Thursday, October 19
Waterloo station, 10:20
Because schools close this week for the autumn holiday, the airport fills up. The only plane I could get to London leaves at 7:45. I therefore got up at 5:00 and went outside to get in my taxi at 5:45.
I had to check in at the airport because British Airways operates this Finnair flight and the Finnair app and website told me to check in at BA, and the BA website told me that I didn’t have the visa that I needed to fly to Britain. The BA desk had no queue and I checked in in two minutes. I turned down the offer of putting my bag in the hold, because “the flight is completely full”.
Fortunately the BA site had allowed me to change my seat so I sat for three hours in an aisle seat. Marks & Spenser now organise BA onboard food, so I had a ham and cheese sandwich and a coffee that percolated in its own cup.
The plane landed thirty minutes early so I found myself walking out of the airport at about 8:40 London time. I wandered around looking in newsagents, and buying a cornish pastie. I topped up my Oyster card and got the underground. I sat on it wondering where I should go. I couldn’t check into the hotel until midday so I had no need to hurry. I decided to change at Green Park and then get out at Waterloo to catch an overground train to Balham.
At Waterloo Station I ask how to get to Balham and the man I ask recommends getting the underground. Eventually he offers me a long and circuitous route from Platform 4 to Balham. I stand on the platform looking at the train I will take. It looks exactly as it looked when I lived in London; or, at least, I can spot no difference.
The train will leave the station. I will change at West Croydon and eventually get where I intended.
I will walk around Balham with my luggage until midday, then check into the Travelodge. By that time I will have taken my jacket off and stuffed it on my suitcase.
I will discover that the pound coins I have brought with me ceased to work as legal tender last weekend. I will also discover that a few shops still accept them. I will spend the afternoon wandering around Balham, stopping at Poundland, which continues to accept old coins. I will buy a sandwich, a Kitkat and a solar-powered ghost that wobbles its head for Halloween.
For dinner I will have a steak and mushroom pie and a pint of Doombar at The Regent, where I will sit and do all the puzzles in the I newspaper, and then read the Evening Standard.