Monday, December 13, 2004

Traffic and Culture

The State Opening of Parliament may look good on the Six O'Clock News, with snippets of the Queen in her carriage, and Black Rod banging on the door of the Commons, but if you happen to work nearby it is a real nightmare. I got caught in the traffic that morning - I counted more than 10 ambassadors en route in their diplomatic Mercedes - and it took me almost three hours to do the 13 mile trip to work. Remind me next year to take the day off...

The rest of the day really made up for it though. Sue and I met after work on a crowded Shaftesbury Avenue, and went to see famous Latin American novelist Carlos Fuentes being interviewed in the Gielgud Theatre. It was part of the Orange Word festival, which brings famous writers to London each year for discussion and interview. Check out

He was fascinating to listen to - an erudite, philosopical, charming old-world gentleman who had interesting opinions on everything from world literature to world politics, from Mexican history to the art of writing.

Afterwards we had a drink in a great over-the-top cocktail bar on the edge of Soho which was all pink glitter and gothic art. Dinner was eaten in Chinatown, at the Wong Kei where the waiters are all rude to you (they only smile at me!). Then we wandered past Piccadilly Circus and spent an hour or two browsing the books in the big Waterstones which is open till 10pm.

When we got kicked out at closing time we headed back towards Green Park tube at a leisurely pace, passing the Ritz with all its Tinseltown lighting, and Fortum and Mason's Christmas window display. I know it is supposed to be worth a visit every year to see their windows, but this year I thought the baroque-looking smiling and grimacing faces framing the tableaux were a bit scary really!

Home through the (thankfully light) night-time traffic, with Tony Blackburn on Jazz FM playing the Stylistics, Dionne Warwick and other great classic soul. After such an inauspicious start it turned out to be a great day to live in London!