My friend Hilary commented on the Facebook edition of Mexpatriate that the view from my London hotel room I posted yesterday looked quintessentially Dickensian. Ever since, the score from Oliver has been running through my head.
Thus, today's title. And an appropriate title it is. At least, when London hotel rooms are the subject of discussion. Which, coincidentally, they are.
With the exception of a short stay in the Queen Wilhelmina suite at Brown's in the 1990s, the first adjective that inevitably arises when discussing the hotel rooms I have occupied in London over the years is "small." It is often accompanied by "quaint," "elegant," or "comfortable." But always "small."
Both of my London rooms on this trip easily snuggle into that category. Thursday night, I stayed at a Radisson in South Kensington. A series of converted mansions create cheeseless rat maze hallways, leading to functional, but tiny, rooms.
The photograph at the top of the page is the best I could shoot in the cramped quarters. It has the dimensions of a nun's cell. But a nun who is leading a rather good life.
Take that chair for instance. It fits under a desk to the left of the shot. But the bed is so close to the desk, it is impossible to use the chair. I sat on the end of the bed to use my laptop.
On Friday morning I moved over to the Hilton London Kensington in a tonier part of town. And the room? Here it is.
A bit larger. At least, the chair and desk are functional. I can use both until we leave here for Harwich on Tuesday to join our cruise.
If you are wondering why the hotel transfer, the Hilton is where Ken and Patti are staying. I met up with them yesterday evening to draft a short list of the things we want to see: St. Paul's Cathedral, the poppy display at the Tower, the Imperial War Museum.
While I was waiting for them to arrive, I indulged in one of the pleasures of blogdom. I have been writing Mexpatriate (and its predecessor) for seven years. Right from the start, I was introduced to a long list of commenters and fellow bloggers who I wanted to meet in person.
And I have met quite a few of them. Inevitably, to a person, they have turned out to be as witty and well-spoken as their writings.
When this trip took me through London, I knew there was one person I had to meet -- no matter how I had to rearrange my schedule. Gary Denness of The Mexile.
I have been reading his exploits for as long as I have been writing on these pages. When I first met him through his writing, he was teaching English in Mexico City. Three years ago, he returned to England with his Mexican wife. And we have been enjoying his photographs and essays -- as a Mexile in the land of his birth.
He had come north to London for another purpose, but we were both free to spend the afternoon together. Our original plan was to do a photography walk, but we were hungry and sat down at a table at The Mitre to have lunch.
We didn't budge from the chairs several hours. He is every bit as engaging in person as he is on his blog. Our conversations ranged from cameras to the intransigence of Ukraine and Palestine to the virtues and weaknesses of state-sponsored health care to the English love of dogs to the definition of words -- well, you get the picture. We talked about almost everything of interest to each of us.
And we disagreed. After all, he tends to be a social democrat; I dabbled in the pond of libertarians. But our disagreements were civil. That is one of the hallmarks of an adult relationship -- being able to listen to someone with whom you disagree without allowing reason to be smothered in the pillow of emotion.
It is an art I do not see exercised very often these days. Especially, when politics (or religion, for that matter) is the topic being batted across the net.
We even felt comfortable enough to share a number of those "not many people know this about me" moments that mark good relationships. And, no, I am not going to share them with you.
Eventually, he needed to head home to Bournemouth and I needed to return to the Hilton to welcome Ken and Patti back to London. My small pleasures of life had a good workout.
I will share one treat with you. Mexpatriate is not a forum for photographs of Steve. But Gary used my camera to capture what I consider to be the very essence of Steve the Raconteur. (That is a nice word for Big Mouth.)
It is a good life we lead.