Thursday, June 01, 2006


Diary extract from 31.5.05
Copthorne Hotel, London Gatwick, UK

Yesterday morning I woke and couldn’t think where I was! - Nor could I figure out what day it was: did I have to go to the house today? Was the buyer arriving today? I must be in the apartment, because there is the wooden floor; then it dawned on me that I was waking up in Cardiff for the last time.

There was no time to dwell on my thoughts, though, as Martha was coming at 10.30 am to drive me round to the bus station and I hadn’t packed yet!

I ditched a lot of cosmetics, put remaining food and drink in a bag for Martha (I hate wasting food!) and got packed in time. (Packing, like everything else, is something I leave till – you guessed it! – the last minute!) The suitcase closed only under protest and my in-flight bag was much too full. (Remember, I had Simi’s things as well.) I concluded that I’d have to check both pieces of luggage in and pay the excess.

Martha came just as I was struggling up the Hayes with my suitcase and bags and a kind football supporter took pity and lifted the heavy case into the boot.

At the bus station, Martha waited with me till 11.00 (as long as she dared park). It felt surreal standing there watching the green buses coming and going just as usual (or as what passes for “usual” in Cardiff on a bank holiday which is also a match day!) There I was, knowing that I was going away forever, watching the city that I know like the back of my hand function.. and I know how it functions – or doesn’t, on match days! – Won’t start on that right now!

Then I got on the airport bus and it was equally surreal passing through the familiar streets, the bus having taken a “match day” detour to the motorway. It made good time to LGW and I slept most of the way. When we set down, I watched the other passengers and thought, “All these people are either going home or leaving a home temporarily and I have no home any more”.

Got a taxi to the hotel here as I just wanted to get to somewhere comfortable quickly. I just couldn’t be arsed going down to a courtesy coach stop and waiting, with all that luggage!

London prices proved a shock almost as soon as I got here (which is another reason for travelling often, if you can – so that you are not shocked by these matters). I knew the rate, of course, but drinks and food come very steep. I have decided I’ll just not have to mind about the money. And they do mix a mean g and t here! (I can’t stand places that ration the ice /put none /put the tonic in first/ make it taste insipid – not that I’m fussy or anything!)

When I first saw my room I thought it cramped after my spacious apartment. The room has an enormous double bed that takes up virtually all its space. But it’s very comfortable and I slept well last night. Before dropping off, I thought, “I am such a wuzz; am I now going to start missing somewhere (the apartment) where I have only stayed a week, and that periodically?”

Booked the hotel’s “Lion d’Or” restaurant for dinner last night. Everything was superbly cooked but: why do Parma ham and melon have to have Stilton sauce around them? They need nothing else! And what is this fashion for burying vegetables under everything else? Why does a rack of lamb – superbly cooked as I said – need foie gras with it, for god’s sake?! The dessert was good, too, but again, what is wrong with this country that you can’t get a simple ice cream or sorbet that is not drowned in everything the cat brought in? Who was it who said, “To eat well in England you should eat breakfast 3 times a day”?* Well, it’s not as bad as that any more but why do we have to disguise even the things that we cook well? Elizabeth David complained that everything was served on bloody salad leaves [well, I think she left out the "bloody"]; that has gone; now we serve everything hidden under everything else!

The bill for this one meal came to 70 GBP – outrageous by continental standards. Decided not to care. I will say that the service was excellent and the drinks well presented. At least they know that “a lot of ice” means just that!

I literally fell into the spacious, comfortable bed and had a very peaceful night.
* W. Somerset Maugham, I now remember.

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