Another weekend in London


This weekend was an amazing weekend. It was spent in London with various people in the media. I was worried that the December weather in London would be below freezing as we had been promised -15C temperatures all week. But luckily the sun shone for most of the weekend, and the weather was balmy by winter standards.

I got into London at midday on Friday, and took a taxi from outside Euston straight to BBC Broadcasting House on Portland Place. The staff in there were friendly and welcoming – one of the receptionists expressed admiration for my blog and twitter feed. I was there to attend the recording of the BBC Radio 4 Front Row quiz, hosted by Mark Lawson, and with contenstants including Julian Fellowes and Maureen Lipman.

Mark Lawson was a very interesting person to watch. He is a consumate and respected broadcasting professional, and watching him chair the quiz was a masterclass in radio technique. The audience were warmed up and laughing at his jokes and asides. At several points he made eye contact and smiled, suggesting to me we may have met before although I can’t remember having done so. During the recording he was polite and funny, making jokes about new young celebrities in the media. Julian Fellowes made jokes about budget hotels. I don’t think he would be impressed if he had seen the budget hotel I was staying in with his own eyes, although I’d like to think I could convice him my choice of hotel was clean, comfortable and fun. The other audience members were fun to talk to, and during the recording we discussed matters such as what the BBC think of me and the strangely private way I seem to know absolutely everybody.

After Front Row I had a couple of hours to kill, so I went to the cafe in Russell Square near my hotel and had lunch. After lunch I got ready to go to Union Chapel in Islington to attend the Save The Children Christmas Tree Sessions. They were being complered by Lauren Laverne, a broadcaster and DJ who I greatly admire and consider very cool and talented. Also turning up there was Caitlin Moran, Stuart Maconie and Myleene Klass.

On my way to Union Chapel I walked through Islington. London strikes me as city where young people have lost their way a little. There was plenty of them sitting in coffee shops on their laptops, not talking to anyone. Maybe they are all young professionals who have moved to the city but not made any good friends yet. It must be a depressing life being a singleton in London.

Union Chapel is a beautiful buiding, and I was sat on a pew right at the back of the church, with my glasses on so I could see everyone on stage. It was nice seeing Lauren and we exchanged a smile. Caitlin was hilarious and a lot of fun to witness in the flesh, she is a like an oversexed ball of fun. Stuart Maconie looked a little nervous about being in the same room as me but his reading was very enjoyable. I got retweeted by Save The Children and had two weeks worths of hits on my blog in one night. Myleene was a pleasure to watch playing piano. At the end of the evening I was going to say hello to Lauren but the brooding look I got from her entourage whilst I considered interrupting her DJing made me change my mind. So instead I called it a night and walked back to my hotel.

Saturday morning was spent on a long walk to Tate Britain. On the way I tweeted a picture of the Shard and a picture of Brian Haw’s peace memorial outside the Houses of Parliament. Then I went up Oxford Street to the posher parts of London where I talked to some old friends. Saturday was a day spent with members of the public in London, rather than the media.  I struck up a short but enjoyable friendship with a woman who was either Italian or Spanish. I took an afternoon nap and spent the evening in Camden, which was a bit somnolent. I spent Saturday night talking to a very old friend of mine from a private part of my life.

Sunday morning was spent enjoying a large and delicious breakfast and checking out of my hotel at 10. I hung around in Kings Cross for a couple of hours. I telephoned the Guardian from outside Kings Cross station and asked if I could visit the office. They told me that even though I had been awarded press passes to their events and been published in the newspaper, I still couldn’t visit the office of a national newspaper without something like that being arranged beforehand.

‘We’re only a sketeon crew here today,’ she explained apologetically, ‘so I doubt you woud meet anyone you know anyway.’

I thanked her and ended the call. It was a shame as I would like to have visited Kings Place, it is a beautiful building with a lot of interesting artworks in it. I have heard the coffee is great in the cafe and the washrooms are deluxe.  Outside Kings Cross I met a couple of Guardian staffers coming out of the station. I chatted with them whilst smoking a cigarette and made friends with them pretty much instantly, something I knew I would do with a lot of people once I met them face to face. The man I spoke to from the Guardian said he had heard of me and congratulated me on making it into the media. He said he thought I was a very cool guy and that I had a design for life which was  inspirational to lots of people. I didn’t catch his name but he was wearing a checked shirt and jeans.

My last couple of hours in London were spent Euston Square drinking coffee, eating amaretto biscuits and luxuriously creamy chocolates in Cafe Nero. I think Cafe Nero is easily the best coffee shop, and a quick chat with several journalists on Twitter seemed to confirm this as established media opinion. I think they were looking dfor a replacement for Starbucks anyway, which seems to be in the media’s bad books for not paying tax.

Then it was the train home. I chatted to people on the train about life as we hurtled up the track to Birmingham. Overall it was a very enjoyable weekend and I’d like to thank London for being an amazing city.




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