clarified the options.
“Fried or poached?”
Ah. How naive I was.
Today sees me in London again, for the weekend this time, at the beginning of a holiday. I have never been desperately fond of London, finding it intimidatingly big, dirty and generally unfriendly. But it does have rather a lot going for it, too. Quite apart from the obvious (my sister lives there with her partner, and my mischievous bundle of a niece), there’s always plenty of things happening. And it’s noticeably several degrees warmer than Edinburgh. On Saturday I spent the day in Hyde Park, at a Hard Rock Café-sponsored event, soaking up the sun, Sheryl Crow, John Mayer and Eric Clapton.
Sheryl Crow was great, John Mayer, one of my principal reasons for going, was excellent, although restricted a little by only getting a 45 minute set, and Clapton was simply awesome. The sequence which closed the show (prior to the encore) was Wonderful Tonight – Layla – Cocaine, with barely a pause for a breath. The other guitarist in Clapton’s band was a left-handed wizard called Doyle Bramhall II whose guitar strings were in the wrong order. My eagle-eyed festival companion Iain noticed this. Mr Bramhall clearly learnt to play on an upside down right-handed guitar without restringing it. Genius. Either that or he has so completely mastered the conventionally-strung guitar that he got bored and reversed the string order to give himself a challenge.
So my sojourn in London is almost over. In addition to the Hyde Park show I had the privilege of worshipping at Soul Survivor yesterday morning, and what’s more, watching the afore-mentioned Eagle-eyed Iain playing bass there for the first time. As far as I could tell he had all the strings in the right order. There’s been two barbeques in one day, and the usual quality time with little Maggie, lying on our backs in the garden, considering the sky and philosophising. And kicking our legs in the air, which seems quite popular.
But that’s my digging for gold in London over for now. I’m off to where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea, to see if Mr French had it right after all…