London Day 2: A Day at the Palace

imageI had set my alarm for 07:00 this morning which was completely unnecessary. I did not sleep all night! Let us say, that Sussex Gardens is a street in London where the traffic never ever ceases. It runs at high-speed ALL NIGHT through and thanks to me still being on a high stressed out level, from home, I could never wind down enough to fall asleep. I guess I was not exhausted enough or something. I grabbed the only other short-sleeved T-shirt I had with me and got dressed for breakfast while I listened to the news that Scotland had decided to stay part of the United Kingdom. Thank heavens for that. I think that had they left, then Wales and Northern Ireland would have followed suit, and if that is not sad, then what is? I can understand people being frustrated and perhaps feeling that London only cares about London. The same goes here at home. Stockholm couldn’t care less about the rest of Sweden, but still, we can’t all leave can we? Skåne could leave no doubt and would be fine on its own, or like D. and I discussed, join Denmark again, like we used to be. But Scotland has been together with the rest of the UK since the first years of the 17th Century. It has seen many wars together. It went through the Blitz together, with bombings of London as well as Glasgow. All the commandos and paras were trained in the Scottish hills and coastline. To break up a common history that has lasted for over 400 years is insane. After all, Elisabeth I, had no other heirs than Mary Stuart’s son, who was already king in Scotland, when she died. They were joined under one crown, by a lawful king, who was entitled to both countries. But when the Swedes took Skåne, there was no such thing. They just wanted land! Megalomaniacs!

To my horror, this morning I also discovered that my new mint green rucksack, in real leather, which I bought from Zatchels and love, is staining my clothes. I wore a white pretty double layer T-shirt yesterday, and there were mint green spots all over it. This was really bad news. No way I wanted to wear that T-shirt again today, going to Buckingham Palace of all places. So I headed off in a Navy blue shirt which I had planned to wear at Miniatura, and my first stop was the breakfast room. The people who gave it bad reviews, must have been unaccustomed to London and London hotels. The last ten years, London’s hotels and restaurants have been flooded with Russians. They are rude and not one bit service minded. It is just to get used to it, because that is the way it is all over. The Orchard hotel has a rude Russian lady with bleached hair, toast bread, and yes, you get to sit and wait for your toast till she notices that you are waiting. And she doesn’t serve with a smile, but with a sour lemon face. But I am not there to be charmed by the serving personnel. The orange juice is not real orange no, like the reviewers said, but I have been getting this sort of “saft” orange juice in London since 1993, so what is the big deal? It probably is less likely to spoil and it is not as acid as real orange is, so it is easy on my sensitive stomach.

I got to Buckingham Palace and I was surprised at not facing a long queue on arrival. I just walked in and bought my ticket and then I went over to the waiting area. They have airport security and when this young man came with a microphone and told us about that and about the fact that the nearest toilet, was 1 1/2 hours away, I panicked. I had to leave, just as the security check was about to start. I had to get my ticket slip back and head off to find a toilet somewhere. The directions the young man gave me, were no good and finally I had to run in to an Italian café and beg to use their loo, because I could hardly hold on anymore. When I was done and had reflected what a nice place it was, with Italian written even on the loo doors, I had to sprinter back to the Palace before they changed the ticket person. I arrived and there was a long queue, but I headed to the front of it and was relieved to see the young man again, who opened the gate and let me in. Not everyone had got through security yet, so for you who plan on going next year, the security check takes at least half an hour! The first group entering  at 09:30. To my surprise, my bracelet did not sound this time, which was a great relief since my arm was so sore from where it got scratched badly. Sore scratch and something had happened inside my wrist as well, when I fell on the stairs, because I could not carry things with my right hand without a stabbing pain. Typical!

I have wanted to go see Buckingham Palace ever since they started opening it for the public, every year in August and September. Last time I had the opportunity and remembered about it, I did not know where one goes to enter, but this time I had checked out the map, and knew exactly where to go. It’s on the left side of the Palace if one stands with Pall Mall behind oneself. I don’t know how I have missed it before? You get head phones to wear and an excellent guided tour, through the State Rooms, which is second best, after having a tour guide. Or even better really since you can listen at your own speed and not get disturbed by others’ chatter. Soon I discovered other Swedes walking right in front of me. A mother and daughter from my church (another ward than mine) in Sweden and as their London guide, was this homosexual young man who left church years ago, but whose mother used to belong to our ward. None of the three recognised me though. I am such a non-entity. Noone ever recognises me. The monkey knows everyone and noone knows the monkey.

The Palace rooms are very, very beautiful, especially the ceilings. And entering it imageall, by the grand stairs, felt like a real privilege. Having cost all of £20 to do so! (But compared to a lot of museums, I guess it is about on target.) And I loved the fact that the picture gallery had lots of Canaletto paintings. I LOVE his paintings and had them all to myself since everyone else was just interested in the Rembrandts etc. I can’t see enough of Canaletto and imagebeautiful Venezia!

Part of the State Room visit at the moment, also entails the exhibition Royal Childhood, which was something I really loved. Getting to see all the little toys, furniture and so on, of the present Queen and her now deceased sister, as well as other Royals’ belongings, was a rare  treat. She was such a serious little girl and they showed her speech to the Nations’ children when a lot of them had been evacuated, during the Blitz. I had  heard it before but not seen the broadcast with pictures. The tour was over all too soon, after seeing wedding photos of her but also Prince William and Kate, and moving through the room where Prince William was christened. I am sad that “Cookie” did not get to see all this when we went over two years ago, in November.

imageSome pictures from the exhibition: “Gubby” would have loved to play with these cars! The building blocks with family members must have been a nice thing to play with, when one could not get to see them. And I just loved how Queen Victoria saved all her children’s milk teeth in specially made boxes. So wonderful! image image

When the tour was over and I had handed over the head phones, I headed over to the toilets and wondered why the ticket people could not have shown people to this newly built structure, some back way, instead of sending us away from the premises. I also headed to the gift shop, not thinking I would find a single thing that I could afford in there. But there is a variety of things in the gift shop. Things for us ordinary people, and then expensive things for the rich Americans who walk up to the counter with their arms full of things, that the personnel will package up for them and SEND to America on their behalf. A lot of the souvenirs are porcelain, replicas from the Royal collections, but there are also a lot of tin things full of cookies, tea and chocolate. I bought more modest things which do not weigh anything, like a tea towel, imagebecause it had such pretty colours (royal coat of arms), bookmarks in leather, a guide-book, a pen and a thin metal plate which was a replica of one found in the Palace. I thought one could put cookies on it for Birthdays? imageBut these Americans which stood by my side, looking at them too, decided to get them for picnics. I don’t think they were made for such heavy usage. Their new picnic plates will soon be scratched up and without colour! (The plate is a replica of Queen Victoria’s plate from 1877, with her insignia and also the different national emblems or flowers: Scottish thistles, Irish shamrock and England’s roses. Hm! Where’s Wales?)

I was feeling hungry by now and decided to actually sit down and have lunch in the Palace café which stands right outside, as one enters the garden from the State Rooms, where Prince Charles and Diana were photographed when they had just got engaged.

imageI bought a sandwich and then I could not resist another cake piece, because it had a Royal crown on it! I sat down at a table, it was very crowded by now, and started to send an SMS to T., to hear if he wanted a tiny chocolate box from the gift shop. I had stood and looked at it because it had mint chocolates in it. Just a 100 gram box, so not too much weight to carry home and I did not know what other sort of gift I could bring home for him. He is the worse to shop for but he does love good chocolate and especially with mint in it. While I sat their typing, this Australian asked me if he and his wife could sit down on the other two chairs and I nodded. And suddenly I noticed that we had all her coffee all over the table. I quickly looked down on my plastic bag and rucksack which were both leaning on the only leg of the table and yes, they were covered with her  disgusting coffee. It is bad when someone spills coffee on you but even worse for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We don’t drink coffee or tea  and we are totally against the consumption of such. Our Word of Wisdom forbids us to drink it and here I sat with coffee, stinking coffee, all over my souvenir bag and my leather mint green rucksack. The lady started a small non-fertile attempt to wipe some of it off my plastic bag but there was so much of it. I got so angry, said nothing, but left the table and fetched a whole wad of paper napkins. I started to wipe and wipe and wipe. It seemed like there was no end to all the coffee and the smell was overwhelming. Stupid clumpsy cow! I know, very un-christian of me, but she did not even ask if my things were alright! I had paper products in that plastic bag and my rucksack is just one month old and is not shiny surface but has a grainy surface so the coffee settled deep in the grooves. I sat in silence and just wiped and wiped. When I felt I could do no more without water, I started to eat my sandwich, looking out over the garden, ignoring the couple.

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They left a little before me, and as soon as I had finished my meal, I walked back to the toilet and tried to wash off the spots from my rucksack, hoping for the best when it dried out. Better water spots than coffee spots. Then I walked back in to the Palace gift shop and bought the expensive chocolates for my husband, and asked for a new big bag, telling the woman at the till that a lady had spilled sticky coffee all over my previous bag and that I could not get the smell or stickiness off. I could not care less that the couple stood right behind me! What is it with 60+ people? They think they can behave in any manner they want to? They could have offered to run off and get me another bag! As it was, I was now in a bad mood, even though it had all started so good with getting to look at wonderful rooms, with amazing colours, ceilings and history! A truly pretty exhibition of childhood items, showing parents who really cared that their children had everything to be able to play and have a wonderful childhood. The way we all tryimage now as well, but with less funds of course! (Picture of the room, Queen Elizabeth enters from her own private apartments, to see guests. The secret door is behind the mirror on the left. All things on the table in front, have had to be nailed in place so they do not fall off when the door opens! Funny details like these are told on the audio tour!)

By now, it was time to head to my next stop. Which was Goodge Street and Waterstone’s by the University. For a couple of years, I have been wanting this book: “American Women during World War II”, a big heavy encyclopedia. Problem being that it has cost an arm and a leg. Except for one copy, held at Waterstone’s used books department, at Goodge Street (not quite on Goodge street but that is the tube station). That one has cost £12 but they have not sent outside Britain. So my goal was to go to the shop and hand carry it home! I checked it was still in stock the night before I went to London and now I headed to the shop to finally buy it. Things were not quite that easy though. First of all, the sky opened up and the rain that came down was of the very wet kind. Yes, there is a difference in rain and rain. Everyone screamed and ducked for shelter. Thing was, I had by now spent 20 minutes, on aching feet, trying to locate Waterstone’s. It is the same thing every time I go there, I can not quite find the street and the corner it is on. Standing for 15 minutes under a convenience shop’s marquee, I finally asked the man beside me if he knew where it was and then I ran out in the rain. I just did not have time to waste. But things got more complicated. Waterstone’s was being re-modelled and the used books moved around. I finally found the help desk and the lady working there told me the dreaded news that they keep used books in the shop separate from the ones they sell on the internet and that you can’t buy the internet books in the shop because of her boss and his system. Now I felt sooooo sad I did not know what to do and I told her how I had wanted it for so long, that it only said domestic shipping on it and that I had come all the way from Sweden to buy it. She said she thought she knew where the man in charge was and headed to have a chat with him. I waited and waited and 10 minutes later she came back and soon he arrived too. I had to show him on the internet, which book it was and he kindly went to search for it. He warned me that it would take a while but I said that it didn’t matter one bit and when he finally appeared with the book in his hands, I was overjoyed.

By now, I needed to go to the loo, but when the man in there finally came out, having stunk up the place horribly, there was no paper! I went to tell the staff and this girl told me she had no idea where there was loo paper to be had, but she would have it sorted soon. I walked off, since I had managed to overcome the feeling and went to look at their stationary. Two years ago they had Cath Kidston things, so hopeful, I went in search of anything Cath Kidston and found one letter set and a 2015 diary, so I was very , very happy when I headed for World War II Homefront History. I looked in a lot of books till I just HAD to go use the loo and but still no paper. This time I walked in to the cafeteria and asked if they could please get paper and the lady, Russian?, grumpily said that it is the job of the bookstore but she would look in to it. Her English was so bad though, that at first I did not understand that she would sort it, because she just stood there doing nothing and she got angry with me. Well, excuse me but I do not appreciate having to go use the loo without paper thank you! Nor do I like to go ask for paper twice! They have one tiny loo for a several floor big store. If you want to sell, you have to provide a way for people to go and relieve themselves. Especially if you have installed a café in the shop!

After my visit to the bookstore, I headed for Paperchase, which is out on the main street where the tube station is, and limping in there, I walked  around in search of more fun stationary. My penfriend had suggested this since she usually finds fun things there. I can’t say they were cheap but I did find some cute stationary. And I moved on to the proper Cath Kidston Flag Ship shop on Piccadilly. I wish I had known about this shop before. It is huge and it is just absolutely fabulous! And yet, I felt overwhelmed walking in there, because everything is SO pretty! I didn’t know what to look at first and this American woman was standing holding on to a bag I fell hopelessly in love with on first sight. She told her friend she did not know if she should get this one red bag or this other one which there was only one left of. That made me feel upset, since that was my new love. A bag that looked like it came straight from the 1940s-1950s. I decided to keep my calm and walk around and not hover around the lady to see what she was doing and I walked off looking at wallets, bath- and beauty paraphernalia and finally I found the paper and office products. But they did not have stationary to write letters on at all.

To tell the truth, the shop was so overwhelming and I started rationalizing away one thing after the next as perhaps not something I needed at this point. I decided to not get E. the wallet we had looked at on the internet, since it was £5 more in the shop. “Boo” tried to get in to her wallet here a couple of weeks ago and when he could not, he snuck in to the bathroom and tried to cut it open from the bottom, with a pair of haircutting scissors. E. was devastated since I received that wallet years ago, and had no use for it, being too big and long for my taste. I handed it to E. at that point and she has loved it because it was long and had a clasp for lock instead of a zipper. And now her brother had ruined it. I also decided against a make up bag and beauty bag, because I could not decide which pattern I liked the most nor the style. I moved over to the shoulder bags and boy are there many styles to choose from and patterns. I saw that the blue bag was back with a red one just like it, and started to look at the inside when a salesperson walked up to me. For some reason, we started to talk about how I had  looked at the internet in Sweden, to find out where in London one could find Cath Kidston, something I have never done before, and how I to my amazement found the address to this entire shop of hers. She started to laugh since she is from Stockholm. We quickly switched over to Swedish and I told her how I had thought the American lady was going to buy the blue bag. She told me that she did, but that it was not the last one that they had. She went to see if they had more in the back, since it is a special edition one, only sold in the Flagship store.

imageThey had another one, so I could sure buy it if I wanted to. We started to look at the typical Cath Kidston bags with flowers, in waxcloth fabric and talked over which ones one can use all year in Sweden and which straps that work over the shoulder when you wear a thick winter coat. It was fun talking to her. She had lived in London for a year and a half and is moving on to working at a ski resort in Austria next, before she is going back to Sweden, to pick up her studies. I envy her. No such thing when I was her age. The only thing Swedes could do was go and work as au-pairs in England, since we were not part of EU. I would have loved to have had another job in England, than that, since you are just a cleaning lady and an under-paid such. I earned £14/week for cleaning, from 07:00-15:00 every day but Sunday, and in my second family, which had children aged 5 and 9, I also had to babysit three evenings a week and make sure they did their homework in the afternoons instead of watching TV. Ghastly! Going in to London, from the suburbs, cost so much, as did going dancing, that after a Saturday night out, there was nothing left of the £14. We lived for Saturday nights and Sundays. My friend who  worked in a more central London living family, used to ask me to stay the night, so we could go to a freebie museum Sunday. Staying “home” Sunday meant working on Sunday. You were not allowed to sit around in the house doing nothing. But it did not pay to stay away Sunday, because Monday morning, my “family” had nothing to eat on. The wife, Mrs. Lawrence, refused to load the dishwashing machine so Monday morning, every single piece of cutlery and porcelain was out of the cupboards and I had to get up extra early to handwash at least enough for them to have breakfast on and with. In the job description it said that one would be like a family member. Right! I don’t know anyone who treats their family members like that. I ate in the kitchen, away from them and was treated worse than a servant girl! I would have loved to have worked at Cath Kidston! Or at Waterstone’s. That would have been perfect. Or at a museum! Oh to be young again and have all sorts of opportunities.

When I had bought the things I could not live without, at Cath Kidston, I said goodbye to Rebecca and headed for Oxford Street again, to see if I could make it to Clarks shoe shop, before they closed. They have the most comfortable shoes there are, and that is exactly what I needed at this moment. I could hardly walk. My toes killing me and my heels likewise. I had decided to go look for church shoes there, but there was no way I could press my swollen feet in to a pair of nice lady’s shoes, no matter how soft or comfortable. I arrived in time to look around and this man came up and wanted to help. He started to show me winter boots and I told him, I have wonderful winter boots at home thank you. “I need something to walk in NOW.” I tried to tell him exactly how much my feet hurt but he wasn’t listening. Finally he just walked off. I asked this lady instead if she could help me. I told her that I did not want boots nor gym shoes, even if most tourists wear that in London. I told her I hate that look and that I wanted to buy a pair of shoes that I can wear when I get home as well. That I still want to look imagelike a woman even if I wear comfortable shoes. She brought out some shoes but they hurt my feet. One pair I could not get my feet in to at all. Finally I saw a pair that we had both overlooked. They were softer than soft, looking like jazz dance shoes almost, from their comfortable selection, and yes they look like nerd shoes, but tolerable I think, so…

By now, I could hardly walk and I was starving. But the idea of having to search for something to eat, was not appealing. I had eaten a dry Booths sandwich for dinner the evening before. I stood there on Oxford street right outside McDonald’s and then I just gave up. I limped in there and ordered a filet of fish without cheese and grabbed the first chair I could find. I was in too much pain to do anything else even though I hate McDonald’s! After eating, I had no idea how to get back to the hotel. I just had to do it one step after the next. It was a relief to finally sit down on my hotel bed, take off the Converse, puncture the water blisters and put my feet up on the bed to rest till morning. The lady at Clarks had said that I could test the shoes at the hotel and bring them back if they did not feel right, but I knew that I would have to wear them the next day, because I could not spend another day in my Converse. My feet could take no more of them! And then I had even put in a gel heel thing, before I left Sweden, which is supposed to prevent heel pain in Converse shoes! Little they did to help!

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