My hardworking Father came to me the other week and broke some news. He said “Luce, if you come with me to me to your grandfather’s 80th party in Chester, I will buy you any pair of shoes you want.”
Now, for some context, my grandfather does not fit the ‘grand’ or ‘father’ criteria. He has not been a part of my childhood, nor was he for my father. However, you only turn 80 once and a pair of shoes is a pair of shoes. I could not say no. Furthermore, I treasure the time I spend with my father as I always come out 10 times wiser, meaning I did not mind accompanying him. So, we went, we said hello, we gave my ‘grandfather’ a present which had been wrapped by my mother; neither of us knew what it was; we then left.
The train from Chester station to Euston was civilised and comfortable. I met a young lady from Canada who told me every trial and error she had encountered in her life, including her engagement story and how she lost her mother at a young age. My Father did work and I tried to look out the window, like in the movies, thinking of how I could better myself. Honestly, I thought mostly about the party I had gone to with all my friends a few nights before and all the crazy antics that had occurred.
From Euston we caught a train to London Victoria. As you may know, London Victoria is the second busiest station in the London train link, with 85,337,996 entries and exits, on average, per year. Yes, all these facts are all relative, but really it has never felt like London Victoria was an extraordinarily over-crowded place. In fact, I have always loved the buzz and drama of the forever flowing crowds. It somehow makes you feel a part of London. You could be caught up in a school of tourists and yet still feel like a Londoner.
This day was an exception. Instead of stepping off the platform onto what was usually a clear junction, we stepped off into the middle of an 80m indoor Olympic sprint race. Floods of people were coming from every direction, in fact there was no direction, just appearing from mid-air. My father looked at me as a surge of panic dawned upon my face. I knew our train connecting us back home was minutes away and the thought of being delayed made my bags seem 20 times heavier. As far as I could see were waves of bobbling heads and arms stretching above to make people’s surface areas smaller. Announcements were being launched from every possible speaker turning into one
large vibration. Angry locals heaved their way forwards as if everyone around them did not have a heartbeat. My father, looking at me calmly, said “follow me.”
I did as I was told and locked in the back of his head in my eyesight and did not let go of it. We weaved our way through the crowds until my father took a step onto a wooden staircase. These wooden panels had appeared out of nowhere and contrasted with the worn marble floors of Victoria station. It was as if it was the stairway to heaven. I asked my father where on earth we were and how we got here. He replied with “we are in the Grosvenor Hotel, darling!”
The air felt fresh and filtered. The ceilings were tall and spacious. It seemed as if my Father was the only person who knew about the Grosvenor, no one was in there. Other than one elderly couple enjoying afternoon tea. We were seated by a window looking onto the inside of Victoria station. It seemed as if I was viewing people form a one way mirror. I could see them and they could not see me. We were treated like royalty, upon reflection I feel silly for just ordering a Diet Coke as I feel a glass of champagne would have been more fitting. The wall was acting like a seal, as if we were inside a glass bottle. We were informed that this was a normal mid-summer Saturday.
The Grosvenor itself is sophisticated and offers a wide range of finger sandwiches, traditional (and non-traditional) teas, coffee, 100 plus year old wines and incredibly comfortable chairs. My father told me that this was his escape when London became
turmoil. I almost do not want to recommend his hotel hide away because then it would simply lose its magic.
I then began to think. The seat that I was sitting was almost like a mini throne. I could see every aspect of London through the people below me. I thought about every first that would have happened in front of this window. First dates, first loves, first kisses, first heart breaks, first stories, first “I’m sorry”, first “yes’” and first “no’s. Seeds of history are planted here and it is all because of space, space that people are free to gather undercover and go out into the mystery of London City.
I think London Victoria station is dependent on fate. Every person that passes through the station passes through at the right time. Their footprint is engraved onto the floor and each step contributes to the way in which London works. One too many footprints could cause a
disaster but, equally, so could one too few. The Grosvenor helped me realise many things on that day. It helped me to value my father even more and value other people’s every-day existence. Everyone has a purpose and Victoria definitely highlights that.