London – not what you thought

Whenever I tell friends and colleagues that I'm going to London – which, I'm happy to say, has been happening fairly regularly during the past nearly 30 years of my life – people react with "Lucky you! Have a great time! Have fun!"

While I don't wish to complain, and I do often have fun, it's not of the type my friends have in mind. In their mind's eye, they see me shopping on Oxford Street , feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square , watching the mime artists in Covent Garden , spending my evenings in the West End catching up on the latest shows, dining out, downing pints in pubs, and possibly also visiting the Queen .

I'd like to set the record straight.

Though, with the exception of visiting the Queen, I have, over the years, done all of the above, this is not what my typical London visit consists of. See, London is a big city, and I stay on the south-east edge, in a small suburb called New Eltham that no one has ever heard of. For starters, it's "south of the river", which to North Londoners is tantamount to some obscure region of Africa. To be a wee bit more accurate, if you care to look at a map, it's on the border of Kent, or it used to be part of Kent. It's part of the borough of Greenwich, which I'm sure you heard of, that of Greenwich Mean Time fame. Sleepy little township with lots of little old ladies with neat white hairdos, the same square, pale grey or cream colored parkas, sensible shoes and plaid shopping bags. It's got the obligatory High Street with Marks & Spencer's, a Boots, a Superdrug if I feel the urge to be more economical, a Next for my fave socks, a WHSmith for bday cards (more about that later). It has the minimum required number of Chinese, Indian and Italian restaurants (say 3 each per n square miles, where n stands for – but let's not overcomplicate things); and it has at least one café that serves a decent latte.

So you see, I'm not really complaining. Also, the view from the upstairs spare bedroom window is adorable – the back yard with its lawn, rosebush, flower pots, squirrels scurrying around, etcetera; and beyond it the green green grass of Avery Hill Park. Charming. Soothing, Quiet (except when the Scouts are having a camping day).

At the risk of sounding like an estate agent, I'll add that it's within easy walking distance to the train station, and the neighbors are really nice. That is, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt – I never hear them or see them. No loud music, no fighting or shouting, no TV station blaring in Russian, no car honking. Rather dead, in other words.

Mind you, staying here in New Eltham does not mean I'm in detention or house arrest. We – Hubby and I – have been known to wander off, be it to stately homes around the corner like Eltham Palace – very handy, having a stately home to gawk at and admire right around the corner --- or to get on a train and go off to, say, Loch Ness . (Okay, that was for Shira's bat mitzvah trip, but it still counts!). This time, for instance, we plan to go off to Cornwall. Visit Penzance , for example; muse on the days – if there ever were such days – when pirates were romantic and chivalrous and took pity on orphans*. Unlike today's uncouth Sumalis.

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Now that I've gotten that straight, I can go back to other things I wanted to tell you about: Why I like flying over on BA; the movies I watched on the flight; the books I'm reading, and the books I intend to buy at Waterstone's, or some other useful shop.

* FREDERIC: Then, again, you make a point of never molesting an orphan!

SAMUEL: Of course: we are orphans ourselves, and know what it is.


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