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London Rediscovered

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What a thrill to jump in a taxi and go to the airport on Monday morning. The memories of six and a half years ago before I had children came flooding back. The prospect of sitting back, selecting a film to watch and flipping through the in-flight magazine for eight hours, uninterrupted, was down right exciting! Weirdly, the airport was whisper quiet and I almost thought I’d got the wrong day or time but in fact the flight (and airport) was just fairly empty. While sitting in the waiting room with café latte in one hand and exchanging final texts with granny in the other, I noticed that there were no children in evidence at all and everyone was just staring into space, patiently waiting. Without the noise and humdrum of three children dropping crumbs, asking for drinks and needing to go to the loo, I felt a bit like I had forgotten my left leg.

London was a bit of a mystery at times too. Now there are ‘oyster cards’ to use on the buses and tubes. I went up to the West End one day and found I couldn’t get on the bus from Victoria to Piccadilly because I needed to buy a ticket in a machine first (now found at all bus stops) and the machine said; ‘exact money only’ ‘no change given’. There were no handy shops around on Grosvenor Place to find change, so I got on the bus and asked if I could buy a ticket from the driver and he simply said; ‘No’. Sheepishly I got off again and hailed a black cab instead, which was obviously twice the price of the bus fare. Pay phones ask you to put in minimum 30p instead of 10p. There are really futuristic machines to buy train tickets from at Victoria Station (and at Heathrow airport for printing your own boarding pass) and if you are lucky someone in uniform offers to help ‘just this once, so that next time you can do it on your own’. Even at the photo shop, I had to select pictures to print by touching a computer screen.

Everyone’s wearing different clothes too. Skinny jeans tucked into knee high boots (we’re still doing bootleg outside boots in Kenya). Warm coats and gloves (which we never need in Nairobi). I was lucky it stayed dry as I had to make do with layering jumpers, cardigans and a granny knit woollen scarf to stay warm, although ‘layering’ is in I understand? The shops are full of ‘girl boxer’ knickers and other odd garments and it’s dark by 4pm. It felt strange to set out on a shopping trip in the dark.

I had a wonderful time and quickly slipped into ‘spinster’ mode, doing exactly as I pleased. A 12 hr sick bug befell one daughter while I was away; otherwise it seemed to go without a glitch. I kept asking if the children wanted to know ‘how many sleeps ‘til Mummy gets home?’, but I gather they never asked. It was such a treat.

A highlight of the week at home, I learned on my return, was the 4 x 4 competition on Sunday that B had taken part in, in MY car, with all three children and granny in the back, and granddad with his eyes shut in the front seat. Apparently they were scaling the sides of a chalk quarry when someone shouted out ‘there’s a baby in that one!’ They returned triumphant having taken first place, but couldn’t stay for prize giving, as they needed to get home for kids supper.

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