Some random thoughts on the Pricks’ first 24 hours in London…
- Whatever the depredations of 21st century air travel, hurtling from Australia to the other side of the planet in 24 hours is a modern miracle about which we should not become completely jaded. When Mrs Prick’s ancestors made the reverse journey a couple of centuries ago, there were no welcome aboard bubbles, no hot towels, and no dead ringer for Cee Lo Green waiting at the other end with a welcome sign and a Merc. She’s not completely sure of the history but is given to understand that for some of her forebears at least, the security regime was also a bit more onerous than “please remove all laptops and other electronic equipment from your carry-ons before proceeding.”
- The advantage of being the first plane into Heathrow is that immigration and baggage formalities are a snap. The disadvantage is wandering around the city for six hours until the room is ready. (Consolation prize: Eggs benedict made with porcetta and biorhythm-resetting doppios at Cecconi’s in Mayfair. Shove that naturopathic melatonin where the artificial light machine don’t shine, double espressos –plus a long walk – is how you cure jet lag.)
- British daytime TV is similar to that of Australia or the US, but just off-kilter enough to be forget-to-feed-yourself addictive to the under-slept and over-excited visitor. Six episodes into a “Michael Barrymore’s Strike It Rich” marathon and we’d thought we’d discovered the catatonic “entertainment” at the heart of Infinite Jest. (And my word, hasn’t Barrymore had a colourful life?)
- British daytime TV would also appear, judging by its sponsors, to be watched in the main by those with poor credit and cash flow problems, and those with leaky bladders who do a little wee every time they laugh. Amazingly, no one has yet invented a panty liner that’s also a quick-cash payday loan facility.
- It has been nearly twenty years since the Prick last visited London, and what a beautiful town it remains. Not to go all Elizabeth Farrelly, but one forgets how starved we are for great architecture in Sydney.
- However, gracious old buildings are not all they’re cracked up to be either: Our little hotel in South Kensington is lovely but with a floorplan by Tetris. One shudders to think how much one must pay for a room that has closet space for more than three shirts.
- A morning wander through the National Portrait Gallery is by turns instructive, fascinating, and frustrating. Organised sequentially, an under-remarked consequence of the Great War remains that it caused people to forget how to paint for a good several decades. The Victorian rooms are instructive more as a reminder as to just how awesome the Victorians really were than for their somewhat improving, propagandistic canvases; give the Pricks some Tudor-era portraits any day of the week. The eyes in their copy of Holbein’s Thomas Cromwell, which puts a face to perhaps the original faceless man of politics, do as well as all of Hilary Mantel’s novels to say, this is a man whose mind was on other things.
- London weather is London weather: It is cool and it is grey, but at least two locals have told us without a hint of irony, “This is great! You really brought the weather with you!”
- American soft power has made a big push in London in the years since the last visit. It is funny seeing a big Brooks Brothers in Regent Street (yes, they were the official outfitter of the Prick’s youth, but exporting Connecticut WASP-Anglophilia to the UK seems ironic in a coals-to-Newcastle sort of way: they don’t call it New England for nothing, after all). Speaking of which, the boulevard is presently lined with more American flags than VE-Day, promoting the NFL of all things. Huh?
- Likewise, one cannot walk a pitching wedge’s range in this town without being promised a “real” “authentic” “American” burger. Well, we’ll be the judge of that (stay tuned!).
- Speaking of the Prick’s people, guys, I love you but please, the “manger” in Pret a Manger has nothing to do with the circumstances of Jesus’s birth, so don’t say it like it does. Also, you don’t mark yourself out as a sophisticated traveler by announcing loudly, “…and I wanna eat at least once at pretta-MAYN-jer before we go!” Ah, Paul Fussell, where are you when we need you?
- No pictures because we were both so excited about not having to carry a goddamn phone with us 24 hours a day that we left them in the room but Mrs Prick snaffled us a table at Bar Boulud for dinner to ensure our BAC (blood-animal content) levels did not drop too low before bed. Lyonnais food by way of Manhattan sophistication and Midwestern portion sizes, this is a worthwhile stop for anyone who loves their charcuterie, though take it from the Pricks, show up hungry and don’t over-order. After deep-fried pork belly, a wonderful hare terrine with a golf ball of foie gras in the middle, a platter of assorted hams, jamons, and prosciuttos, a beautiful steak tartare (lovely when presented as an integrated whole, the Prick still prefers it old-school with an egg yolk on the top and the garnishes on the side), and a slab of USDA Prime sirloin for Mrs Prick, we were ready to raise the white flag.
- This does not mean we will not pop in for a second go some time this week, perhaps for a spot of lunch at the bar. That burger with the foie gras and short ribs does sound a little hard to pass up.