Saturday, August 9, 2014

Still on London Time

Under the London Eye on the South Bank. (Photos by Cam Simpson).
Before I took off for London a week ago, I made a mental checklist of the things I’d like to experience in the metropolis that I’ve dreamed of visiting for several decades:
• Enjoying perfect weather, maybe with soothing rain on the roof one night. Check.
• Enjoying delicious world-city food — meat pies, mash and custard in Greenwich, a full English breakfast at a corner café, brunch with a Buck’s Fizz at Soho’s elegantly appointed Dean Street Townhouse, dim sum off Electric Avenue in Brixton. Yes, THE Electric Avenue. FYI, a Buck's Fizz is two parts orange juice to one part champagne, grenadine optional. Yes, an English mimosa. Check.
• Seeing Big Ben. Check. We did on my last night, when I gloriously tired, standing beneath the London Eye.
Samantha Bond with Nigel Havers in "Downton Abbey"
• Attending a play with talented British actors on the West End. Check. We saw Nigel Havers and Siân Phillips at the Harold Pinter Theatre, which began as the Royal Comedy Theatre in 1881.
• Chatting about life and love with young Brits in a pub. Check. My old friend Greg Harris, a bloke who looks like a young Terrence Stamp, treated me to his favorite Plateau pale ales at the Harp in Covent Garden, and I lingered on and had a lovely time.
• Seeing the seven sassy, confident ravens at the Tower of London, the most famous ravens on the planet Earth. Check. A legend allegedly dating from the Great Fire of London in 1666 has it that if the ravens are ever lost, England will be too.
With Yeoman Warder Crawford Butler at the Tower of London
During World War II, only one raven survived the Blitz. Prime Minister Winston Churchill replenished the group of England’s dark, winged warriors (and they are, officially, soldiers).
• Spotting a celebrity accidentally in public. Check. We saw the film actor Jesse Eisenberg chatting with friends at an outdoor café in Brixton Village. He played Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network,” and will play Lex Luthor in “Batman vs. Superman.”
And although this wasn’t on the list, my bald spot apparently appeared on the CBS Evening News as I regarded the poppies at the Tower of London set out for the centenary observation of World War I. My bald spot — created, according to theory, not by male pattern baldness but by the very follicle-burning radioactive intensity of my intelligence  — is now officially more famous than I am.
Through it all, I had the best of boon companions, the celebrated, intrepid investigative journalist and international man of mystery Cam Simpson. On the summer of my 60th birthday, my old friend flew me to London and put me up at his townhouse, and that is about the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me in my life.                  

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