I’ve just been for a weekend in London. Really quite a fun thing to do as a visitor rather than as a resident of the home counties or for work.
The occasion was a girls’ weekend away for my sister’s 40th birthday – a joint celebration with one of her friends.
To put it in context, and as you may have guessed from the title, there were 8 of us. Of the 8, all are around 40ish, most of the party are married with at least two children, and everyone knew everyone else pretty well, except me.
The outline plan for the weekend was:
- Friday: train up from the sticks
- dinner at 15
- Saturday: breakfast
- a little more shopping
- possibly a little more shopping
- snacks & fizz
- We Will Rock You (oh yes!!)
- Possibly dinner
- More probably drinks
- Sunday: various plans afoot
I’d planned to meet them at the hotel as they were travelling from Weston and I from Bath, but by s cunning series of coincidences we ended up on the same train. And my wonderful sister got me a free upgrade to First.
A very merry journey was had by all, thanks in part to a glass or two of fizzy and rather a lot of excitement at the prospect of a weekend away from work, family and other responsibilities. There was a sharp intake of breath all round though when we worked out that the delays and change of hotel (someone had left the tap on and flooded several rooms the previous day in the one we’d booked) meant that we had a maximum of 10 minutes to get changed before heading out to dinner. But guess what folks, we did it!
Now, dinner. We got a cab there on the hotel company thanks to the last minute change of accommodation. I’ve wanted to go to Jamie Oliver
‘s Fifteen for some time – love the concept and his recipes. All boded well, the waitress was smiley, the menu mouthwatering, the house wine decent very drinkable Italian and reasonably priced.
Sadly, things went a little downhill from there. I won’t on this occasion walk you through the saga but please Jamie, where’s the wow factor?? And is there any chance of the little extra attention to diners that would make the evening feel special?
More cabs back to the hotel, a cocktail before bedtime, and a very good night’s sleep. But it was after breakfast on Saturday that the games began…I’m still not sure how it took almost all of the morning to actually leave the hotel and walk to Tower Hill Station, nor how it took so so long to buy tickets for 7 people (I had my trusty oystercard to hand).
Tower Hill was crowded, and for a little while I found that wherever I stood, someone would try to queue behind me…I have no idea what they actually thought they were queueing for as I wasn’t near the ticket machines, the barriers or the ticket windows. Then of course half the tube lines were closed.
So another discussion ensued re how to get there (there being Oxford Circus in the first instance for Liberty’s
). I really should have stuck to my guns about the river taxis. Or the bus. Whilst not in the company of children, the usual refrain of “are we there yet” was replaced by a relentless “is this really the right way?”. Luckily I resisted the temptation to say “no, I just thought it would be funny if we spent half an hour going in the wrong direction”.
I also resisted commenting on how slowly everyone moved: with many pretty/sparkly things to see and the prospect of seeing them at one of my favourite shops, it was a real effort to keep slowing down. And getting 8 people onto the train before the doors closed proved rather more of a task than I had imagined it ever could.
But well done to one of our party for instigating the roll call – in descending order of age we all called our number (increasingly loudly as the day went on) at each stage of the journey to check no one had got left behind. It worked. Although we did get a little confused when we split into smaller groups…
Ah, Liberty’s. That shop certainly never disappoints. So many lovely, lovely things in one place. Scarves, hats, fabrics, oh the fabrics, the vintage clothes, the shoes, the bags, oh the bags, the soft, soft cashmere cardis….*sigh*
As it happened, I bought make-up. No sooner had I remarked to my sister that I was quite tempted to head to the nearest Benefit store for a quick makeover than a very attractive girl at one of the make-up counters caught my eye and smiled at me. Naturally I smiled back 🙂
As a follow-up I asked if she had any miracle products to erase the effects of a late night’s drinking and in response she magic’d up the divine Alex.
Now I warmed to Alex immediately, he offered to do “just a little makeover” to make me look all refreshed and “dewy”. What a lovely man, he did a fabulous job, I definitely had the look of someone who’d had at least a good 8 hours’ sleep. I was unable to resist the mascara.
And he even gave me his number…purely business you understand.
When I found the girls after a little searching based on my sister’s rather quirky directions (“we’re in a pub ’round the corner, no I don’t know what it’s called” wasn’t a terribly productive start), they were all suitably impressed. Alex, I will be back. Soon 🙂
I then decided my shopping was done for the day until we passed the “sparkly things shop”. Swarovski
in case you were wondering. I am totally incapable of walking past an open Swarovski shop without going inside. And that’s when there isn’t a sale on. I now have some beautiful sparkly blue earrings and a sparkly pen. And my sister has some beautiful sparkly green earrings (identical to mine in all respects except the colour) and a sparkly pen.
Then some more meandering and back to the hotel. Girls, the tube was not crowded. Really not. There was space to stand without actually having to nuzzle up to someone’s armpit…in fact, there were eight of us, so if there wasn’t an awful lot of standing room, perhaps it was because we were taking up so much space. (Sorry, rant over now).
And then to the show. The way things worked we had 15 minutes to get ready that time. It’s amazing what you can do when you focus.
Thank you to the lovely beer-seller for so patiently taking so many photos of us and our champagne with such good humour.
The show was simply amazing. Great music (of course), a really good band, some great singing voices and oh, the outfits. I really really need the Killer Queen
‘s first outfit with the animal print lace-up back coat. And I wouldn’t mind a pair of those red leather trousers. And Scaramouche’s corset is gorgeous (and would go rather well with the red leather trousers).
And another thank you is in order. A young, Glaswegian chap was terribly concerned that we were waiting on the wrong side of the road for our taxi back to the hotel. He was very sweet but also added fuel to one of the running themes of the weekend. My (slightly younger) sister pointed out near the start that people always try to help me. Whereas they always tend to assume that she has everything under control. To be fair, she generally has got everything under control, but she feels this is rather beside the point. But once she had pointed it out, it was interesting to note how many times people offered to help me carry bags, opened doors, offered to get things for me…but didn’t rush to do the same for her.
Having noticed this phenomenon, we were at a loss to explain it – even those in the party who were doing some of the offering to help seemed unsure why. After all, I am not in least fragile-looking or waif-like. But a complete stranger insisting on offering unsolicited transport advice really was the icing on the cake.
To be continued…