We arrive half stunned and logy, exhausted from the maddening passions of Italy. London lies sprawled before us, the perfect wanton carousing drinking buddy.
Italy was a morass of curving sensuality. London is a hard angled geometry set.
Amy said, “We’ll take the chute”. And so we do. We careen along on the tube, never ever getting over the exhilarations of trains. When we finally spew upward to the streets we are swept up like the Newfoundland capelin we are and rolled along in rivers of humanity. The massive crowds tide us forward with such force that we never have to make any decision about where to go because we are always going somewhere predetermined by the collective that is London. When John Lennon wrote “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans” he was talking about maneuvering around London. You may leave your digs thinking you are going to the Cupcake and Macaroon tour in Soho and find yourself eating scones in Battersea instead.
Little do we know that we are mere weeks away from the historic vote to withdraw from the EU, when the pound will crash and we would have been able to spend like fiends. Oh well. Lesson learned: get the best value for the pitiful loonie by travelling to countries about to have or who are experiencing a collapsed economy.
But the most historic and silliest abdication since Edward stepped down for Wallace is still in the future and we are oblivious.
We thought to blitz London, but London will blitz us.
We are off to a dead brilliant start (dead brilliant, here we are speaking the lingo!) when we manage to make the deadpan customs officer burst into laughter. He asks us what our intentions are whilst in London.
“We plan to see a lot of theatre and spend a lot of time not eating pasta. We just came from Italy and we are sick of pasta.”
Where pounds are money.
Money is measured in pounds.
Pounds are kilos or stone, when measuring weight.
A queue is a line and an elevator is a lift.
Stalls are theatres and bathrooms are loos.
Things in London stay fiendishly put. In Italy buildings and places shimmered and shifted about, elusive. In London we are always banging head first into places. The sights and sounds practically roar at you, larger than life, swollen with pride.
For example, when we set out to hunt down the Gielgud Theatre, we find it exactly where it is supposed to be. We are blown away by the amazing play “People, Places & Things.” (Recommended to us by Louise Moyes.)
Similarly, when we go in search of the Wyndam’s Theatre, there it is. This fashion of everything being in the correct place at all times is a little boring and dangerous, what with needing to slow down before careening into the bricks. The Wyndam’s is where we see the play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.”
Both these remarkable productions originated from the National Theatre. Both are hell bent on sensory overload. Both are daring and inspiring.
In London the bars and the bathrooms are INSIDE the performing space of the theatre. Ice cream eating whilst watching the performance is ENCOURAGED!!! One can sit with an ice cream in one hand and a G&T in the other. All else you need to feel like the Queen is a corgi at your feet and a small ciggie tucked behind one ear.
If you have ever wanted to experience The Running of the Bulls but fear the bulls and can’t make it to Spain, I highly recommend the adventure of going through security at Gatwick. You are lined up in long rows, prodded through gates by security officers, and off you go like cattle through the turnstiles and lanes. If you don’t keep pace with the person in front of you those behind will blithely trample you. Unlike in Canada where carry-on liquids are eyed with suspicion, the security agents in London wink and nod in their best Monty Python manner and say things like: “‘ere lassie! If’n you squeeze ‘alf that toothpaste out and double it twice ye can get it on! Allow me to squeeze yer toothpaste!” You are expected to take off your shoes and jewellery and other metals at the speed of light, load up your trays, scoot them along the conveyer belt, scoot yourself through the x-ray machine, collect and repack everything at the speed of light.
In my play Brazil Square, the boarding house landlady Mrs. Kent is offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to take the trip of her dreams to Italy. She learns some sweet Italian phrases, collects pictures of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, daydreams over travel brochures, and compares Brazil Square to Vatican City. I can’t reveal what becomes of Mrs. Kent but the adventures of Mrs. Kent and all the incredible characters who come and go during her tenure on the Square are about to hit the stage now, as Mrs. Kent arrives in Cow Head for the Gros Morne Theatre Festival with TNL.
A playwright is lucky to receive even one production, ever. This season Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador are doing two of mine. “Our Fanny” is inspired by real life World War One volunteer Frances Cluett from Belleoram. “Fanny” Cluett nursed in Rouen, France, at a field hospital where the most grievously injured were brought almost directly from the battle field. She had five weeks of first aid training before being posted overseas. Her first posting was in Britain.
The day we go calling on the Queen is beautiful. Walking up the “mall” (which is a luscious park, not a shopping centre.) is the perfect conclusion to our travels. We are anyone. We can be anything. I think of Fanny and Mrs. Kent. We are surrounded by thousands of other anyones and anythings. “Betty”, as she likes to be called (not Liz) isn’t receiving but who’s to say she isn’t watching and waving at us from a window, having a furtive ciggie and wondering about my special Il Borghino yoga pose by the fountain.
As we are corralled through the throngs at security at Gatwick we feel melancholy. Italy is behind us now. Home lies ahead. In between is the expanse of air and ocean where for another little while we will be weightless, carefree, before touching down. In London the traffic signs do not say “Yield.” They say “Give Way.” I prefer “Give Way” because to me it means not to slow down but to let the dream light the path.