from The Road to Frankfurt

In England again for two whole weeks, but this time with experience, every moment planned to the last detail, they checked into The Haven and met a new style of hotelier. The owners were a middle-aged Irish couple with brogues so heavy Rodney was surprised Meg could have understood the woman over the telephone. But Meg’s ear adapted rapidly and, within a few minutes, Meg and Mary O’Neill were dishing like old friends.

Rodney retreated into his usual reticence. Johnny O’Neill only wore undershirts over his beer belly. It took Rodney time to become accustomed to the lack of pomp and circumstance. The fun-house way the rooms were arranged—floors slanted and doors angled—was dizzying. Until he got the hang of it, he had to fight the feeling he was tipping over. Even though every room was occupied, the aged house provided walls so thick Rodney never heard a murmur from another guest.

They headed for the Columbia Club and bought tickets for a show that night, two shows on Saturday, and a rare Sunday matinee that allowed them to see two on Sunday as well.

They couldn’t fit dinner between the Saturday theaters so they ate in a Greek restaurant in Lambeth after the evening performance. It was a lively, atmospheric place recommended in Frommer’s guide, with great food and live performers. Just before the show started, waiters moved silently between the tables, placing piles of dinner plates on a corner of each one. The Brodys were surprised that, after each song or dance, the diners not only applauded but were expected to smash plates on the floor to show their appreciation—apparently an old Greek custom.

Meg and Rod looked at each other and burst into uncontrollable laughter, only abating when Meg picked up a plate and slammed it on the floor with an “I’ll show you!” glare in her eye. Even Rodney overcame his toilet training; once he began, destruction of dinnerware was infectious—the noise of shattering china deafening. When the show was over, the floor was littered, and the waiters used push brooms to clear paths between the tables again.

High on ouzo, it was one in the morning when they finally stumbled out of the place. After walking a few blocks, they realized they hadn’t seen a single hackney cab.

“I don’t understand,” Rod complained aloud. The Underground closes at 11 p.m. I would expect taxis to pick up the late night traffic.”

A few blocks further on, they met a formally dressed young couple in similar straits, who had been to an elegant party. They introduced themselves and had a wonderful time striding four abreast, arms linked, singing and laughing on the deserted cobblestone streets. This is just like the movies, Rodney thought. Meg was Rita Hayworth and he was Gene Kelly.

The wealthy couple split off in Mayfair and Meg and Rodney, who could now get a cab if they wanted, shrugged and walked the rest of the way to The Haven. Life was grand, as much fun as they hoped, and what they had come to expect from books and films. They were young and in love, and in London.