01 July 2005

London Journal—Day One

London Journal

LONDON—Our 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.

PortersThe 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?

Canadian flagWell, a lot of people in London know about it tonight. There are so many revelling Canadians in central London right now—I 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 peas—about 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 pudding—which I'm not—I 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.


Mickey Sheu said...

my computer does that too occasionally. Might want to get your fan checked out (I think you know this already)

fickett said...

I'll have the tech-squad on standby for your return.

BTW, Rowan may be too busy with G-8 issues to greet you; but you'd think that Richard John Carew Chartres should have time to see you.

While in the UK please try to avoid baptizing (by any method)your computer with tea.

Editor said...

Must be one of those "prosperity" bugs...

John Schroeder said...

Good luck in your search for food. There is a Pizza Hut on Oxford Street near Marble Arch that's not too bad. The wife and I will be there in about 4 weeks -- anything you find -- pass it on. -- PLEASE!

John Haller said...

I can understand why your good wife does not like Indian food: there were no such places in Johnstown. Ask her if she wouldn't rather have a sub from Clark's Corner Store instead...

Good luck on the computer. Mine was on the fritz last week so I bit the bullet and bought a new Sony. Love the screen.

At least you have all week to plan how to load everything on the new one.

Call to Die said...

Did you make sure that the computer was not plugged into one of the outlets that is meant for a lamp and thus controlled by some light switch in the room? (I ask because that is a common occurrance for travellers.)

Unknown said...

Ah yes John, that is a nice Pizza Hut.

Looking forward to seeing what other good places you find to eat. They are in short supply. Its tragic.

Yours, Slightly west of London.

Daniel Nolan said...

You could try some decent Chinese food in China Town, at the back of Leicester Square. It helps to be Chinese but they appear to be willing to serve others too.

Looking forward to your ministry tomorrow

David said...

We used to live in London - if you think London's restaurants are bad try Aberdeen where we now are! I think London's got great restaurants!! Chiswick High Road in west London has enough restaurants on it to eat out somewhere different every night of the year (if you allow a generous description of Chiswick High Road the closer you get to Hammersmith!) Check it out!

Char said...

Hey, not to be picky, but Confederation was in 1867.And any stat is a reason to drink in the Canadian way of thinking. That's why we have so many of them. :)

Paul said...

You really need to go kinder on us Canadians. First off, our Thanksgiving Day date makes way more sense than the American one... as in harvest time. And don't forget that Canada Day is a celebration of a nation, not a rebellion. :-)
That Canadians choose to celebrate with a few beers... well, I can offer no defense other than that it is very Candadian, eh?