Saturday, March 23, 2013

Map quest

The young weatherman on IV4 who looks a bit like a cheerful frog, or perhaps Alfred E. Neuman, says that it is the coldest March in the UK in decades. All I know is that today it was colder here than it is in Minnesota—and it was (shudders) snowing. How wrong I was in thinking I'd seen the last of snow for the year. Today I saw plenty of it, even though it melted on hitting the pavement.

But crowds still were out and about on the high streets. Shopping, waiting in line at theaters to see the House of Mormon, going on dates, taking photos of Piccadilly Circus, chatting on their cell phones, or wandering about looking befuddled. (That was me.)

I was befuddled because I was looking for a few particular places, which is much more difficult for me than just strolling about with no particular destination in mind. Why? If you were being tactful you might say that my verbal aptitude is much greater than my spatial skills are. If you were being blunt, you'd call my sense of direction so contrary that it's more a sense of anti-direction. I almost unerringly choose left when I need to go right and vice versa. In short, if I were a mouse in a maze, I might have more luck giving up on the cheese and scrambling over the wall instead.

I'm pretty philosophical about it. I've always been this way. I'm good at a lot of other things. I can accept my directional shortcomings.

As long as I have a map in my hand, I'll keep trying until I get there. (Not true; I admit defeat on rare occasions.) Thus, today there was a lot of map-unfolding, brow furrowing, purposeful striding, stopping, more map consultations, and even some iPad Googling before I found my destinations. I also stopped into a fruit stand for directions and later had a kind gentleman pause to offer assistance after I'd been standing in one spot a particularly long time, trying to puzzle out which way was Pall Mall from St. James's Square.


What were these hard-won destinations?

First off, this coffee shop, where I had quite a good latte and a raspberry f-something (friand? a French term for a kind of cake). It was tiny, crowded and so steamy I had to take off one or two layers of clothes (don't worry, I had on at least three and in some cases, four).

A man had left his little spaniel outside and she was making sad little whimpers. I tried offering some comforting words but she mostly ignored me—a one-person dog.

My next quest was Daunt Books in Marylebone. 

This one was easier to find, and while there I pounced on a map called "Untamed London: Where Nature Still Runs Wild." When the weather gets back to normal (which the cheerful weatherman suggests may be in April), I plan to visit at least four or five of these 82 urban landscapes, where deer, owls and chaffinches dwell, remnants of ancient forests linger, and echoes of the wild past reverberate. 

It's a given that I'll get lost a few times along the way. But on this adventure, the only wrong way to go is to not go at all. 

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