Research Trip: London (May 2016)

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On Monday, I finally got to go back to London. My friend Shannon lives down there and it’s been nearly six months since we last caught up. Plus Uni adores her (like top one percent of her Favourite Humans List) and it’s always hilarious when my dog goes nuts in a public place in full gear, behaving like she’s off-harness. Oh and Shannon is an adopted pack member; if we meet up and Shannon leaves her line of sight, Uni will whine/go find her.

Yeah, my guide dog loves her more than me.

Seriously she goes bonkers.

Plus we had plans. Shannon let me know there was a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition at the Science Museum (one of my favourite places) and it was too good an opportunity to pass up. I’ve been researching computers and space travel for “When the Stars Fade” and The Fractured Era (which, while we’re on the subject is apparently the first book in a duology. The second book is currently titled The Broken World). I got to see a replica of Sputnik and the beauty above. Seeing a space capsule to scale, well it really hammered home how much claustrophobia and space travel do not play nicely when put next to each other.

Now normally, on account of my escalator phobic/untrained guide dog, London is freaking stressful. However I discovered that the TfL site now has accessibility options on their journey planner which includes the beautiful words ‘stairs, not escalator’. This meant I could easily plan trips to and from the Science Museum and we walked part-way, from the South Kensington tube station, in glorious sunshine and the beginnings of the hottest day of the year.

Now, though it takes my brain some time to engage in ‘summer mode’, Uni and I are pretty good at dealing with it. I carry cold water and douse her in it periodically, I carry a bandana which I can use to cool the blood flowing through the back of her neck (wet it with cold water then tie it = cooler dog). I  also carry an uchiwa fan from Nara which helps and is easier to use than the usual kind of fan. We needed it in the un-air-conditioned basement of the museum, even the staff were overheating.

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I admit I was a bit disappointed with the exhibition, it was a bit small and had some replicas but not the well known inventions. But it was a fun way to spend an hour. We then got the bus to Piccadilly (surprisingly easy and free for me as my bus pass works in London) which gave us time for a late lunch at Shoryu, a trip to the Japan Centre (which I could actually access). I got myself a couple of kitchen bits plus an awesome pair of zori, heeled tatami flipflops which are super-comfy, if expensive. They also give me an inch in height, which always helps when you’re five foot one-ish.

We ended up walking into Leicester Square via Chinatown which was just nice. The day was gorgeous and I got to see my first durian fruit (the ones which stink to high heaven) and ponder over how many fruit use the character for dream (夢) in their names. Oh and something called a Thai jackfruit (also massive). I love Chinatown from the dual-linguistics on the signs to the stone dragons that I can never tell apart (Shannon, who lived in China for a while, pop quizzes me on their genders and I always get it wrong).

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We ended a glorious day sitting in The Moon Under Water in Leicester Square, enjoying a frosty pint (I now drink once in a blue moon, which is awesome). I used to go there when I was a uni student and it’s, surprisingly, hard to spot given it’s next to the Odeon. Shannon had no idea it was there and it was far too hot to sit outside, especially when my medication means I’m light sensitive (from both a visual and an ‘I burn like paper’ perspective).

The downside was that Leicester Square’s tube station isn’t accessible so I had to get a cab back to Liverpool Street. I’d factored this in (it costs £20) because it’s a route I used to do a lot, though from Piccadilly Circus rather than Leicester Square. I’m not made of money but there was no way I was going to walk all the way to County Hall and Westminster in London heat and super sore feet.

I ended the day as I began it, sitting in first class watching Game of Thrones and bemoaning how much time it took to watch Sailor Moon Crystal. Even better the train had been upgraded with lovely new seats and, joy of infinite joys, power points! Seriously, I’ve been traveling that route for two decades and it’s taken that long for the train companies who run the route to realise that power is just as important as WiFi. Oh and air conditioning.

Oh and air conditioning.

On a scale of one to Hell, this was also one of the most stress-free trips I’ve done in ages. We got back into Norwich with plenty of time to spare, allowing me a leisurely hobble (I’d walked six miles over the course of the day) to catch my bus. Uni was a star everywhere we went, from sitting quietly under the table in Shoryu to snoozling in the wheelchair space while I wrote on the way home.

It was an exhausting day but it’s so nice to be able to escape to the capital and do stuff. I’m already planning another trip, both Shannon and I want to go to the British Museum to see the Sunken Cities exhibit opening later this month. Plus I will never ever skip a chance to eat proper ramen.

Nom.

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