What happens when a bemused Anglo-American tries to treat the Sprawling Metropolis of London as though it were the Big Small Town of Donny? Does she get:
- Hot and bothered?
- Increasingly frustrated?
- Blisters on her feet?
- All of the above?
The answer, of course, is 71)
I was going to Hackney to be filmed for the “Time to Change” anti-stigma campaign. I booked my coach ticket several days before, even checked my camera to make sure it had batteries – check! – and its memory card – oops, nearly!
I was on time, the bus was late, but hey, better than the other way round. Plans to sleep on the way were not very successful, meaning I arrived at Victoria even more dazed and confused than usual, which is saying rather a lot.
Despite two fold-out maps and an “A to Z” of London, it all went wrong when I decided to photograph Battersea Power Station: one of the settings, as any fan worth her or his sonic screwdriver knows, of the first “NuWho” Cyberman story. Then, just to compound matters, I carried on across the bridge.
I once read an article by Douglas Adams’ widow in which she talked about keeping his memory alive with their small daughter by asking questions like: “Where would we be right now if Daddy was here?”
“Getting lost,” the child replied.
Several map checks and one cafe later, eventually even I realised that Battersea was the wrong side of the river for someone who needed to be in Hackney, and later on, at the British Library. You’d think someone who has endured as many episodes of “East Enders” as I have might have worked that out a bit sooner.
In the process, I learned several important lessons:
1) Despite their reputation, Londoners are actually quite helpful
2) Travel around London is much easier if you a) have an Oyster card, and b) know what one is
3) London bus drivers do not accept money
4) Sherlock Holmes had his own dry cleaners
I learned the latter whilst on Baker Street, where I hoped to get something suitably Sherlockian for my husband, and take a few snaps. By then, I’d acquired some sort of travel pass, as well as a slightly better sense of direction. I wasn’t surprised to find a cafe with a slight if cheesy Holmesian theme, or that the museum had a queue of visitors, but the cleaners did take me a bit aback.
Still, I daresay Mrs Hudson occasionally came across a bit of stubborn Dartmoor mud, or blackmailer’s blood, which was beyond even her formidable abilities.