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Monday December 18, 1995

In fact twenty minutes into Tuesday, as a result of overwhelming sleepiness at 4:30 P.M. and a four-hour nap: a combination of the jetlag I claimed I didn't have and a bad cold, my usual European trip thing. . . .

Anyway a rather quiet day today, starting with up out of bed at 8 and breakfast at 8:40, the permanent menu of the hotel: cereal or fruit salad, orange juice, toast, egg and "Canadian" bacon and sausage. This morning again no sausage, and fruit salad for the vitamins. Egg, poached; with a poaching round so not very delicate, but circular with a vengeance.

James and I separated stepping out the door he heading W. off to a walking tour of Pimlico — which he said was fairly interesting, although he imprudently wore new shoes and got a blister on a foot and was tired by it. I went to the rink at Queensway, arriving at 10:05 via Oxford Circus and the Central line going W.

Construction, it now being Monday, in full swing: dust all over the place. Facilities primitive but quite adequate: lockers very close to rinkside, the whole rink area quite exiguous, basically just the ice surface and the rubber-matted walkway next to the boards, not even extending around the ends. Locker quite large enough, 20p: key had no number on it — leaving me an instant of worry when came time at 1215 to retrieve my stuff and the key didn't at first seem to work . . .

Anyway, Booby in his red-grey-&-black stripeys and a black shirt, feeling somewhat plump (as indeed I've been oscillating around 30¾″ to right this minute 30 ⅜″ waist) but fairly fit, skated fairly strong, despite very bad ice: pits, ruts, and frozen grit from bad resurfacing. A woman named Vickie, about 65 years old and quite gamely skating in the center for all two hours I was there (and some short time with one of the rink's uniformed pros), told me the ice was not usually that bad, some days being very good: it depends who's on the zamboni.

I kept on working the 2‑foot spin, did about 8 of which 1 was beauti­fully centered, eight revolutions tracing a serving-platter-sized circle repeatedly: the others my usual travelling variety, 2 to 4½ blades long and thus variously passing and failing. I did a few indifferent waltz jumps, lots of spirals including my on-the‑way-to‑a‑Biellmann back spiral, and a number of half-flips, most of them flawed due to fear of the ice, incl. 2 in a row seriously flawed (⅜ revolution on the first, then a two-foot landing on the next, which I don't believe I'd ever done).

Off the ice at 12:15 and booked a coach, on the same ticket system as at Marino, for tomorrow 10:45‑11:30. Her name is Betty Loach. I also talked with David Clements the rink manager, who also teaches competition skaters early in the morning (and therefore no early morning time for me, I asked): his name had been given to me by Bram Hoar on the Internet; his daughter Nikki occasionally skates here, if usually at Stevenage at Tamara Moskvina's school.

Quick tube ride back to the hotel; I should note the tiny elevator, holding maybe 20 people, used at Queensway station to get people up and down to the platforms — anyway, Victoria at 12:50 where I bought some solidaster and a posy of fairly exotic flowers labelled a "Cape bouquet", the whole a fairly large bunch of flowers, for (2 × £1.95 = £3.50) + £3.95, or about $12, pretty much U.S. prices or slightly less: I'd noticed flowers are cheapish here; and back at the hotel at 12:59, greeting James waiting in the downstairs lounge with a "Phineas Fogg, I presume?" since our rendezvous was for 1:00 and he gets horribly upset at me for the slightest lateness . . .

Up to the room to get out of my dance belt, while doing which James told me of his walking tour, the most interesting part of which seems to have been a Royal Hospital where bemedaled old men are handsomely pensioned,​a nice grounds, beauti­ful old dining room, and some military history, including a string of parachute mines and 3 defused unexploded German bombs lofted into the grounds during one or the other or both World Wars, story not too clear.

Back out immediately for lunch as close as possible to the hotel, a place from the "Cheap Eats in London" book — misgivings!! — at 26 Churton Street, a wine bar called Chimes. The wines were mostly cider, elderberry and elderflower (different), ginger, etc. The food traditional English: a good if very heavy meal. James had a Gloucestershire lamb pie, vegetables, and bread pudding with cream; I had Beef with Prunes and Walnuts (from the vale of Pewsey in Wilts.), the same veggies (new potatoes in their jackets, carrots, excellent leeks), and an orange treacle tart, which was a shortbread thickly topped with a granular caramel-like confection and a token slice off a very small orange, served with hot custard. The beef was a sort of collateral ancestor of a beef pot pie as available in a U.S. supermarket frozen dinner section, but with fair character in part due to a tiny smidgen of I think allspice. We ate this with a two-pint pitcher of maybe 8% "scrumpy" cider from Warwickshire, unfiltered and thus rather cloudy; pale, good, and totally unlike any other cider I've ever had.

I had a sharpish pain in my left leg — and right now and much of the day since my skate, a gut pain in a waist muscle also on the left — anyway, reduced walking: to Victoria tube to Piccadilly, to Lillywhite's in front of the Eros, the base of which apparently under restoration and only visible from above from the stairs inside the store. A 15‑lb. dumbbell was not available, I wound up having to buy a little bar and 2 absurdly large sand-filled 2.5‑kg rings to put on it, the lot for £17.95. . . then lugged it around as we wandered down Lower Regent Street and to Trafalgar so close. It was 4 P.M. and quite dark already, the Nelson Column and the National Gallery's very nice dome all lit up, ditto St. Martin-in‑the-Field's, a nice building. In front of the National Gallery, pendant statues of James II as a sort of Roman emperor, and of George Washington.

We went in St. Martin's; inside of considerably less interest than outside: downstairs, an 18c "crypt" which is a tourist trap: souvenir shop and cafeteria, quite incongruous under the sober brick vaulting. Oddly, all kinds of CD's with resolutely not one of the Academy; wonder what underlies that.

Up the street a bit, the Coliseum, home of the English National Opera, where I took tickets to a reworking of Offenbach called "La Belle Vivette" for Dec. 28th; then back down into Trafalgar Square, beauti­fully lit fountains, thoroughly monumental — and into the tube and back home, where I almost instantly fell asleep.

James apparently did too; we both woke up around 8:30, and then of course stayed up. James just went to sleep again a few minutes ago at around 12:45; it's now 1:30 and I'll shut down in a few minutes after a few minutes of winding down with one of the two Michael Innes mysteries James chose to bring.

When I woke up a few hours ago I really didn't feel very good and my throat hurt etc. but now after three cups of very strong hot tea boiled up in the room — a nice idea of the hotel to make it available — I feel much better. Dinner was about six chocolate truffles from a box from Selfridge's yesterday; at 11:30 James suddenly got hungry but opted to stay in out of laziness basically (contacts, getting dressed, finding late night eatery etc.) — Fair 'nuff.

Later Note:

a The official site of The Royal Hospital Chelsea gives an excellent idea of it.

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