01 July 2005
London JournalDay One
LONDONOur hotel practically abuts Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It's nearly midnight, and the Bishop has not yet stopped by or phoned to check on us.
We arrived from the airport at about 2:45. After unpacking and making sure I had Internet access in the room, I took a nap for an hour and a half. I realize travel experts will tell you a midday nap on arrival in a far-off time zone is a sure-fire way to exacerbate the problems of jet lag, but I do it every time I come. I have no choice; I couldn't possibly stay awake after the cramped and grueling overnight flight. I literally fell asleep in the taxi on the way from the airport. Why I can sleep in a London cab that jolts to a stop every thirty feet but I can't sleep decently in an airplane (no matter how smooth the flight) is a total mystery to me, too. But there you have it.
When I awoke, the computer was inexplicably off. The power cord had shut itself off, so the computer went into sleep mode. When I plugged the power cable in again, it wouldn't stay on. The green light would light and immediately go out. Although the cord is made to be compatible with the 220 current in the UK, I suspected something was overloading. So I unplugged everything, including my webcam, the cable for synchronizing my Palm computer, and the computer's power cable. The computer itself seemed to be working fine.
I plugged the power cable back in. The green light stayed on this time, but the whole room was soon filled with the smell of overheated electronics. By sniffing around, I isolated the source of the smell. It was coming from the back of my computer, where the little exhaust fans are. The fans have been extra noisy lately. Not any more. I shut the computer off, unplugged the power cord, said a prayer for the healing of my computer, and went to dinner with Darlene.
London is legendary for its lousy restaurants. If you want good food in London, the Asian restaurants are usually your best option. English food tends to be bland, stale, and meager. (Why did the British conquer the world in search of spices, of all things? What did they intend to use them for? Embalming?) There's a superb Indian restaurant just two doors away from our hotel. I love the place, but Darlene isn't fond of Indian food. That's OK. I also know a wonderful restaurant with (believe it or not) great English food.
The place is Porters, a full block west of Covent Garden. It's a across the Thames and about a mile and a quarter from our hotel, but we needed a long walk anyway. So we set out across the Westminster bridge around 6:30 PM. (The weather was threatening rain, and it sprinkled a few times but never really unleashed.)
On the way to Porters, we saw an unusual number of noisy drunken people wearing maple-leaf insignias and Canadian colors. Turns out today is some kind of Canadian holiday. (I'd been on an airplane for hours; didn't get to read Challies today, remember?) Anyway, I didn't know Canadians were permitted holidays, except for "boxing day," and an oddly-timed and barely-noticed Thanksgiving. But it seems some Canadians got really worked up about this back in 1868, and (envious of our July 4) they had July 1 declared a holiday. In 1982, it was given the name "Canadia Day." Who knew?
Well, a lot of people in London know about it tonight. There are so many revelling Canadians in central London right nowI wonder if anyone is left in Canadia. A block before we got to Porters, on the adjacent street (which has the misfortune of being home to a Canadian-themed pub), the entire area was jammed with Canadians drinking beer for at least a quarter mile. They stood, shoulder to shoulder, not doing anything except trying hard not to spill their beer. The only thing holding them up was each other. There were at least 10,000 of them. No lie. That's more Canadians than I have ever seen in one place, even when I went to an Expos game in Montreal a few years ago while the Expos were actually in a pennant race. Many of tonight's Canadians in London are carrying multiple six-packs. (Public consumption, sadly, is quite common here in London.) Its going to be a long night. I hope Challies will be able to post tomorrow.
Anyway, the food at Porters is as great as ever. Their fish & chips are the best I have ever had, with some really fine tartar sauce on the side. But my favorite side dish is mushy peas. It's a small bowl of well-cooked and mashed peasabout the consistency of refried beans, but with the flavor of a really rich split pea soup. You're not supposed to use it as a condiment for dipping fries, but it works superbly that way.
The desserts at Porters are legendary. Of course in England, all desserts are called "puddings" in that delightful British patois. Even cake is a "pudding." (Believe it or not, pig intestine is also called "pudding.") The specialty of the house at Porters is a famous English pudding called "Spotted Dick." If I were in the mood for a puddingwhich I'm notI think I'd go for the pig entrails.
Back at the hotel, the electrical smell was gone. I plugged the computer in, observed that the electrical cable was working; checked to see that the light signifying a charging battery was on; and noted that everything seemed normal. So I turned on the computer, and as you can see, it seems to be working fine.
Something in it is melted, however. I'm pretty sure of that. Maybe it has something to do with last Saturday's coffee fiasco. I don't have time to worry about it now. I'm going to bed. Bill Fickett: I'm going to get that new lap top ASAP when I get back home. You and Ted can start pricing units.
Update before my final edit: The computer turned itself off without warning a few minutes ago. I think I'm in trouble.