It’s about six months since I last set foot in London, and that was in the middle of a Saturday morning chanting, singing football crowd on a tightly packed underground tube station platform, with an overlarge suitcase, heading westward! I don't like London!
This sunny, cold, drizzly February trip was to join with a North London church for a special celebratory service. Traveling by car.
Step 1 – Preparation: Take one afternoon to carefully scrutinise Google Earth to find a parking space near church building. Take one evening on Google Earth Street View to find how to get in to that particular parking area.
Step 2 – Set up sat-nav in friend’s car and assure them that the frequent ‘hoot’ sound is simply a warning that there are speed cameras in the vicinity, not that they are speeding! Explain that when the numbers in the bottom right hand corner of the sat-nav screen turn red, they are speeding! Explain that the right turn should be taken in 800yards, not 5 yards ahead! As the sat-nav lady says!
Step 3 – In the milieu that’s North London on a Saturday afternoon, turn left where it says ‘Parking’ even if it’s not the Parking area you’d spent an afternoon and evening plotting.
Step 4 – Having found an empty parking bay, carefully note, mentally, which level (Level 3 overflow parking), and name of parking area, as it’s not the one you found on Google Earth!
Step 5 – Set up ‘carfinder’ app on smartphone.
Step 6 – Find way out of Shopping Mall below Car Parking area, through narrow passage and heavy industrial type door.
Step 7 – After walking 5 minutes through jostling, noisy shoppers, decide we’re going the wrong way. Turn around.
Step 8 – Rush a little as we’re now going to be late for the 3pm meeting we thought we’d left forty minutes spare to get to. Blame it on London traffic!
Step 9 – Be duly alarmed and concerned as kind driver-friend trips over uneven pavement surface and falls flat on face – (All OK, no bones broken and no blood!)
Step 10 – Ask three people what street we’re in and get a blank stare from all three and a foreign sounding “I don’t know” from one of them, shrugs from the others.
Step 11 – Suggest to male companion that we ask a ‘copper’ (policeman) walking past at that moment, for directions. Response from said male companion, “Nah!”
Step 12 – Decide 2nd road right must be Alexander Road. Get halfway down and check with red-haired English looking lady wearing a sleeveless T-shirt – it’s 2°C, but she is English speaking and we’re on the right road!
Step 13 – Find church venue but from outside it looks deserted, with 3 minutes before 3pm – Did it start at 2.30pm? or 2pm?!!
Step 14 – Church meeting running to ‘African Time’ so plenty of time to find a loo, greet friends and breathe, before heartily joining in singing praises to God!
Step 15 – Feel safe inside church building and forget that London is outside!! Just for a couple of hours!!
Step 16 – Home-time – Retrace steps to Main Road. Ask English looking man standing outside West Mall Entrance where East Car Park Entrance is. Forget to use carfinder app on smartphone. (Male Alternative: Don’t need to use carfinder app on smartphone!)
Step 17 – Discover Parking Pay Point in the Mall won’t accept perfectly legitimate £5 note. Scrabble in wallets & purses for coins. (£3 for 3-5 hours parking – that’s pretty good for London isn’t it?!)
Step 18 – While looking for coins, put the Apple Pie kindly given by church people ‘for the road’ (padkos, for South Africans!) on top of Pay Point.
Step 19 – Get three-quarter way to car after squashing in crowded lift and nearly walking wrong way towards car, then discover said Apple Pie has been left behind on Pay Station! (Sorry Alastair!)
Step 20 – Keep head down in back seat of car texting daughter, trying not to see big red London bus nearly take front fender off car, and trying not to hear hooting or see cars attemptin to make star shapes across traffic light intersection. Other cars, of course, ignoring traffic lights and hooting because other Other Cars are ignoring traffic lights!
Step 21 – Close eyes. Let driver, sat-nav and front passenger get us safely out of London. Sleep. Anything to avoid seeing chaos on London roads!
Step 22 – A12. Yay! Familiar ground! Relatively quiet motorway - well, not quiet, but by London standards.....
Step 23 – Home. Sorry about the Apple Pie. Again!
Whew! London is not my favourite place to get to.
Or be walking in.
Or driving in.
Next time the wind sends me that country piggy smell, I promise not to complain!
Sorry about the Apple Pie! Again!