In which we have lunch and take a tour bus.
Because we’re horrible about getting up early, Mr. Kat and I roll out of bed about 10 and head for the Embankment for a lunch appointment with my UK publishing team and my agent.
On the way we get caught in our first tube dysfunction. The Jubilee line on which we are traveling from King’s Cross is unable to move past a certain tunnel, so we get off at Bank and scramble around to Monument and get back on a different line that takes us to London Bridge station from which we get horrendously lost trying to find our way through the various tunnels to the embankment station connection and across the river to the Publisher’s office. We have to try three different “subways”–which are pedestrian walkways, not trains–to find our way to the Embankment and pop up right in front of the building, but several hours too early.
We look around a bit and discover that there are blackfriars in Blackfriars, or at least one particular blackfriar on top of a pub on a roundabout across the street .
Since we are early and American, we can’t make it without coffee, so we pause at a Costa Coffee–of which we have seen many but entered none–and foolishly order “large Americanos” and a small “biscuit collection”. The biccies prove to be as advertised and quite sufficient to the task, the coffee, however…
is so large it comes in a cup with two handles (no that gigantic size is not caused by foreshortening, please not the delicate size of the otherwise quite normal spoon on the saucer for scale). Alas, the coffee is also horrible and we really regret having ordered a lot of it.
Eventually we stroll back to 100 Victoria Embankemnt–which has a flag flying from a pole outside that I at first thing has the legend “lo0ve” on it, only to realize that it’s actually a very stylized “100 V E” (for Victorian Embankment). I feel very silly and don’t take a picture of it. But we do go inside and introduce ourselves to security where we are photographed for visitor badges, tagged and handed over to another security fellow who lets us through the glass gates and points us to the right elevator.
Upstairs we meet Assistant Editor (and the person in charge of my manuscripts) Donna Condon, with whom I am immediately in love. Donna gives us a tour of the Little Brown offices which are disconcertingly clean, shiny, bright and airy for the offices of publishers (which I’m used to being dark, paper-stuffed, dusty, smelly, and very cramped.) Donna assures us the former offices of Piatkus were all that, so I feel a little better. We stop at the Piatkus spoke of the great white wheel that is Little Brown and meet the Imprint Editor, Emma Dunford–who is lovely–and a surprise friend, Thalia Proctor. It’s really fab to see Thalia again, whom I know through RAM and other Mystery fiction functions in person and haven’t seen in quite a while and I try not to make an ass of myself and keep her from working. Eventually, Thalia is freed to return to work as we go to meet Paola and Ian who are both involved in the promotion, marketing, and selling of my books. And they too, are incredibly nice.
And then Donna, Emma, Paola, and we are off for lunch on the riverside at a very lovely restaurant whose name I never do catch. John Parker, my UK agent, meets us there and we all have a ridiculously good time talking about books and the beauty of the River Thames on the unseasonably lovely day–and it is. I forget to take any photos of anyone or anything and since the table is rather long, I miss the conversation at the Paola and John end completely. John has to leave early but asks me to drop by the office Thursday before the signing to chat and he’s off without even getting his potatoes. We all eat them for him and they are very good.
After a terrific lunch and a long chat with Paola on the return walk–which reveals a huge difference in the PR approach of the UK vs the US publisher–we all finally part and Mr. Kat and I realize that it’s already 4 p.m. We decide to risk taking a bus tour, even though it’s rather late for playing tourist….
We find the bus tour office near Trafalgar Square and are told that the tours start until 6 and last about 2 horus, so we’re fine. We buy our tickets and dash off to catch the next bus.
We discover that Trafalgar Square–when viewed from the top of a tour bus–is graces with some really lovely Regency fountains (of which I take a picture):
and besmirched with some truly horrid modern art (of which I do NOT take a picture.)
After a few minutes, we realize that we have no headphones for listening to the commentary and therefore do not know what it is we are seeing most of the time.
We pause at the London Eye
and I trot down the steps to ask the driver for headphones which he thought I hadn’t wanted.
I trot back up the steps to the upper deck of the bus and present the headphones, but in spite of best efforts and trying as many plugs as we can find all over the upper deck, we discover that the audio is not, in fact, working and we never do figure out what are most of the sights by which we pass at often breakneck speeds.
This seems to be a theme with buses of all kinds during our trip: they go very fast and seem to rocket around corners at a horrifying rate to suddenly reveal unexpected glimpses of amazing things which you then never see again. Like… St. Paul’s Cathedral. Oh hello….
And we discover that:
- from the top of a bus, the White Tower (Tower of London) looks remarkably like a housing development
- tourists get bored very quickly when they can’t figure out what they are seeing
- and they aren’t the only people who get led around by the nose .
Eventually the call of nature forces us off the bus, back to another of same we are assured we can hop, and we disembark on a different side of Victoria Station from last time and find the washrooms and a Cornish Pasty shop where we have tea and pasty. We return to the bus stop only to discover that we’ve missed the last bus. And half the tour. While our tickets are good for 24 hours, we never do manage to get onto another tour bus and see the rest of London by double-decker bus-back. Alas, no Marble Arch, Hyde Park, Tyburn, Paddington, Regent’s Park, or Piccadilly Circus from the top of the red-painted tourist-mobile.
But the pasty was very good. Although the staff was definitely not Cornish. Mr. Kat and I suspect Lithuanian, since we seem to have observed a ridiculous number of them working everywhere at everything (and probably being paid next to nothing for it.)
We give up and head back to our hotel for a nap, getting lost in a tube station that wound around for several miles under the streets and having to change lines twice to avoid another problem en route.
When we finally reach the hotel, it’s getting a bit late and the Pasty has worn off, so we go looking for food and discover that pub kitchens close earlier than expected. We get out order in just barely in time (pasta for me and… Pie and a Pint for Mr. Kat.) We also find out that American credit cards frequently don’t work in European machines, since most US cards have mag strips and most European machines are chip-readers with auxilliary stripe readers that aren’t very reliable. Luckily we have cash…. And get our food and have our drinkn and toddle off for a cuppa and into bed.
Return for our Next Exciting Episode: Kat Does Research and finds a River that is not a river and an Angel that is not an angel.