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The London Trip - Day 2 - Family Records Centre, The Wedding
8th February 2003
I was up early, eager and rearing to go. First, there's the breakfast part of Bed and Breakfast. I went down to the little dining room, and Brian arranged the seating arrangements. There was one other occupant, a Scot called Eric. Brian seated me at a table of my own, facing out on the little backyard. He has 7 squirrels in his back yard, all bounding and busy. They are the imported North American squirrels. The neighbourhood cats were chasing the squirrels, but the squirrels were game and never caught. The seating arrangement meant that I had my back to Eric, and Eric liked to talk, so I spent a lot of the morning twisted around and talking to him. Breakfast was really good. Scrambled eggs, mushrooms and toast and tea. I ate all that was put in front of me. It was going to last me till dinner time. I liked the look of the bacon that Eric was eating, and I was really tempted especially considering what passes for bacon in the USA, but I resisted temptation.
The other good part of breakfast, was listening to the BBC news on the radio, in between listening to Eric. The news was astounding. It was a breath of fresh air, after a few years of listening to the censored pap that passes for news in the USA.
I walked to Redhill train station, and noted how brief a trip it was. I don't need a taxi to get my bag back on the homebound trip. At the station, I worked out the ticket situation, and then took off for London. At one of the stops along the way, an old guy came running up the stairs and jumped on, just as the doors shut. His wife came running behind him and was banging on the door. "Oh hell" he was saying, but couldn't get the doors open again. The train pulled away without her. Last seen she was angrily telling one of the railway people about it and looking annoyed and worried, while he sat down and read the paper. Nothing else he could do. He got off at next stop to wait for her. This reinforces my habits with the airport security in the USA. Several times we've been separated while Anne gets searched. The security staff order me onboard the plane, but I won't go. I do not want to be separated and end up flying to our destination while Anne is stuck behind. No, I do not want to be in the same situation as this guy was. I bet his wife got stuck in when they were finally re-united.
The trip to Victoria Station was about forty minutes. Victoria Station is big and easy to get around. Found the toilets, and they cost 20p for a pee. Beautifully serviced too, with hardly any damage. I switched to the Circle Line heading for Farringdon Station. Bugger. It's the weekend, so there were repairs all over the place, and the Circle Line stopped at Liverpool. I got out there and took a replacement bus on to Farringdon Station.
Then I had my problems. I didn't have a good enough map. As an experiment, I was using CityMaps, a map system in my Palm. It gave good clear, precise instructions on how to get from one place to another, but I couldn't work out the starting points. The screen just wasn't big enough for me to cast around and locate where I was now, and I couldn't find any of the little street corners in it. I needed a bigger, paper map to get my bearings first. So much for trying the digital approach, although I think it was more to do with my familiarity with paper and no fault of CityMaps. So I started walking aimlessly around, searching for a newsagent or somewhere I could buy a map. But it was the weekend, and almost everything was shut. I wandered about, up and down, found a nice bridge and took photos. Found myself on it, a little later on. It was a bit grotty down below, where eau de urine was the perfume of the day.
Round and round I went, looking for a map. I saw a few interesting sights, including this bizarre sign in a hairdressers. What is this stuff? Some hair product? Weird. I had a look at the Web site and couldn't make out what it was. But they did have a bizarre Shockwave game there, where hemorrhoids pop out and you burst them with a hammer. Now that was fun.
Eventually, I found a small service station, and bought a map book of London. Okay, it was easy after that. I located where I was, and then I could use the Palm CityMaps to work a route to the Family Records Office. But once I had the paper map, I didn't really need the Palm map. I ended up not using it at all. Oh well, it was a good experiment. Paper maps still rule. While en route, I spotted this sign in a shop window. Made me laugh.
I was in search of my grandmother's birth certificate for obvious reasons. I hunted through the birth records and found two possibles with the same name born in the same quarter of the same year. I couldn't make sense of the location names, as all the index showed was the District name, and not the place name. I made notes of both entries, but ordered the certificate of the most likely one. They'll mail it to me later in the week. When it arrives, I'll check it out and if it's not the right one, I can order the other one remotely.
Once that was done, it was time for some tourism. But there wasn't any time left. Given the break in the Circle Line, and the bus travel time, and the time back to Redhill, I had to leave now to get back in time for the wedding. So much for tourism. So I headed back to Farringdon Station. Had a brief bit of excitement with a small fire and billowing smoke and fire engines and police cars, but soon left that behind. Got to the station and got the bus to Liverpool Station, and made it back to Victoria Station. I hung about in front of the platform signs, waiting to see what platform to use. They put them up for Redhill about 5 minutes before boarding, and then it's a mad rush to the platform.
While waiting, I went and changed the rest of my money. I wish I hadn't. There was a pretty Swedish blonde with an attractive accent behind the counter, but the exchange rate was bad and they took 9.5% commission. I got raped again. Eventually, I'll found out where to go to get a decent conversion.
The platform number went up and I joined the dash for the train. Redhill is on the way to Brighton, and I took the Brighton Express. I got on the wrong carriage and ended up in first class. Nice contoured seats, little table, plenty of room, no-one beside you. What the hell! I stayed there. Attractive snooty women in the other seats. I found later that a guard should have come and checked and tossed me out, but no-one did. I got to Redhill in comfort.
Got to Redhill, walked into Redhill City Centre, then got lost. Took the wrong turn. There was an outdoor market going on, and that's what threw me. And my damned watch got torn off my arm and dashed to the ground and smashed open when I was struggling to get the backpack off and on. I didn't know where I was and I didn't know what time it was, and I had a wedding to catch. I did the only sensible thing. I sauntered through the market and had a good look, and noted an Internet cafe for later use, and eventually I got my bearings and headed for the B&B.
I got to the guesthouse, phoned Shree and said I had arrived. Then I showered and got into the suit. Phoned Shree again to say I was ready. I waited outside for Peter in the crisp cool air which I was enjoying, but Brian convinced me to wait inside. At least he doesn't keep the guesthouse excessively hot. No sooner did I sit down than Peter arrived. The wedding was a GO.
Peter lit the little candles to go on the altar. Apparently Peter and Shree share the strange American fascination with candles. Romance equals candles. Bugger candles, I say. Give me maximum lighting with huge fluoros and arc lamps. Bright white light is what's required, not flickery, faint yellow light. But that's my prejudice showing.
The wedding was short and sweet. It was a nice service, and all the right things got said, and no-one fell over or said the wrong thing. Then it was time for posing and photographs.
We had a short wait before the reception started, so we went to Laverick's place and had tea and coffee and chatted. At 8pm, the restaurant was ready and we headed for it. It was an Italian restaurant, a bit upmarket, but I don't know the name. The food was great. I started on a strong Tuscan red wine, and stayed on that for the night. Three bottles came and went, and although I wasn't the only one drinking it, from the state of my head next day, I got more than my fair share of those bottles. The waiter was a bit forgetful, but came through in the end. I had the tomato/mozarella/basil entré, and then a gorgonzola and spinach main. Very nice.
Sometime during the night, Peter made a speech and said nice things. Peter had told me "no speeches" so I hadn't prepared anything. My mistake. I think people were curious about Peter's past, so I mumbled something about knowing Peter a long time, and that he was a good guy. What more can you say about someone who is a good guy and you've known him a long time? I wish I had prepared something to say though, and not had to think through a fog of red wine.
I got a taxi back to the B&B, and then I crashed hard.