TW3 (That was the week that was … )

Indeed a week in three parts starting with the realisation last Saturday that I might have caught flu. I had been in the vicinity of someone the previous weekend who had taken to his bed, complete with woolly hat, and despite my best efforts had succumbed. This was doubly infuriating as I am no longer in any category that allows me to have a flu jab but by all accounts this year’s version is more resistant and fierce. I was never good at being ill, not good at staying in bed (I didn’t) and not good at realising that my body really couldn’t manage a brisk 7km walk or a quick birl on the exercise bike. So not going to London for four nights was not a consideration. But cognitive impairment had clearly kicked in by the time I left on Wednesday as I left the heating on (lucky cats).

The second part was having got to London, to wind my way around to Liverpool Street and hence to Colchester where I spent two nights in a very, very old and dilapidated hotel that I would not recommend to anyone, ever. I did wonder, as the staff appeared oblivious to the parlous state of affairs, that it was possibly ‘vintage’ and I am just incapable of its appreciation. The purpose was to attend a two day workshop by an eminent emeritus professor on the documentary approach I plan to use for my research. It was worth the effort, the night sweats and the coughing, and hopefully no one else caught it. But then I had to hurry back to London for the evening session of a weekend symposium at the Wellcome Institute – What makes a good death?

There was an hour of readings about death and dying which was about as much fun as it sounds. It was well done, by proper actors, but it was a wee bit gloomy or may be that was the flu. There was also a chance to see the associated exhibition of some of the Richard Harris ephemera collection, Death: a self-portrait, without the madding crowds. I left in time to get back to the hotel to watch the second episode of Silent Witness.

The next morning, fortified by a Wellness Warmer (fresh lemon, ginger, echinacea and Manuka honey) from Planet Organic, I sat through a varied and thought-provoking series of speakers including art historians, palliative care specialists and a Buddhist. By the afternoon tea break I had reached saturation point and was in a fairly dark place – time to go for some retail and alcoholic therapy.

Being a canny adopted Scot as I had to stay an extra night I thought I would soon find something interesting to do on Sunday morning. But this is London, England though it could have been Stornoway for the amount of activity once I left the hotel. Nowhere open until 12 and few folk about despite it being a crisp, sunny morning. There are supposed to be some interesting markets down the East End at Spitalfields, Brick Lane and Petticoat Lane. They were also supposed to be open at 10 so having found which bus went down the Whitechapel High Street, I headed east. Well the markets were open, some were stocked but most seemed to be setting up. The choice was designer tat or cheap tat depending on whether it was the revamped, covered Spitalfields or out on the street. It was mostly clothes and frippery, no interesting food or indeed anything else noteworthy apart from a curious repetition of striped garments in Petticoat Lane. They were very flimsy and badly made – cheap enough to wear and bin because I doubt they’d be washable – there’s some pictures here – none of Spitalfields as it was festooned with ‘No Photography’ notices and I couldn’t be bothered with undercover camera work). It was really cold so I decided to go up west and find some hot soup. On the way I noticed this ‘structure’ at Aldgate which was made for the Olympics (or London 2012 as they like to call it).


Restored and reheated by tasty soup at Food for Thought in Covent Garden and an excellent 10 minute shiatsu at The Walk in Back Rub, I was most definitely ready to head north by way of the hotel for my case and Kings Cross for the train.

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