London 3 – A day in town……2011

It’s hard to talk about this town without talking about the town. I met Jo and we took a bus up the gracious curving  sweep of Regent Street, slipped down a few side streets (including a Carnaby Street that bears no resemblance to its 60’s image) to Soho.

We talked as old friends do over a lunch (and a bottle of Sangiovese) that proved British cooking can be some of the best in the world. Just a very trendy tapas bar really but eat your heart out Spain. Dehesa served for example, pan-fried sea trout with parsley and wild garlic crusted clams, braised courgettes, chilli and lemon. I have the menu if anyone would like it scanned.

Then much later after the rain had stopped, to Oxford Street where with Jo’s encouragement and the wine, in one of those moments of rushing blood I bought a Paul Smith bag at Selfridges.

It was too late and I looked too scruffy even with the new bag to attend a book launch and then supper with the Australian High Commissioner at my friend, Robert’s house at Islington.  Must be getting old. Would never have passed up on that once.

A long walk through the city again. On the way I saw a group of Syrians demonstrating outside Whitehall: “We do not want to be afraid” one placard said. Down the road was the permanent peace protest with a dozen tents opposite the Houses of Parliament.

On Thursday there is to be a strike here of all civil servants. Part of the problem is the proposed new pension scheme which will make people pay more of their salary into the pension fund while pushing out their retirement age. It is to be retrospective meaning people will lose much of what they had already accrued. It’s even alienating Tory voters.

As to the schools, I am told there just are not enough places so some kids are schooled at home while the unis are increasing fees substantially and there will be no admission after interview…all merit now. Rocky times ahead.

Back at County Hall (which is kitty corner over Westminster Bridge to the Houses of Parliament), I remember the previous time I was here. It must have been 25 years ago when I was a town planner and I had introductions to meet City of London planners here. All I remember is one tall, very skinny, long-haired eccentric chap – from memory he wore leather pants to work and was a wizard, who insisted I spend the weekend visiting the Chilterns with him. I didn’t.

He was probably the second son of an Earl who now has the title. Only the upper classes were so eccentric; or so Evelyn Waugh would have us believe.

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