Friday, 22 May 2015

Tottenham Court Road.

Every couple of months I meet up with a friend who moved away from south London a few years ago to the 'burbs. This time she suggests we meet in Heals because she wants to look at cushions. I love mooching round Heals and they have a lovely coffee shop, so we arrange to meet there. 

In fact I love all furniture and interiors shops. In particular I like fabrics and lighting and crockery and cushions and jugs. Our house is stuffed with it all, especially jugs. There's so much crockery displayed in the kitchen that there's not space for anymore. Sadly.

I get the Northern Line, of course. Where's Heals? I think, as I sit on the tube with my new Kindle. Oh yes, on Tottenham Court Road. I haven't been there in years. They've been working on the station and it was closed for ages. It's all different round there now.

I'm absorbed in my book (sorry, my Kindle. No, sorry, my eReader) so I  get up automatically at Tottenham Court Road tube stop. It's only as I feel my feet hit the platform that it occurs to me that Goodge Street is much closer to Heals, and then the doors slam behind me. Too late. Never mind. The walk up Tottenham Court Road will do me good.

I go up the escalator, and then another one. Some man ascending on the parallel escalator looks at me, turns away, looks back. What? I think. Do I have dirt on my face? What? What! 

I try to avoid him at the top as I exit the barrier. I turn left in a hurry to get away and because that's what I always used to do at the top of the escalator at Tottenham Court Road if I wanted to walk north.

I walk. Gosh, it's changed a lot round here, I think. On the opposite side are two very old building facades, held up with nothing but scaffolding, no actual building behind, just empty space, quite eerie actually, and disconcerting. I pass a few of those London tourist shops selling tat: I Love London hats and mugs and key rings. Then a few music stores. Then a Primark. 

There's a Primark on Tottenham Court Road now! Wow, I must tell V (the friend I am meeting) and there are far fewer music shops than there used to be. Amazon has so much to answer for.

Eventually I see a tube station coming into view up ahead on the left. Goodness, I've reached Goodge Street already! With no sign of Heals yet. In fact there's a new Top Shop, a huge one, on the other side of the road, where Heals should be. Where is Heals? 

I can't read the name of the tube station from this angle but I can see the tiling around the top. It says: Oxford Circus, Oxford Circus, Oxford Circus, Oxford Circus.

Blimey, I think, Goodge Street tube must once have been called Oxford Circus, like Tooting Bec tube was once called Trinity Road and then re-named. Strange, because how could they call it Oxford Circus when it's so far from, you know, actual Oxford Circus? 

Then I stop dead in my tracks. People walking behind me narrowly miss smashing right into me. People coming towards me have to take sudden evasive action to avoid a collision. I'm not on Tottenham Court Road. I am on Oxford Street. 

The sudden, complete disorientation this causes in my brain is a shock. I am not where I thought I was. Not metaphorically this time, but actually. 

There is not a new Primark on Tottenham Court Road. The music shops are most likely still there. I turned the wrong way when I left the tube and did not notice my mistake until now, nearly at Oxford Circus. Not only that but I was prepared to believe TfL had wrongly labelled their own tube station rather than accept that it was I who had gone the wrong way. I think there's a name for that sort of delusion, and it's not a flattering one.

My brain has to do some fast realigning and for a moment, a fraction of a second, it struggles. Right, I will have to strike north east to get back to Heals if I don't want to walk the length of this street again, back to Tottenham Court Road tube before turning LEFT.

I'm mildly panicked. I consider jumping in a taxi. How late is this going to make me? I'm a long way from Heals now. Then I calm down. A taxi will probably take longer and I have a text from V saying that she's going to be late, her train was delayed. I text back: "Don't worry. Also late. Got lost!"

I start to walk again, using The Post Office Tower to navigate. I know that when standing in front of Heals you can see it before you. 

Okay, I think, so I may well have early onset Alzheimers but don't they recommend getting lost as a way to test your brain? To stave it off? I was lost, in a way, at least I wasn't where I thought I was, so now I will correct myself. Not using Google Maps or ringing Husband (who has a much better knowledge of central London than I do) or by asking someone. I will work it out myself.

I turn around, take a few steps back, turn left off Oxford Street, walk for a while, turn left again, go straight, look up to check the position of The Post Office Tower, turn left again and eventually find myself on Charlotte Street. I know this! And there's a sign for Goodge Street pointing ahead, which I follow. A busy road comes into view. This must be Tottenham Court Road. It is! I come out almost exactly opposite the shop, relieved, elated, and not even particularly late, only ten minutes.

I walk through Heals. The lighting department is stuffed with lovely retro lights like the ones I have in our kitchen. The crockery department has a complete set in a design I have recently began to collect, including a large jug. 

I go up to the coffee shop. It's closed for refurbishment. I text V - "And now the coffee shop is closed for refurbishment!" Then I go back downstairs and buy the jug.

Love E x


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