What I Did.Central London 12:30 am. My two friends and I had just spent a lovely afternoon in Soho, having brunch at an amazing Aussie cafe called Lantana, then a walk through the streets, a few glasses of prosecco and then a French movie. Couldn't ask for a better afternoon. After the movie we had more prosecco and then dinner in soho. Again, just lovely. At 12:30am we emerged from the soho restaurant into crowds of Saturday night revellers and heavy rain. Wind blew umbrellas inside out and buses swept passed, spraying up great waves of water on to well heeled passersby. Drenched in seconds, we walked to the tube to get the last one home and realised the gates were shut. We'd missed it. No problem we thought, we'll just get a night bus. For my friends, this wasnt a problem. A bus could take them almost all the way home. For me, however, it would entail three separate buses to get back to balsam.
We said our goodbyes and off we went in separate directions. I walked for 5 minutes and got to the bus stop. Possibly about 60 people were waiting for the same night bus. So I has to wait for the third bus to get on. Once on, I realised I had left my oyster card in my other coat pocket. An oyster card, for those that don't know, is a prepaid credit type card that can be use on buses, tubes and some overground trains. If you don't have an oyster card, you can either buy a ticket at the bus stop or some will allow you on with correct change. So as I rootled around in my bag for small change, wet people tutting behind me, I realised I didn't have enough and pulled out a £20 pound note. The bus driver gave me a look that said "come on love, you should know better than that!" I was drenched and windswept, had waited 25 minutes for a bus and he wouldn't let me on or change my money. I asked a few people behind me if they could change a £20 pound note and they gave me this look like "if you have a £20 pound note, get off the bloody bus and get a taxi!" So cast off the bus, I began walking up Piccadilly towards the Ritz. Every bus that passed me, covered me in another dirty gallon of water. I was not a pretty sight! I walked passed a lovely smart restaurant called the Wolseley and got a very sympathetic look from the smart doorman. I had had a few glasses of wine and was in the mood for talking to strangers so I stopped on his step and had a lovely if slightly heated conversation about how rubbish public transport was in central London. The lovely man even tried to hail a black cab for me. But alas, no luck! A thousand wet people all trying to get a cab at the same time, in the pouring rain at 1am, my odds weren't good! I then remembered an app I had installed on my iPhone called HAIL, which is supposed to locate your exact position using GPS, and sends a black cab to you, sending you no only approximate time of arrival but the name and photo of the driver. Genius. So I huddled over my phone in a dry doorway and sent a message. 12 minutes later it had located almost 80 taxis in my vicinity but "unfortunately none are available at this time!" Well thanks for that.
I carried on walking, wool coat now heavy and wiffing of damp dog, and stopped inside the dry walkway of the ritz hotel. The beautifully dressed doormen, in dark green livery, looked at me with disdain. It's a bad day when doorman step away from you! I smiled and chatted to them and realising I wasn't a homeless bum with inside out umbrella, they also tried to help me hail a taxi. Again, no luck. I fleetingly looked into the beautiful lobby and wondered if I could justify booking a room for the night at a cost of £300, just because I was tired and wet! I couldn't, so thanked the kind men and carried on. I got to Hyde park corner 20 minutes later and saw a taxi with its light on, hurrah, praise the lord. But before I could raise my arm and shout, four people came out of nowhere and got to it before me. They must have been hiding under the nearest bush, in wait for the attack of the black cab! Bastards got it. So then I saw another and ran at full sprint to the roadside screaming "taxi!!!" He pulled over, window went down and he said "where to love?" I told him Balham and he drove off saying he was sorry but it was the wrong direction and he wanted to go home. Unbelievable! The same thing happened with the second taxi. I nearly cried. I carried on walking, the only thing keeping me going was the alcohol in my blood stream and the thought of burning off the calories of the alcohol and lovely steak I'd had for dinner. By now it was 1:30am. I honestly had given up and thought, god, I actually might have to walk home, when out of the gloom came another beacon of joy, yellow light glowing. I put my arm up and it stopped. Amazing. The window went down, I was asked for my address and he said "hop in, you look bloody awful, drowned rat springs to mind!" and he laughed. I laughed too, slightly manically I think but my overwhelming thought was... I love you Mr taxi man. He was my knight in shining armour although he was called Trevor and he was from Essex. At that moment in time I would have gladly married him and had 12 children. I got home at almost 2am and had been wandering the streets of London for 1.5 hours, trying to get home.
My only thought now is how on earth London is going to deal with an extra 5 million visitors during the Olympics! A new Olympic sport might just be created... The gold medal winner being the first poor sod that can get home in one piece.