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Sunday December 17, 1995

An expensive! day, even if I am grateful to James for helping hold me together this past year.

Not completely fair since I knew I was going to buy a coat and I really needed one; now I have one.

Anyway, to start at the beginning, we got up at a normal hour, around 8, and had the hotel's breakfast as we did yesterday on arrival: toast with butter, an egg (yesterday poached, today scrambled), some Canadian bacon (and yesterday a sausage which was mostly fat therefore we both passed on it). High on cholesterol, but it's an English breakfast; plus yesterday I had a cereal, mostly oats: today a fruit salad; and tea both days.

And then we set out by tube, after a little walk to Victoria, to my ice rink at Queensway at the Bayswater tube station. Found it quite easily, quite hidden away like my Internet message had alerted me, in the basement of an otherwise ordinary building. They were doing major construction down there, dust flying, etc. At a makeshift desk a nice early-midage woman named Marlene who told me it was £5 for unlimited skating from 10 to 5 P.M. The rink itself is long and narrow, not half the width of a hockey rink, but almost the length; and 15 feet at at least one end, possibly at the other as well, are ceilinged very low, to the point of being unjumpable, maybe only 7′ off the ice. . . .

Out of there quickly enough, then up Bayswater Road then Oxford Street, along Kensington then St. James' Park up to Marble Arch; along Bayswater Road a lot of painters have stalls and maybe ⅕ of them are, surprisingly, of some interest. Even more surprisingly, I wound up buying for £85 a small genre painting of two figs — James liked it, and technically it was very good — from the artist, who is out there on Sundays only.

[image ALT: A man addressing a crowd. It is a typical scene at Speaker's Corner, Hyde Park, London.]
At Marble Arch we dipped under the road into the park to Speakers' Corner: nothing particularly extraordinary except the fact it was there; the various speakers were religious rather than political in orientation, except one very sparse little knot of anti-capitalists.

Forgot to mention Tyburn Chapel; I'm rather proud of myself for spotting it merely from the name since the building is quite nondescript in a modern way: it is in fact a chapel with a convent of perpetual adoration on the exact site of the 105 martyrs' execution. James and I went in, and found three old ladies praying in the public side of the chapel and a kneeling nun on the other side of the grill before the Blessed Sacrament. White-painted walls and a frieze of coats of arms of the martyrs. There's a crypt but we didn't look for it. (Christmas Eve, 10:45 a solemn vigil followed by midnight mass; 9 A.M. on Christmas, a mass).

Slowly up Oxford Street stopping in what seemed every department store — I was rather bored, but James led and I followed — and I bought a blue wool and camelhair coat and a pair of blue corduroys. Looked for free weights but couldn't find any, we were finally told they could be bought at Lillywhite's at Piccadilly Circus. James bought his coat, grey, at Liberty's, then we walked down Regent Street of Piccadilly Circus, found Lillywhite closed on Sunday's, took in "Babe", a movie about a pig, basically just across the street, and at 6:25 exited to the tube by dark drizzle and back to the hotel. It had in fact been drizzling most of the day.

At the hotel, we'd been, as expected, moved to our new room for the next week, 2 beds and a full bathroom: #21. Rested a bit then opted for dinner at a relatively nearby Italian restaurant La Fontana at 101 Pimlico Road, in "Cheap Eats in London": paid one hundred and seventy pounds for an excellent meal. James had snails then veal sweetbreads, plus spinach; I had a risotto with truffle shavings then pernice with more truffle; wine a Barolo, Guasti Clemente & figli — excellent, 1991 — I mean really good; before, an amaro Montenegro, the best amaro I've ever had. Dessert a wonder­ful zabaglione; grappa (James a Nobile di Montepulciano, me a Tignanello from Tuscany: his better, I knew it, so I had the other which I didn't know); rahat loukoum with the coffee: rahat l. goes beauti­fully with grappa, by the way. Quiet but short walk back to the hotel et voilà. Room much more comfortable than the other. It's now 11:15 P.M. — not tired, no jetlag.

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