- a transit pass with plenty of cash on it
- a printout of a map of the area, with the routes I needed to know highlighted in various color codes
- a London A-Z with the areas I'd expressed an interest in marked by Post-it flags
- a spare set of keys for the apartment
- his cell phone, with a list of the speed-dial codes for his and Andrew's offices.
I showered and headed out, immediately taking the wrong street. I discovered my mistake and adjusted, walking through charming neighborhoods with villa-style homes lined in tidy rows.
Real estate in London is obscenely expensive. One has to wonder whether buyers ever pay off their mortgages in their lifetimes. Still, stuff manages to move.
My goal was Primrose Hill; since reading HG Wells' "War of the Worlds" I'd wanted to see the place where the protagonist finds the disabled spaceship that signals the demise of the invaders.
Primrose Hill is in the midst of a large expanse of green. Think Boston Common with fewer trees. I climbed the path to the top of the hill and looked out upon the city. It was lovely. A woman had brought her boxer to play, and the dog and I enjoyed some ball-toss before I headed on.
I wandered around, trying to find the area Sven had mentioned for shops and window-shopping. I was also hoping to see his good friend, who lives in that tony area (Once, shopping at a Fresh and Wild near Primrose Hill, Sven picked up a package of baked tofu. A woman had said, "oh, that's really good on toast." Sven had thanked her and bought it. Some time later he was watching "The Talented Mr. Ripley" with his then-boyfriend, and was startled to discover that the woman he'd previously thought of as The Fresh and Wild Tofu Woman was in fact a movie star named Gwyneth Paltrow.)
I found a street with lots of cute shops. Given the anemic dollar, I had no desire to shop, but I'd been out and about for a couple of hours and was ready for a cafe.
I found a very cute one and drank a cappuccino while I read. It was very relaxing, despite the fact that my brain persisted in calculating the cost of the beverage in American dollars. (seven.)
Sven and I had planned to meet for lunch, so I called him when I was done. Following the pink route (Sven's work) on my printout, I headed to meet him.
I finally met the co-workers I'd heard so much about. Sven's latest editorial project (He works for a medical-textbook publishing house) is on a book about STDs. He showed me the photos for the book. After the tenth or so pustule, wart, growth, and suppuration, I said, "Forget all the sex-ed curricula. Show these slides to high-school kids and they will never have unsafe sex again."
Sven and one of the gang encouraged another pal, an Indonesian woman about my age, to show me "The photo." She paused, then scurried back to her desk, retuning with a thin volume under her arm.
"This is my special book. I keep it hidden and only show it to special new people," she informed me, looking around conspiratorially.
Then she opened the book to a photo of the groin of a man. A man with two penises.
I looked. "So...are they both..."
"They both work perfectly!" she declared.
"Wow. I mean, that's either a dream come true, or a nightmare."
Then Sven showed us all Andrew's birthday present, a gorgeous (************Sorry, Andrew! LA la la!)
Sven took me to a nearby Thai vegetarian buffet restaurant that had the most amazing food. There were a hot and cold table, with all kinds of delicious dishes. Heaven. We stuffed our faces, then Sven went back to work and I hopped the Tube to Highgate to see the cemetery.
I got off at Archer and followed Sven's directions up the hill. A couple of men unloading Guinness kegs at a restaurant get chatty (How areya, dah-lin?" Very cute.)
Up and up the hill, and because it's London, I missed my street and got lost amidst a series of small twisting roads and squares. I finally found my way and spent the next hour or so wandering around a gorgeous, huge, old cemetery with headstones taller than I. Burials still take place there, but trees and bushes and the damp English weather made most of the place a gothic jungle, overgrown and covered with moss. I was feeling very Bronte. One odd thing: I took my pictures surreptitiously, as the sign at the entrance forbade photos (Why?Were these people Amish?)
This is also where Karl Marx is buried, which I found kind of surprising. I also think he'd disapprove of the ostentation of his memorial. (There will be photos posted, I promise). I wandered all over the place, off the beaten path, and had a great time. (I'll let Sven tell everyone what I managed to miss. I can't really capture his disdain.)
On the way back I stopped at a little hall where some local artists had some paintings for sale. I went in and looked around at twee little paintings of London scenes, and then was shocked to discover that they were priced at upwards of six-hundred pounds, and most were sold. I looked around at the small hall, empty save for the elderly painter and two elderly women. The painter gave me one of his cards. It was touching, and I managed to get over my shock that people would pay upwards of twelve-hundred dollars for generic paintings of the Houses of Parliament.
I need to get cracking at that easel.
Back to meet Sven at the apartment, then the number 390 bus to Andrew's, where my favorite boys treated me to take-out Indian food that we ate sitting on Andrew's carpet while watching Catherine Tate videos. I had a scrumptious thali, and we washed it down with Magner's Ale, provided by Andrew, the perfect host (I'd forgotten to mention that the night before he'd produced a bottle of champagne before we headed for dinner. I could get used to this!)
The best Thanksgiving ever!