Wednesday, 12 October 2011
London In A Day
The Autumn issue of TGO has a feature entitled Scotland in a Weekend, with suggestions of routes that can be done in the Highlands utilising the sleeper service from down south. For those of us who live in Highlands the trip can be done in reverse of course and even in fact in a day, as I have just done. I caught the day train to London from Aviemore, which takes seven and a half hours, spent five hours in the city and then caught the sleeper back north, alighting from the train back in Strathspey twenty-three hours after setting out. The reason for this rather crazy flying visit to London? My youngest brother's fiftieth birthday, and he lives in London and my other brother, who does something with IT and education in Liverpool, happened to be in London for a conference the same day. So celebrating the birthday with a drink and a meal seemed a good idea. I just had to go to London to do so. And cope with it. I walked from King's Cross to the pub where we were meeting, a fifteen minute walk through crowds, traffic and what seemed confusion. I saw more people in that short walk than I'd seen in total for a couple of months. I felt detached, an observer from another planet, unconnected with any of these hurrying people. Then, watching them, I realised they were all floating along in their own little bubbles too, each regarding the other people as just human shaped objects to be avoided. The only people I saw commincating animatedly were those with phones clamped to their heads. Crowds of people but everyone seemed very isolated. I arrived at the pub. Closed for refurbishment. I stared in disbelief. How had we managed to pick a closed pub in all of London? Eventually my brothers turned up and, it being London, we walked the two minutes to the next pub, The Fitzrovia, which had a good selection of real ale, including strange southern brews I'd never seen before. Then it was an excellent Mexican meal in the Mestizo restaurant before heading for Euston, another pint in a station pub, and the train home. I was leaving before I'd felt I'd really arrived.
Looking out of the train window in the dawn light the swelling hills of the Cairngorms and the sweep of autumn woods and fields welcomed me home. There's nothing like going somewhere that feels alien - and London really did feel like that to me - to really appreciate home and the feelings of security and comfort it engenders. Aviemore, which sometimes seems crowded and noisy, felt positively genteel and sedate after London. I had a meeting later that morning in the town so I had a lengthy breakfast in Cafe Bleu then moved to the Mountain Cafe for coffee and cake and an exciting and interesting meeting with a publisher, of which more anon. Then I drove slowly home, admiring the birches glowing in the sunlight. To fully shake the city away a walk was needed so I spent a few hours in the quiet of the woods and fields, which is when I took the image above, looking across Strathspey to the Cromdale Hills. I was back.