7:00 am and the sun only just came up
well, that was the first 24 hours in the UK. Unmemorable trip over. Sat next to a young woman with her (thankfully) good-natured baby, watched movies, tried to sleep.
Arrived 5:00am, 4 hours to kill until the embassy opened, so my taciturn driver took me to a little hotel called the Gainsborough in Kensington. When I say little, I mean the rooms and the stairs. Note to self – when you have 50kg of luggage, choose a hotel with lifts.
Nice enough place – pretty decorating, if peeling around the edges. Some of the little homey touches that remind you you’re back in the country of period conversions – the 15 minute wait for the hot water to arrive – the curious way the lights dim when you turn on the hairdryer – the mysterious drillholes in the walls…
One mystery (for a hotel called the Gainsborough) was the obsessive hanging of Dante Gabriel Rossetti reproductions and bad copies in the foyer. I looked everywhere, and didn’t find a single Gainsborough in the plethora of prints. Another mystery was that the entire staff appeared to have come from somewhere in Eastern Europe.
Went to the Ishmaelian embassy early so I could walk around Kensington a bit. It was a perfect sunny day, so I got to enjoy the Friday morning bustle of the upper middle-class. The embassy was a surprise. I know it’s a poor country in Africa, but the tiny office up rickety stairs on the 3rd floor of a faded Victorian was a little unexpected. However the staff were brisk, friendly and efficient, and I got my visa in only two hours.
To make up for the morning’s silent driver, the one who took me to Bristol could talk for England. Fortunately he didn’t seem to mind if I was listening or not, and nattered happily along for two hours about the weather, his cousins in Australia, and the motorways of the Home Counties.
Flung my pile of luggage in the middle of the apartment in Bristol and raced to the office for a few hours of meetings.
Last surprise for the day – left the office at 5:00 and it was pitch dark. Never mind – got some groceries, went home, cooked dinner, went to bed early.
The sun has finally lumbered above the horizon this morning, so today is stock the fridge, unpack, find all the things I forgot to pack, wonder if they are in the air freight, buy them twice just in case and recover from jet lag.
Tomorrow is another continent.