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Don Juan in Soho

Those of you following this trip are about to get a break from rapture. Yes, I was ecstatic throughout France, but right now there is a dearth of rapture in these here parts. I am tired and crabby and I want to go home. I know, lucky woman, with a free flat in one of the most exciting cities in the world,  just tell her to buck up. And I will, I know I will.

But the headline in the free evening paper was something like, “London expects record crowds for Easter,” and I groaned out loud. That means the hundred million people who are already here will be joined by many more over the weekend, impossible as that is to believe. There was a moment tonight – I’d just come from a not very good play, was in the tube which was hot, crowded, and incredibly loud, and I nearly stepped on the beautiful little beagle belonging to the homeless man sitting slumped on the floor behind me; beside him were 2 young Oriental women with bags and bags from the most expensive designers. And I thought, This is hell.

I’ll get over it. It’s cold too, that doesn’t help, there’s a sharp biting wind and the sky is grey.

However. How to handle London, Lesson #1: be there when things open. This morning I had to shop, so I was out the door by 9.15, got to Marks and Spencer just after it opened. First stop: underpants for me. Then to Hamleys, which calls itself the biggest toystore in the world, though it’s another slice of hell if you’re over 5 – there are young people everywhere there to entertain and show how the toys work so you’re more eager to buy. I wanted a kite. In Paris there was a kite store near the Place d’Aligre with great kites in the window, Batman and ones with great swirly tails, and I thought, a brilliant gift for my grandsons, light and fun. But it was closed the two times I tried to go, so I decided to go to a kite store in London. Well – there isn’t one. And Hamleys only had two kites, so I bought one and a few other things for the kids and got out, found things on Oxford St. for Anna and Sam and walked back home.

Tomorrow I wear nice new underpants. TMI?

Did more flaneusing in the afternoon – down Chiltern Street which has the big foot shoe stores that make me wish my big-footed mum were around to go there, how thrilled she would have been, and Marylebone High Street to buy gifts for my hosts. And then off to a coffee shop in Holgate to meet my old theatre schoolmate Harriet Walter, whom I’d not met face to face since leaving LAMDA in 1972. I saw her on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Co. in NYC once, left a note for her and she wrote back, and we’ve exchanged emails since as I followed her spectacular career and read her wonderful book about acting, Other People’s Shoes. And she read my memoir and said nice things about it – we are the same age and she understood about the time and place. She’s now a Dame, is in the new movie “Sense of an Ending,” has been playing male leads like Prospero in Shakespeare plays done with a cast of women. An accomplished actress and person, and, it turns out, utterly nice and beautiful, as she was in 1972. We didn’t have long, she was off to an audition for an American TV show, but I sense we will meet again. We admired each other’s acting work back then, and now she wants to do more writing.

I had time to kill before my evening show, so wandered through the crowds, down through Covent Garden. London has street performers on every corner and in every square, musicians in the tube, jugglers and magicians and comedians in the streets, big crowds gathering. So I wandered and looked, went for a rest in the serene St. Martin in the Fields – no music, unfortunately, and the National Gallery was closing. So I went back to the little Italian restaurant where Penny and I had supper, where for 7 pounds you get a glass of wine and free snacks. I had two glasses of wine.

The play was “Don Juan in Soho,” based on the Moliere play and with snippets of Mozart’s music – an update of the story of Don Giovanni, about a dissolute rich Londoner now. I got tickets months ago not because it stars David Tennant, who I gather is a huge star here, but because it had a rave in the Guardian. The theatre was sold out. But it’s a dog’s breakfast of a play and a production, not worth it. What made the whole thing worthwhile was the gentle old man sitting next to me; we talked before, during and after, he a Scot who loves going to the theatre. He told me that senior citizens in London get free busses and tube rides, and after 9.30 in the morning, can also get regional trains for free. We had a great chat.

Four more days. It seems long. I will of course come back to London, but never again, I think, for this long. But here’s the good news: it’s not raining.

P.S. And now I just read about Trump’s bomb, and my heart is sick. Criminal lunacy. Oh the world is in such trouble. Time to go to bed and pull the covers over my head.

I send my love to you all.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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