My most vivid memory of England was my first visit there, in 1986, to attend the London Book Fair. The trip was vivid from start to finish. After landing at Gatwick and experiencing the usual baggage claim adventure, I managed to wend my way through the airport and book passage on a commuter train that whisked me in comfort through the countryside and deposited me at Victoria Station. From there I took one of London’s amazing taxis, which seemed to be built to accommodate gorillas wearing top hats.
The hotel was small and vividly shabby, but exactly what I expected, having been forced to travel “on the cheap,” including taking all my meals by grazing the aisles of Sainsbury’s, a London grocery chain.
When I opened the door to the room, the door slammed into the bed, allowing me just enough room to set down my suitcase, which then proceeded to slide from the door to the far wall, which as distances go, was not anywhere close to “far.”
After managing to slide into the room myself without slamming into the far wall and out the window, I quickly unpacked and set out to explore the city, walking for hours, from the hotel to Buckingham Palace, to SoHo, to the Tower of London and back again, leaving me exhausted.
The vivid memories continued when I decided to take a bath to ease the pain from my screaming muscles. Seems the bathtub was made for someone considerably smaller than my six-foot frame, so I had to bathe with my chin on my knees, which was uncomfortable to say the least.
After a night clinging to the bed to prevent rolling off, I dressed and headed for the Fair, which was not much different from the Frankfurt Book Fair or the ABA ( now BookExpo America).
With one notable and vivid exception.
When I saw her, I couldn’t believe it, but there she was, the future Duchess of York, going from stand to stand shaking hands. And then the young Fergie was in front of me, her gloved hand outstretched.
“So pleased to meet you,” she said before moving along to the next stand and the next, trailed by her entourage of royal attendants and body guards, each time saying exactly the same words as she practiced her duchess skills.
I have no recollection of what I said to her, but I’m sure I mumbled or squeaked something incoherent or inappropriate, words at any rate that surely did not translate into a vivid memory for her.