Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Travels with Muriel II

Toinight I'm drunk in Richmond.

I got here by way of the Groucho Club in Soho, which would likely have been more interesting to me if it hadn't been so bloody hot. Look, I know English winters are cold but what's stopping these guys from just wearing jerseys indoors, like we do in the cold wet Cape winters? Instead, you freeze your arse off outside then go into swelter-down the minute you enter a building. I for one am mightily sick and tired of repeatedly removing and replacing my coat, hat, scarf and gloves. (But I did love the loos, with their handwritten sign Presticked to the mirror warning sternly: "Anyone taking illegal drugs on these premises will IMMEDIATELY be ejected from the Groucho Club." Oo-er. I thought the better of it and put my syringe away.)

But I really am dying for a cigarette.

NOBODY on this verdomde island smokes. Well, almost nobody. I saw a girl smoking a cigarette outside a Boots chemist in Hitchin this morning and I couldn't help it - I ran up to her, grabbed her sleeve and gasped, 'Oh thank god thank god please exhale in my direction.' She did that humiliating English thing of pretending she hadn't noticed me.

Hitchin is a very strange little town. I won't say too much about it now because I'm going back there tomorrow and want to gather more ammunition before I pull that trigger (I'm bouncing around this place like a rubber ball, apparently - the Engish really dislike disorganisation, and my itinerary hasn't impressed anyone) but this I will say: it's VERY weird ordering a Starbucks coffee in a 600-year-old building with moss growing on its roof.

One other thing: England is CROWDED. I have mentioned (slightly questioningly) to the friends I'm staying with the absolutely terrifying levels of traffic on the roads and the frankly nightmarish press of people EVERYWHERE. I caught a train from Hitchin to King's Cross Station (the station from which, incidentally, Harry Potter takes off for Hogwarts) at 11.30am today, a Monday - it's holiday time and I was travelling off peak - and it was so crowded I had to stand with my bum pressed up against a pensioner's forehead and my nose squashed against a Aramis-drenched teenager's back, a double bill I never ever want to repeat... When I point out the crowds to my hosts, they look at me as if I've just grown an extra set of boobs and say, 'This is a small island and SIX MILLION PEOPLE live on it.' Well, okay then, just freak me COMPLETELY out, why doncha.

Also, faaahk but is this place expensive - a 30-minute return ticket cost me 23 pounds which for we cash-strapped South Africans is about THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY RAND - for a train trip more or less the equivalent of from Rondebosch East to CT central, I am still reeling so badly from it, it's hard to tell if I'm drunk or just astonished.

(Okay, I'm drunk. They make really really good mojitos at the Groucho Club. And that's all I'm going to say about that.)

Anyway. I spent this evening listening to Bob Dylan, the Crash Test Dummies and Laurie Anderson with my mad-professor friend John and being fed and otherwise elegantly entertained by his fabulously energetic wife Brigitte. Tomorrow Brigitte and I are going to hit the British Museum in London (I want to see the Rosetta Stone). I'll keep you posted.

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Juno said...

Wonderful dispatches, Mur! Much better and newsier than the newspapers,and much more entertaining! xx

Ruth Kirby said...

60 million dear Muriel!

Muriel said...

Thanks, Ruth. My hair's standing on end.