It was only as I was leaving her place that I realized arriving in a taxi last night left me with no idea where I was. But since she’d been kind enough to provide breakfast I was in no hurry to get anywhere, and as I liked to do in big cities, as long as the neighborhood looked okay, I simply wandered aimlessly for a while.
The first thing I noticed, and you know how observant I am, was all the streets had a Great before them: Great Portland Street, Great Titchfield Street, and so on. I didn’t see anything particularly great about them, but maybe I didn’t know the correct definition, at least according to the Oxford version of the language. After all, how could you communicate correctly with a people who insisted on putting a “u” in colour and flavour and such beautiful words like that?
Then I remembered that the Canadians also put in the extra vowel, though at least they pronounced it correctly. One supposedly refined lady had chided me for not pronouncing color according to the way she was taught. “Don’t you know the Queen’s English?” she berated, to which I had responded in a surprised tone, “Of course she is. How else could she be Queen?”
And then I was forced to duck.
The involuntary smile at that memory left in a hurry as I saw what the next street held, full of what the locals called furriers. I made the turn instinctively, not wanting to even acknowledge the existence of such stores. More importantly, this way I wouldn’t have to keep myself from smashing a window or torching the stores. With a bit of logic I told myself there was no way to release the furs back into the wild, but deep down I knew I’d feel a lot better, even if the dead animals felt no vindication. I could probably even talk my way out of an arrest, saying I was on a secret mission and letting some local friends fix things. Setting up a cover to infiltrate ecological terrorists! Yeah, that worked. . .
I shook my head to clear those thoughts, which were not like me at all. Apparently I didn’t shake my head hard enough, but then the next few streets didn’t make it any easier. I suddenly found myself in front of Middlesex Hospital; the names here could be quite ridiculous. A sign informed me that Rudyard Kipling had died there in 1936. . . not much of a memorial. This area seemed to be surrounded by death.
When I somehow reached Charlette Street, full of foreign restaurants, another sign told me the painter John Constable had died at #76 in 1837. Funny; the houses only went up to #74. If there had been a house there, it was dead now too.
Somehow I ended up on a street called Scala, though I very much doubted I’d been magically transported to Milan; a little opera at the right moment was always good, but this was not the right moment. Suddenly I realized some of these buildings looked familiar, but it wasn’t until I stopped in front of Pollock’s Toy Museum did I remember I’d been here before.
This museum was an exhibition of toys and dolls of many countries and periods, as well as having theaters and early experiments of what later became movies. More to the point, I remembered the beautiful and intelligent lady who’d been my guide that day. It took two or three associations in my brain to even come up with a first letter. Corinna. . . no. Camille. . . close. Camilia! Maybe. . .
Suddenly I wasn’t sure about going in, knowing there was nothing worse for a woman than the guy forgetting her name. On the other hand, maybe seeing her face in person would jog the name into my buffer. So I paid the admission and immediately looked for her. Even if I didn’t find her, I figured a good walk surrounded by toys might lift me from the low spirits inspired by what had really turned into a depressing and death-filled walk.