The 13 hour flight from Hong Kong to London (via the night skies of China, Mongolia and Russia) was fairly uneventful, despite the activities of Seatkicker Boy, Hysterical Laughter Lady and Snoring Chinese Dad. Siberian towns don't bother turning off the bright lights at night-time, it seems. It was quite nostalgic to finally fly over London on arrival, admiring the flickering orange lights of millions of residents, which shined like a vast orange spiderweb in the clear night air. The chaotic scrum at the baggage carousels instantly reminded me that I'd arrived back in the UK – dozens of people fight for baggage trolleys and then crowd closer and closer to the edge of the carousel, so no-one can see the baggage floating along the rubber. What they need is some good NZ queuing etiquette, obviously...
Richard Ngatai kindly met me at the aiport and helped me back to his & Sam's friends's place, six stops down the Piccadilly line. Gareth and Hella live in Osterley with their young son, and as is the way with these things, it turns out I'd actually met Gareth several years before at a Wadestown barbecue held by mutual work colleague Paquita. What are the odds?
After a well-deserved sleep interrupted only by the screeching of a fox outside the house at dawn, Richard, Sam and I headed off into the mild spring-like day for my next port of call, the home of Steve and Fiona in Deptford Bridge just south of Greenwich. S & F live in a new apartment complex right by the DLR station, and it's an impressive set-up. After dropping off my bags, we all wandered up to Greenwich for a traditional English lunch (so to speak) at Pizza Express. And yes, former Londoners, a portion of the price of a Pizza Veneziano still goes to the Venice in Peril restoration fund. (It's been a footnote to the PE menu for years – a nice touch of familiarity). Note to self: 'Venice In Peril': great name for a band. Perhaps there's a disco in Venice at which people could panic about the peril, do you think?
As I had a travelcard I decided to make use of it. I popped into town and emerged at Westminster into a storm of a hundred Italian schoolkids on tour, and then walked up Whitehall and Charing Cross Road looking at the people and the shops. Jarvis Cocker was playing that night at the London Astoria, which was a reminder of the gig opportunities here in the big city. Ever a glutton for punishment, I took a left turn and walked along Oxford Street into the crush of weekend shoppers. What made me feel truly back in London was the sight and sounds of a Hare Krishna plying his trade with the aid of a personal amp and a wraparound headset mic to assist his chanting. Now that's a little slice of London for you.
(And as a postscript, my slightly weirded-out body clock got me up at 5.45am this morning. I turned on Steve's TV to find the last overs of the NZ cricket ODI versus Australia at Eden Park playing out – what a super victory! I managed to find a stray unsecured wireless connection to tap into, but I have to sit on the floor by the window to latch onto it properly. The joys of borrowing free broadband!)