Wednesday, March 10, 1982

Refuge is a nameless record shop

We had an Art trip to London which is in the throes of a bus and underground strike. We got there at about midday, dropped our bags at the Ambassadors Hotel, and then the minivan took us to the Courtaulds Institute.

The usual horribly stuffy galleries that clog and dry the senses: we flaked out on some benches, surrounded by stillness and dull Rubens paintings and walked to the British Museum. Wandered around the Egyptian rooms. Then, me, Deborah, Jeremy, Lee and Duncan went to Oxford Street to look at the bookshops.

Lee and I stopped in a Tibet shop and got separated from the others. We raced after them, running and weaving through the bobbing heads, surging toward the sun up ahead which streamed into our eyes, nothing but blinding light, each head with a back lit golden halo. Somewhere a siren blared. Glass buildings. Steel yellow reflections. “It’s just like a TV series” said Lee and we were suddenly tired, cold and lonely and didn't know how to get back to the hotel.

We stopped at a McDonald’s, ate two Big Macs, had a drink and emerged back into the wind and rain-spattered darkness of London. Refuge is a nameless record shop. At a loss, not really knowing what to do or where to go, we turned around, heading back the way we’d come and ended up in a queue waiting for a taxi along with other cold damp humans. Why do cities make us feel so remote, fraught and desperate?

A big black empty taxi ride and £2.20 later we were back at the Ambassadors Hotel. Our room was like a claustrophobic, airless greenhouse, so we left again, walking toward the enticing but distant glitter of 'redbrick and neon' only to bump into Jeremy and Deborah who were looking for the hotel. We went back with them. Loud infantile behaviour in our room and Lee and I decided to leave a second time. As we waited in the foyer with the rest of the Farnshaw group, an irritating deer-stalker clad American advised we “cats” to “try the pubs along Fulham Road.” So we did.

The first one we all went in was like an unfriendly swimming pool with Victorian tile and glass and red-faced, bleary eyed, laughing patrons. We stopped at a cozier pub for loud crude conversation, bad jokes, halves of cider, peanuts, giant sausages with ketchup and a really-not-such-a-bad-evening-after-all-but-God!-I-must-stop-spending-so-much-money! Shrill laughter. Jeremy seemed fairly happy.

We got back to the hotel at eleven and Duncan told me Athletic had beaten Walshey 6-0. I didn’t believe him but it turns out he was telling the truth.

For the next hour-and-a-half we were utterly raucous and inconsiderate, shouting childish crudities at one another, laughing, being exhibitionists. . . . Jeremy turned Duncan’s bed over, shouting at him in an American accent . . . Lee got locked out on the dark wet balcony in his pajamas.

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