Today I am blogging about nothing in particular. I would have written a Blog on Friday the 13th, but I’m not one for sensationalism and as it happens, nothing did….happen that is, nothing of dire, sinister or supernatural consequences at any rate. Just the stuff of ‘Le Train-Train Quotidien’. Not that my life remotely resembles anything boring mind you. I find excitement in the smallest things….like my Blogs. I look forward to it every day and all I do is sit here and pontificate.
But last Friday was different. There were no spooky things occurring, just a leisurely train ride into London, followed by a drink with friends and then dinner at a fancy new restaurant with my best friend. More about that later. For the instant, let’s have a look at the great city to which I have attached myself these past 10 years and my profound love for it.
I was a wee lad when my family set sail for Canada from Tilbury Docks in London. I remember little things, but it was all much larger when I returned. My best friend laughs at me every time the train goes over the bridge on the Thames that takes me into Charing Cross station. Ten years and I still look left to the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament, especially the Elizabeth Tower that houses the bell named Big Ben. Off to the right is St. Paul’s Cathedral and the south bank where I love to walk along the Thames. Like a kid who’s seeing it all for the first time. There’s a narrow gap between an orange and grey panelled building and some flats, just before London Bridge station (on the same line), where you can look along Tower Bridge Road (the A100) to Tower Bridge. That’s the bridge some rich American thought he was buying to put in the Arizona desert. Instead, he got old London Bridge….a pile of bricks.
So much to see and do once I get off the train. I step outside the station and on the Strand I look left to Trafalgar Square, the National Art Gallery and Nelson’s column and turn right to The Savoy. Across the road is Covent Garden. All within a short walk. Leicester Square is just up Charing Cross Road and Piccadilly Circus not far beyond that. I never get tired of it. I sometimes go into London just to wander the streets to poke about in little shops, walk down old alleyways, visit old monuments and museums or just sit and have a beer at one of the many fine pubs around the city.
And parks? Don’t get me started. But now that I have, my favourite is Regent’s Park, very near to where my best friend works. The gardens are well-kept and the lake is calming. In the summer I take a book and read on a bench by the lake. On one of these Blogs, I’ll have to do a parks tour. They’re a marvel and I’m not being comical by saying it. My own local Danson Park provides me with a great place to walk and think as I dodge all the dogs off their leads. In the summertime, hundreds of office workers from nearby Regent’s Place, a residential, commercial complex where my best friend works, pour into the park at lunchtime to snatch up all the available benches and lovely grassy areas.
Restaurants and bars have been opening up in the complex over the last couple of years to ensnare office workers and tempt them into drinking their faces off on a Friday night especially. I usually go into the city on Fridays to meet my best friend and have a drink with the office crowds. Lots of fun. The drinks are ridiculously expensive, but life is short. The wine bars count on all of us thinking the same thing. We never usually eat there. Very pricey and quite corporate in their clientelle. We usually go further into London near our train station. It helps if you’ve had a glass or two (or six) of wine to be close to the station. I have staggered there a few times when I meet a cousin for drinks at the Lamb and Flag.
My best friend called me one day and said a new restaurant had opened in one of the buildings, The Refinery, a Reef and Beef (Surf and Turf) restaurant/bar. They were offering an opening special of lobster, steak and a glass of champagne (plus chips/fries) for an excellent price. Had to be done. I said, “Book it Besty”. We had a reservation for Friday the 13th. I didn’t give it a thought.
Until Friday the 13th came. Risky. Going into the city, trying out a new restaurant….eating seafood. I am not a great seafood fan. Funny that, because I love cod and chips and prawns/shrimp and a few other things. I eat tuna sandwiches and salmon steaks but I don’t really like that fishy smell or taste. You can keep the caviar and the oysters and the fishy fish. I have enjoyed lobster in the past but hadn’t had it for years. Still, one must be adventurous even when nearly 64 years old.
So, our intrepid expat set off to catch the train on Friday the 13th into London, not superstitious but hoping all would be calm and bright. The air had a chill to it, but thankfully was dry. I saw the usual sites, Canary Wharf looming to the right and The Shard at London Bridge, then all the afore-mentioned attractions as I crossed the Hungerford Bridge to Charing Cross station. Straight to the Underground and on the Northern Line to Warren Street, across the road to Regent’s Place and on to the Union Bar for drinks before dinner.
The Refinery, as it turns out, can’t make up its mind whether it wants to be a restaurant or a wine bar. They seated us near the door that never shut because of the crowds pouring in for Friday night drinks. We asked to be moved. The woman who looked after seating people was clearly annoyed. An empty table sat over beside a large picture window, but we were moved to the table in front of us, a few paces away, still on the path that leads to the bar. At one point, some bloke’s bum was nearly in the face of my best friend. The bar crowd had spilled that far into the room. More and more people milled around until it became uncomfortable. We moved our table further and further out-of-the-way, but any space we made was soon occupied by the drinkers.
One of the sous-managers had apparently noticed our plight and came over to check on us as I was trying to pry a little more lobster from the poor creature’s thorax. She apologised profusely for the inconvenience and offered us a free coffee and dessert to appease. We could barely hear her over the din. But in the end, we paid our bill and left, the table by the picture window still unoccupied. We shall not return. Saves lobsters anyway. I thought about that later. Nothing untoward had happened to me or my best friend that day. But those poor lobsters had the worst Friday the 13th of their short existence on this planet. Scary.