Monday, May 26, 2008

Verified: London Still There

There will always be an England, I'm told, but as there's no specific on London per se, I often worry it might go missing. If you share my anxiety on this issue, you'll be pleased to hear it's still where you last saw it. I checked.

In principle, it only takes ten-and-a-half hours to fly to London from Los Angeles. Of course, you need to get to LAX two hours before departure; and, if you take a shuttle to the airport, as I did this time, that's another two hours. Then there's another two-and a half hours to get through the process at Heathrow and to your hotel...So what's that? Seventeen hours?

Thus, I just spent 34 hours in round-trip transit to spend 42 hours in London. If I'd been a bit quicker, I could have spent an equal number of hours on the plane and at the destination. Ain't modern life wonderful?

Given that those 42 hours were partly devoted to work and partly devoted to sleeping, I didn't end up with much time--though I did manage to wander to a couple of bookstores, where I verified that Shock and Awe was indeed on a shelf in a Borders (but only one copy; I can't figure out if that's good news or bad). I picked up Gallows Lane, Sleepwalker's Introduction to Flight, and, finally, Charles Lambert's Little Monsters. I also visited a bookstore called Daunt's, which seemed like a nice place despite its overbearing name, but would have seemed even nicer if it had carried my book. (They had Light Reading, so the store gets some points for that. But only two out of a possible ten.)

I first visited London in 1980 or so. It was an expensive town back then. It's an even more expensive town today. I am delighted to report that London has now reached the long-expected pound proportional purchasing parity point (PPPPP). That legendary point is reached when what costs one dollar in the US costs one pound in London. This makes the prices all look quite familiar except for that squiggly "L" in front (until you realize that the actual cost is twice as much).

Well, not everything costs twice as much. Some things cost much more. For example, the house I live in would cost approximately forty-eight billion dollars in central London (even though our place is closer to the beach). I asked my colleagues--mere oil-company executives, every one--how they managed to survive there. The answer? They all live way the hell out of town.

(Who is it that lives in London proper these days, anyway? Unlike the case in Venice, there seem to be people around London who aren't tourists or people working in the tourist industry. Are all the apparent residents paid actors?)

Anyhow, London remains one of the best walking-around towns on the planet. And if you folks Over There enjoyed the lovely weather last Thursday and Friday, you have me to thank, because for once I remembered to bring an umbrella. I had a vast pile to choose from, most of them purchased in extremis on previous visits.

I'll write something sensible in a day or two. My body is back in Surf City, but my brain is still somewhere over Newfoundland. Or maybe Labrador. Woof.


Janet said...

Seeing as it's now officially called Newfoundland-Labrador, you're safe either way.

I've still never been to London. One of these days.

I'd feel jealous, but I'm still basking in the residual beneficence of my visit to Rome, Padua and Venice. Next year I'll be jealous.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Janet--

Rome is, as they say in Hawaii, da kine.

ORION said...

ACK! David! You mean we miss each other in London by a week????!!!! Totally unfair!!

David Isaak said...

Alas, Patricia...

But you'll be busy wining and dining and probably cutseying to the Queen in any case. (For those who have been living on Mars, our own Patricia "Orion" Wood has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for her fine novel "Lottery". Hence the Hawaii-London commute.)

But I'll catch up with you some time on Oahu. You tie up in Ko Olina, right? Hey, we used to live in Waipahu--get one local style, eh?

Charles Lambert said...

I hope you enjoy Little Monsters. I was in London for a couple of days last week, and did a nail-biting tour of Charing Cross bookstores to see how many had it in stock. In the end, I couldn't decide whether it was more worrying to find no copies of the book at all (which means they might have, gulp, sold out?) or dozens, just waiting to be returned...

David Isaak said...

Hi, Charles--

I bought Little Monsters at the Charing Cross Borders. When I was there they had four copies, face out, which strikes me as a good number--neither gone nor an excessive stack. (Isn't it great how writers can agonize no matter what reality hands us?)

I suppose I ought to have bought indie across the street at Foyles, except that I'm not as impressed with Foyles as I'm supposed to be. For all the fuss, it's rather ho-hum.

Jen Ster said...

Mildly jealous, me. I was last in London in 2004, right before the big move to Texas. I think I've been there three times? Four? A number, anyway. And I love the city, even if it smells like dirty socks.

One thing I noticed though: It may be England, but parts of it are just TEEMING with people who aren't verifiably British at first glance. What I mean is, people with skin colors that are not white. Maybe a third of all the people I saw. Yet, you get back to your hotel room, pass out on the narrow little thing that passes for a double bed in some twisted madman's imagination, turn on the TV, and what do you see? White people. Lots and lots of white people. It's like the U.S. in the 1970s before minorities were invented.

Unless, of course, there's a bad guy, or a jerk, or a stupid person. Those characters tended to come in colors other than white. Or was it my imagination?

Anyway, I still love London, but that did bother me.

Sam Taylor said...

"Verified: London Still There"

Phew. That's okay then. I was worried it might've flown away somewhere. All those blood pigeons, you know :)

Sam Taylor said...

err... bloody pigeons, too :)

David Isaak said...

Hi, Sam--

Sorry you clarified. The concept of "blood pigeons" really had me thinking.("...the notorious and deadly blood pigeons of Trafalgar Square...")

Sam Taylor said...

Hmm. That's nice and surreal. I'll have to fit them into a story :)