austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

You and me by the sea taken in tranquility

Earlier this year bunny_hugger got into the Buggles. A lot. She'd heard, of course, and liked ``Video Killed The Radio Star'', but until recently hadn't thought much about the rest of their modest catalogue. So she went out to listen to it, instead, to seek out the songs that didn't chart in the United States, or even in the United Kingdom. And against the rule for of one- (or three-) hit wonder bands, she liked the other songs. A lot. Before long she was a Buggles fanboy, following the adventures of Fake Trevor Horn on Twitter, finding glasses akin to those Trevor Horn wore, and seeking out the obscurest items of Buggles arcana.

Trevor Horn, after the Buggles were absorbed by Yes, went on to producing music --- which is what he really wanted to do all along, apparently, and so formed a band in the first place so he could produce its tunes --- and got to be rather well-respected and successful at it. He's got a studio, Sarm Studios, that's in London. It's not a particularly noteworthy tourist attraction, since what studio is (``Do They Know It's Christmas'' was recorded there, but the community accepts it anyway), but it struck her that we could make a detour to see it while we were on our honeymoon. Later it struck her that we were going to be in England, at least, around Trevor Horn's birthday. If we arranged things right, we could drop a card off at his recording studio. And she could wear her New Wave-y giant white Buggles eyeglasses.

So that was our Sunday plan.

We did get up early enough for breakfast at the hotel, and it was a pretty lavish buffet, too, where I was able to try Marmite in quantities safe enough for human consumption. I didn't think it was so bad as its reputation suggested, but remember, I've had durian multiple times. I did maybe stuff myself a bit, and we got there late enough and spent enough time lingering that they came around and asked us to hurry on as they had to get the settings ready for the next meal. We were welcome to finish our tea at the bar, but we were really done anyway.

Getting to the studios required a couple of subway transfers; we would get to be pretty well-acquainted with the stops around us on the District Line, Wimbledon-headed branch. We would not get so well-acquainted with the automated ticket vending booths, which would accept our credit card payments with about a 50 percent chance of success. We were just trying to buy all-day passes for zones one and two, rather than try tailoring purchases to our planned itineraries, since we didn't have much of a plan and we were befuddled by the menu system anyway. Also we kept forgetting to look up why the regular commuter cards were called ``Oyster Cards''.

The studio is in the Notting Hill area, which made me realize I knew the name Notting Hill but hadn't thought about where it was, particularly. bunny_hugger had her sketched-out map of the route to the studio, which we verified against the transit map just outside the station, and we followed the path confidently all the way to the first turn, at which point we went the wrong way, realized ten minutes later it couldn't have been that far, and had to backtrack. I think the trouble is street names routinely change about four times per 100 meters and we missed that the name on the side we were walking was different from the name on the opposite side where we wanted to go.

Along the way we did poke into the Travel Bookshop --- I have been trying not to insist on going into every book store I see, particularly as I have enough books to read for now --- which was inspiration for the Hugh Grant romantic comedy and was briefly threatened with closure last year. It's in that lovely old-fashioned style of cramped aisles and shelves reaching up to the ceiling and treating the love of books as a kind of claustrophilia. Although I kept finding things that I'd be interested in I did refrain from buying anything, and bunny_hugger picked up just a card for her brother, if I have that right.

Also on the way to the studio, now that we had the way to the studio, we entered a music shop. Trevor Horn did get into a band in order to get into producing, certainly, and has performed only a handful of times, mostly reunions and such, since; but he did join up with a couple of other producers to form a band, called The Producers, as a way of having some fun out of the day-to-day work of producing music, and they just came out with their first album, released in late June to the United Kingdom market, and sadly, not the United States. Implication: we'd be able to buy Trevor Horn (and others') new record while in England, possibly on Trevor Horn's birthday. Thus we had a side mission.

Alas. While the record shop --- just around the corner from Sarm Studios --- had a wonderful collection of stuff, with a lot of actual vinyl records, they were apparently too hip to have The Producers' Made In Basing Street in stock. And in his own neighborhood!

We went back out, and turned a corner, and found the big blue building which was Sarm Studios.

The studio door had a mail slot in it --- bunny_hugger had determined as much from Google Street View --- although wan't sure whether it actually worked. There was a mailbox just beside the building, though, so she could either drop it in directly to Trevor Horn's mailbox, or at least send it through the British postal system starting from dozens of feet away from where it would end up. She strode up to the building and before I could get a picture of her slipping the card in to the functioning mail slot, she slipped the card into the functioning mail slot. Our batting average in accomplishing Things We Really Want To Do On Our Honeymoon was continuing on a perfect 1.000.

We did feel like we were somehow getting away with something, even if that something was putting a letter into the mailbox of the person the letter was intended for, which shows what kinds of things thrill people like us. We were startled when some folks just came in and walked right into the studio through the same door we'd been using and photographing around, though. The card didn't appear to be on the ground, implying that either someone picked it up within minutes of its dropping off or they have a basket fixed behind the mail slot. Hard to say. The fantasy that Trevor Horn was there and picking up his birthday cards was a pleasant one, though.

I admit I had wondered if anyone would find it strange we were taking multiple pictures of what is, blueness notwithstanding, an otherwise unexceptional building way off on Basing Street, outside the obvious tourist areas of London. But then other people came up and took pictures of the building, and of the mailbox outside the building, so that answered that. It got wonderfully giddy when some people started taking pictures of other people taking pictures of the area --- I admit that a photograph including someone taking a photograph is one of my favorite subjects --- and I reached a new height of reflexiveness by getting a photograph of bunny_hugger taking a photograph of someone taking a photograph of a person posing outside the building.

With that accomplished we went back to wandering around the Kensington Crescent and Notting Hill area. We kept running across record stores, in fact, which raised our hopes that we'd find The Producers album somewhere near enough that we could go back for a triumphant picture of the studio. Unfortunately, it didn't pan out. The record shops were all vintage record places, so that we got to revel in seeing classic album art in full size, even the ones where it didn't really make sense like that Kinks album where the album art tried to pass them off as psychedellic and the songs were really not, or find that the vintage record stores around Kensington Crescent don't have Buggles albums. One shop particularly delighted us by being a blues-oriented music shop (and when have you last spotted a genre-specific vintage record shop?) which decorated its walls with posters from Blaxploitation movies. Also we learned that Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier co-starred Let's Do It Again along with Jimmie Walker, and you could probably win bar bets on ``do there exist any movies in which Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier, and Jimmie Walker co-ster'' if bar bets hadn't become obsolete now that everybody has the Internet on their phones.

In further wanderings around the area we ran across the flea market at Portobello Road, which we hadn't expected or thought about since we had completely forgot that it inspires one of the big musical numbers in Bedknobs and Broomsticks as Angela Lansbury wanders around trying to find her next plot point. With absolutely no objective here we wandered around countless stalls of miscellaneous stuff, as the merchants tried to get us interested in whatever they had. One thing we did linger over was a set of Time Life books about creatures and creations of fantasy --- dragons, elves, giants, that sort of thing --- although that's because bunny_hugger has those same books at home. At least some of them. They had an impressive-looking set of the books in great shape and we couldn't figure whether she had them all or, if she were missing volumes, which ones. (On counting the books she has at home afterward --- I think it was 23, but checking would require I go all the way to the other room --- I don't believe she was missing any that the stand had.) And of course there were second-hand CDs for sale, but not of the new ones. Also buttons: lots of buttons, some of them going back quite a ways. And money, as well; there was currency from around the world on offer, although, for example, their Zimbabwe dollars only went up to Z$100,000, which wasn't anything even when Zimbabwe still had a currency of its own.

What we did buy, after a little cajoling, was a box full of pick-and-mix pastries. bunny_hugger noted how a pick-and-mix box makes you feel so much more like you're getting a deal than the same quantity of pre-selected pastries were that it's awfully good marketing. Also we thought we could take them to her uncle and aunt, to thank them for their hospitality (which they'd extend to us again, each night of our stay). They're diabetic. But it was a good thought in principle.

We also had to do a bit of further shopping. I'd picked up a travel-size tube of toothpaste from Rite Aid the day we set out overseas, trusting that either we'd get tubes from the hotels we visited in or that we'd be able to buy more toothpaste somewhere in the Netherlands or England. We didn't get any from the hotels, so we did have to buy some. We found a Tesco's and felt like we were enjoying something characteristically English in popping into Tesco's to buy stuff, and bunny_hugger mentioned the character who worked at Tesco's With The Serial Number Filed Off in Coronation Street, which she used to watch. We figured this would also be a good chance to find British-style candy bars, particularly Starbars, and odder potato chips and sodas and such.

Unfortunately, the store was closing, what with it being the advanced hour of 4 pm and what the heck? So we dashed for the toothpaste aisle and found a tube of store-brand toothpaste that was pretty good-sized, about twice the size of the travel- or sampler-sizes I'd started with. It also made us realize that we hadn't seen store-brand toothpaste in the United States even though, like, Meijer or Target make their own store brand version of everything from mouthwash and soap through to pizzas and iMacs. It seems like a weird oversight in the store-brand universe, particularly considering it's toothpaste and the only real difference between manufacturers is whether they're daring to flavor the stuff as Mint or Extreme Mint. (Visiting New Jersey again after this --- I'll get around to that, don't worry --- I would find that Stop And Shop does have their own store-brand toothpaste.)

Also throwing us was this: we knew England was expensive. We knew London was more so. bunny_hugger estimated the local price for anything to be about what the United States price would be in dollars, just, converted to pounds. Some would be more. A day pass on the London Underground costs buckets full of money (although the number of trains running makes pretty clear where that cash is going and that it's to useful purposes). But this toothpaste, plenty for several week's generous brushing, came in at 25 cents. Who knew Tesco's was pretty much giving toothpaste away? We also deeply amused a woman ahead of us in line that we were there, with this mob of people doing their week's shopping, with just the one box of toothpaste between us.

We wandered along the Notting Hill area, generally southwards, walking past more shops which all looked interesting even as they were nestling in for the frightful prospect of 4:30 pm on a Sunday. We also realized we were getting nearer to another Underground station and figured to aim for that; I feel a certain irrational pleasure in not returning from the same subways station that I arrived at, as though walking from one station to another were a particularly noteworthy accomplishment. It felt like one still.

This would let us return to the hotel to rest up and get ready to meet bunny_hugger's uncle and aunt later in the day. Besides being willing to have us over again, they had also been willing to let us do some laundry. We needed it. There wasn't any way to pack two weeks plus worth of clothes in our suitcases, even as stuffed as they were, and while you really can get away with wearing an outfit more than once, especially if you've been doing low-sweat activities like walking around air-conditioned museums or sitting in conference halls, three times is pressing one's luck. We hadn't any luck in finding laundries in the hotels we stayed at; there was one across the street from our Amsterdam hotel, but we didn't have time to go there since they closed too early for us, and would get us up too early or cut out too much of the day otherwise.

Her uncle and aunt did come around to the hotel to pick us up, and took us back to their home again. And I believe bunny_hugger is correct: the astounding feat of escaping the parking lot gate had to have been Sunday, after all, and we must have just speculated about the incredible escape that evening or possibly the next day.

We resumed chatting, as we had the previous night, with a lot of the conversation about bunny_hugger's family, both the immediate generations and going back to the grandparents and great-grandparents and so. We got to talk about how we got together, of course, and how our relationship has evolved in its fifteen-or-so years. Also we waited for laundry to tumble its way through the cycle. I realized I recognized the washing machine, and even the laundry detergent, from Singapore, although they had one of those fancy dryers where I made do with laundry poles and, later, when I got lazy, a fold-out plastic tree.

We went out to dinner while laundry worked its way through; since we didn't have even the start of a basis for comparison her uncle took us to a nearby Indian restaurant. bunny_hugger and I thought it quite good, though he and she thought it had been a bit off and were disappointed. (They mentioned this while in the kitchen, afterward, certainly believing they were talking to one another, although we couldn't avoid hearing.) We still didn't feel let down by the meal, in any case.

Unfortunately our attempt at getting laundry done was foiled by the dryer not getting things done quite fast enough. It was getting precariously close to midnight, and bunny_hugger's uncle looked ready to fall asleep, with no sign that our clothes were past the ``warm yet damp'' stage. He took us home, and we went to figuring out what we would do Monday.

Monday would break our streak of perfect accomplishments.

Trivia: The Eastman Kodak camera of 1888 came loaded with film for 100 pictures. Source: Advertising and the Transformation of American Society, 1865 - 1920, James D Norris.

Currently Reading: Crystal Dragon, Sharon Lee, Steve Miller.

Tags: honeymoon
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