It's raining in London
I landed at Heathrow on Thursday morning after a safe, uneventful flight. I always exhale with a bit of gratitude when the wheels hit the ground again.
I’ve landed at Heathrow many times. I could get through all of the forms and queues and ground transportation in my sleep by now, including my SIM card, sparkling water, and Extra Strong Mint top-ups at WHSmith. Took a little longer to get there this time due to the EMBARRASSING, 2.5-HOUR, OVERFLOWING-FROM-THE-IMMIGRATION-HALL QUEUE (Thanks, Home Office), but eventually I did.
London was grey and cool when I finally emerged from the Tube in Islington. I was bleary eyed and not as excited to be here as I was when I arrived in May. (May was such a magical time, full of anticipation and excitement and close friends, and I know I can’t top it this time. But it never helps one’s optimism, either, to have stood in a queue for 2.5 hours or to have a massive duffel bag on my back that I should really be pulling on wheels behind me by now.) Both quickly changed.
After a nap and a shower I hit some familiar spots in town and saw a few familiar faces, but in truth, it was Friday that felt like my first real day back. I stepped out into a beautifully sunny morning in my favorite (non-steel toe) boots with clean, curly hair and a better disposition, en route to a friend, pastries, coffee, and some time at the V&A (including my first visit to the sleek, comfortable Members’ Room). That will always be enough to set me right, and the day just got better from there. Later, I met up with my agent at our usual pub by the Royal Opera House to discuss matters past and future, and I spent the evening chatting leisurely with friends over wine and cheese at home.
My feet were killing me by the time I got back in the evening. I found this not only painful, but a bit depressing. I keep joking with a friend at home that I feel I’m “on the cusp” of middle age since I am beginning notice at 35 some subtle changes to my body and its resiliency that—quite frankly—assault my ego. (Fifteen years older than me, she protests this and laughs at it every time.) I came home feeling a bit defeated and like I needed to start picking so-called “sensible” shoes now instead of something a bit flashy. I felt I was aging out of cool shoes, not in spirit, but simply in terms of endurance. Actually, turns out, my boots are perfectly comfortable… It’s just that I had walked 9.5 miles in them that day, my iPhone reported. And 7.5 the day before. Oh. So maybe my feet aren’t aging quite as quickly as my hair is turning grey… I just beat the hell out of them and don’t notice because I love this city so much. My Grensons—and my feet—will live to fight another day.
I’m so behind on so many aspects of planning for this trip. I’m not sure it really was, but the entire summer felt hectic and too busy for me to sit down and focus on logistics… emailing bookshops, friends, etc. I managed my flights and my rental car, and that’s about it. So now I’m left winging it, and that feels okay. The older I get, the more comfortable I am with it. I used to turn up in the UK and know exactly where I was going and for how long. Now, I do things a few nights at a time, at my leisure and fully able to improvise as I want or need. It’s nice.
Naturally, after a day of sunshine yesterday, it’s raining again today. I’ve spent the morning catching up on email with event organizers in Penarth, Crickhowell and Grasmere. I’m lining up a few others for the paperback release next year. I’m eyeing other literary events in far-flung counties and wondering if I should make the effort (spend the money!) to go. I’d love, for instance, to see Ben Okri again for the first time since we met in Charleston last year, but he speaks four hours away from an event I’m doing the next day. Is it worth it? I can’t decide yet. I’m having too much fun in the moment. I don’t think that’s a bad thing necessarily. I’ve struggled my whole life to live in the moment, so if what I feel is sheer laziness/hectic-ness has enabled that at last, so be it!
For now, off into the city for some errands, and then to the South Bank to meet Yorkshire lass Lydia Noble (fellow lady-waller, and a damn good one) for the first time and catch her doing some traditional English rapper dancing! I’ll probably catch some classical at St Martin’s or Wigmore Hall later tonight.
UK, Round [I Lost Count a Long Time Ago], is off to a good start, y’all.
First book event is coming up on Thursday, the 27th, in Penarth. I hear a lot of friends are coming, and maybe a minister from the Welsh Assembly Government, too! Stay tuned.