Friday, January 27, 2012

"London Jottings - 6"

Today… (well, it was “today” when it happened)

When the tour ended, we vacated our hotel in favor of another apartment, this one in a bustling part of London, an area teeming with restaurants, trendy boutiques and foot traffic. The building was located at the other end of a narrow alley off of hyper-busy Oxford Street. We had stayed at this place on a previous visit, so, though it was slightly hidden away, it was not difficult to relocate. It was exactly where we’d left it.

One drawback to the place: A coffin-sized elevator, capable of holding only two riders, one, if they’re wearing a coat. I generally avoid such mini-conveyances, as they evoke nightmarish foreshadowings of my final resting place, with the unwelcome disadvantage of being confined inside them while I am still alive.

I take the stairs. Even though it’s three floors up. Which is really four floors up, since, in England, the First Floor is on the Second Floor, because they call the First Floor the Ground Floor. Meaning you have to walk up four flights of stairs to get to the Third Floor.

(This additional stair-climbing may explain why English people aren’t in as terrible shape as their diets would predict. I cannot believe what they eat. It’s like nutritional suicide. The food American heart surgeons instruct us to avoid, in England, that’s their “staples” – carbs, butterfat, beef, bacon, jam and salt. They love it! And they’re doing quoit noicely, it appears. Could I be eating healthy stuff for nothing? )

The apartment building’s stairs present challenges of their own. For some reason, the treads on the steps are extremely tiny, accommodating barely half of your foot (the front half going up, and the back half going down.)

It’s as if the manufacturers had originally designed the staircase for an orphanage, but when the orphanage was unable maintain the payments, it was repossessed and resold to this apartment, relegating the orphans to climb up the sides of the building to get to their rooms.

Home Entertainment

We stay in for the night in a week. I slip off my shoes and click on the TV. Among various other entertainments is a generous array of sports – cricket (which I understand about twelve percent of), soccer, rugby, live NFL football (the East Coast game is broadcast at six P.M., the later game starts at nine), and, most surprisingly, English-league ice hockey (as distinguished from field hockey), a program appropriately sponsored by a firm of personal injury lawyers.

With this eclectic range of offerings vying for my attention, I was finally won over by to the predominant sporting event of the day –

The National Darts Championship.

My mouth dropped, seeing an arena packed with thousands of spectators who had paid money to watch two guys throw darts at a seventeen-and-three-quarter inch dartboard. They must have had really good eyes. Especially the ones in the back.

It turned out, I had lucked into an unprecedented occurrence. It was not just the semi-finals of a national darts showdown I would be privileged to witness; I would experience an event that had never taken place in the entire history of the tournament.

Let me set the scene for you. The air was thick with excitement, as the two well-matched competitors took turns flicking darts at the dartboard. Suddenly, one of the players stops in mid-flick, and refuses to continue. The referee is required to call a halt in the action.

This was entirely unheard of. You do not call “time” in the middle of a dart’s competition. You play on till the blewdy finish.

Why had this happened? It was explained to us that the player who had demanded the interruption in the contest had claimed he had detected…

A breeze.

Which was throwing off his aim.

The player insisted that he would only return to the competition after the source of breeze had been discovered, and that said dart-deflecting impediment had been alleviated.

The delay was officially marked at twenty-two minutes. The search for the breeze-causing was on. And it was feverish, believe me. Never before had a national darts tournament been disrupted by a prevailing weather pattern (and may I remind you, the tournament was indoors.)

During the interruption, the announcers filled the time by adjudicating the appropriateness of the demand for the stoppage, predicting what effect it might have on the tournament, once play was resumed. One commentator branded the competitor who refused to continue weak-willed. His guess was that a man who was unable to accept the dart-throwing conditions as they were would probably lose, owing to a lack of the requisite grit.

It was ultimately determined that the disruptive breeze was the product of the collective body heat of the darts-watching assemblage. There was nothing to be done about it. The tournament must resume.

It did.

And the breeze-complainer lost.

Read in a local newspaper…

“{Prime Minister} David Cameron is facing a backlash after a millionaire businessman jailed for fraud appeared on the “New Year Honour List.”… Last night, the Cabinet Office refused to confirm whether the honour was the first senior award to be given to someone who has been convicted of a crime.”


Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; it's like we're there standing behind you looking over your shoulder.


Toledo said...

Sorry, Mr. Pomerantz. You only have to go up three flights of stairs to get to the third floor in England. One flight of stairs takes you from the ground floor to the first floor, a second flight of stairs takes you to the second floor, and the third flight takes you to the third floor. We Americans only have to go up two flights of stairs to get to the third floor.

Earl Pomerantz said...

Toledo is. of course, correct. I get a little light-headed climbing stairs, not to mention, tired. Three flights apparently felt like four.

This mathematical issue brings me flashbacks of the day someone told me on my seventh birthday that I was now entering my eighth year. I felt like I had lost an entire year in one day.

Notwithstanding everything, I still had to climb an extra flight to get to our apartment. On tiny, little treads.

Allan R. said...


I think it's brilliant that the hockey game is sponsored by a firm of personal injury lawyers!! Sounds like you guys are having a great time.
Allan R.

Frank said...

I think I may try that indoor breeze excuse for bad bowling and computer golf.