The London mini‐tradition of myself not doing much more than the absolute minimum required for living was intended to persist yesterday… well, at least the intention was there. Weather outside was gloomy—grey, light rain, exactly the type of weather that makes you want to get into bed, cover yourself with a thick blanket and sleep through it.
Spent the morning continuing to do some planning for the rest of the European tour. As Wi‐Fi is only available at the hotel’s lobby area (for a fee, of course; we got it for free. Long story), I was sitting at the lobby doing some planning until the very sight of the lobby started to freak me out and I was set out to sit in a cafe or something. Cafe Nero has a shop nearby; suffered some rain on my way there, coffee was terrible… gee, thanks for the experience.
I don’t know if I mentioned it last week, but apparently my Canadian credit card doesn’t carry the CHIP thing on it so I had to call Visa last week to have them ship a replacement card to me to London. Well, it finally arrived yesterday; shortly after noon time, I went back to the room and noticed a huge envelope on the counter.
Before using a new credit card, one has to call in, answer all bunch of questions and then the card is activated. I called them and got Jaime, an interestingly‐sounding woman, on the other side.
Jaime: “Are you calling from home?”
Me: “No, I’m calling from London”.
Jaime: “Oh, I’m in London as well.”
I could see where that was going. She was located at the city of London, Ontario—a painfully boring city, featuring ultra‐low population density and ultra‐low number of attractions. Knopfler played there once, during the Shangri‐La tour.
Me: “I mean London, in the UK”.
Then she started going on and on about how she’s jealous, she wants to be in the UK and all of that. A few security questions, and the card was activated.
Jaime: “Is there anything else you wish to discuss?”
Me: “Well, unless you have some recommendations for places to eat in London, I think we’re done”.
Jaime (laughing): “I’ve never been to the UK before, but if you need some recommendations for places to eat in London, Ontario—“
… and then went on and on to tell me about Richmond Street in downtown London (Ontario), offering some Mongolian Grill Bar, a few junk food restaurants as well as a Martini bar. Nothing of what she said was new to me as I had the misfortune of living in London, Ontario for a few months, six years ago.
Me: “Well Jaime, here’s the thing… after a week in London, I’m going to be in Amsterdam, Antwerp, all over Germany, Paris, Milan, Rome, Monte‐Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid… but, frankly, you convinced me. I’m coming back to Canada tonight to have dinner at the Mongolian Grill in Ontario”
Took her a couple of minutes to stop laughing. “Thank you for making my day” she said. You’re most welcome!
Daria, my friend from Italy, has been spending the last three days in London along with her kids and her sister. Unfortunately we didn’t get around to meet except for a few minutes prior to Sunday’s concert, so I decided to go meet with them… Oh Lord, I’m becoming frustrated just reminiscing what followed next… I’m such a dumbass.
Daria informed me that she’s with the entire bunch at the Tate Gallery. The weather outside was cold; light rain didn’t make it easier to walk around, either. I quickly ran a Google search for the Tate, to find the closest Tube station; turns out that it’s about 25 minutes by the Tube (Pimlico station).
So off I go, walking fast towards the Tube station to avoid the rain as much as possible. At the High Street Kensington station, next to my hotel, two Tube lines are running—the green one (District Line) and the yellow one (Circle Line). Due to some delays, plus the fact that the District Line actually has a few “flavours” (three different end‐stations. Sounds complicated? that’s because it really is), I had to wait about 20 minutes for the Circle Line train to arrive.
Cramped with about 2 billion people on the train, I finally made it to Victoria Station after about 10 minutes. It was so crowded in the train that I wanted to scream; from Victoria Station, I took the Victoria line south, one station to Pimlico. Exited the station and followed the signs to Tate Britain.
I was very happy and somewhat wet when I got to Tate Britain, approximately an hour after I left the hotel. Daria told me she’ll wait for me at the entrance… which she didn’t.
45 minutes (!) have passed, while Daria and I exchange text messages setting up new places to meet—and still, no Daria. I was still wet, and now I began to become tired and hungry. Those who know me well could tell you that the world is not prepared to handle me when I’m both tired and hungry, so I said “f**k it all” and informed Daria that I’m going to eat and “see you later”.
The only place around that resembled anything like an acceptable restaurant was some pub on Millbank street. Took about an hour until I was done, and I decided to give it another try.
This time, however, I’ll come prepared… so I thought. Texting Daria “I’m coming over again. Please tell me EXACTLY where to meet you”, she replied: “Elevator, level 5!”
OK, that sounds specific enough. Entered the building (wet again), found the elevator.
“At last”, I thought. “Phewwww that was a long one”.
I turn around to push the appropriate button. I see a button for level 1, a button for level 2… hmmm. Interesting. Where are 3 to 5?
Leaving the elevator, I found an usher. Tired, wet and full of hopes that life is going to be back to normal shortly, I asked:
– “How many levels does this building have?”
– “Well, this particular building here has two levels…”
I stopped breathing, anxiously awaiting the forthcoming. In my head, I was already praying that she speaks faster already.
– “… but the two buildings on the side, each one has…”
……………………… drum roll………………
– “… three levels.”
I gazed at the usher as if I had just witnessed her being transformed into a Tasmanian Cacadoo: that is, with more than a bit of disbelief in my eyes.
– “Is this the Tate Gallery?”
– “Well, there are two Tate buildings in London…”
!(#&^!( *#& ^ !(#*&^!(& #^!%#*) !#&)(*!&)# ( *!#&* ^ & !#(*!^%#(*!^ &# )!&^#(!&^
Turns out that Tate Modern, where the gallery is, is about an hour walk away from the Tate Britain, where I was. I just wasted 4 hours for being an idiot.
At least Daria had a laugh…
Back at the hotel, I was just too tired to keep my eyes open so I got a quick nap, about 30 minutes, before heading to the concert. Arrived at the Royal Albert Hall a few minutes past 7:30pm so had to miss Kate Walsh’s opening act again (I will catch it at least once by the time the UK tour is over).
A nice chat with Val and Emily, then to the wonderful hall during the intermission. Still a bit tired, I decided to enter the hall early, park my ass on the seat and relax.
Knopfler concerts at the RAH are often involved with a local charity. A beautiful 18 years old girl named Flora (so I believe) took the stage and read a speech on behalf of Great Ormond Street Hospital. Flora suffers from cystic fibrosis and is a patient at that hospital. I can’t really pinpoint what it was in her speech that made me behave that way but I was absolutely fascinated; I believe my blinking rate dropped significantly during the 3 minutes speech, while every word she was saying elegantly skipped any mental filter in my head and went straight into the soul.
A few minutes later, the band captured the stage and the show started.
Whatever it was the night before that made Mark seem distracted the evening before, wasn’t there last night. The show was a blast, featuring a setlist that bears no surprises except for Get Lucky being played for the first time at the Royal Albert Hall.
The audience was slightly less loud than the one of the night before; smaller audience, too—for the first time at the RAH this tour, the seats at the stalls behind the stage were empty (yes, there are quite a few seats at the RAH from where you can only see the back of the band). Still, significantly louder audience than anywhere else in the UK so far.
I would say that the highlights of the concert last night were actually three songs being played in a row—Done with Bonaparte, Marbletown and Get Lucky. Towards the end of Done with Bonaparte, thanks to the fantastic sound at the front row, I was watching the band members playing and something made me feel as if they have let all barriers loose, determined to improvise as wildly as possible. No way in hell that whatever was played there during the end of Done with Bonaparte had been pre‐planned to detail; it was just way, way too complex but, lo and behold, it sounded beautiful.
The Marbletown jam last night was also a pearl; John led with beautiful violin sequences that I haven’t heard yet, with Mike joining with the flute a bit later rocking the audience off. Mark also seemed to take a bit of a louder role with the Martin, altogether creating one of the better Marbletown experiences this tour.
Get Lucky’s best part was the end, with Mike, again, working the flute in a way that even made Mark nod his head with satisfaction from time to time.
That was the first time Jeroen and I were sitting next to each other since the North American tour; we were seated at the left‐hand side of the front row. That was the last time we were going to sit together at the front row for this tour (standing? maybe, if I decide that it’s a good idea to wait outside the Heineken Music Hall hours over hours in advance). The Running of the Bulls practice—the name I assigned to the practice of herds rushing towards the stage at the end of the last song before the encore—was about to commence; for the sake of cherishing old times with my Dutch buddy, I agreed to get up from my seat and make one step forward towards the left‐hand side of the stage.
I tell you it was scary. All I did was get up (slowly) and take one—yes, one (!)—step forward. During that step, I was pushed from both sides, once from some idiot who rushed from the back rows into the front, and twice by an Italian troll who literally pushed his wife into my elbows (oh, the love). Jeroen, making the very same step, was hit by a different bull. The pushing continued for about a minute, when I noticed people that used to be at the third and fourth row—suddenly being at the centre of the stage. That just couldn’t have happened without violence.
Show ended after the usual encore.
Last night’s show was the last one for Val, the last remnant from the Americans’ group with whom I had so much fun going to the UK concerts with. Val took an earlier flight today (Wednesday) back to Los Angeles. She will certainly be missed.
On the way back to the hotel, stopped for a moderately‐acceptable Shawarma for a late‐night dinner, then back to the hotel for an OK night sleep.
Signing off this post from a bench in Hyde Park, Wednesday afternoon. Back to planning the European journey…