16 September 2010

On London, gossip, food, and being lost

How did yesterday's trip into London for dinner with Fr. Gaine and Anna Arco go?

Well, with company of such fine quality, how else could it go?  Fantastic!

The trip into London was long. . .three hours from Oxford to Victoria Station.  Took me a good 30 mins to find the stop for the 24 bus.  Once on the bus I knew the trip to St Dominic's Priory would take about 50 mins.  About half way through I decided to ask the driver if his bus stopped at the priory.  He gave me a blank look and said, "No."  Just as I was starting to despair, a quiet voice from behind me said, "Yes.  I'll show you."  Salvation!

The quiet voice belonged to a smallish woman with a Irish accent.  She described the priory in detail and told me that I had a ways to travel.  When a seat opened up next to her, I plopped down and started chatting.  I'm from Mississippi; it's what we do.  Within seconds she asked if I were a Dominican friar and told me that she attended Mass at St Dominic's.  She knew all the friars there and ones who had lived there for the past twenty years or so.  

The conversation turned to the papal visit and her voice dropped.  She glanced around suspiciously and confided to me that she was very anxious about the visit.  The media had been relentlessly attacking the Pope and the Church for several days.  She sounded a but depressed by the whole thing.  I told her to ignore the idiots and enjoy His Holiness' visit.  We parted at my stop and she seemed a little happier.

Fr. Gaine met me at the stop and we went on a tour of the area. . .a sort of trendy/posh/artsy neighborhood called Gospel Oaks.  Another short bus trip took us into the Camden Market and The Stables.  These are a combination of street markets, covered stalls, and specialty shops that sell to the rigorously uniform Bohemian crowd.  Apparently, revolting against The Man is a business, one ruled by the unbreakable laws of Not Bathing, Smoking Constantly, Eating Strange Cuisines, and Buying/Selling Heathenish Trinkets.  All that rebellion amounts to a dress code of baggy pants, commie tee-shirts, vintage shoes, ridiculous hats, and obscure music.  Lots of Buddhists paraphernalia.  Lots of Rasta junk.  Lots of incense, bells, CD's from Africa, and herbal remedies.  

After the markets, Fr. Gaine and I tucked into plates of fish and chips and beer.  In true Dominican style we discussed our latest academic projects and caught up on the whereabouts of several mutually acquainted friars.  A short respite back at the priory and then off to Leicester Square and the required tour of book stores.  Another pub break to people watch at Charing Cross as we awaited the arrival of our hostess, Ms Arco.

Anna arrived on her bike, wearing these knee high velvet boots. . .bright red!  Very striking.  I listened to some gossip about the Papal Visit. . .mostly the ineptitude of the bureaucrats of the bishops' conference and how the gov't's "security concerns" seem to be mostly about restricting the public's access to the Holy Father's appearances.  We headed off to a burger joint and ate these enormous "gourmet burgers."  I gave my American Seal of Approval to these concoctions and then we retired to yet another pub to top off the evening with a few pints.  

Anna loves corny puns and jokes, so Fr Gaine and I were regaled with several.  Groans and laughs all around.  I shared my favorite joke, which was immediately labeled "mean" amid much laughter.  We parted company and I was left at the 24 bus stop to make my way back to Victoria Station.  That was around 9.30pm.  Once at V.S. it took me an hour to find the stop for my Oxford coach.  I asked no fewer than four V.S. employees where the coach picked up and received no fewer than five different answers.  Finally surrendering to a bad sense of direction and near night blindness, I wandered over to the main coach terminal and watched the 11pm coach to Oxford pull out!  The next one was to leave at 11.30pm.  I made it onto this one and arrived back in Oxford at 1.10am.  

Overall, excellent food and drink.  Better company.  A day better than well spent.  Now, back to work!

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  1. Laura7:56 AM

    Sounds like a wonderful day trip. I would have loved to see Anna's boots.

  2. Anonymous6:44 PM

    And the joke is?...

  3. Too Fun. But you're not my first choice of tour guide Father!