*Day Three: 30 December, 2003*
The health spa was at the top of a narrow flight of stairs, after a landing, a turn, and a small door. It looked to have been converted from an old flat; the ground floor entrance had an intercom system and the attendant buzzed us in once we stated our names and appointed time. True to its name, The Green Room was decorated in various shades of green, pleasing in contrast to the overabundance of gray, brown and black hues outside. The foyer was filled with an insulated silence and radiated to a comfortable, sleep-inducing temperature. As they did not have enough flexibility in their schedule for two, we had scheduled Tina for a half-hour session earlier, and I sat in the lone chair by the radiator and half-read, half-dozed through Modoc. Paragraphs were read and re-read, until I finally gave into the waking warmth-induced stupor and mused upon nothing at all. Such moments are pleasant rarities.
Upon waking, I noticed that the office had no computer. Occupying the desk was a scheduling book, a phone, a pen, and the receptionist. In a brief but powerful realization I noted the absolute lack of a _need_ for such complexities to this business, and smiled inwardly at my initial assumption that there must be one here, somewhere. As a technology consultant, I’m given to such assumptions. The receptionist asked where we were staying, and when I mentioned London, she offered to schedule me an appointment at their sister organization in Covent Garden (London), for the following day. When I expressed my interest, she placed a phone call, made inquiries regarding the openings in their (no doubt similar) schedule book, and scheduled me for the following day. I marveled at the efficiency of phone, pen and paper in this organization. In less than two minutes, without the need for layers upon layers of complex digital technologies (cordless phone aside), I had been arranged an appointment over a hundred miles away. She filled out a business card for me with the time, scheduled treatment, masseuse, and contact number. I must remember that from time to time, use of a computer complicates things needlessly.
Afterward we decided to find Bath Circus and the Royal Crescent, two of Bath’s many grand architectural sights, and set off in search of them armed only with our free, small, sparse tourist maps (we had elected not to buy the more detailed, scenario-based maps at the tourist center.) By this time the glowing gray clouds that reminded us of a sun had faded considerably, and the intermittent street lights guided our wanderings into the most interesting of recesses, none of which seemed to be labeled on our maps. It was by sheer intuition (and a healthy stroke of luck) that we happened upon Bath Circus at all. We looked up from our dim maps to discover our good fortune, and proceeded to walk about the great, open, circular space in relative silence.
Bath Circus is an impressive circular formation of buildings surrounding a park of tall, old, equally impressive trees. The buildings all face inward, toward the park, and follow the gentle arch perfectly, giving each building’s face a concave slope, split only by the three roads that enter the circus. The trees, taller than the surrounding buildings, command the respect of a central focus, and in summer winds fill the trees with healthy shades of moving life. Though in the depth of winter they slumber skyward, naked. No doubt the locals look forward to their annual awakening.
We attempted a prolonged exposure photo to capture the ambient late evening glow of the space, but it turned out less representative than we’d hoped. A car drove by mid-exposure, creating a bright white horizontal streak. We had only three choices to exit, and one of these three roads led directly up the hill to the Royal Crescent. It wasn’t difficult to discern which.
By this time of night most of other visitors to the city had either gone home or indoors, and the effect was unnerving. Very few people walked the streets with us, and those that did eyed us (and each other) suspiciously. Footsteps resonated for blocks, and streetlights were dim. We spoke little until we reached the Royal Crescent, and there we had a good view of central Bath. We stayed awhile, snapping many prolonged exposure photos (a feature I had just learned to use on my digital camera) and enjoying the quiet, cloudy night on this small hilltop in Bath. The light from the lampposts, architecture and city beneath the insulating clouds created a stunning luminous volume to the atmosphere that gave us pause to reflect and appreciate our place in it. We did not speak, but held each other tightly.
At some point we realized that it was time to catch the last train back to London and we began to make our way back to the train station. We had not yet eaten dinner, and for reasons of time and simplicity, we decided not to eat until we got back to London.
Neither of us was hungry, and the prospect of encountering another Demuths was frightening.
We arrived to a crowded waiting room at the station, warm and humid with more than a dozen people of at least as many nationalities. We found a section of exposed radiator pipe near the floor and snuggled up to it, enjoying its pulsing warmth. The train ride was uneventful; we each read and slept, slept and read.
We arrived back at Paddington station in London well past dark, and decided upon bacon and cheese baguettes from one of the many small shops on the platform. Too often simple pleasures like baked bread and great cheese are dismissed in favor of larger meals. Excited about our simple evening meal, we happily stowed our baguettes and made our way back to the hotel. I tried to keep the crumbs from sifting down into the sheets, but failed on more than one occasion. Traveled and sated, we slept within minutes; crumbs notwithstanding.