Christmas London

10 December 2015
 
Heathrow Terminal 5
 
 Can anyone explain it to me how it works? How come? I am boarding a regular BA plane, I am listening to the same set of safety instructions years on end, I am eating the same cheese and tomato sandwich up in the dark skies drinking it down with black tea, realising how unhealthy all that is and how much I am going to suffer from the realisation of this bitter truth later, still I find myself in a practically unmanageable fit of excitement every time I am on the way to London in the lead up to Christmas.
 
 Terminal 5. Heathrow.
Sleepless night and junk breakfast begin to tell right at the passport control. Following the signs for non — EU passport holders I have a sneaky feeling I have taken the wrong line after all… All the people around me look suspiciously european, none from my Moscow flight:). It was far too late to undertake anything and I ventured to go to the end. It worked. The customs officer frowned, smiled, then frowned again, asked me the conventional questions and wished me a good time in London.
 
 London underground is welcoming me with the face of the most handsome assistant ever, who, like many other assistants, for some reasons, reads it on my face that I DO need help, though most of the time I actually don’t:)). Topping up my Oyster card, I dive into a train which is carrying me out of the airport zone into the dawn of London morning. The morning, that of Thursday, is greeting all the commuters with a mammoth smells, faces, quiet and silence of waking up to reality. The habitual murmur coming from the loud speakers educates everyone around to «mind the gap» and shares what is happening within the tube life, minding its own business.
 
 Will the December of 2015 be anyway different. Unique? Special? Yes, I know it, even if it doesn’t!
 
 What is ahead? 4. things are definite:
1. Wimbledon — meeting my colleagues.
2. Covent Garden’s «Nutcracker»
3. Royal Albert Hall’s Christmas Concert
4. London International Horse Show
 
 All else is a free dive… A fabulous choice of being free.. . Wondering… Loafing…
 
Face of London
 
 Arrival at Heathrow seems to have been so far away, though only 3 days have passed… I have been asking myself the same question all these days: «What is the face of London now?» A very good question, — I wonder if I will manage to come up with the answer more or less digestible. On countless occasions I was inspecting the people closely in hunt for the features that would help me detect the signs of them being a Londoner. Polite? Reserved? Law-abiding? Snobbish? Distanced? Open-minded? Helpful? Friendly? Sympathetic? Yes. No. Least of all do I want to confuse you. The last thing I want is to confuse myself. London has transformed into such a multinational city, that you have to coin a new phrase instead of the conventional «melting pot». At that it somehow stays afloat being the London I saw for the first time and the one I hopelessly fell in love with.
 
 It rushes to work every morning weekday, plugged in, glued to «Morning Standard» or phones or tabs; it flocks to have lunch at midday; it dashes into evening trains to hurry home, chatting loudly over their mobiles, pretending there’s no one there to disturb their privacy. It drinks itself down to oblivion on Friday and Saturday nights as if there were no tomorrow. They carry on taking life long mortgages; they move out, sell their properties; throw parties and decorate their houses for Christmas.
With RP English becoming a gem, it still retains the spirit of the centuries which has permeated every inch of its grey and red image, so captivatingly lovely in the rain and so smashingly dazzling in the sun.
 
 I am looking out of the window now… Endless raws of terraced houses in Wimbledon. Monotonous? Boring? Too practical? Lovely? Organised? Cosy? Yes. No. People don’t greet every passer by with a smiling «morning» as before. Yet if you come up with the warm «hello» it will not hang in the air unanswered. If you are lost or in trouble, more often than not you will get a hand.
 
 Hopping on and off the upper board of the city centre double deckers, you rediscover the well shaped images of the places so familiar: Covent Garden, Piccadilly, Westminster, Kensington, Victoria… Grand? Fabulous? Amazing? Excessive? Posh? Conflicting? Yes. No. You fuse with the torrents of other tourists and you touch the splendour of the past, the unknown of the present, the magnetism of the eternity. It is in the air, which is coming from the grey stone. It dissolves in your veins filling all of your body with the inexplicable contradictions of endless bliss and sad irony.
 
 So London, will you look into my eyes? Will you open mine for you? Will you say «Hello» like before, hugging me with the morning light and kissing me with the gentle breeze? I will be so much grateful to you for that…
 

 
Christmas 2014
 Moscow airport… Early Sunday morning… So sleepy and so touching with its lounges full of christmas trees, lights and happy people. Destinations vary, but the mood is uniting all those going to different parts of the world.
It’s frosty here in Moscow going down to 20 below zero, the air is crispy and fresh. London promises 9 degrees above C and a bit of rain 🙂

 Taking off… British Airways, always comfortable and polite accompanying you above the lit up planet to the city I anticipate to see again!

 A quick bite, an hour of sleep and we are landing… Why is it I feel something special is waiting for me this time?
Landing at Heathrow plunged me into the ocean of lights winking at us from the yet night London. A very long queue at the customs, the officers who have nowhere to hurry, and… London is welcoming you with ready to burst daylight…

 I jump on a Piccadilly line train and watch the passing cityscape with excitement. It is so different in winter. More reserved, more grey, more London like.
A change for a Waterloo overground train. There is a 10 minutes’ delay during which the rail services have 4 times apologised for the delay explaining the reasons. When the train started moving the guy who previously announced the reason cracked a jolly «Merry Christmas!» 🙂

 The sun goes out clearing the sky making everything around golden…

 Christmas time…
People are smiling, funny rush everywhere, shop windows are dazzling, the city is vibrating with happiness 🙂

 The whole day the sun was shining. And then suddenly the thunderstorm struck and it started pouring. December,16 🙂 Had to buy an umbrella.

 2 funny stories happened.
As I was walking along the Christmas food market in South bank centre I felt a sudden urge to eat bavarian sausage. When I wondered which of them could be more dietetic. This prompted a shock :).
As well as another question I asked at a bicycle shop which I was unaware of. The question was: «Do you happen to have leki sticks 🙂

 The day is coming to its end. The whole life. Sleepless night and the jet lag are beginning to tell… Falling asleep to see the new day…

 

 
Barbican rain room

 Morning Barbican has been strikingly different from the suburban Wimbledon. Grey concrete buildings bring about a very sharp contrast with the rest of what you usually see. It is somewhat reminiscent of THE soviet architecture at its WORST until you enter the building itself… Monumentality is softened by Christmas decorations, a curious queue is waiting for the promised treat of managing the rain.
The rain room has been on display for quite a time already and is getting more and more popular. Though I read and heard a lot about the principle of the room I am holding my breath…
Not for nothing! A dark room and it is chucking down!!! If you move slowly you are «managing» the rain, if you rush in panic you get soaked! As is often in life!
The feeling is non-describable! I don’t want to leave unable to tear my eyes of it.
The secret is simple: there are sensors that detect your movement and turn the water away from you. But all the same it is raining all around you.
The mood has skyrocketed 🙂

 

 

Walking along

 Trafalgar Square. St. Martin’s church arrange daily concerts before Christmas. Beside it there is Crypt cafe where you can stretch your legs and enjoy a bite for whatever long you wish. All the money goes to charity, namely, to feed homeless people.

 Going up to Piccadilly. Very beautiful arcades, shop windows, people carrying christmas presents. So warm and touching.
Jump on a bus and travel as far as Harvey Nichols. With one purpose: to photo its shop windows. It’s a piece of art every time you see it! Always different and fresh in ideas and imagination.
 

 
Les Miserables

 »The best musical ever», — as is written everywhere. And this is really so. This is THE BEST MUSICAL EVER!!!
Every time I am in London I go and see it. The heavenly music, the deep message and «hearts full of love» never stop to amaze!
 

 
Fortnum & Mason

 Please come and see! The store arrangement is art of design. It is so sweet and homelike. Expensive too 🙂
When gazing at the shop windows I was caught by TV guys and asked for a short interview. It proved to be that the owner of the store is a canadian.
 

 
The Royal Albert Hall

 What happens is King’s College Choir (Cambridge) has arrived in London with one concert before Christmas. It was heavenly!!! No words can be found to describe what it was like. The people on the stage and the packed house were one whole with the music carrying us all away to whatever world that each who was present could only imagine!
At the end of this wonder the conductor asked the audience to stand up and sing together. Everybody did. Frankly and gladly.
 

 
Billy Elliot

 Afternoon performance. It’s chucking down outside. Which makes people flock to theatres more extensively. And it is worth doing it, rain or no rain. A storm of emotions is guaranteed… A never-dying story of being yourself, getting into your element, finding your passion!
 

 
Fish and chips

 You have to know where to go. Though London is brimming with this kind of restaurants few of them can boast the quality promised. I am now sitting in one where you can’t resist it even if you are not hungry at all! 🙂
 

 
On the way to Oxford…
Oxford.

 After it had been chucking down for 2 days the sky opened and on this very day I am heading for Oxford. Setting off from London Paddington I had to get the train I was not previously scheduled for as there occurred some problems with the signal systems and all the fast track trains have been cancelled. So now instead of getting on the direct service to Oxford I am on a Sawnsea train to change in Reading and then to my destination. It will take longer than planned but there are no worries about that.

 Oxford made me hold my breath away! One more town I am now a fan of. It is so sophisticated, so well built, so cosy, so right! People here are not the same they are in London. Different.
Walking about Oxford is really carrying away and you feel history breathing in every stone of the pavement.
You can’t help being clever in here :).

 

 

Fox and cat in a fight.

 I woke up in the middle of the night startled by a strange sounds. It was barking. I looked out of the window to see a funny picture: a cat was sitting in the gate facing a fox who was trying to come in for food. But the cat was there to protect its territory rather agressively using the claws and all other possible weapons. The opposition lasted for quite long and a 20 minutes’ fight the fox had to give up 🙂
 

 
Power of the native language.

 Consciously or not but the native language wins! One day I was waiting for a bus to come and was carried away thinking about something. When the bus came I asked if it went as far as the underground station. BUT I asked it in Russian without being aware of that! I failed to get it why the driver was so confused so I repeated the question realising by the end of it that I was speaking Russian!!!
 

 
Merry Christmas!

 Everybody everywhere wishes you a Merry Christmas. The boarder line between «merry» and «Christmas» is very thin. Sometimes you can’t get it what is actually more important: for it to be merry or Christmas itself. 🙂

 

 
British idea of «security».

 I was making a city bus tour in Oxford and by the end of the route we got stuck in a hopeless traffic jam. After waiting patiently for about 5 minutes I asked the driver if he could let me out. With a sunny smile he said that he could’t for my own safety and started to explain that the first thing they cared for was my personal safety.
With a sad smile I got back to my seat and started to wait. 2 minutes later the driver called me and said: I will let you out but please make sure you are safe!
🙂
 

 
On the way back to Heathrow.

 I booked a taxi. At the exactly appointed time a luxurious grey Mercedes was waiting for me to get down. My host helped me to chuck my baggage into the car saying » You seem to be taking half of London with you!»:)
I got in the car and we drifted along night streets. The driver, Tony, immediately struck me
by his meticulous English. Without exceeding the safe 30 — 35 speed limit we drifted through Christmas London and were carried away by the conversation. Tony turned out to be half Greek, half English. He grew up in Africa where his father had a construction company. His parents sent him to very expensive schools, — this was where his ideal RP was from. When he grew up he started working for a very big electronics company in Asia and his life style dramatically changed. He was always jetting off somewhere or other
sometimes travelling 2 or 3 times a week.
He goes hunting. He loves sailing. He moved to London about 4 years ago but he doesn’t like it here and is going to move somewhere soon again. He is not a religious person though he is interested in religion. He speaks German, Greek and bits of other languages.
 He cooks for himself and cares for healthy food. He has never been marries saying he is not sorry about it as not everybody should necessarily do it. He has some job here and when he has free time he works for the «Elite»,- the taxi service. He enjoys doing it as he said otherwise he would not be doing it.
JUST AMAZING!!! A person who could easily afford to buy property in Hampton, travel wherever and whenever with perfect education full of exciting stories was giving me a lift to the airport in his Mercedes taxi!!!
Unbelievable! I felt I was making a story for a film!

 

LONDON IS CALLING!!!

 

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