After a suitable amount of hijinks making our way from Austin, TX to the shores of the Olde Country, we finally arrived in London…
This is probably the most middle-class vacation I’ve ever been on, so being picked up by a driver at the airport is essential. Our guy is tall and has an accent that wanders from West Ham to Sub-Saharan Africa and back again as he talks. He holds a sign that says: “Mrs Sunshine.” Sunshine and I decide this must be us. It is only as we begin the second hour in his company, driving slowly through the London-bound traffic, that we wonder about the possibility of there having been an actual Mrs Sunshine on the flight. Perhaps she lives in Essex. And we are in for a very long return journey and a very large bill.
Soon enough, though, we’re in the middle of London. We sweep by Kings Cross station (no apostrophe, punctuation fans!) and I regale my American wife with my local knowledge. Everyone knows, I tell her, that Kings Cross is a dodgy area, rife with pickpockets, prostitutes and the general ne’er-do-well. It feels good to be able to flex those homecoming muscles.
It is less than six hours later when Sunshine’s cousin and his wife walk us through the station, showing the rebuilding, the Harry Potter exhibit, the bright lights, the rows of small children coming and going from a museum around the corner, before we end up at a fancy restaurant in a renovated old building.
My wife does not mention my out-of-date expertise and this is why I love her.
In the taxi home, she is fascinated by the shop names. Her favourites were variations on a theme: Mississippi Fried Chicken and Tennessee Fried Chicken. Subtle.
The only way we can afford such an extensive tour of this island is through the kind patience and generosity of various members of my wife’s family—it is two weeks of spare bedrooms and unfamiliar shower systems. If there needs to be a theme throughout all of this, an insight into How We Are As a Culture, here at the early stages of this new millennium, let it be this: no two showers work the same way and it drives me insane.
Also, there was a retrospectively profound meeting with a small dog. But we’ll leave that for later.