Friday, December 30, 2005

If I Were a Rich(mond) Bull

I am nibbling on my little hooves in a bit of overexcitement, because this is the last full day of our London holiday and I wanted to get the very most out of it. And I did! You know how that guy (you know the one I am talking 'bout, don't you?) said that when you are tired of London, you are tired of life? Well, I am not tired of London life one bit!


Today was the first day of "typical London weather" that we have had since we arrived—it was rainy for most of the day which actually made it an excellent day to hop on the Tube (via the District Line) to head for Richmond, a delightful little suburb of London. With only a slight pause to slide myself into my waterproof macintosh and pop up my little umbrella we ventured out on this grey morning and down into the Underground for a long but lovely trip out the final stop on this branch of the District Line, which required buying complicated extension tickets for our Travelcards. I tell you, I do indeed love London Transport, but they could take a hint or two from the unlimited ride aspect of the New York Subway's Metrocard, where you can go out to distant, exotic Coney Island for the same price as going into Manhattan.

Tom and Barbara GoodBut it was well worth the extra expense, even for a little stuffed bull watching his pence and pounds quite carefully. The tube emerges from underground as soon as you get only a little way away from the confines of the Circle Line, so there is plenty of opportunity to press your nose (whether it has a ring in it or not) up against the window and look at London's green suburbs. There are lovely little suburban towns with tangled wild back gardens everywhere abutting against the railway lines. I was looking very very closely to see if I could spot Tom and Barbara Good's back garden, with their extensive self-sufficiency garden patch plus a goat, but I guess I was not heading in the right direction to see Surbiton, where they lived. That's a pity, because (I will tell you this only if you keep it a secret, okay?) I have such a little crush on Felicity Kendal.

The tube train pulled into the Richmond terminal in the late morning, and we splashed out into the rain and down the long High Street, but not before pausing to gape in amusement and wonder at quite possibly the best store window sign I have ever seen here or back home:
Free Freakoid!

I had better start drinking my cappucinos now if I want to get that free freakoid! (And oh my oh my, I really do!)

Lion and the UnicornWe were here with a double purpose for Camilla: there was a children's bookstore she wanted to visit, and since she had stayed in Richmond during her first visit to London years before, wanted to see if she could spot anything familiar. The first goal was of course an unqualified success, because if there's one thing that London does well, it's bookstores! After some short side trips into shops and a visit to the local post office, we found The Lion and the Unicorn Bookshop off a charming mews at the end of the High Street. Their friendly and knowledgable staff was quite patient with me while I raced around going "wheeeeeeeeeeee!" at all the exciting and delightful children's books, and we all came out of the shop with our purses a little lighter and carrying shopping bags stuffed of lovely books. (Don't tell Olivia yet, because she will be getting quite a few of them as presents!)

It was still raining a little as we emerged from the shop, and luckily around the corner was a little pub right on the Richmond Village Green where we had our lunch. There is nothing quite as delicious and satisfying as a hearty hot pub sandwich on a cold and rainy day, and if you still feel chilled to the bone, I do suggest sucking on a packet of that very very hot English mustard, which will fire you up almost instantly. The only disappointment about our lunch? We were too late to get any dessert. No sticky toffee pud for us! Boo!

Rather than walk back down the busy High Street, we wandered back slowly towards the Tube Station via Richmond's version of the Sneaky Way: alongside the Richmond village green for a while and then around the long line of charming houses and flats that I bet the tourists don't usually bother to see! We were searching for some sign of familiar memories for Camilla, who remembered staying in the Richmond College campus buildings on her first visit, but long studies of the faithful A-Z book and some lookin' around told us she was probably staying in completely the other direction at that time. Oh well! It is always good to explore a new part of the town, even if it is years and years later!

It was early evening when we arrived back at Kensington High Street, so we wandered up to the big house on Observatory Gardens to see what Olivia and her parents were up to! Of course she got to have some of her lovely new books right away, and Aunt Camilla cheerfully read many of them, in some cases over and over and over again, while the rest of us relaxed from our busy day.

Dinner tonight was quite an event for our last night together in London: we returned to the excellent British restaurant of our Christmas Eve's luncheon, Maggie Jones, down at the near end of Kensington High Street. Everyone had platefuls of lovely filling British food and there was much laughter and comaderie about how much fun our holiday had been, as we toasted the last night of our London adventure.

Now it is time to go to bed, but I am quite wide awake and staring out the window of our hotel room, just like I did on our first night here. Everyone else is snoring away happily, even Marshall, but I'm a little sad: I love London by night, and this is our last one. There's a light mist hanging over Kensington and just like it did on the first night, the last train of the evening rattles into the station below me. I like these moments: quiet and contemplative and relaxing, and soon I will close my little button eyes and even though I'm already in London, I'll dream of her rainy streets again. Tomorrow is our last day here, and I intend to make the most of it.

Goodnight, London! Goodnight, Bully-fans!

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