Thursday, 14 October 2010


Last Monday I went to London - not to look at the Queen, but to give a talk at Roehampton university. The first time I didn't get to Roehampton was many years ago when I was invited to give a talk, but it turned out that there was a general strike on that day, so the university was closed. I spent the day with Kim Reynolds. I had not met Kim before, and we had arranged the talk over email. In fact, she invited me to stay with her in Lewes where she lived then. I remember I thought: "This person invites a total stranger to stay with her - I like it!"

I flew to Gatwick and stayed the first night at an airport hotel because I was going to Cardiff early in the morning (I missed my train and never gave that talk, but that's another story). I got back from Cardiff well over midnight and wondered how I would get in touch with Kim: it was long before mobile phones. Very early in the morning, earlier than I wished to be awake, there was a phone call, and Kim arranged for us to meet in a cafe by National Theatre. I was a bit perplexed by the choice of meeting place, but why not (since then, I've been to this cafe several times, it's really nice). Again, we had not met, but we figured out who we were, had our coffee, went to the Museum of Childhood and then took the train to Lewes. It was so absurd that it was wonderful. It is a long journey from London to Lewes. The train was full to the brim, so we couldn't even talk. It was late when we arrived, but it was a perfect evening. Very early in the morning Kim had to go to London after she had directed me to the local bookstore where I spent some time before I caught my train to Clapham Junction where I changed for Reading. I had never changed so many trains in so few days.

About that other story: I missed my morning train from Gatwick to Reading, where I was to change for Cardiff, because the hotel reception gave me wrong information. The railway officer advised me to take a train to London Victoria, underground to Paddington, train to Reading and perhaps catch the train I was originally supposed to take. It was madness, but sort of a challenge. Of course I didn't catch that train. Since it was long before mobile phones I had no chance to call Cardiff to say I would possibly be late. I had no time to stop and call from a phone booth. Well, I missed that talk, but I had some great time in Cardiff, only it turned out that the train I was to take back to Reading to change to Clapham Junction... are you still with me? - well, that train didn't stop at Reading, so it was all the way to London, Paddinston, underground, Victoria, Clapham Junction. I was younger then, too.

I finally got to Reading which was why I came to the UK in the first place, and it felt good to know that there would be some days before I had to get on the train again.

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