The world's my oyster

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 24 August 2007

I didn't have a lot of sleep, owing to the old man's birthday bash last night. But I was called this morning, at 8.24 precisely, by Radio Kent for my opinions on whether women were happier and more content than men. Apparently the 'Keep Britain Tidy' Campaign did a survey and discovered what is blindingly obvious - that we all want clean neighbourhoods, nice friends, good health and money. Did they need to survey that, I wonder?

Anyway, they called me from their studios in Tunbridge Wells. I struggled into my dressing gown, slumped on the settee and bleary-eyed, gave a less than sparkling interview. Five minutes later they hung up.

I crawled back into bed. The old man was out for the count so I meditated, after which I got trainered up and had a jolly good run along the river bank. At 11.00 I headed off to the West End.

I wondered why it was called the West End, and who had coined the phrase. I don't know the real geography of London but I am assuming that the West End is opposite the East End and the other way up from the North and South. Then I wondered why the north isn't called the North End or the south, the South End. It's probably got something to do with the rise of the sun, the set of the moon or the river. No matter. When I was young though, we went 'up west'. Well, I didn't. They did. I wasn't allowed to as it was for bee-hived tarts who wore stiletto heels and drunk strong espresso in vulgar coffee bars where they played the bongos.

This morning my transport of choice was the 239 to Victoria, an auto-bus that attracts an altogether classier passenger. Take today's fare for example - Terence-can-you-take-me-to-the-Desert-I-am-Priscilla-Stamp. Mr. Stamp is now white haired and just a little bit stooped. He alighted outside Viscount Linley's furniture emporium which is closed on Wednesdays and a stones throw from his aunty's palace. Terence had a knapsack on his back and a little bald patch on the top of his head. He grimaced as he shuffled off. We all get old, I thought, and he's doing it rather beautifully.

I got off at Victoria tube station which was jam packed with tourists and the free newspaper touts who blight our environs. We now have more free newspapers than there are trees in the Amazon. They all report the same negative claptrap, nobody reads the damn things and they just serve to clog up corridors, gangways and dustbins throughout the capital leaving tons of waste paper. Grumpy old woman or what?

But my moment of metropolitan chick had arrived I whisked out my Oyster card. Fantastic. Pressed it onto the Oyster eye and with one beep I was through. Down the escalator, two stops, up the escalator, one more beep and the world was now my oyster. Out into Argyll Street, where the toothy grin of Connie Fisher beamed out from the photographs outside the Palladium Theatre. Connie is so desperately nice, my rude utterances were definitely not the sound of music to anybody's ears.

Over Great Marlborough Street into Carnaby Street and down Ganton Street past one of the friendliest pieces of street art there is. A huge yellow plug as big as a very big thing, with its curly lead is fastened high up on an outside wall. It makes me smile every time.

I stood outside Flat White until I was called to meet my friend back in Carnaby Street. We went into 'The Sacred Place', a fair trade caff where we partook of fresh scrambled eggs with spring onions, brown toast and a fiendishly good Americana coffee with hot milk on the side. We talked about her and me and men and things, work and age and men and things, children, Paris and men and things and then we walked to Cecil Court where my favourite bookshop awaits. 'Watkins' is jam packed with every known esoteric book from Nostradamus to 'The Secret'. I bought two books about the molecular structure of water and how it teaches us to be aware that we are what we think.

A brisk walk back to Covent Garden where my friend bought a pen that looked like a nurse and I a wallet for my Oyster Card. It's a new design with the map of the underground on it and telephone numbers that are relevant if, at any time, you should want to have a little chat with somebody at London Transport.

I strolled up to Shaftesbury Avenue and just missed a number 19. The computerised read out, that hangs from the roof of the bus shelter, informed me that another bus would be along in 13 minutes, then 11, and so on until it said 'due', and bugger me if it didn't swing round Cambridge Circus bang on time, only it isn't a circus any more - the roads have all been meddled with.

I'm not against progress but sometimes I do wonder why everything is sacrificed for the ruddy car. You wouldn't catch them doing that in Iceland. Outcrops of rocks, homes of the elementals and sprites are left where they live, highways are built round fairy grottos. I kid you not. It is not uncommon to do a figure of eight so that a pixies pad is left undisturbed. They are well used to 'Nimbys' - Nymphs In My Back Yard.

I flashed my new Oyster wallet at the all seeing eye on the bus. It beeped and I swung up the stairs and nabbed the last seat right in the front, giving me a panoramic view of the city.

At the moment London appears to be just one great big hole in the ground. Victorian water pipes are being replaced, the catalyst being the Olympics I don't doubt. There are mountains being made out of manholes just about everywhere. The big red buses nudged the Chelsea tractors out of the way which is something that can be seen quite clearly from twelve feet up in the air. I did take delight in the big red Routemasters cutting up those smug Mercedes with dark spectacled drivers.

I noticed, for the first time, three naked, golden women holding up a building on the corner of Piccadilly (made out of bronze, silly) and as we swung into Sloane Street, I was amazed at the packs of extremely wealthy Arabian women wearing burqas, Gucci scarves, Versace shoes and Fendi handbags.

The journey back was quick, in time for me to do some research for tomorrow's prrogramme and prep some nosh for Jim's supper tonight. Mr. Lowrie emailed to remind me that it may be hard to get a parking spot because of the 'Notting Hill Carnival'. Levi Roots is coming into the studio. He of Reggae Reggae Sauce fame. Mama Cherita is calling from Brighton and Collin Brown, the Bling King of Caribbean cookery, is talking about jerk chicken. It's going to be hot, hot, hot so I shall go in my little red car, hood down, which means I can leave me oyster card at home.

It's 12.31 and the french doors are open, so the summer may just be starting like they promised. Hope so.

Have a good night but a quick last word to Marmite Girl. No, I certainly do not think that Anne Widdicombe would make a good Prime Minister. It would be like having the worst prefect picking on you because you were going out with the best looking boy in the 6th form and she was left with netball practice whilst the rest of the school had gone on a day trip to Gracelands leaving her to run detention all on her own, with no chocolate tuck whilst the elastic in her airtex knickers had snapped whilst breaking into the tuck shop for a king sized Mars Bar, and she having been on celebrity Fat Club and all. No, Anne Widdecombe would make a dreadful first minister.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes

Comments

1. At August 26, 2007 9:17 PM Fi wrote:

Well there's a thing. We have never met, I live no where near you and I have only ever visited London breifly but when you described your journey today I could actualy see all the streets. Thanks for that because I have secret yearning to live in the big smoke.
I'm glad that I stumbled onto the website cause I do miss seeing your face on the box. I kind of fell into GFL about 4 years ago, I was at Uni and seriously hooked on lunch time visits to Bergerac on UK Drama and then one day I found the food channel. I didn't quite manage to loose interest in John Nettles but I did find a liking for all things food and there you were. I work alot these days and problably wouldn't get the oportunity to justify 1 hour telly watching at lunch time but I do miss your perspective on life.
Your words really make this 30 year old laugh. Thanks for that Jeni.

2. At August 27, 2007 11:38 AM Chrissie Carcassonne wrote:

Hi Jeni,

Glad you like the Routemaster. We,that is the husband and I, have published a maintenance manual for that very bus and it sells well to enthusiasts as well as the chaps that have gone out and bought one! Shame they are going but thats "progress" (?)for you.
Starting to look forward to getting back to Twickenham and trips to galleries and meals in China Town and shopping in Kingston and buying fish at Sandy's (do a fish programme and I'll phone in-or have you done one and I missed it?) and eating curry.
Glad you enjoy life so much!
Chrissie Carcase

3. At August 27, 2007 3:12 PM Judi4 wrote:

Hi Jeni, Your words also cheer up this almost 60 year old as well as Fi! Once again I missed LBC but I'm sure it was brill & hot with all the spicy talk(in both senses of the word knowing you). I'm so glad to hear Jackson is much better, and enjoying his London walks, as much as his country ones. Belated birthday wishes to Jim as well. I've just been watching an old GFL from Easter with Alan & James, funny as usual! Lots a luv x

4. At August 27, 2007 5:20 PM Rhianon wrote:

Hiya. You know, I like you. You make me smile inside.
This coming week is going to be a bit buggerish. We have to set out a whole new programme for our ladies and gents. A years worth of activities, groups and events that they will, hopefully, enjoy and look forward to, and that our boss will find acceptable in these morally redundant, politically inept times. What are the odds? And office politics being the hungry, petulant, vile monster it is, I want to run and hide! But through it all, Jeni dear, you still make me smile. You're a wonder, and I thank you for it.

5. At August 28, 2007 9:29 AM Anonymous wrote:

Hi Jeni,
Your little journey filled me with nostalgia. If you walked from Berwick Street to Carnaby Street you must have passed this
amazing Japanese restaurant with
blue windows, I forget the name.
They sell these colourful biscuits that look like little works of art. Yeah, the oyster card is the best, you can use it to get to and from
Heathrow. By the way, Jim should
come with you to Aus, we've got a good
Shakespearean Company here.
Hoping you'll be coming over here some time soon.

6. At August 28, 2007 12:30 PM Libby wrote:

Ok I consider myself told off! I'll never mention Anne Widdecombe again! Although the thought of her in airetex knickers has put my off my jacket potato!
Lots of love
Marmite Girl xx

7. At August 28, 2007 10:44 PM Jane Barker wrote:

You're Crazeee, go on then when are you back on the box?
I challenge you to name your Prime Minster and your Cabinet. If not Anne Widdicombe for PM Who?
Keep making us all smile.
Thanks
JaneyB

8. At August 29, 2007 5:12 PM Fiona wrote:

Ok you've done it, after reading the last London describing blog I was tempted to visit but now I'm definitely playing the tourist. Time for you to write a London touristy guide I think, get signed up!

Great description of Anne Widdicombe btw. I guess that like me you're more of a George Galloway gal.

9. At August 29, 2007 10:27 PM Rob Elford wrote:

Jeni for Prime Minister :)

10. At August 30, 2007 12:49 PM Steve Rush wrote:

I had originally intended making a posting with regards to my euphoric discovery that JB is now pounding the airwaves on the ĎLondon Broadcasting Corporationí or as it is now 'Londonís Biggest Conversation'. Itís been awhile since I have listened to LBC but shall be sheduling in Saturdays broadcastís as appointment to listen radio.

After reading a few posts from fellow posteeís, I too have to say I really have enjoyed reading about Jeniís travels in and out and around the capital. Infact knowing London as well as I do so many bells ring so very true.

One part of the transportation system I have seen cropping up here and there is that of the 19 bus route. I have been using this imfamous route pretty much for all the 30 short years I have been on this earth, the other end of the route between The Angel and Finsbury Park. Anyhow before I digress too much, I would have to say this route alone should be classed as a tourist attraction all by itself. More so when it was fleeted by Routemasters RIP!

There is no other route that goes from one end to the other passing through so many different class barriers of London, bringing lordís, lackies and ladies of the night together in one barrierless confined space. Forget Michael Caine, the biggest star of the film Alfie was indeed a route 19 Routemaster.

Anyhow canít wait to hear your broadcast and indeed hope very soon to see you back on the box as it were. As someone who is on the struggling path to break into the broadcasting game can I say that even when your not on air your still an inspiration. Oh that sounded very cheesey but it's very true.

Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.