The anything but royal couple
London dislikes me. I do mean London, the city in England, not some toddler with a New Age name. Perhaps I’m being paranoid, but I suspect London doesn’t care for me and would prefer some other visitor, a thinner, smarter visitor with whiter teeth. Not that its own populace is renowned for its dental work. See, the first time I was there I came disastrously close to being struck by a taxi. I stepped off a sidewalk, looking down the street in the direction cars would be approaching in America, when I heard the grinding of brakes in my ears. I snapped my head around just in time to put my hands upon the hood of an oncoming taxi.
Then there was the time that food nearly killed me in London. I was young and unadventurous when it came to worldly cuisine and decided to dance my first tango with Indian fare. The kormas and saags lit up my palette and made tastebuds spring to attention. It was so cheap, a multi-course meal had for a Bollywood song. Following the meal, during the first act of "Les Miserables," my digestive system issued that first gastrointestinal warning shot. A slick of sweat covered my forehead and I went fumbling down a cramped aisle, praying my bowels wouldn’t release upon the knees of my fellow theatergoers. While I wondered if Cosette could push her mop and bucket on over to the bathroom, I vowed to stay on the straight and narrow of ethnic cuisine for the balance of the trip.
This meant resorting to baguette sandwiches with no mayonnaise at every meal, a nearly impossible feat in the UK. After two weeks of ordering my sandwich sans mayonnaise and receiving it slathered with mayonnaise, I had exhausted my patience vis a vis condiments. I called the waiter over to bear witness to my mayonnaise-coated sandwich. I expected he would seize the plate and offer a sincere and foppish apology, like Hugh Grant would have, but instead he groaned with irritation and said, “Is it really important to you, love?” I’ll spare you the transcript of the exchange that followed, suffice it to say that the word ‘wanker’ escaped my lips several times until I was escorted off the premises.
To top it all, the time I traveled there after my wedding with my new husband, G, there was a terrorist attack. Homemade bombs packed into rucksacks detonated aboard public transit systems in staggering succession while we rode the Underground in blithe oblivion. Had I been struck by shrapnel from the blast, I still might not have noticed as I was completely absorbed in the fallout of the other explosion rocking the city: Jude Law had been caught cheating on Sienna Miller with the nanny. As G marveled at Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, I clucked my tongue at OK Magazine’s reporting that the home-wrecking nanny was at least three stone heavier than Sienna Miller. G snidely pointed out that I hadn’t any clue of the unit of weight that a stone referred to, but that didn’t faze me. Nothing did as I walked over cobblestone, nose buried in a glossy. The entire city could have slid into the Thames, and I would have been clinging to a piece of driftwood, gasping, “He told the nanny he was in love with her!”
Despite my tepid reception by London, I was bitterly envious when G announced he would be traveling there for a business trip. Any woman straining to keep her head from bobbing under the water’s surface of potty training and upper respiratory infections would be itching to escape to one of the world’s great cities. Alas, it was a pipe dream since no babysitter returns phone calls from the woman with three small children, no matter how many Harrods bags you promise in a voice mail. So G went unattended, but he checked in often. The first time to say that he was staying in the chi-chi hotel the Savoy. That revelation stung, but easily enough assuaged by his promise to loot all the bathroom toiletries. Then he called again to say he’d seen Pink Floyd in the lobby. My celebrity radar registered a spike but mostly because I’d thought everyone in Pink Floyd was dead. A day later, he rang to tell me Victoria Beckham had checked in. I gritted my teeth, not at all amused by his good fortune to run into the Holy Grail of paparazzi objects.
But when he called at the midpoint of his trip to report that a model convention – yes, a convention of the world’s models – was underway in one of the conference halls of the hotel, I hung up the phone violently.
But not before telling him to choke on a meat pie.