Date: 14 April 2017
Location: Britsh Airways flight from London to New York.
I have this cozy little pre-flight ritual. It's not for the little Easy Jet hops, the jaunts around Europe, but for the big ones, the Heathrow ones. I buy a coffee, several litres of water (am an aeroplane camel and require 1 litre for every 2.5 hours of flying time) and then peruse whichever airport newsagent has the biggest selection of books and select one, maybe two. It's a total indulgence, as I never read in 'real life'.
I've had plenty of opportunity to put this ritual into practise in 2017, what with Canada, the Harvard trip, down to Australia and back up to London and now this, a hop across the pond — I love that I can use that phrase — to Miami.
And I've had plenty of practise sitting still for hours on end in the gaps between these trips because, for one reason or another, I've seen a shedload of plays in the West End this year. Sorry, that was a poor segue into a humble brag.
And it has been rather wonderful. First up was Hedda Gabler, with Ruth Wilson in the title role, at the lovely National Theatre, then the British classic An Inspector Calls. And then all the Shakespeare: a 30s-vibing Twelfth Night (starring Tamsin Grier as a gender-bending Malvolio in a play that's all about just that); A Midsummer Night's Dream that was literally dirty, staged at the Young Vic on a mud platform; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a whizzing witty crash course in Hamlet if even there was one with bonus Daniel Radcliffe. Next up in June: actual Hamlet (with Andrew Scott – yay, but all 3 hours and 45 minutes of it may be too much of a good thing) and Jude Law in Obsession. (Ed. note: which I've just discovered is based on Macbeth, the education continues.)
To catch you up on the last 3 months:
- I went to Australia and it was great. The weather and my friends were lovely. Perhaps I'm too used to London though, for it felt like there were tumble weeds blowing down Collins St it seemed so very quiet.
- My love life is, to borrow a phrase from the Friends theme song, D.O.A. I've indulged in a few apathetic flirtations but I'm never around in London (excuses, excuses, I hear it too).
- I have horribly neglected my fitness and healthy eating but have, for some reason, signed up to run a 10km in Oxford in May.
And now I'm on a plane to New York. I have 60 hours in New York City: it feels like a challenge. I've never liked this city. However, I'm fairly certain that that's my fault, not its. The first time I was there I must have been about fourteen and it was a hot summer day and there was a baseball match on. The taxi ride, all five of us in the family crammed into a sweating taxi, was hellish. In my memory, upon our eventual escape, my little brother then threw up on the steps of the nice hotel but that may be my mind adding embellishment. The city was, in my memory, crowded, damp, claustrophobic. The subway vents spewed filthy air at you. There was so much to take in, and the building so close and high, it felt disorientating. I felt ill-prepared and ill-educated and as though I ought to appreciate everything much more than I could. I have no good photos.
By the second time I visited I was twenty. I was terribly worldly by that stage, of course, and in possession of my own mobile — but not smart — phone. This time it was just my brother (he of the did he/didn't he vomit). We stayed in an eye-wateringly expensive hotel of faded glamour and no views in charmless Midtown. Again, it was hot. Between the grimy patches we saw some things we liked: Sheeps' Meadow frisbee-playing in the sun with an epic skyline framing the image, neon lights in Times Square, some funky street art downtown as we ill-fatedly searched for Bleeker St and Magnolia Bakery. Again, I felt lost. Overwhelmed. Like there was a party just around a corner and I could hear faint sounds of it, and everyone was talking about it, but could not for the life of me find it.
This trip will be trip number three. And I will not miss the party. I've sourced tips from every trendy (I hate that word, but it works here) friend and colleague I have. I have a dazzling list of things to do and see and to eat and drink.
Three strikes, you're out?