We three Besties, two from South Africa and I from sunny FLA, arrived at last, in London. We’d anticipated this coming together for more than a year.
Our flat in the heart of Shepherds Bush, was advertised as an “elegant one bedroom apartment.” It was cuteish, clean, and functional – for tiny people. Boy! One skilled videographer used his super-duper-wide-angle lens effectively! My friends – both organized sorts – chose corners for their stuff and stayed within that radius, while my always-open suitcase looked like a giant disemboweled rag doll spewing clothes. Girl-stuff, like hot lava, spread from window to front door.
Ridiculously rabid radiator heat forced us to keep all windows open all the time, and exhaustion helped us learn to sleep with sirens, enthusiastic street sweepers, and revelry from the restaurants below.
But the little pad soon became our haven.
My two Besties are blessed with wonderful sons who live in different parts of London. They showered us with hospitality, kindness, care and overwhelming generosity. My wonderful Godson – Scotty – spoiled us with a red bus tour of London. The gods showered us with sunshine as we took to the open upper deck. We learned more about the city than we had traveling to London for years as air hostesses. We cruised The Thames, ate hot chocolate croissants, drank flat whites, and were whisked through VIP attendance at the magnificent Shard – Scott had booked months before. WOW! On the 70th floor, a 360 degree view of the city blew my mind. Even the loo had floor to ceiling windows. I longed to camp out on that throne for days.
Ryan shared his lovely new family and booked us a tremendous treat months and months in advance. He took the afternoon off work and ushered us into the famous Duck and Waffle. Open 24 hours, this Foodie’s delight is 40 floors up with spectacular views. Ryan – a newly appointed CFO and a semi regular at this iconic joint – liberally ordered must-taste’s. My girls were culinary Sir Edmund Hilary’s. They forged ahead sampling donuts with ox cheek centers, octopus resembling the creature in the first Alien movie and eel croquettes, while I climbed into the non-threatening-looking bread (but who knows?) and gorged on lentils while lusting for a chocolate croissant. But I would happily have paid thrice the astronomical bill – picked up by Ryan – for the glorious company and the spectacular view.
We found the bargain basement in Harrods; visited the Victoria & Albert museum to kill time before lunch (we had our priorities); went by train to Brighton to visit family and by coach to Windsor where we meandered through the quaint streets of Eton and the hilly, colorful high street opposite the massive, stone Windsor Castle. We discovered Café Concerto’s affluent ambience and crystal chandeliers, and dined like princesses, each with our own soup tureen flanked by hot bread and fresh butter, delivered by elegant, foreign waiters, rich in attitude.
We ate scones with jam and clotted cream, but most of all we laughed. And laughed. And cried now and then. And laughed some more.
After a long day in Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, our haversacks loaded with umbrellas and nine layers of clothing – just in case, we splurged, big time.
The Half-Price Ticket Booth’s long finger curled inwards, and we couldn’t resist. The only show we agreed on was “Magic Mike Live.” In we trudged, looking like three bag ladies who’d finally met the price for tickets when Richard Branson waltzed by and filled the proffered begging-cups.
Though we could have bought a drought-infested Karoo farm instead of the “half-price” tickets, there was no time to ponder our reckless indulgence. We were surrounded by hot looking chicks in their finest. Long leather legs and painted faces, glitter, earrings and updos adorned the place. The intimate theatre throbbed with music, bursts of light, and well-timed, well-oiled, well-buffed bodies. Delicate twitters, guffaws, and raucous laughter filled the intimate space. The show was spectacular and wonderfully choreographed, the men were really beautiful boys doing a job, but we were enchanted and thoroughly entertained, and most of the laughter and squeals were our own.
We were warned not to go on the tube during peak hours. But time didn’t mean much. We were on holiday, after all. Lanie – who had a mission to learn the complex veins of the transport system in two days – navigated us through the underground maze, and we were loaded onto the tube purely by the mob’s momentum. We stood squashed into that glass tube hanging on for dear life. Every Gen-X and Millennial in a 10 mile radius was on their way to work. We were squished between Italian wool suits and un-dyed alpaca plush coats for miles. Forced to separate, we could closely observe these strange, young, slender, good looking people. Not a soul made eye contact or God forbid, smiled.
Moving robotically, the only time you saw a facial expression was when they glanced at their phones, expertly navigating “social time” with well-exercised thumbs.
As the “Made in China” label on my polyester sweater cut into my neck, I was gob-smacked by these chic women in ridiculous high heels, with perfect skin and sullen Botoxed lips. I felt like I was watching a futuristic movie with robots programmed with superior confidence, dogged determination, and incredible indifference. But they sure looked good – and we sure felt old.
We watched buskers on London’s South Bank and ate pies, chips, and gravy. And we laughed. And laughed.
My sister has lived in the UK for 15 years and had never been to London. She lives in a small town in northern Wales and came to spend two nights in our cramped quarters. Born sans subtly, Viv asked out loud why the London ladies wore vulvas on their faces where their lips should be. I guess Botox hasn’t hit Builth, Wales just yet! We sisters remembered how different we were but knew we would always be joined by blood, love and memories.
Most importantly, what I learned in London is this: There are no friends like old friends; that both my besties are blessed with kids who treat them like the crown jewels. I have never seen such reverence and respect, kindness and awe. Watching these mothers and sons up close and personal, the purity of their love brought me to tears. Truly.
It made me yearn to rush home and procreate. But alas! Too late she cried!