8. Day 17: There’s No Place Like Home

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in All-One, Fear of Not-Knowing | 0 comments

8. Day 17:  There’s No Place Like Home

I had a very unsettling experience yesterday.  After a wonderful last lunch with our reunion friends at the Victory Services Club we headed out across Hyde Park for a brisk walk in the fresh air and drizzle.  Though we were still a bit weary from our big evening the night before the walk felt good.  We passed Speakers Corner where several “speakers” were gathered to discuss taxes,  how objects can own us, and singing hymns to Jesus.  We walked along the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Walk

Princess of Wales Memorial Walk

Princess of Wales Memorial Walk

through stretched acres of green, damp grass, along the Serpentine and past the building of a fairgrounds called “Winter Wonderland” set to open in a few days time.  We saw children gathering with tiny lanterns preparing for a carol walk of some kind and saw a chunky squirrel trying to outrun a very determined Jack Russel terrier.

Meeting an old friend in Hyde Park.

Meeting an old friend in Hyde Park.

We finally arrived at our destination of Harrods department store warmed up from our walk and ready for a cup of tea.  When we were here in 1983 (I know, a very long time ago) we loved going to Harrods and would go every time we were in London and have lunch here as a treat.  We were so excited to return and show our daughter (who joined us for the weekend from her Uni in Bath) all the treasures that were within.  From this instant we entered the doors we were uncomfortable.  Too hot, as one is with being dressed for outdoors in the cool, tired feet, and just ready to rest.  Our senses were bombarded with luxury, intense crowds and an overwhelming sense of staccato foreignness that I had not remembered from our long ago previous visits.  The store is huge and takes up what seem like a whole city block.  The store manager must manage more people than the mayor of a medium sized town.  When you ask for directions to, for example, the tea room you are given a booklet with so much information you left even more dazed.  All we wanted was a good cup of tea and a mince pie, such a British delight we felt sure it would be here in this place of long British history.  I am reminded of the quote I read recently that “Expectations are resentments under construction.”

Harrod's magnificent Holiday Windows.

Enjoying Harrod’s magnificent Holiday Windows.

In attempting to get to the first (!) tea room we were directed to we stumbled upon a memorial to Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed near the lavish escalators.  I had completely forgotten this connection and that the Fayed family now owned Harrods.  It was slightly jarring to find this spot of memorial and remembrance in the middle of the bustle and to think again of the outpouring of grief and sadness of the death of Princess Diana across the world.  We paused for a while then continued our trek for a cuppa only to eventually find the “tea room” was kind of a Middle Eastern hooka bar with pungent brews, numerous young men and not a mince pie in sight.  I must admit we were getting a bit frantic and the overwhelming sense of “should” was cascading through me:  “I should be enjoying this”,  “We should be able to find a cup of tea”,  “Harrods should feel more British” etc.  We three stopped dead in our tracks in the middle of fine writing instruments and a large milling family speaking an unknown language to regroup and ask ourselves “What do we need right now?”  The unanimous answer was to leave.  We finally found an exit door (this was not unlike finding an exit in a casino, as in the building wasn’t designed for exit’s mainly entrances).  As we were exiting we finally found the perfect tea room, quiet, beautiful decor and lovely cups of tea but our moment had passed and the line to get in was long.  We gratefully poured out the door and into the street and the marvelous cool air.  And there we were at the beginning of all the magnificent windows dressed up for Christmas.  We proceeded to spend a lovely time gazing at each and every window before ultimately ending up back at the Knightsbridge tube station and headed back to “our” neighborhood.

Following the light within...

Following the light within…

Never underestimate the power of your homing device.  Listen to it, head it and trust it.  We returned to Notting Hill gate station and I am a bit embarrassed to admit gratefully ended up having a latte and a mince pie at Starbucks as most other stores had closed this being Sunday evening.  I don’t know why we felt overwhelmed and out of place but we did.  I am really grateful we noticed this and rather than persevering believing we should stay and have a good time, we listened to our guidance and went home (or at least what was now home).  Only this morning did I remember that the last time we were in Harrods was the last shopping Saturday before Christmas in 1983 and there was an incident, long forgotten (or so I thought).  This was the height of the IRA retaliations and a car bomb went off outside the menswear on the ground floor.  The building is so large we did not actually hear actually hear the bomb but were alerted to “a situation” when my husband heard the odd announcement “Will All Department Heads Report To HQ”.  As a military man he recognized a coded announcement and immediately said “Something is wrong, we are leaving now.”  We did only to see all streets outside Harrods cordoned off and masses of police ad ambulances.  Only later did we learn there were several left dead and we had been spared for no reason of our own.

Perhaps the crowds and bustle of Harrods awakened that long ago incident and we automatically needed to flee. Or maybe we were just tired and really did need rest.  No matter what, I was so glad to get home to our little cottage and have cheese and crackers and finally a very hot blissful cup of tea.

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