On Independence Day, July 4th, my self-isolation was done, and I could wander as freely as anyone else in the UK, so, of course, I did.
I had a list of errands, things I wanted for my stay here. My first stop was (drum roll here) a bookstore! Foyle’s, to be exact. To keep track of my plans, I have been using an 18-month desk calendar. The monthly planner works well for me, being able to envision a larger chunk of time. But I was coming to the end of the calendar, which ends August 31, so I had been looking for a replacement that wasn’t in Arabic or Ethiopian. I figured the UK would be the place, and when I discovered Foyle’s bookstore nearby, I checked it out online. Foyle’s had an 18-month calendar, a different brand, but conveniently beginning July 1, so a pretty good fit. It will end December 31, 2021.
Foyle’s is a lovely bookstore, three floors of different subject areas – philosophy, cooking, science, thousands of books, just waiting for someone to pick them up and give them life. I always struggle to resist. I could have spent hours, but I knew that I didn’t need to buy any books. Well, I gave the travel guidebook section a good go, but the only book I liked was very heavy – glossy photos weigh a lot, so I passed. Any book I bought would live in my suitcase for months. The calendar was a success, so that was my purchase.
I spotted a Starbucks about a block up the street – Charing Cross Road – and stopped in for the first “grande mocha, no whipped cream, please” I’d had in weeks. It tasted just as I remembered, such is the benefit of corporate coffee.
I walked, coffee in hand and mask over face, to the church yard of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, the church I described in an earlier post. The church yard had big trees, scrawny grass, and benches with workmen from the area’s construction projects seated on them, taking a break. The people with dogs (there were several) were sitting on a low wall just by the church. They were regulars. You could tell by the ease of their chatting, and their dogs knew each other.
St. Giles has seen better days, but it still has dignity. The doors were shiny with glossy black paint, and the steps were in good repair. No broken windows.
I sat on one of the empty benches, away from people, so I could drink my coffee without my mask on. It was peaceful, the dogs scampering around, their owners chatting, and the four workmen smoking cigarettes together – they were not “socially distancing.” A woman came into the park, pushing a stroller with a little boy, about 12 months old I would guess. She got him out and held his hand as he walked around, a little wobbly on the uneven grass.
Coffee done and disposed of, I walked along Charing Cross Road on my way to the Piazza, an area of spendy shops and cafes in Covent Garden. I was headed to a specific store there. Along the way, I walked down to take a photo of the Palace Theatre, where “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” was, or had been, playing. All of the theaters, along with concert halls, and such, are still closed.
At the Piazza, I took care of getting a U.K. SIM card for my phone, which was the primary errand, and then wandered around, window shopping. I don’t buy much anymore.
There was a puppeteer playing to the scattered crowd. His marionette was a skeleton. He was a pleasant distraction. Cafes were open, and many had seating outside, which is what I chose. I ordered the incredibly over-priced avocado toast, with hummus and goat cheese. It was beautifully presented and very tasty – it was an interesting combination, and filling. The avocado was soft, and had been piped onto the toast over a layer of hummus, with small chunks of goat cheese on top.
I learned from the carving on the church, behind the entertainer, that the first Punch’s Puppet Show was played near this spot in 1662, reported by Samuel Pepys.
On my way to the Piazza, I noticed a building I had seen from my balcony down one of the side streets. After lunch, I went to investigate further.
Curiosity satisfied on that point, I checked out the other side of the road, where some pubs had opened, but shops were a mix of open and closed. The hat shop ladies sported their wares, but were available “By Instore Appointment only:”
After my day of freedom, it was time to return and prepare to move to my next “home” in London.