FROM LONDON, WITH SNOW
LONDON – Last time I was here it was summer and, oh, about 35 degrees Celsius. Today, when my Air Canada flight touched down after some really heavy turbulence (think monster drops that had even the flight attendants gasping for air) it was 2 degrees. With several inches of snow on the ground.
I’m normally not one to go for the cold, but this town is far, far better in the snow than in the searing heat. Actually, it was glorious in the morning, with temperatures warming to about six degrees, a light wind, and brilliant sunshine. Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park were littered with remnants of snow forts and snow men, as were some streets around Westminster.
Big Ben and Westminster Abbey positively glowed under the winter sun, and folks were out in droves taking pictures. The best part might have been watching the birds, who looked a bit confused by their normally free and open water being covered with sheets of ice. The pond they were skating on was just a few feet from a sign that said, “Tennis – all year round.”
The fountains in Trafalgar Square likewise looked like Toronto Harbour after a deep freeze. School kids could be seen tossing snowballs at one another as if it was as rare as a day without a member of Oasis getting arrested. But everyone seems to finally be getting back to normal after a day of schools being closed and stories of commuters walking 10 miles to work in the snow out of sheer dedication.
One fellow sweeping ice and snow off a long line of pathways in Hyde Park looked at me as I walked past and said, “I have to go all the way to Speakers Corner.” Then he paused and added, “Just kill me now.”
JUST LIKE HOME … OR NOT
You arrive at Paddington Station after the 15-minute express run from Heathrow (a brilliant way to commute to the city) and the first thing a North American sees are HSBC ads on the gangway, a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop and a Starbucks, plus signs for Mamma Mia and Jersey Boys. Sigh.
Of course, I knew it wasn’t Pearson because my bags were on the belt 10 minutes after I landed, and I was past immigration and on my way into town exactly 30 minutes after I departed the plane.
Also spotted a couple signs on buses for the movie ”Vicky Christina Barcelona,” with a note that it opens in London on Feb. 6. It’s been out for months in our neck of the proverbial forest and, if I recall correctly, I watched it on the plane on the way here Tuesday night. I know I watched it because I saw Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz kiss. There were some other parts to the movie but I, uh, don’t, um, quite recall.
Actually, it’s the best Woody Allen movie I’ve seen in a long time. He just replaced his normal, angst-ridden self with Johansson, who’s not as funny but is pretty easy on the old eyeballs.
ENGLISH NOT WRITTEN HERE
Drives me crazy. There’s a small sign near Marble Arch that advertises for tourist tickets and says that folks can buy a guide that gives them discounts on “over 100 attractions.”
Arrrrgggghhhhh! It’s not “over” 100 attractions, it’s “more than.”
Geez, they invented the language; you’d think they could use it properly.