The Frozen North

London that is. Yesterday I had to go to Kentish Town to interview a ceramic artist who has very kindly donated some of her works for the 50th Polish Ball which is taking place next February. I have the privilege of putting together the souvenir programme, and so I thought I would make the little trip to a part of London I had never been to before. I looked everything up on the Transport for London journey planner and all seemed relatively simple and quick.

But I had forgotten in my innocence that it is winter in London, and that when it rains everything slows down. Or doesn’t turn up at all. I missed the bus outside my house. I managed to catch the next one a little further away. I got to the tube. I watched as two of the trains I could have taken slithered away before I could get down the stairs. I was due in Kentish Town in half an hour. it was going to take at least a whole one more to get there. I telephoned, explained and realise I would be there by lunchtime. I’d originally been invited for lunch but I thought I would rather go home.

Lunch. The very word was making me hungry. It was cold and pouring with rain and I was beginning to wonder what I was doing.

I eventually reached the station. I went outside and took my bearings. I had never ever been here before and the high street was similar to every other high street in London. The ceramicist had given me lengthy instructions about how to get to her house from the station. Buses were involved as well as a lot of walking. Trouble was I had left that particular sheet of paper at home. My memory is not photographic. I could just about work out the direction but no more.

It was late and I was wet and hungry. Problems, but not insurmountable. Opposite the station was a pub and a Pret. I was tempted by the pub because it was a rather beautiful and ornate Victorian building, but I chose the Pret and bought a sandwich before I expired with hunger. Then I had a brainwave. I would take an Uber. What a life saver. I worked out where I was and found the address of where I was going and booked. And waited where the app said I was to. I waited and waited. Finally I got an irate message from the driver. He too had been waiting. Somewhere else. Luckily my yellow coat is visible even in the driving rain and we were eventually united. I climbed gratefully into the cab and then he drove on. At a snail’s pace. Lights, traffic jams, people jumping lights, people crossing, rain, cold, nightmare.

Once we were on the open road up Parliament Hill, it was beginning to be beautiful. But then we had to find the road where the artist lived. She hadn’t mentioned it was a gated road. the taxi couldn’t drive in. So he had to make a long detour.

Now I hardly knew this woman, and when I arrived , dripping, frozen and embarrassed, I did not make a very good impression. But never mind. She made a wonderful impression on me. She was delightfully friendly and hospitable. We started with prosecco which is always a good sign I think and moved on to nibbles and smoked salmon sandwiches. (Despite my little Pret sandwich I still had room for more.)

Then she took me on a tour of her “cottage”. I wouldn’t have called it that; the most beautiful tapestries covered almost every wall; books everywhere, and paintings. Every surface laden with her pots and figurines. She said she was getting them ready for an exhibition in Poland, but she gave me two.

Her work is interesting because she doesn’t work with a wheel but makes everything from coils or clay sausages, as I ineptly called them. And then of course she paints them. She started out as an icon painter, and then fortuitously learnt how to make pots when she came to London.

We had fun wrapping the two pots she gave me. Turns out that neither of us is very good with bubble wrap or Sellotape, and these were very slippery items. Eventually we managed some semblance of safe packaging and I booked another uber. This one couldn’t get into the gated street at all. I had to slither to the end of the street, carrying my precious cargo which will be auctioned at the ball if I don’t break it before then, and then I could not find the pedestrian exit. The driver waited for me -watching me all the time – made me feel very inadequate as he informed how kind he was to wait. What I didn’t realise at the time was that he charged me for every second of my foot journey. I wouldn’t have apologised so abjectly if I’d known he was counting the pennies!

Anyway, I then went to see a friend in Camden, which was very relaxing after my fraught midday. She put me on a bus to Kings Cross, which was another sightseeing tour in itself and I got home, utterly exhausted. And cold. I had just settled in at home, ready for a glass of wine, when I remembered I had to go to Maidenhead, to take minutes for the Parish Finance committee in n the freezing maw of the parish centre, tea and mince pies not withstanding . When I finally got home at ten at night I was cold to to the marrow of my bones. Winter in London is not the worst in the world, I wouldnt be mistaken for Scott of the Antartic, but it was quite bad enough, thank you!

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