Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Nothing works..!

I arrived back in London after a 4 hour bus journey from Swansea where I'd spent a wonderful Christmas with my family and visiting my 93 year old mum everyday in hospital after her recent total hip replacement. I was back again at Heathrow underground station. I knew the efficient drill that ensured a speedy exit of this station and grabbed a free airport cart to avoiding unnecessary schlepping of my bag. After queuing up to purchase my first Oyster card like a real Londoner, I abandoned the airport cart and took off through the turnstiles to the tube-trains. After a nearly two hour journey across London on a crowded tube, my first encounter was with a grumpy cab dispatcher in the cab office at Walthamstow Central station who grunted, "Cab 11" without even looking up to see who he was talking at. "Well where the fuck is cab 11?", I mumbled under my breath as I pondered the half dozen cabs parked outside. I couldn't be arsed to ask him so I schlepped my one huge bulky bag over my back like a hobo and stepped back out into the dark 5pm chilly London night and asked the first cabby I see if he's number 11. Indeed he was. Bingo..! Thankfully, the middle-eastern cabbie was a friendly guy who was looking forward to New Year's Eve and asked me if I'd had a nice flight as he loaded my bag into the boot.. I realized I still had the airline tag attached to my bag from my arrival at London Heathrow from San Francisco 10 days ago. I was looking forward to staying at the Hitchcock again

The Sir Alfred Hitchcock is very unique with its stone walls, wooden-beamed interior, low ceilings, hardwood floors, nooks and crannies, alcoves, comfortable couches and armchairs, and a large fireplace in the middle of the room that could be enjoyed by patrons on both sides of the bar. The presence of Sir Alfred Hitchcock is everywhere. The walls are covered with memorabilia from the movies, and of other Leytonstone times gone by. The quiet location of the hotel on the edge of Epping Forest is juxtaposed by the hustle and bustle of inner London, and the busy M11 link road; a 10 minute walk away.

I finally arrived at the Sir Alfred Hitchcock Hotel and was truly looking forward to sitting next to their open fire with a pint that I'd been gasping for since my arrival at Heathrow. It was a crisp wintery night. The sight of the hotel's illuminated redbrick facade triggered memories of times gone by.  I had enjoyed many a £1 a pint Murphy's back in the mid-nineties. I always loved the Hitchcock when I lived 10 minutes away from here, and always live to recapture those moments when I go home by having a rendezvous with my old friends here. The only things that change are the price of a pint..., and of course, tariffs...

I arrived at the bar to check in:
"That'll be £165, please."
"Um, no. It's £133. We confirmed that via email..."
"Oh it would be normally, but it's the Christmas period!"
It's always this way whenever I go home. There's always something! This time it's the overcharge for my hotel room because of "the Christmas week."

"But I gave the dates! I was quoted £133 pounds. Now it's £165?! I have the email." I go to bring out my phone to find the email and then stop. An inner voice asked me, why bother? "Okay, never mind", I smiled. "We can sort it later if need be. It's still a good deal and I understand the Christmas rate."  I certainly had no intention of going anywhere else just because of a relatively small overcharge. Besides, the price was still a good deal for London. The hotel is fifteen minutes from Leytonstone tube station and a short bus ride to Walthamstow Central trains, underground and buses.

My mind wandered back to the present transaction. I paid up, smiled, got my key, and asked what time the restaurant closes... "Oh the chef is away, but I think he's back tomorrow! We'll be open for breakfast  tomorrow morning." Here we go again, I thought. Always the same. British hospitality at its best! "Oh okay, no worries!" I'd long since given up asking too many questions. I'm home now... I got to my, thankfully, pre-heated room, and followed the directions to turn on the TV to get some BBC news on the telly.  The screen remained as blank as the look on anyone's face here when you ask for help with anything. Nothing! Anyway, like I said, nothing works! And the television was no exception. Exasperated, I tossed the remote-control aside on the bed and then tried to find that wretched confirmation email on my phone. Although I had already decided it was okay, I really wanted to let them know that £133 is what we had agreed on and plus the TV didn't work, or I couldn't figure it out. Then I stopped; "Oh fuck it...", I told myself. "To hell with the email and the sodding television, I'm here for a stress-free time and to have fun." I showered, changed, and headed to the bar. Despite not meeting my friends until my last night here, I donned my new designer cape- top from Ruti's on Fillmore, my consignment store True Religion jeans, boots, long scarf and wool fedora and set out for the bar. I felt great.

I ordered my liquid dinner and side-dish of crisps and peanuts. I wasn't that hungry anyway. I'll have a decent cooked breakfast tomorrow. After a couple of pints, I felt at home again as I warmed myself by the open-fire and absorbed its heat and warm glow. I soon discarded my scarf being careful to place it where I wouldn't forget it and drifted in thought with the chattering of the bar in the background.

Nothing works here -- except the things that truly matter. I'd already added to the cost of time by even trying to find the confirmation email, I pondered. I know far too well that openly expressing frustration here gets you absolutely nowhere... As a matter of fact, it often makes things worse. My internalized frustrations as a result of the surly cab dispatcher, broken TV and overcharge melted away as each pint took effect and soon  replaced by enjoying the things that did work.

The shower worked
The heater worked.
The beer worked.
The wireless worked.
Ah! The real fire worked!
The full English buffet breakfast worked!
The restaurant worked.
My warm scarf worked.
My consignment store gray wool full-length wrap coat worked.
My consignment store fur-edged leather fedora worked.

Most of all - my visit to my 93 year old mum worked to make her happy.

Sometimes it just doesn't matter if the TV doesn't work in a very warm cozy hotel room. That is what a good bar, beer, open fire, an early morning frost, crisp winter nights, friends, and memories are for. And why I'll always be back for more.

Leytonstone Underground Station Mosiac
Sir Alfred Hitchcock Hotel - Fireplace
A crisp frosty morning
Christmas Day!

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