Monday, 19 April 2021


This sounds like an Enid Blyton novel, and why not because our island lives have been a bit dull and we need to do something more exciting. Cripes, Timmy the dog’s just done a wee on my foot – in the 1950s that was a canine capital offence.

Our adventure’s a trip to London. My heartbeat quickens. I awaken during the night several times wondering if the train will be on time. We leave early just in case. The lift in the station (working at last) avoids the 54 step climb up the stairs (yes I’ve counted) so we arrive on the concourse in full breath. It’s empty but shops are open (M&S, WHS, Superdrug). A train comes in from London full of half-term families eager to freeze on Brighton Beach, eat Pizzas and scoff ice cream – what’s not to like Enid Blyton … Brighton?

We’d forgotten how hard and un-upholstered the seats on the Gatwick Express trains to London were. Who was the arse (or arse-phobic) designer who decided prison-hard was good for us? “Let the train take the strain” used to be the strapline...”and cause you pain” is a necessary addition.

It’s still exciting. Victoria. Gateway to exotica. We depart to have a pee…. the loos here are new and impressive….before making off, my wife to the Tube and me to the bus. I breathe deeply. The Capital. This has been many months, "dear thing – how are you?" “I’m lonely” London mutters “where have you been?”  I feel guilty and disloyal as I travel up Park Lane, Marble Arch, along Oxford Street. A few intrepid shoppers carrying Primark bags. Nearly everyone masked. But there are stirrings of life.

I arrive at my destination. My hairdresser off Baker Street. I look like a round-the-world-traveller, shaggy and in need of shearing. 45 minutes later I’m a new sheep.

My world is transformed when I reach Marylebone High Street and turn into Marylebone Lane which is closed to traffic. All the restaurants are out in the street. Le Relais de Venise; Caldesi; 108 and others. Tables are full. The air is warm with humanity, the whiff of good food and laughter. This is not a return to normal. This is a revelation, a transformation from London to Parisian Spring. This is real adventure. 

My wife and I meet and then walk through John Lewis as we always do on our way to the tube. The ground floor smells wonderful and is full of staff who are jolly and obviously glad to be back in their office.

The rest of the day is unmemorable. The tube half-full. People polite – we are both offered seats (I suppose we look old) and notice a very tall young woman with strange Balenciaga bootees. London. Fashion.  A new world.

Arriving back in Brighton it feels very much a seaside town – a rather disreputable nephew to grown up, sophisticated London where we had our little adventure. We’re shattered. We’d forgotten how exhausting travel can be.

The biggest issue we are going to face is discovering is if we’ve got the stamina to survive. The life most of us once led was high-octane-rushing-around, meeting, sharing ideas, face-to-face, breathing deeply. What we’ve lost is our sense of smell. Zoom is an odourless and dull place. No one laughs or smells on Zoom.

Spring will test our mettle. When restaurants really open, when we start to face each other and start conversing. I think we’ll be fine but we have to think about  handshakes and hugs because we’ve got to start loving and enjoying each other again.

No comments: