30 November 2008

In a Tony Place

London wasn't a particularly lonely place today (even if the day did have a very Tony theme), although the day did not start well when I was rudely awakened before eight once again, this time by Papa, who felt the need to play the radio really loudly in the living room. My head was hurting too much for me to fall back to sleep so I sulkingly finished The Player of Games before emerging at nine, making a beeline for the coffee machine. Past interactions with my family should have taught me that if I'm not feeling well or if something has irked me that might lead another family member to go on the defensive, it's really better for me to just keep quiet because then, at least, I'll only have a tiredness-induced headache rather than the aforementioned headache and a randomly irritated family member (and they wonder why I don't tell them if anything is wrong!).

I felt somewhat better after coffee, Ibuprofen and a shower, in that order, and better still when we went to Canteen for breakfast. I've been eagerly awaiting the opening of this Baker Street branch of Canteen for several months now, having enjoyed the "all-day casual eating" delights of the other two branches, although any cool restaurant that is about a 90-second walk from my flat is bound to get many thumbs up. It was quite quiet in there this morning but Baker Street is generally quiet on Sunday mornings and, besides, the place only opened on Tuesday. 

The service was excellent, though, as were the cappuccinos (sourced from my favourite Monmouth Coffee Company), although my carrot and ginger juice had a little too much va va voom for my liking so early on a Sunday morning. Maman loved her bubble and squeak and Papa enjoyed his bacon, sausage and scrambled eggs. I had the best bacon sandwich I've had in a long time (since the first one I had after ten years of vegetarianism, anyway). I asked for the bacon to be very crispy and it was but also very tasty and the (sourdough?) bread was pretty good too. All in all, I was very impressed and will definitely be returning often, especially as they do sausage and mash, a daily roast, afternoon cakes, great, creative cocktails and "bar snacks" that include a fish finger sarnie--OK, yes, said sandwich costs £5.75 and I could make my own for a fraction of the price  but that's not the point.

We walked off breakfast around Regent's Park (bumping into quartier resident neighbour, Thomas More Jeremy Northam, on the way) before heading to Selfridge's where there wasn't the slightest sign of any form of credit crunch. Amex had sent Papa a 20%-off-everything-in-store voucher and so off we went to buy everything. The guy at customer services informed us that there were seven other similar offers this week. You could tell given what a zoo the place was. 

The women's shoe department on the second floor was the worst of the lot, closely resembling Dante's fourth circle of Hell (the queues certainly seem like a modern equivalent of Dante's almost Sisyphean punishment of pointless boulder-moving), not helped by the fact that I was served (well, technically) by a guy who looked and acted as though he'd been recruited, à contre-coeur, from the men's sporting equipment department and who, when I asked him whether the shoes I was trying fitted properly, he just asked whether it felt like they fitted. Much confusion was had by the plethora of posters advertising 30% off a given brand's shoes (but didn't apply to all of the shoes in the range) and some annoying Americans were actually trying to haggle with the already stressed sales assistants. Nonetheless, I got what I came for in a pair of brown leather riding boots which are warm, comfortable and fairly stylish (plus, I saved £28). 

After this, I was keen to get the hell out but first, I had to join the parents in the basement where we had to battle the sales assistants whose sense of queueing fairness seemed to be that those who were buying expensive Mulberry luggage shouldn't have to wait as long as those just buying a couple of fold-up canvas travel tote bags. She got some serious wrath from me because by that point, I was very hot, very dehydrated and still very tired. I had started to apologise for my family's ire but then she started loudly whispering to her colleague that she was "just trying to be fair," which caused me to point out that she hadn't succeeded in the least.

Having dumped the shopping at the flat, I went to meet Dr Max at the BFI. We had a drink in the very funky film cafe/bar before crowding into the very small screen three with a load of film buffs to see In a Lonely Place. It wasn't really Dr Max's kind of film but he didn't have any better plans so agreed to accompany me. We picked up a copy of the programme notes in the hope that we might be able to keep up with the film geeks during the movie but the top warned that there were spoilers therein so we decided we'd better not. I was expecting something a little more noir and was pleasantly surprised that there were so many great and funny lines (in response to the question, "Why didn't you call for a cab? Isn't that what a gentleman usually does under the circumstances?", Dix Steele, Humphrey Bogart's protagonist (antagonist?) coolly drawls, "I didn't say I was a gentleman. I said I was tired."). Besides, I always like films that are about the movies (oh, Cinema Paradiso--how pleasantly you made periods seven and eight on a Thursday afternoon go in the upper sixth) and Bogart is effusive, jaded, funny and scary in equal measures, although there is never really any attempt to get to grips with or to explain the lonely place that his character occupies (it isn't, I suppose, really the point).

The BFI is great. However, it is an exercise in choice and comprehending that you will never watch all of the movies you want to see--each month, the programme seems to contain far more films than I can afford to see (in terms of money and time) and yet so many that I would want to see. Besides, members' tickets are only £7.60, which is only just over half the price of the horrible West End cinemas--no classy bars or mediatheques in Leicester Square, that's for sure. The whole too much choice thing probably applies to all of London--it's so nice to always have plenty of posisble things to do, of a weekend, after so many years of exile in Nowheresville. Not that I'm complaining, of course.

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