London, Day Two (Day): Lie-ins, Land Rovers and Loop

Night one down.

Note to self: sometimes one pillow is just not enough. Though the hotel room itself was fine, only two limp pillows in our double bed was rough on both of our necks. (Honestly, what sizeable hotel equips their beds with only a single pillow for each occupant? Usually we find ourselves with more pillows than we know what to do with and we’re piling them up in corners. Not in this case, I assure you.) However, any discomfort was far outweighed by the overall lack of sleep from the previous days. It was after noon before we headed out in search of food.

We proceeded to Soho, one of my all-time favorite stomping grounds, and to Vitao, aka VitaOrganic, a lovely vegan café across the street from a burger joint which,  in a previous incarnation, was my own darling Intrepid Fox. I still expect to see darkness in its windows and a gargoyle over its door where it is now bright, shiny and clean. Byron at the Intrepid Fox, it says. A terrible travesty, says I.

In any case, I’m not sure Joe cared much either way where we ate, so long as we ate somewhere, but he was much more satisfied when we ran across this:


… a Series IIa Land Rover pickup, just a few blocks from Vitao.

It seemed the Land Rover gods were smiling.

And so was Joe.

If “Land Rovers” was one of Joe’s primary objectives for the trip, acquiring lovely British yarn to feed my knitting addiction was one of mine. Fortunately, we’re both enablers.  After a generous brunch and some organic fair trade coffee, we set out to fulfill the wooly mission.

And away to Loop, a well-recommended and well-stocked yarn shop near the Angel Tube station. Although I had drawn a map of where to find the yarn shop, it quickly became a replay of the previous day’s hotel hunt, walking around in circles and roaming the streets.  In the same way that men usually only ask for directions as an absolute last resort, I often stubbornly refuse to rely on technology when I have a capable analog substitute. When my analog substitute doesn’t work out, I usually then ask for directions, then turn to technology. However, after 20 minutes of wandering up and down streets that seemed clearly wrong, I gave in and we consulted Joe’s phone for technical assistance.

I’m happy to report, however, that it was all well worth the effort. Once we finally arrived at Loop I found myself wondering how much yarn I could reasonably bring back with me without violating import laws.

It was a good thing I had planned ahead. In the days preceding our departure for the UK, I reconnoitered the Loop website and developed a plan of attack, noting the yarns I wanted to examine further in person, and cross-referencing patterns on Ravelry for candidate projects. If this sounds unusually mission-focused and organized, that’s because often it needs to be. Otherwise, I tend to adopt a “buy-first, find patterns later” approach, which typically means I buy either a few skeins of a lot of different yarns, which generally end up not being enough for whatever I later decide I want to do with them, or what I think is going to be a few sweaters worth of yarn, which likewise generally end up not being enough for whatever I later decide I want to do with them. I still have nice yarn, but it’s still more of a hassle in the future. Better to engage in a little pre-deployment operational planning. And so I marched on, plans in hand.

Joe, meanwhile, was doing his own marching…

Although he is very patient and easily finds interest in supplies that help you make things, at the best of times, even a well-stocked yarn shop can only hold the interest of a non-knitter/crocheter/fiber artist for but so long– especially when the wares of a military surplus shop can be glimpsed a few tantalizing yards outside the front window. He lasted about three minutes.

When I finally emerged from the zone*, arms full of yarn, and beaming at my accomplishment, he was back in the shop, coolly waiting for me to finish. I made another quick round around the shop, for any stray skeins which were too enticing to worry about pre-planned patterns, and for my one and final skein– a fingering weight yarn for some Watson Socks. For these, I chose a silvery gray Shalimar Breathless, which was unbelievably soft. (As I write this, I have a half-knitted sock in the Shalimar only inches away. More on that in a later post.)

*- The zone is a focused mental state involving a lot of checking and re-checking yarn and yardage with pattern requirements (or, indeed, if I really want to use that patter), whilst I mutter to myself–often more loudly than I think I am.

As we waited for the checkout counter to open up, Joe told me about the surplus shop. It was small, he said, and had a lot of Nazi memorabilia, strangely. Other stuff too, but a lot of old WWII Nazi artifacts– medals and flags and the like. Was it simply due to the proximity of England to Germany, he wondered, or was it something else? Whatever the reason, Joe’s always on the lookout for interesting old military gear (I understand he has a box full of Vietnam-era jungle boots loitering around here somewhere), either for himself or for like-minded friends, so once we were finished up at the yarn shop, we both went over to the surplus shop. The only thing that seemed remotely tempting was an old brass nautical clock, but upon further inspection we discovered it was an old US Navy item, and thus an awfully silly thing for us to pick up in a shop in the UK.  Still a considering the reasons behind the prevalence of the Nazi gear something of a toss-up, we moved on.

Although the surplus shop was a bust, it planted a seed in Joe’s mind for a secondary mission: surplus shops. And so, as the light started to dim and shops started to close for the night, Joe started to Google…

(to be continued)


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