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done and done (nearly)

That’s a wrap, my friends. Wait, I shouldn’t speak too soon – I still have to get to Heathrow early tomorrow, and home. Rain predicted tomorrow in Toronto – it’ll be ironic if the first real rain I encounter is there!

But this is the last night of the Kaplan Hack and Wheeze Tour of 2024.

What’s amazing is that despite being sick, I saw everyone I wanted to see and spent good time with them. What I didn’t do was sightsee much, especially here in London, which is as always exploding with interesting things to do. This trip was about reconnecting with old friends and new family: Pam in Amsterdam, Lynn, Denis, Michèle, and my fourth cousin Lesley and her husband Duncan in Paris, Christopher and Tony and his wife Blossom in London, Penny in Liverpool, John in Shrewsbury. I did manage a few museums and walks and events.

But whatever this is has not let me go. My first week, April 1 to 6, was fine, but by Sunday April 7 I was sick and have been sick ever since. Perhaps something caught in the train from Amsterdam to Paris, who knows. Tedious.

I will think about what I saw and heard and felt and learned in these European countries. But for now, all I want to say is: get me out of here.

I’m in the world’s smallest hotel room in Bloomsbury, with the toilet down the hall. If I stretch out my arms I can just about touch both walls, and that’s fine with me. The park outside the window, Cartwright Gardens, has tennis courts, so I was greeted with the familiar London noise of tennis balls; my grandparents’ flat in Barons Court backed onto the Queen’s Tennis Club, so that’s the sound of London for me.

The train from Liverpool to London was seamless, with a nice fat sandwich made by Penny, and my planning this time, if I say so myself, was impeccable; the hotel is a ten minute walk from Euston Station, where I arrived, and is a ten minute walk from Russel Square, where I’ll get the tube to Heathrow tomorrow. I went for a stroll, sat in Russel Square and walked around Brunswick Square, breathing in the Bloomsbury vibes and admiring the magnificent old plane trees, some well over a hundred years old. London parks are the best. At least, those open to the public. How I resent the ones that require a key to get in and are always empty.

Tonight I was invited to visit Tony and Blossom again in Hampstead. They kindly fed me without dining themselves, because they eat late and I didn’t want to be out late, and we talked about Blossom’s work as a sexual health educator, cheery topics like the spike in syphilis cases in North America and of course, about the complex trans issues she deals with regularly; she and Tony, like me, are glad a recent report vindicated one of J. K. Rowling’s basic premises — that a great deal of caution should go into medical decisions about teens who want to transition.

I hope Tony and Blossom visit me in Canada. I like them both a great deal — kindred spirits. As is Penny, with her many interesting projects and fantastic library of books, as is cousin Lesley with her keen interest in the past, as is John, with his big heart and literary studies, as are the others. Kindred spirits on the other side of the ocean. A blessing.

1 and 2. Penny showed me pix I’d never seen from my last trip to Liverpool, in about 2009, and to the countryside. 3. I was impressed with the bookstand in the shop in the Liverpool train station – a big selection of classics and good new novels. 4. My very narrow room. 5. Tony and Blossom in Hampstead.

I am one lucky camper. And I’m going home. Over and out. For now.




3 Responses to “done and done (nearly)”

  1. Theresa says:

    If you don’t have dinner plans, I highly recommend Ciao Bella over on Lambs Conduit Street, maybe a ten minute walk from Cartwright Gardens. Delicious food! And it will warm your cockles — the vast holdings of wine stored in every convenient place, for those of us who are unreconstructed wine drinkers. And safe travels home…

  2. Beth Kaplan says:

    Thanks, Theresa, I remember you writing about your wonderful meal there. I’ll hope to get there next time. Last night I was still not feeling well and Tony and Blossom fed me. Now I’m home and feeling much better. Maybe I’m just allergic to travel!


  3. Juliet in Paris says:

    Sadly, our old friend – The Penn Club in Bloomsbury – is no longer. I really miss it, I feel like an orphan.

    May I ask which hotel you were in in Bloomsbury (I so love that neighbourhood). Was it clean and decent?

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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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