United Kingdom

A trip up London's Shard and a reminder to express

London's Shard

As a location independent, digital nomad, or whatever your current term du jour is, its amazing how often i just end up sitting around my flat working or staring into space (productive.) 

Today however, I'm taking my mother out for lunch at a restaurant at the top of The Shard. One of London's tallest buildings. And because - hey! as a freelance writer I can now work from anywhere, I decide to get there early and spend a couple of hours working from a cafe with great views.

I've seen Aqua, the restaurant where we'll be having lunch, on Masterchef. It's on the 31st floor of The Shard, London's tallest skyscraper (until the next one that is.) 

All steel and glass and modern chandeliers, leather seats and sleek walnut bar tops -  it's as masculine a restaurant as you'd expect to find in a big, 1000 ft high glass and steel erection.

Still, I have a soft spot for this particular big, shiny building. The last thing i did before I left London to travel for a year and a half was to persuade a friend to take me "up the Shard" whilst it was still under construction. Floor 55 didn't exist and decked out in high  vis jackets and hard hats we had to get into a metal hoist (cage type lift) on the outside of the scaffolding to go up the final few floors. 

The very tip of the building has been designed with shards of glass sticking out of it, when i last visited me and my friend stood at the very top buffeted by wind with nothing but a small chain link fence keeping us from flying off the edge. 

Now that the building is cpmplete and open to the public its a more civilised affair. They have viewing galleries and posh restaurants like Aqua.

I grab a window seat and obviously tweet the view and then start working (today  - press releases on solar energy.) I get moved. Apparently no one can sit in all these empty spaces because they are getting ready for afternoon tea. It doesn't bother me too much as i move to another comfy seat.

Prices are so extortionately high in London these days it almost makes a kind of peverse sense - if you are going to pay over £3 for a coffee in your local hipster coffee shop why not come to a fine dining restaurant with fabulous views instead for your latte. 

When my mother arrives we are seated, sadly not quite up against the glass (and they have a deeply annoying policy of refusing to allow you to move tables if those with a better view become available.) We eat the beets salad followed by river trout with saffron rice and raisins. Mine is full of bones. This is my usual experience of trout so i sigh and get on with it. Halfway through i realise my mother only has one bone and i'm still disseecting the bloody thing.

I toy with the idea of telling them but talk myself out of it. I've aleady come across as a tricky customer by asking to change tables which they refused, so they'll probably say no to this. However the waitress sees i'm struggling and checks everythings ok. I explain its hard to eat and she takes it back and comes out a short while later with a new fillet completely bone free. Of course, this is exactly what should happen, we are in a high class establishment after all.

"Next time, tell us your feelings, so that you don't have to suffer..." she says sympathetically. 

It's a peculiarly Briitsh form of passive aggressive politeness, this suffering in silence "pretending everything's ok when its not."

It's strange because on the road - i'm being tested and learning all the time on how to speak up, assert my needs and protect myself.  But not for the first time i think about how my home environment really doesn't bring out the best in me. My naturally introverted and self reflective ways combined with the natural froideur of the national temperament make me withdraw, over analyise and I become even less likely to speak up than usual. And not for the first time  i think what would really do me the world of good, would be to get out of my head, into my body and just to become a littlbe bit more...well Brazilian about things. 

So its decided. Next on the bucket list... South America revisited.