Thursday, March 10, 2016

About England - Part Two - London


As good as my memory is, I don't really remember when I went back to England. For the sake of convenience (for the sake of this blog) I am going to say it was with The Macallan in 1998. A long time from 1984. I flew first via Heathrow to Aberdeen, where a cab picked me up for the hour and a half drive to Speyside. My driver was a talkative motherly woman with a dry wit. All Scots have a dry wit. She spent most of the ride telling me that she did not believe Monica Lewinsky. All Europeans love Bill Clinton.

On not much sleep I arrived at The Macallan manor house and was immediately served a whisky. It was 11:00 in the morning there and five or six for me, so... This was followed by lunch with much wine and (seriously) haggis. It was a gourmet kind of haggis and I like weird food anyway, so that was fine. A day then learning about whisky-making and salmon. The guy who ran the salmon place was very handsome and charming and it turned out my companion for the evening. At the Craigellachie Inn (since gotten much fancier) we sampled other single malts and had a fantastic steak dinner. The next morning I had an astonishing hangover a clear-headed outright headache and gueule de bois... Thank God for the steaming bath. (Still no showers in Great Britain!)

I flew back to London that night, remember having a Barr's soda from the vending machine at the airport (not good, like Vernor's) and went immediately to a Macallan dinner at one of the trendiest restaurants in town. Perhaps in Chelsea. I think that one of the most glamorous moments in my life was walking into that restaurant, directly from the airport, in an Armani suit. Heads may literally have turned.

They'd put us up in this ultra-twee small hotel in Kensington. A couple of blocks from Harrod's. My primary memory of that place other than how tiny my room was and how extremely plaid is that you could not make it in or out of the lobby without somebody saying "Mr. Barr..." Barr by the way is a Scottish name but the English say it terribly. It drove me crazy how they said my name and even more this insistence on identifying me as I walked in and out.

I probably knew where I was ultimately headed, which was to the bars in Soho to meet young men who might want to come back to a terrible twee hotel. Oh and I had formal tea there with the client, which was just not something I am inclined to appreciate. Formal tea is not my thing. Tea is not my thing. Formality is not my thing. Social occasions in which spirits are not involved... not my thing.

There was an event, there were meetings... and whenever they were over I was on Old Compton Street as fast as I could get there. I met this Cockney kid who was great and who spent a couple of nights teaching me rhyming slang. On Sunday he helped carry my luggage to the cab as I departed to a chorus of (slightly aghast) "Mr. Barrs."

Stay tuned for Part Three...

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