Kathryn Harries - Soprano

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Still standing

The last day – apart from walking into the Coliseum on Saturday evening, that is.
I awoke at 5.30am with the trio from Cosi going round and round in my head. We sang it last night and every time I briefly surfaced from sleep, Mozart’s music was echoing through my mind.
I might have gone back to sleep but the day was beckoning so I leapt out of bed (well, sort of) dressed and got the lap-top up and running.
I dashed off a few e-mails and then compiled a huge list of people whom Lorna will be thanking and updating when we get home.
We loaded up the Jag for the last time, said goodbye to Murray and Joan and drove away from one of the loveliest houses and most delightful families I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.
We reached the southern entrance of Trent Park reasonably quickly; there was a short hold-up on the M25 but nothing of much consequence. We pulled into the car park and I put a couple of bottles of water into my rucksack; we’d agreed that nannying me through London was a pointless exercise so Lorna was going to spend the morning at her sister’s home nearby.
The sky was overcast and threatening rain so I wore my grey waterproof and baseball cap. Inevitably they kept the rain away and before too long I was wet through with perspiration because of the heat. Sod’s law. Again.
I set off just before 9.30am and walked southwards past Cockfosters tube station before consulting the A to Z.
Sharon rang and asked me if Diana and I wanted supper: a resounding yes!
Then I headed west for a bit before turning south through East Barnet, Friern Barnet, Muswell Hill and finally to Highgate where I was meeting Diana.
My God North London is hilly; I had no idea how up and down it was. And they’re bloody big hills too. I kept my waterproof on because I couldn’t be bothered to carry it and for some strange reason people kept out of my way as I raced along.
I kept in touch with Mum and Dad who were terribly worried that I’d get mugged; if they’d only seen me they’d have realised at a glance that no one would bother me at all. Quite the contrary. Who on earth in their right mind would try to mug a large, middle-aged, sweaty Betty walking at four miles an hour and with an expression that bordered on alarming?
Diana phoned to say she’d parked her car at Raynes Park and was on the train with her son Richard; poor boy sprained his ankle badly a couple of weeks ago and was feeling pretty cheesed off about it.
I marched up and down hill like the flaming Duke of York; it was so HOT!
Johnny rang and we had a long chat about tidying up the project and how things were going to work on Saturday evening.
Diana and I aimed to meet at Highgate tube station at about 11.30am; I was still tramping up and down like a lunatic when she phoned to say she’d arrived. I told her I was racing up Muswell Hill road and not far away and within ten minutes, she was there in front of me, grinning widely at my dishevelled appearance.
We walked downhill into a coffee shop and she kindly bought me a caramel shortbread and diet coke. The one cancels out the other in my mind whatever they say at Weight Watchers.
I took off my clobber and caught sight of myself in a mirror. No wonder no one came near me; I really looked barking mad. My hair was all over the shop like I’d had a severe electric shock and my T shirt was drenched with sweat. Soooooo attractive.
I suppose it wasn’t surprising; when I looked at my GPS watch I realised I’d covered 8 miles in two hours whilst wearing far too much clothing.
Diana and I left the café and walked slowly down the hill towards central London. We nipped off to the left so she could show me her daughter Helen’s flat and then we walked at a sensibly steady pace down and down and down. London was spread out before us and St Paul’s looked close enough to touch.
Of course it wasn’t, but with some nifty map-reading we negotiated Archway, Kentish Town and Camden Town in short order, and before we knew it were standing in front of the immensely tall Post Office Tower.
While we were taking pictures at Archway, a very drunken elderly man, wearing faded denims and sporting long flowing white hair and a bushy white beard, reeled towards us. He looked like Dumbledore or Gandalf walking in a high wind on Marlborough Downs!
As soon as he spotted we were taking photos, he lurched to a wavering standstill. Slurring that he ‘didn’t want to intrude’ he stood gently rocking back and forth until we were finished. What remarkably good manners.
The crowds increased in number the closer we got to our destination and walking down Tottenham Court Road and Charing Cross Road was all ducking, diving and dodging.
We turned into St Martin’s Lane and suddenly, there before us, was the London Coliseum. It was nearly six weeks since we’d walked away from it and now the adventure was all but finished. My last 14 miles.
We walked thoughtfully up to and into the foyer and, lo and behold, there were Johnny, Jill and Lynne who is Front of House Manager.
Hugs all round with the security staff beaming at us in smiling confusion and then into the Café Nero next door for sandwiches and coffee.
While we sat chatting and munching, Lorna phoned to say she was parked in St Martin’s Lane so we suggested she come and join us. This she did but declined to eat or drink anything as there wasn’t a great deal of time left on the meter.
We said our farewells to Johnny and Jill before driving out of London along the Thames, through Putney and finally to Raynes Park; my last journey in the Jag which had been so generously donated to us for the duration of the Walk by Guy Salmon of Thames Ditton. Our most grateful thanks to David Edwards.
At the station car park, we offloaded all my belongings and bunged them into the Mazda. Then, after more hugs and thanks, Diana and I were waving Lorna goodbye and on our way down the A3 towards the Surrey Hills.
It was strange but lovely to be home; the garden looked fantastic and the house was still standing – always a plus.
After dumping my cases, bags, music, computer and odds and sods in my tiny office we had a cup of tea with Mum and Dad. Angie and Sue’s foot massager, Jill’s picnic table and the remaining case of Buxton Water went in the garage.
And then Diana and I went for a walk. On the hill, with no nasty cars and lorries and a beautiful view all the way down to the South Downs to end our stroll. What a glorious country this is.
Sharon and Will cooked us the best bangers and mash we’d ever tasted and we sank two bottles of very good champagne without any difficulty at all.
We all fell asleep watching a very earnest programme on the box about Pluto not being a planet and then one by one we went up the wooden hill to bed ever so slightly the worse for wear…

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