Saturday, October 25, 2014

Coming Home

When my kids were little and we came back from a weekend away, they would immediately go to their playroom together. Sprung from their car seats, they would dive into happy games for a couple of hours, with no squabbles or pleas to me about unfairness marring the homecoming.

A couple of weeks ago I got back from a business trip to London. People who travel for pleasure but not business tend to think these things are glamorous, but most of the time meetings, like those at home, involve windowless conference rooms and tedious discussions, just with a nine-hour flight thrown in.

I did get to go out and walk a bit, but I was in the tourist district and found myself trudging with the masses up Regent Street, past Banana Republic and the Apple store. The air was thick. Even in posh Mayfair, every other doorway seemed to host a person who'd nipped out for a fag. When I got home and opened my suitcase, everything held a low level stench of cigarettes.

The transplanted Texan in me had an internal meltdown when I was walking between meeting sites and had my umbrella flip inside out and got a soaking in a downpour. Don't you people understand it's raining? Go inside! And while you're at it, start driving on the proper side of the road. The cars seemed to come from every direction, but never the one I was looking in. The sophisticated traveler in me apparently hadn't gotten on the plane.

Hyde Park was lovely, though, and I did make it into the National Portrait Gallery, completely free of charge and security, comparatively quiet to Leicester Square outside. Some of Lord Snowdon's photos were on exhibit, including a good one of David Bowie and a striking shot of a young Maggie Smith. She was not the tight-lipped Dowager Countess, but catlike and cool. Also smoking. As Snowdon was once married to Princess Margaret, I was hoping for lots of royal photos, and there were a few of a young Elizabeth II and her Prince and children, but this grouping stuck mainly to thespians and writers. The permanent collection had some wonderful paintings (two of Dame Judy Dench are terrific) and then there was the much-maligned one of Catherine Middleton. At least Kate knows what she'll look like when she is fifty.



Usually what saves me when I'm getting ragged is a good meal. I'd spotted a sleek Indian place near my hotel on Friday, and knew I'd have a few hours between meetings the next day. I skipped breakfast and looked forward to it all morning as I worked and then walked. After getting lost several times, by this time dizzy with hunger, I finally found it again on a quiet street. I guess the fund managers were all out at a shoot in the Cotswolds, so no point keeping it open. Back to the hotel for a sandwich from room service. That evening there was a private dinner I'd organized at the Mount Street Deli (the cost was a king's ransom) and the food and drink were indeed outstanding, the venue charming and warm.  Through the whole stilted meal, I wished I could enjoy it with T and good friends instead of people I worked for.

Eighteen hours later, I was in my own bed. I slept hard and, my body still on London time, woke early. It was Columbus Day, Thanksgiving Day in Canada. T was due in from San Francisco, the Boy back from his dad's that evening, and a copy of Saveur magazine that had arrived while I was away inspired me to cook for my native holiday. I headed to Central Market, one of my happy places, shopped on a quiet early Monday, and was back to my happiest place, our kitchen, by ten in the morning.

I spent the day chopping and stirring and basting, the smell of bacon and onions and turkey breast filling the house. I got on FaceTime with my daughter and made a couple of calls for a freelance project, taking copious notes to compensate for my jet-lagged brain. After so much time immersed in noisy humanity, my inner only child relished the quiet and order, but by the time my fellas arrived, I was so very happy to see them. The meal was certainly nothing as extravagant as I'd had on Mount Street, but as I enjoyed it with my two favorite men, my contentment made me feel richer than a Fleet Street baron.



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