Life still goes on. I have not died. It gets increasingly difficult to write about yourself when each day is basically the same. There’s only so many things you can say when the highlight of your day is “Got stiffed by auto driver today. The bastard said he had no change, when I could clearly see the five bucks mocking me from his change sack. He knew I was in a hurry!” While it is full of human interest and the struggle of the everyday man and other such engrossing topics, themes that have made for great, extremely powerful and depressing literature, I am not capable of turning it into a twenty-thousand word novel. If you write a twenty-thousand word novel, I am capable of turning whatever slush you present into something publishable. I won’t be credited with it unless you are a very nice person. And let’s face it. you’re writing a novel about the fraility of life and the wretchedness of human existence. You are probably the worst melancholic who ever lived. Your friends probably go “Oh shit! There’s old Maurice again. He’s going to start on about poor coal miners slouched in their little tin shacks, with their fifteen children on account of the long dark nights and the four-thirty milk train, their old mother dying of consumption and their wife trying to make a meal out of last week’s bran mash and a rotten potato.” But you don’t have friends. You have a collection of people who avoid you but still hang on on the off chance that you might actually become famous someday. Or notorious. It’s the same thing. But my life is not like a coal miner’s, so you ignore me royally. Except to cadge drinks off me. You drunk oaf.
I have crossed the kala pani. However considering everything else that I’ve done, it’s a bit down on the list. Having spent two weeks in jolly old England, I can say it’s not too bad a place for a visit. I was lucky to get good weather generally, so walking about was a lot of fun. But I did see the typical English weather of rain-sun-gloom-sun-“oh look! It’s raining again.” It’s quite picturesque and the people seem to be fairly polite usually. But I was in a nice area so I cannot generalize. There’s not much to see in Harlow, but it does have its fair share of really lovely architechture. And it seems nicely preserved. I am also in love with the National Gallery. It houses a remarkable collection of art, it’s excellently curated, it’s not too crowded and it’s free. I have no idea how they managed that. I can say I have seen a Da Vinci in real life and the man did know his shit. But my favourite rooms were the Dutch rooms and the ones featuring the Academy.
One thing I can say from my interactions is that drunk English men love Indians. No seriously! I was told by different drunken men that they love India. One of them also thought that I needed to resolve Kashmir. Not Indians in general, me in particular. His solution to the problem was that India keeps fifty percent of Kashmir, Pakistan keeps thirty percent and China gets twenty percent. I am not sure why he felt China should get twenty percent, or why he thought the people actually living there would be cool with their land getting divided up like a pizza. I am also not sure why he thought I had any ability to effect such a change. He clearly attributes great powers to people working in publishing even if we don’t do so ourselves. His (also drunk) friends spotted him talking to me and came over. When they asked me why I was there, drunk man one said I was going to resolve Kashmir. I am overwhelmed by your faith in me, random drunk man, but I fear it is a responsibilty which is too onerous for me.
Another drunk guy told me he loved India, after he literally crawled up the stairs of a bierkeller. I first saw a mug, then a hand, then a drunk mug. The guy also kept insisting that he wasn’t an angry man. I am not sure why he felt the need to repeat that. But I have extended an open invitation to him to visit India. I hope he does. He apparently loves the community more than Indians themselves do.
I have also struck up a conversation with a random man in the hotel’s bar. This man was apparently a writer and he contributed on the Star Wars novels. I had an extremely interesting conversation with him about the franchise. He was also a Darth Maul and Kyle Katarn fan, so we got on well. He stood me two rounds of single-malt scotch. I did not know people actually did that. But he had already had a couple of rounds before that, so his generosity was quite possibly borne out of alcohol. Also he told me that all whiskys starting with “Glen” are single-malts. I wish to verify this claim.
There was a visit to the printers. They were located near Portsmouth so I got to see a bit of the sea too. I also saw a huge-ass digital printer, and by God was it impressive. It was a web press, so it basically went from web of paper to printed and folded book-block in a remarkably short time. And it was fairly good quality too. Full four colours! There was a little bit where it turned the sheet of paper at a ninety degree angle to fold it along the spine and it totally blew my mind!
Cambride is also lovely. St. John’s Chapel was astoundingly pretty and I really enjoyed walking around the river Cam. I did not go punting though. I have never tried it before and it does not look like something to attempt on one’s own. I also saw Trinity College, so I can say that I have been to Trinity College, if only technicallly.
As you can see, I’ve done a lot on this trip. I also missed my return flight and had to re-book it. So I’ve even covered that part of air travel. You become acutely aware of the flexibility of the human body when you attempt to sleep on a departure lounge bench that has fixed armrests. However the ancient hunter-gatherer instinct soon kicked in and I went scouting around. Protip: If you’re ever stranded in Heathrow T4, there’s a bench on the first floor next to the charging point near the Yotel (It’s not a spelling error. It’s actually called that.) which has no armrests. The airport has wi-fi but it’s a Boingo hotspot which you have to pay for. However the spot next to the Yotel, in addition to a charging point and a bench without armrests also lets you connect to the Yotel’s wi-fi. This only has a “I accept the terms and conditions” screen, so it’s basically free. There are also toilets nearby and a cafe. Use the lifts next to zone E to get there. The other lifts only lead to offices on the first floor. You’re welcome.
I had a decent enought journey. Delhi, seen from the sky at night, is slightly surreal. It reminded me alternately of a circuit board and a Sci-fi world. There are bits where only the street lights shone through gaps in the houses, probably because they were built very closely. But they looked like a futiristic city like in Caves of Steel. I’m not sure where but some three or four hours from Delhi, I saw a really beautiful bit of lit-up land. Flying over England and Europe by day is also not something to be sneered at, but the features are so regular it’s a bit scary. The farms and places are so geometrical, it’s a bit disconcerting. However, watching tiny cars go around roundabouts is a lot of fun. It looks like the early GTAs, to be honest.
Well, that’s about it for now. I leave you with this little bit of information. In the Wodehouse novel Summer Lightning, Gally asks Lord Emsworth when a particular incident occurred. The incident in question was Gregory Parsloe stealing Lord Burper’s false teeth and pawning them at a shop in the Edgware Road. I am pleased to report that there is actually a pawnshop on Edgware Road. Robertson’s Pawnbrokers is located at 199 Edgware Road and, according to the sign on their shop, was established in 1759. Given that Parsloe pawned the teeth sometime around 1896, it could quite concievably be the same shop. You are welcome.