Three a.m. this morning found me awake-reading James Lees Milne before I finally decided to get up and continue the post London re-entry to Casa Minimus. I’ve got tons to post about for the next week or so but decided to get a miscellaneous report out of the way before positing the more intriguing bits.
Ambling down the corridor to Heathrow Terminal Three after jumping off the Heathrow Express, I hear a faint click on the tile but think nothing of it. A nice gentleman alerted me to the fact that my little Nikon CoolPix camera-the Christmas gift that many of you were more thankful I received than I was-had fallen out of my backpack. I thanked him profusely-picked it up and went on. This morning I prepare to download all of my London pictures and they are gone-poof-evaporated. Not sure how this could have happened but it did. I’m only aggravated contextually for one potential post. Otherwise, I have enough mediocre iPhone shots to tell most of my feeble stories. Lesson learned-I should have downloaded the pics to my laptop during my London stay.
This was a selfish getaway for me-I’ve not taken more than three consecutive non-business vacation days just for me-sans LFG-since…I can’t remember when. Fuelled by an embarrassment of travel points riches-my airfare and modest but for me-very adequate and appropriate accommodations at the Commodore, 50 Lancaster Gate-Hyde Park cost me nothing. I ask for no sympathy-but during the year, my business travel is physically and viscerally tiring-to a degree that unless you engage in similar commerce-you just wouldn’t know. Think about how tired you’ve been-I called it “tired through your bones”-standing at baggage claim after being in another country for a few weeks. That’s as close to knowing what “tired to the bone” feels like when you travel for business-when you are 100% responsible for how everything turns out when you roll into a business conference and have to facilitate business planning and strategy sessions for as many as twenty people in the room while you are the only said “expert”. I am blessed to do what I do but that level of being “on” drains resources like nothing else. I figure I've got about eight good years of it left in me.
Oh-I’ve just conjured a better metaphor (realizing that all of mine are feeble-shut up). Imagine flying from Seoul to San Francisco while during the flight you had to complete the LSAT, GRE or MCAT for graduate school admission-remember how exhausting those tests were? The GRE was humbling for me because it was the first time I couldn’t leverage the strategy of getting a girl to help me. So the embarrasment of travel points have been well earned. Couple this with the fact that I relinquished some of my watercolours to a London dealer and I’m ahead in the cost of travel game-it’s an entrepreneurial thing that aligns with my ADD and my collecting habit.
I rolled in last Saturday morning at 730am London time and had to wait till noon to get into my room. Portobello Road isn’t usually a destination for me anymore. It’s too overwhelming for an ADD person like me-unless you are on a precise mission.
Too many people-too much stimulus-too many inputs. But it was a fifteen minute walk and as good as anything to kill time till my room was ready. Plus, one of the nicest antique toy soldier dealers, Andy Morant sets up at Portobello on Saturday. That’s the only reason I opted to go there.
As usual, Andy had a plethora of soldiers from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century. His prices are always fair and I picked up about twelve little lead men-all about eighty years old but no worse for typical wear-remember-these were manufactured for little boys to play with so their intact survival is always part of the phenomena when discovering them. You’ll learn momentarily that these twelve little men almost cost me my flight home.
I was reminded of how easy it was for Ralph Lauren to populate all of his stores with such great remnants of the Raj-The Empire-Ancestor Worship-Public Schools and Pastimes of the Empire…Portobello Road still sells tons of it.
This travel-campaign chest was a bargain at 495 pounds. Getting it home-forget about it.
Close your eyes-grab anything in Alice's shop at Portobello-throw it in either a Polo or Rugby Shop and it works. I tried to kit out my digs similarly years ago. It didn't work. I ended up with Pee Wee's Playhouse with kilim rugs.
So I’ll leave you wondering about all of the fun things that went on between the two Saturdays and end this drivel with an update on me and my twelve little lead charges seeking access to our departing flight on Virgin Atlantic. These antique soldiers are made of soft lead. More often than not, their rifles and bayonets are missing because you can bend them and snap them off effortlessly and most little boys did when playing with them eighty years ago. I usually wrap them individually so that they won’t break. I knew better than to do so since I wasn’t going to check them-they’d get stolen-and I knew that the screeners would want to know what these little pods of metal were that showed up so brilliantly on the scan. No worries-these people are only trying to protect us from the crazies. Besides-why couldn’t someone mold C4 or some other explosive into things like baby dolls or little lead soldiers? So I carry them on-loosely swaddled in tissue paper. It gets absurd from here.
Sure enough-the little Turnbull and Asser bag containing the soldiers gets flagged-oh and my hoof pick belt was in the same plastic tub. Still no worries-I’ve got 45 minutes before my flight leaves. The screener lady asks….”What are these and for what purpose do you have them?” Now I can think of a hundred smartass answers to this question but I know that ninety nine of them are going to end me up in one of those full body search rooms nearby and I want to get home to LFG. So I give a polite answer-making sure that she realizes that these are harmless toys from ages ago. She is obsessed with the bayonets. I told her that a ballpoint pen and the plastic knives used in the online meal service are more lethal. “You can’t take these on sir” she says.
I also wanted to tell her that these infantry men with bayonets are French Infantry from the 19th Century-another bit of information that should make her realize that all will be safe on the plane. Who the hell is scared of a French soldier? I’m livid at the impertinence under the guise of safety. She then begins raking the tip of my hoof pick belt across her palm and with a furrowed brow looks at me with a tisk-tisk. “It’s a shit pick” I wanted to tell her but I’m still thinking that I might make my flight if I restrain myself. Keep in mind-there are a half dozen others awaiting the same kind of exception review of something they’ve put through the scan-and of course-my gal is the only one working this station. I’m ready to say f_ck it-take the ninety quid worth of lead soldiers and garrote yourself with my belt. You could breath heavily on the lead bayonet tips and they would literally wilt.
I ask with restrained assertion for her supervisor. She relents. The supervisor arrives and within three minutes-I’m re-billeting my troops in their Turnbull and Tissue Barracks and refitting my waist with the belt. Barely making my flight.
I loved my London jaunt. There still remains enough of London to make me want to return. But I worry for Britain. My subsequent posts will be sprinkled with a bit of an explanation from time to time.
Onward-With Hoof Picks and Little Lead Soldiers.
Oh and P.S. …. Many, many thanks to all of you for your London suggestions. Many of which were affirmations of things already beloved but a few were brand new and indeed made my trip so much better.