Summing Up London Journal: No Place Like Home

Two brief thoughts in summing up:
 * You can avoid most of the worst effects of jet lag if you avoid caffeine and alcohol and stay hydrated. Try to gradually adjust to your target time zone as  much as possible (I gradually went to bed earlier and ate meals earlier, since London is 8 hours later than San Francisco). Also, again, as much as practical, try to stay awake during daylight hours in your target and sleep in night time hours. Missing an airline meal is not the end of the world. I find a shower as soon as possible after landing makes me feel much better. Does it really hydrate you? I'd say so.

In both directions, I slept on the plane during nighttime hours in my destination city, and stayed awake during daylight hours.  I was fine when I landed in London. I landed at 7:15 pm on Wednesday, got a good night's sleep Wednesday night, awoke at my usual hour Thursday, and experienced a little jet lag disorientation during the day. Not so much that I couldn't get things done, but I wouldn't have wanted to be doing something important that day. Odd, that, since there isn't supposed to be as much jet lag from flying west. What can I say? Friday was fine. That's pretty good for trip to London, I'd say.

* My daughter R wanted to be sure I felt welcome when I got home. She succeeded.


9 July London Journal Postscript

I read an article a few years back in Slate about good signage. it really stuck with me, and ever since I have noticed the difference between good signage and bad. Good signage anticipates where you want to go, shows you the direction clearly, and periodically reassures you that you are going the right way. London Underground: some of the best signage in the world. Clear, frequent and color-coded. Paris Metro? Worse than BART, and that is saying something. British National Rail: first class and crystal clear. French National Railroad (SCNF): god-awful, useless when it isn't confusing. Heathrow Express train: clear as a bell. Heathrow Airport: impressive. Chicago's O'Hare airport: non-existant. Where do I go after passport control? I have to ask someone, as there are no signs. How do I get from Terminal 5 to Terminal 3? There is no American Airlines employee anywhere to ask. There are no signs that I can see. Finally, I ask a man from Cathay Pacific, who walks me to the one sign in the terminal (posted nowhere along the path I walked) that indicates the inter-terminal shuttle. If I had turned in circles often enough I might have spotted it. Maybe. And I speak English. My heart goes out to any foreigner trying to make heads or tails of most of the inadequate and poorly thought-out signage at the O'Hare's International Terminal.

Thank you, I do feel better now.

7 July London Journal

A couple of  saved up notes: there is air conditioning in London!  It can be found on Central line tube trains, which are permanent five-car sets, with wide connectors that make them, essentially, a single large car. And it does rain in the summer in London; Sunday night I got drenched in 50 yards by a summer shower. When you have a choice, take the central line. And always bring a coat.

Look, I know I'm no Albert King, who sang, "if it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all." In fact, it is quite the opposite for me. If it wasn't for good luck, I would almost have no luck at all. Except Monday July 7.

Things started off well enough; caught the bus, switched to the tube, changed lines and was at St. Pancras International in plenty of time for the 7:55 am Eurostar train to Paris. The plan was to arrive at 11:15 Paris time, have lunch at Tallivent restaurant, sightsee, and then take the 9:15 train back, arriving in London at 10:35, in plenty of time for a good night's sleep. It didn't work out like that.

We left on time, and zipped through the English countryside at just under 200 miles per hour (wish we could do that in America!). The track was flat, level and extremely well maintained, which,  I guess, is a must for high speed travel. Curves were very gentle. We were moving along at a good clip until the average speed dropped to zero miles an hour.

At about 8:15, we stopped at a station that was not on the schedule. A series of ever-more dire but confusing and incomplete announcements came through. There's a spot of trouble in the channel tunnel. We're waiting, We're still waiting. One cannot accuse Eurostar of not letting you know what's going on. Eventually the words "passengers are on the shuttle train" made it clear something had gone wrong on a train in the tunnel. No one was hurt, and although I imagined a power failure would leave everyone in the dark, news photos made clear there was ample emergency lighting. After one optimistic announcement, I postponed my lunch n the theory that we would only be two hours late. I forgot to allow for the time being one hour later in Paris. End result; we arrived at 2:15. Tallivent stops serving lunch at 2. Oh well.

While still on the train (which has no wifi by the way), I pieced together a Google search from the cellphone service we had as we zipped through each French country town. I searched for Michelin star restaurants that serve lunch. Nearly all of them stopped serving at 2, except the Jules Verne at the Eiffel Tower, 37 stories up, which stopped at 1:30 (and, in any case, has to be booked months in advance). Several top 10 lists suggested he Brasserie at the Gare St. Lazare train station, run by a world-class chef from Normandy who decided he could bring real French food to the train station that serves Normandy from the capital. And it serves food all day.

Now, after 6 days in London, where I had become lord and master of the Underground, I figured I'd just pop into the Paris Metro and grab a train from Gare Du Nord, where I was, to Gare St. Lazare, where I wanted to be. But no! What I found was confusing maps, unclear pricing, total replacement of people with machines (except one poor harried agent, wandering from confused tourist to confused tourist) and virtually no English. It was like being a foreigner in the BART system. Except BART is much simpler. How I missed my Francophone wife and daughters. Unable to buy a ticket or figure out a route, I gave up. Further unclear signage made it difficult to find either the men's room or the taxis. Who knew the English were lords and masters of clear signage? Until now, I didn't know.

Along the way, since I had a 50 Euro note, I tried to break it. The bank said, "try the Bureau de Change." The bureau said... well, you can guess what the Bureau said, and what I said (to myself).

Finally, by accident, I found the cab stand. Mirabile dictu! The driver spoke excellent English (worked as a pastry chef in Kensington, London, until he developed, I kid you not, a flour allergy). We began the five-minute ride to the other train station. Boom. We hit a demonstration! Striking French lawyers had shut down the courts and were marching to the Prime Minister's office to insist on funding for public defenders. It took them 20 minutes to march by. At St. Lazare, the "you are here" maps were nearly incomprehensible, but I managed to accidentally run across the restaurant. No menu in English, of course, and cellphone reception just poor enough to prevent my using Using body language, the waiter indicated the parts of the menu that were valid at 3 in the afternoon. I recognized the days of the week, but could not for the life of me figure out what they served on Monday, except that it involved volaille. As it was being prepared, I figured out it was poultry. but the sauce remained a mystery to me. Perhaps, like Steve Martin, I had asked for a boot covered in cheese, and requested the waiter to shove it down my throat. On the cheese plate, the only one I recognized was Chevre (with thyme), which, while not my favorite, I knew was palatable. One of the reviews had mentioned the Paris-Deauville dessert, so I ordered that as well.

The main dish turned out to be a lovely chicken mousse, with a complicated and interesting cheese-based sauce and spinach, not a boot with cheese on it. The Chevre was OK (the French bread was "meh") and the dessert a delight.

I figured out I had time to either see the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower, both of which I had visited decades ago. "Which would produce better selfies," I asked myself. Despite warnings from Marlow that the line would be two hours at the tower (she was exactly right), I went and enjoyed myself as much as someone traveling alone, with a slight vertigo problem, could enjoy going up 280 meters (84 stories) on a completely open structure. The views were amazing, as was the structure itself. Paris is quite flat, and its towering skyscrapers were some ways from the tower.

At about 7:45, I grabbed a taxi to Gare du Nord for the return trip on Eurostar. I got there at 8. The lines were, literally, hundreds of yards long. The announcement, on an endless loop, was that there had been a problem with the overhead catenary (the wire over the train that carries power), that Eurostar service was extremely disrupted, that we should go home and come back another day. I must have heard it several dozen times in the three hours I spent at the train station. Dinner was an egg salad sandwich, which cost $6. It was a train station, after all. Suddenly, the 8:15 train left at 10:45. Fifteen minutes later, they called the 9:15 train. The tube was long-closed when we arrived at St. Pancras at 2:15 a.m., so Eurostar paid for taxis to take us home (which is nice; it would have been $60 for a taxi on my own). The Eurostar taxi monitors grouped us by destination. I was the last of the four people to get out of my taxi.

So let's see; instead of  5 hours on the train for 10 hours in Paris and a Michelin one-star lunch, I had 8 hours on the train for five hours in Paris, plus an extra 3 hours in the Gare du Nord, with nothing to do and little to eat. The wonders of the modern age don't always work out. But as a former TV director of mine used to say, "No one's dead yet."

I am going to pack today for my return, which means packing up my keyboard. I dislike writing long entries on my Dell portable keyboard, so the summing up will have to wait a day or two.

Eurostar selfie

Me on the Eurostar, before the first delay, wearing the tie that proved pointless, as I ate lunch at a place that did not require them.

  Lunch entree

Unlike some other Paris chefs, Eric Frechon (apparently) does not yet prohibit customers from taking pictures of their food. My chicken mousse main course (served, might I add, piping hot)

Lunch dessert

 A Paris-Deauvile. Translation: delicious!

Eiffel good

 On my way

Eiffel selfie

The beautiful Seine River over my shoulder at the top of the tower. No more tie; no more going to places that require one.

6 July London Journal

Boy is London up north. It is on the same latitude as Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In practical terms, that means the sun sets about 9:20 and dusk is still pretty obvious at 10:15. Oh, and sunrise is a bright, early 4:51. Daylight time! That means if there wasn't daylight time the sun would rise at 3:51. Now that is early!

Yet another very busy day. Up early and over to Marylebone National Rail station, which, according to at least one source, was the London point of departure for trains to Charbury, just past Oxford.

There was no set time I had to be at the Cornbury Music Festival, but there was a set time for morning communion: 8:30.  The Marylebone parish church, ironically, is near the Bond Street tube station, not the Marylebone station. Anyway, eventually I found the Anglican church (parent denomination of U.S. Episcopalians), arriving only five minutes late. I wondered if I misread the schedule, This beautiful 1816 church seemed empty as I entered. Then I noticed that all the parishioners were in the choir stalls at the front--all 10 of the parishioners. The Church of England isn't what it once was. It was a beautiful service, not even Rite One as we celebrate it in the U.S., but straight-up 1926 prayer book (with a little added Queen). Most of the service started to come back to me as we went through it. I took communion, shook the vicar's hand, and scooted back to the train station... where I was told I needed to be two stops down the line at Paddington. In five minutes. I didn't make it, and it was an hour until the next train. Also, at the last minute, we were slapped in a half size train. Wow! I stood for the whole 90 minutes to Oxford, getting a seat for the last two stops before Charbury,.

The shuttle bus took us to the Cornbury Music Festival. I have been reading about British summer music festivals for decades, and wanted to experience one. I wandered around, had fish and chips. What's a trip to England if you don't have fish and chips at least once. However, in yet another example of health and safety gone mad, they don't sell them in rolled up newspapers anymore. I know the fish was fresh, because it was cooked  right in front of me. Quite a slab of whitefish. The chips (British for french fries) were, for a change, not over-salted. Hooray! And of course, malt vinegar to top it off.

I wasn't much interested in the music or the face painting, so I went to the Comedy Tent, which had advertised some of my favorite British comedians. Alas, I misread the fine print; in the afternoon it is family comedy. The poor comedians. At least one of them looked so lost, having to work clean. I knew one of the four from his appearances on BBC Radio 4, a man named Nick Doody, who was the best of the lot. I wandered around, had some soft ice cream, and took the train back to London. At least it didn't rain. Rain is the bane of English summer music festivals, but nary a clod of mud was on the horizon.

I had a ticket for Stephen Richards' "Rock and Roll Politics." He's a political columnist and a regular on radio and TV panels.

I saw a waffle stand a block from the theater, but it turned out they were out of waffles. "We have hamburgers," the proprietor said. I don't do English hamburgers. Did some once, wasn't happy, once burned, twice shy.

Richards' show was an evening of trenchant observations and witty asides. There was no Rock and Roll, that was just metaphorical. I would have loved to stay for the whole thing,  but I was exhausted and left at the interval (what we would call the intermission), after having a toasted veggie sandwich.

Monday's entry will probably go up Tuesday morning (London time; about Midnight pacific time). I am taking the Eurostar through the chunnel to Paris for the day, and expect to have a wonderful time. It will only be my second high-speed train. I took the Japanese Bullet Train from Tokyo to Hiroshima in the mid-80s.   Japan has had high speed rail for four decades, and we can't even agree we need it in California between SF and LA, where we need it more than anyplace else in the U.S. with the possible exception of Boston-Washington.

Remarkably, I took no pictures are Cornbury, but I have one of the church which I will post sometime Tuesday.

5 July London Journal

So late at night. I will be brief. I do feel obliged to note that this column has gone from a picture every once in a while to several per day. But then, it's never been written from London before.

Turned up at Victoria Station at 10:15 for an 11 am checkin. There was an amazing crowd for a Saturday morning. It was like New York's Grand Central at the peak of Friday rush hour. Nearly everyone there knew what they were doing, and was involved in an intricate dance from one space to another. It was a dance whose music I could not hear. Plus, I had no idea if they were line dancing, waltzing or doing the polka. As a result, while most of the people around me were purposefully striding, I was standing still, gumming up traffic. Eventually, I found the reception room for the British Pullman tour.

The Pullman tour people were offering free tea and coffee. Because of their dress code for passengers (sports coat for men, tie preferred, no tennis shoes--or trainers as they are known in British English) we were a pretty classy looking bunch. We were boarding a train to match. Ten Pullman cars, lovingly restored to the splendor they knew when they entered service in the 20s and 30s. The people across from me--husband wife and child--were celebrating the man's 60th birthday. They talked to me for much of the journey, across the aisle in my single seat, with my custom China plates in the Pullman blue and white livery, and the crystal sporting delicately etched Pullman symbols.

The scenery was amazing, and the food was first-rate. And while I got to blow the whistle on the Tillamook tourist train last year, that  route was much shorter (one hour instead of five), and the British Pullman food was amazing, while the prime rib in Tillamook was.. almost edible. The Pullman served interesting crudities, followed by hake wrapped in ham and finished off with raspberries on unflavored gelatin.

I did discover that the otherwise incredibly tidy British have one crack in their neatness armor: it is apparently possible to do quite a bit of graffiti on the sides of buildings that back directly onto railroad tracks. I never saw graffiti anywhere else. The excursion took us to the English Channel in Kent. It was definitely the most luxurious and interesting five hours I have ever spent on a train. I can't wait for the private car excursion to Portland on September 8.

Upon return to Victoria Station, I met with D,  a former CMP colleague I had not seen in perhaps 20 years. She looked great, and caught me up with what she had been doing over a cup of hot chocolate in a hotel bar across the street from the station. Then it was back to Ping Pong for dimsum, before toddling off to the National Theater to catch Great Britain,  a thinly disguised Roman a clef about the phone hacking scandal that opened the day after the trial ended. The play was funny and clever, and marked the second performance in two days which I attended in the face of mediocre reviews, yet found that I thoroughly enjoyed. The play ran 2.5 hours, so I decided to try my first taxi ride. After all, wouldn't it be shorter? There was no traffic on Saturday night. Well, the answer is, "no, it wasn't." With the speed and frequency of both the underground and the incredible bus service,  I saved, perhaps, five minutes, and spent 40 pounds on a trip that was "free" with my Oyster card (equivalent to the BART Clipper Card).


Selfie by sign

Me next to the sign at the lounge


My Pullman Car

Bathroom tile

 Who goes to the trouble of putting elaborate tile on a train bathroom floor? Pullman!

  My seat

My plush velvet seat--a chair, really

My setting

My table setting; china, crytal, linen, fresh flower


Paul in seat

 Me in my seat, crudely photoshopped to compensate for bright sun through window.



 The most photogenic course: dessert. I drank impressively tiny portions of rose' and champagne.

4 July London Journal (PM edition)

There really wasn't much to my day. I napped because I wanted to be alert for the Pythons. I got to the O2 at 5:30, had an early dinner at the Cafe' Rouge (Camembert and a flat iron steak) and fought a 20-30 mile per hour wind to get to the entrance. I got to my seat an hour before show time. I was in row W, exactly in the middle. The way I see it, 800 people had better seats than me, but 14,200 had worse seats. Monty Python Live (mostly)  was 90 minutes of inspired lunacy, and, frankly, I don't give a damn what the London papers (or for that matter, the Hollywood Reporter) had  to say. If I was, in the words of one critic, "laughing at the memory of laughter," it was a hearty laugh. The only other experience in my life like this was the 25th anniversary show of the Firesign Theater. My daughter M  went with me and noted two things: "I have never seen so much tie dye and so many pony tails on men," and "if you all already know the words, why do you come?" She was already pretty sharp at the age of 11.

Well, there was no tie dye and ponytails (there were a lot of people dressed as either gumbies or lumberjacks), but we did know all the words. And we loved hearing them one more time. There were a few new words to the "Willie song," which added a verse about lady parts and one about posteriors. There was a new lyric in "I Like Chinese," about China buying all  America's debt. There was a brief sketch that led into "Every Sperm is Precious." As in the movie, it was a big production number, but this time with Nuns and Bishops rather than children in the chorus. The two most popular skits, Dead Parrot and Cheese Shop were played as a medley. The likelihood is that these 10 shows will be the last for Python as a group; at the end of the show, they displayed two slides: Graham Chapman 1941-1989, and Monty Python 1967-2014. They didn't quite make it to the half-century mark, but I think the boys are telling us that, really, seriously, this is it.

I have been told that the final concert on July 20 will be broadcast live to movie theaters all over the world (it would be about 11:30 a.m.. in California)  and will also be made available as a DVD. If either of my daughters want to see it, I'll watch it with them, but for now, I am satisfied. This concert was the whole reason for my trip. Everything else I have done and will do is gravy. Wonderful, cool , exciting gravy, but gravy nonetheless.

If you want to retweet my appearance on The News Quiz, you will find my picture here, and Sandi's interesting fact here.

Python selfie

I can prove I've been to ancient Rome. Just look at this grape...

No wait, that's Firesign. This is a selfie of me from row W. The production cost $1.4 million, and it was all up there on the stage.

Piss off

The Pythons' final word to their loyal fans. So long, boys, and thanks for all the fish (oh wait, that's Douglas Adams...)

4 July London Journal (AM Edition)

As promised last night, Sandi Toksvig, chair of the BBC Radio 4 program The News Quiz, has tweeted my picture as Audience Member of the Week. Here is the picture and the two related tweets.

Paul news quiz
Paul from San Francisco is the @TheNewsQuiz audience member of the week

Whilst he's in London, Paul not only has tickets for @TheNewsQuiz but also for something called 'Pie-Thon'#PaulFact

3 July London Journal PM Edition

First, let me end the suspense: I relaxed, got a massage, and made it into the News Quiz taping.

I have led a charmed life. I realize that. I was born white, male and middle-class. I got into MIT. I married a woman who has spent three decades ironing out my foibles and putting up with the ones she can't iron out. I have two sweet and intelligent daughters who still like me. And today, the beat just went on, as you will see. I am lucky, and I am grateful that I am lucky.

Nothing in London is air conditioned. It is like the San Francisco of 30 years ago; "We don't have air conditioning because in San Francisco you never need it." Well, fortunately both BART and Muni long ago realized that theory was bogus, as did (eventually) the Opera House and most restaurants. In London, they still haven't awakened to smell the coffee of  global warming.


I have been keeping a secret. If you've been reading along, you know my reason for making this trip at all (despite all the other great fun I am having) is to see the Monty Python Live performance. Well, the ticket did not arrive before I left. It did not arrive Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. I was sweating bullets. The ticket agency ASSURED me it would arrive Thursday. I was reading in my room when the phone rang; it was the front desk. UPS had a package. It was the ticket. LUCK!

My condo is upstairs from a spa. I had some time Thursday afternoon, so I went in for a massage. They call it a "holistic whole body massage," but it is pretty much the same as the massage I get every month in Lafayette. My Polish masseuse, Anette, knew what she was doing.


Then it was off to the BBC, for my attempt to attend a taping of the BBC Radio Four Friday Night Comedy, currently The News Quiz with your host, Sandi Toksvig.

I have seen many pictures of the BBC building, but either they are photoshopped or taken with very weird lenses. If you approach the building from any direction but the front, you can't tell it is Broadcasting House. You can easily walk right under the trademark statue without seeing it, which I did. Thank goodness for the brass plaque next to the door. Tonight, I came straight at the building down Regent Street and it was obvious, finally.

I went inside, into the Media Cafe, where I was told people waited before the show taping in the Radio Theatre across the hall. I approached the man checking people in and told him my plan; I was an American and I would ask if anyone had a spare ticket, or offer them money for one of their tickets. "Their tickets have names on them and we check IDs," he said. "Why didn't you enter the lottery for a ticket?" (The show is so popular tickets are distributed based on a lottery)

I responded, "Because your system won't enter anyone in the lottery without a British address." "That's because we must admit rate payers," said the public service broadcaster. "I will mention your plight to the floor manager," he said.

I figured that was it; I would sit there for three hours and not get in. At T-1 hour, the man at the door proved to be a man of his word; the manager came looking for "the American in the Beret." He stuck a standby tag on my shirt, and said, "I hate to see you wait; odds are we'll be full." "I'll take that chance," I responded.
Standby sticker

*My BBC standby audience sticker
Of course we have standby audiences in the U.S. as well; I know this because on one night when New York was basically shut down by snow, I saw David Letterman admit there is an entire full-sized standby audience each day for his taping, to insure a full house. He dramatically threw the doors open to the standby audience.

BBC Radio 4 admitted audience members in groups of 50. After everyone else had left the cafe, the Floor Manager came in and told me there was exactly... one... seat left in the hall. LUCK!

Sandi Toksvig began the show and introduced the week's panelists, regulars Jeremy Hardy and Fred Macaulay, newbie Samira Ahmed and Andy Hamilton, a one-time regular who has not appeared in years because of television commitments. I was lucky to see him. Sandi proceeded to select the "audience member of the week." She asked who came farthest and quickly pinned it down to me, from San Francisco. She came back to my seat and told me my picture would be tweeted as Audience Member of the Week. She had just been installed as the president of some radio/TV organization and was wearing her medallion of office. She had me slip it on for the picture. As soon as it is posted, either @sanditoksvig or @TheNewsQuiz, I will repost the picture here.

Few people realize that the reason Groucho Marx's show, You Bet Your Life was so funny is that they filmed an hour every week for a 22 minute (after commercials) program.  They normally tape an hour for a 30 minute News Quiz; this week they went 90 minutes. Since they turn the air conditioning off to reduce noise (in the U.S. we have figured out how to do silent air conditioning, but apparently not in the Radio Theatre). An hour and a half of scintillating humorous takes on the week's news. Now that's value for money--especially since the taping was free. I should really listen to hear what  "made the cut," as they said several times during the taping. There wasn't a suit or tie in sight; two of the three men were wearing shorts. Well, it was hot in London that day. As I walked out, I could see the production personnel discussing something with gusto; since one of the women had a clipboard, I assume they were already beginning the process that will produce 29 minutes and 30 seconds of hilarity by 6:30 pm on Friday.

By the way, since you can't see it on the radio or the podcast, you should know that Sandi chair dances during the musical clues.

3 July London Journal (AM Edition)

How can I tell I am not in America?
Example 1: I can't read the amounts on British coins without my glasses and I didn't bring my contacts. Many British coins are so worn that no one can read them. Which doesn't make any difference because everyone knows the size and shape of sub-pound coins. Would you have trouble telling a dime, quarter and penny apart, even if they were deeply worn? No. But since I'm not British, I wouldn't know a pence from a 50 pence if you paid me... well, 50 pence. So, if I have coins and when I am making a small purchase, I just hold them out and ask the clerk to pick out the correct amount. Would you do that in America? And if so, with what results?

Example 2: Many of the cars in the subways (aka the Tube or the Underground) are padded and upholstered. They are spotlessly clean and totally unmarred. How long would you give an upholstered seat in a New York subway? I think 20 minutes would be generous, before it was either marred or simply stolen.

The British are different.


To finish up Wednesday night: Harry Shearer mentioned on his radio program, LeShow, that he is working in a play in London called Daytona at the Royal Haymarket Theatre near Picadilly Circus. I went to see the play  last night. It was a fascinating rumination on the Holocaust and people with sibling issues. The latter subject is close to my own heart. I was fascinated by the dynamic carried out on stage. The whole cast was excellent, but I particularly enjoyed Shearer whose television, movie and radio work I have enjoyed. Maybe someday he'll be an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony). It could happen!

When I got back home, I noticed (and recorded) the beautiful night view of Canary Wharf from my window, which I followed up with a day picture. I think it looks better at night.


Night picture of Canary Wharf

Day picture of Canary Wharf

Today is a day to relax. I went out this morning and bought two newspapers, a serious one (The Times) and a tabloid (The Sun) which means Rupert Murdoch scored off me twice today. I enjoyed The Telegraph yesterday, but it is a broadsheet. And not the measly broadsheet size like we have in the states, where the tiny New York Times of today (and most other metropolitan newspapers) are but pale shadows of the bedspread size newspapers they once were, before paper and ink got expensive and revenues got scarce.

It was sunny, bright and in the 60s when I got up this morning. Lovely weather for the brief walk to the convenience store. If only they'd had bananas. Today's schedule: relax, get a massage (at the spa on the first floor of the building), and attempt to get a ticket to the BBC Radio 4 News Quiz.

2 July London Journal

Did my jet lag efforts succeed?  Hard to say. My goal last night was seven solid hours of sleep; I got 6.5 hours of OK sleep. But I awoke feeling fine, not like my head was full of bees (the way I used to feel even after a trip to New York). So, I'd say it worked. I didn't lose a single day.

Through miracle of the Internet, I listed to NPR news this morning before I left for breakfast with my friend L. 

Talk about variable weather; it is 75 right now (at 3 in the afternoon), headed for 80 tomorrow, 81 Friday, and rain on Saturday(?!). One of the nice things about writing a reality based blog entry is you don't have to do transitions, or create a story, or even have a beginning, a middle and an end, metaphorically. Physically yes, metaphorically no.

Maybe I'll use three dots like Herb Caen used to.

A lot fewer posh people on the subway this morning, especially once I transferred from the Jubilee Line to the Central Line. More tats, fewer ties. My friend L, who has lived here for a decade, tells me the Jubilee Line exists mainly to take posh people from the West Side to their fantastically remunerative jobs at Canary Wharf (which I hope to see--the Wharf, no the posh people--time permitting). As I read the Times on the train this morning, I saw one of the all-time great headlines; some woman had decided not to enter politics because the political class here consists largely of "braying toffs." What an image.

Riding on the tube, looking at the map, I was (as an Anglophile) overwhelmed by all the familiar names. Neasden, the frequent butt of jokes in Private Eye, the British humour magazine I have subscribed to for more than three decades. West Ham, the home of a famous soccer team. I have a mental association with almost every stop we pass through. It is like visiting Southern California in the 40s and discovering there really are places named Anaheim, Asuza and Cucamunga (old joke from the Jack Benney radio program).

Exit the tube at Holbrook, on the edge of Soho, to meet my friend L. We worked together at CMP and have maintained a lively correspondence by email since the last time we saw each other... 1992. I told him I was wearing a black beret, he told me he was wearing a gray cap. We would have recognized each other anyway. We're exactly the same... only older.  "If New York is the city that never sleeps, London is the one that goes to bed early and stays up late," he said, by way of explaining the fact that we had a 10-minute walk before we could find anything nicer than a fast-food restaurant that was open for breakfast. We ate at Boheme, which was quite lovely. Good food, quiet, handsome 19th century interior.
I had planned on using my phone and  Google maps to get around, but while most of central London has 5 bars of service, there are strange gaps. L had me go into a newsagents and buy a "London A to Z" map, which cabbies used to use before GPS. It helped me on the 15 minute walk from Soho to the BBC building.

If you know me well, you know I listen to the BBC on a daily basis. Not the wimpy news stuff everyone listens to. I record comedies and dramas from the BBC website and listen to them on my iPhone. The idea of a studio tour was thrilling to me. Alas, you have to book in advance. But if you hang around, you can fill in if someone flakes. At 1 pm, someone did. Becky and Jamie took us around. It was a stone-cold gas. Not only that, but since I was in the building audience services took my phone call. Despite the fact that I do not have a permanent UK address, they put my on the list for the taping next Tuesday of Giles Brandreth and guests for the panel show Wordaholics. I might get a ticket! They also advised me to hang around in the Media Cafe' on Thursday night, because there is almost always a ticket or two available for News Quiz on the day of. It is worth it to me to hang around and hope.

We got a good look at the BBC newsroom, the largest newsroom in Europe (formerly the world until the Chinese built a bigger one). Two-hundred-fifty million people watch or hear BBC news a day; they want 500 million by 2020. Then we went to a television newsroom mock up, where they asked for volunteers to sit at the newsdesk and read off the prompter. Hands up! Who can guess what I did? Yes, I volunteered. Later in the tour, we went to a mock radio drama studio. Yup. Again. I did the announcer and played the butler in a Catherwood voice (Firesign fans, and my immediate family, will recognize the reference). I should have recorded it! We got quite a round of applause. What was I thinking! A great performance lost to the ages :-(

It is now 4:30. I need a nap, dinner, and a seat at the Haymarket Theater, where I will watch Harry Shearer perform in a play called Daytona.

Do I really look like this? Street caricature

Prospero and Ariel in front of BBC Broadcasting House

BBC Plaque

News desk
Me at the "BBC TV news desk"

Me on the big collage monitor

Me on a another monitor