Saturday, December 31st, London–written Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Eve; lunch at Garfunkel's; by Tube back to Leicester Square for the Opera Extravaganza at St Martin in the Fields; an unexpected change of plans but a very pleasant New Year's anyway

Best Western the Cromwell



Happy New Year's from London!

Before I begin typing up my notes from yesterday, let me give fair warning–there will probably be a couple of lists in this entry. As quite a few people know, I'm very fond of lists especially if they have useful, important or even just interesting information.

I changed my plans yesterday and had a very pleasant New Year's Eve but in a way that was totally unexpected when I left here early yesterday afternoon. My original plan was to go to the Opera Extravaganza at St Martin in the Fields, make my way down to the Thames and walk along it on either side the 45 minutes or so down to the London Bridge City pier where I wouldn't be able to board the New Year's Eve party cruise until 8:30, three and a half hours before the fireworks at midnight.

I had serious doubts about the logistics of the whole thing, especially what I'd do between the concert and when I could board the cruise, being on the boat with lots of partiers for three hours before the midnight fireworks, and getting back home afterwards.

It turned out that the last part, getting home, wouldn't be as hard as I thought it would be. Google Maps wasn't as useful at planning the trip back here as it usually is, so after I had lunch at the Garfunkel's across the street–a very nice dish of sausages, mashed potatoes and gravy–I went into the Gloucester Road Tube station to see if I could get some definite information about how late the Tube was running and how I could get back to that station from the London Bridge City pier.

There isn't an actual ticket desk at Gloucester Road, so I had to ask for help from the employees hanging around the entrance/exit turnstiles. They told me that the Tube would be running all night, and would be free, and one guy told me I'd have to walk all the way back up to the Westminster Tube station to catch the Circle or District line back here.

That was all well and good but when I got back to my room and went online to double-check what I had just been told by a Tube employee I discovered that not only is the Westminster stop a 45 minute walk back the other way along the Thames, it would be closed from 9:30 PM with no service at all. So much for that. I then checked the Transport for London journey planner, which is excellent, and learned that getting home by Tube would actually be even easier. All I'd have to do is walk a little way to the London Bridge Tube station, take the Jubliee line over to the Green Park Tube station and take the Piccadilly line back here.

By this time, it was almost 2:30 PM and I hadn't left enough time to catch the Piccadilly line back to the Leicester Square station before the house opened at 3 for the concert so I caught a cab instead. Before I left I had downloaded both the London taxi apps ( (Hailo and Gett) to my Android Samsung smart phone with the UK SIM card but had not been able to use them to book a taxi for a 1 AM pickup after the fireworks. I mentioned this to my driver and he speculated that it might have something to do with the various planned road closures downtown in the City.

I had booked one of my usual aisle seats only a few rows back from the front of the church. The afternoon's program was the annual New Year's opera extravaganza by some of the singers from the Merry Opera Company –three guys (tenor, baritone, bass) and three women (soprano, mezzo-soprano, and pianist). The whole program was very enjoyable and was an excellent mix of solos and ensembles, from duets to all five singers. The first half was songs from operas and operettas and the second part was from Gilbert & Sullivan.

I thought of Mom and Dad a lot during the concert. I know Dad loved opera and they had a subscription for the Portland Opera each season for many years, but I was never sure whether Mom liked it or mostly went with Dad for an evening out and to keep him company because while I still lived there in Portland I went with Dad at least a couple of times each season when Mom didn't want to. Dad would have loved the whole concert, Mom would have loved the second Gilbert and Sullivan half and the two pieces in the first half that were in English the most.

This is where the first of the lists come in. I'm not going to list all the songs, since I'm not as familiar with tunes from different operas as I am with Irish and Celtic pieces, but I will list each composer and their operas pieces were from.

In the first half there were pieces from Verdi (La traviata, Rigoletto); Puccini (La boheme); Offenbach (La Grande-Duchesse du Gerolstein, Tales of Hoffman); Donizetti (L'elisir d'amore); Saint-Saens (Samson et Dalila); Mozart (Don Giovanni, Cosi fan tutte); Johann Strauss II (Die fledermaus); Bizet (The pearl fishers, Carmen); Rossini (The barber of Seville); and Gilbert & Sullivan (The gondoliers).

I was much more familiar with the pieces in the second half since it was all Gilbert & Sullivan. I've loved G&S ever since I was much younger. It all started when I discovered a G&S greatest hits collection LP by Martyn Green in Mom & Dad's record collection. As I grew older (high school and on) I went to every local G&S production I could, wherever I lived. One of my girlfriends in college was also a G&S fan and had even appeared in the chorus in the production of "The Mikado" at her high school. While we were together, I checked out a collection of all the librettos of all their collaborations and read it for my amusement. I still remember a wonderful G&S performance in a park along the waterfront in Vancouver BC one time I visited that city. I've seen several G&S collaborations, both live and on DVD, but the ones I'm most familiar with are "The Mikado", "The pirates of Penzance", and "HMS Pinafore". I love the 1983 movie version of "Pirates" with Kevin Kline as the Pirate King, Angela Lansbury as Ruth, Linda Ronstadt as Mabel, Rex Smith as Frederick, and have seen it several times.

The second half opened with three tunes from "The Mikado", then there followed tunes from "Pirates", "Patience", "The yeomen of the Guards", "The gondoliers", "Iolanthe", and "Pinafore" followed by a group sing along of "Auld lang syne".

The whole thing ended just about 5 PM. I was still rather uneasy about how I'd pass the three and a half hours before I could even board the party cruise, let alone having to spend hours on board with a whole load of partiers even before the fireworks at midnight. It's a short walk from St Martin in the Fields down to the banks of the Thames, but there were already large crowds of people out on the streets and the directions from Google Maps kept directing me down streets that had been blocked off so I also became rather uneasy about even getting down to the river. Suddenly going on the cruise as planned became very unappealing, even though I'd already prepaid quite a bit for it and couldn't get my money back. As horrible as trying to get back to my hotel after the midnight New Year's Eve fireworks cruise in Paris two years ago had turned out to be, at least that cruise didn't actually board until about 11 PM and there were lots of families with kids aboard. All of a sudden all I really wanted to do was just come back here for a quiet evening all on my own, maybe going out for a walk late in the evening.

So I flagged down the first available cab I saw, which only took a couple of minutes, and was back across the street at the Gloucester Road Tube station just about 6 PM. A brief word about logistics here–my hotel is across Cromwell Road from the main direction of travel from many parts of town and drivers often have to go around a long block to let me off directly in front of the hotel, so I usually just get dropped off across Gloucester Road from the Tube station.

The Richoux was open, so I had a very lovely dinner there. This also is where I thought about Mom and Dad a lot. The special was very tempting because it was beef stroganoff, which Mom used to make for me a lot, but I decided to have Welsh rarebit, which was one of the few things Dad could cook especially when Mom was still wrapping Christmas presents, instead and it was wonderful. There were two pieces, one with a poached egg and one with anchovies, and they had been placed in the oven or at least under a broiler. I also ordered a side of the steamed spinach, although I would have preferred it in a cream sauce. I had a chocolate sundae for dessert, because they were out of the strawberry ice cream for that sundae. I also bought a couple of items from the pastry display case for later, a couple of small mince pies and a piece of carrot cake.

I was back here in my room about 7 PM. When I came in downstairs I had asked when the bar was closing (11 PM), because I thought I might take a walk later and have a beer downstairs. I stretched out to read and watch something streaming and to my surprise, that was it for the night. I fell asleep, fairly deeply, and really didn't wake up again until sometime after 12:30 AM. Then I had the carrot cake while I watched something streaming before I went back to bed about 2 AM and pretty much slept through until 7 AM this morning.

Why did I fall asleep so early yesterday evening, sleep so long, and was able to fall asleep again a bit later with so little problem? I don't have a clue, except that yesterday I thought I might possibly be coming down with a bit of a cold. All I can say is that I really did fall asleep for over four hours yesterday evening, and was able to fall asleep again for another five hours or so not much later. That's not how I thought I'd spend New Year's Eve earlier today, but it was surprisingly pleasant and because I could actually sleep that much my body obviously thought I needed to for some reason.

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