Saturday, 20 March 2010

As Time Goes By...

I admit that I am one of those annoying people who often uses that irritating phrase, “patience is a virtue.” Not that I proclaim to be particularly virtuous, but being patient is a useful quality, especially as it can reduce stress levels if you happen to find yourself in particularly frustrating situations.
Which, funnily enough, you often do when you live in London. Even though the city and everyone in it seems to move at a million miles a second most of the time, quite often you find you have to quickly apply the breaks…and wait. For. A. Long. Time.
I have examples.
A couple of weeks ago I called my GP surgery. I made what I thought was a simple, reasonable request: to see my usual GP before or after the hours of 9 and 4. I heard the secretary clicking away on her keyboard on the other end of the phone. There was a pause.
“I can fit you in on Monday at 5.30. As in Monday 23rd March.”
As in, I haven’t seen my GP yet. Two weeks later. Okay, so if it was an emergency I’m sure I could have seen someone sooner, but still…two weeks? I might have forgotten what it was I needed to see her about by then!
Another example.
About a week and a half ago I went out to dinner with some of the girls. One of them had chosen a lovely venue (The Cork and Bottle just off Leicester Square if you are interested – lovely food and wine) and booked us a table in a little alcove at the back of the bar. Hungry and thirsty, we all went up to the bar to order our food. One friend went for a simple salad. The other went for veggie Shepherds’ Pie with French bread on the side. I chose the posh sausage and chips with salsa. We settled at our table and sipped our Beaujolais. My food arrived first. The girls encouraged me to tuck in. So I did. And a good job too, as the next plate emerged over five minutes later. My sausage and chips had all but disappeared by the time the third meal showed up. When we had all finished our meal the waitress appeared to inform us that the bread was on the way. We asked if it was on the Eurostar yet or if it had only just left the oven in the boulangerie. Actually we didn’t, but my friend asked for her money back. We were kind of over the need for bread by then.
A couple of days later my mum came down to London for the day. Two hours before she was due to arrive I had a hospital appointment. I suggested to Him Indoors we go to the hospital first and then have a spot of brekkie at his favourite caff before heading to Kings Cross to meet mum. He agreed.
The hospital had other ideas, though.
Half an hour after my appointment time the receptionist announced the doctor was not even in the building yet, so all appointments were at least half an hour delayed. Funnily we had already picked up on that one. Fifteen minutes later I was summoned by one of his “team” for an assessment. More like to make it look like he wasn’t that late after all, no doubt, but I complied and managed to see the doctor an hour after he was due to see me. By the time I had been seen, breakfast wasn’t on the menu anymore. But at least I was better off than the poor folk who were still waiting – the waiting time was up to two hours when I left.
Tummies rumbling, we headed to the tube station. Only five stops to Kings Cross. Shouldn’t have taken more than, say, 15 minutes, absolute tops? Unless, of course, there are signalling problems. By the time we arrived at the train station we could both quote the adverts plastered inside our carriage by heart.
Just on time, we met my mum and headed over to Piccadilly for a spot of lunch before mooching around the Van Gogh exhibition at the Royal Academy. Amazingly, lunch went without a hitch. Less surprisingly, there was a bit queue to get into the exhibition. We hadn’t been able to get pre-booked tickets, so we joined the end of the snaking line.
And waited.
Mum went to sit down whilst us young spring chickens held the fort.
We waited.
It started to rain.
We waited a bit more.
Eventually we got to the front of the outside queue, and were permitted to enter the next stage of the queue under a marquee.
We waited a bit more. Him Indoors went to the loo. The queue shuffled forward a bit – but not so much that he couldn’t find me when he returned.
And… we waited.
Finally, the end was in sight. “I can see the admissions office!” I cried, overjoyed.
The woman in front turned to me. “That’s not really the admissions office. It’s a mirage.”
But it wasn’t. Sure enough, we were soon within the four walls of the building. There were a mere handful of people in front of us. I started to get excited.
Then one of the gallery attendants approached us.
“No more ticket sales for ten to fifteen minutes.”
I decided to go to the loo. Guess what? There was a queue. But when I got back to the other queue…the ticket office was open again. And we were next in line.
Was it a good exhibition? It was excellent. Was it worth queuing for one and a half hours? Losing ninety minutes of my life just standing there, occasionally shuffling forwards? Mmm. You’ll have to get back to me about that one.
The good news is that I had a lovely day out with my mum. After a spot of shopping in Covent Garden and dinner in St Pancras Station (they have a Carluccio's, don’t you know?) we waved her off on her way back up north. I told her to give me a call when she got in. Sure enough, when she got home about an hour and a half later, she sent me a text to tell me she has home safe and had had a lovely day.
I was pleased – not just because she was home safe and happy, but because it only took her an hour and a half to get home. Of course that is the amount of time it should have taken her, but two weeks previously I had been travelling back to London from my parents’ and it took me nearly six hours. Yes, six hours for a journey that should have taken a quarter of that time. Why? Because of a power failure in the Hitchin area. We had been stuck on the train for four hours without power or air conditioning. Or water.
I just hope to God I don’t have to wait that long for anything again in the near future. Or ever would be nice. Somehow, though, I’ve got a feeling I’ll be drumming my fingers on the nearest hard surface and sighing loudly again soon.

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