Saturday Column - Number 30 - July 21st 2001

You might just have missed it on the News this week, but The Queen of Bali arrived in London on Monday for a private visit.

Her Majesty, otherwise known as my kid sister, Tabatha, has lived in Bali for the last fifteen years, and is called the Queen of Bali by everyone who knows her – well everyone in my family anyway!

In Bali, it’s a quiet night if she only has forty friends round for dinner. I just don’t know how she and her twenty-five staff manage it.

I went to one of her Xmas parties a couple of years ago. Hundreds of people had flown in from all over the world.

It was the night I discovered tequila slammers. I have no memory at all of the party, although I am still not entirely convinced there was any connection.

I was told later that I had attempted to unwind the fifty yards of red tulle fabric worn by the star of the night, a famous Balinese dancer, just as she climbed up a ladder on to the stage for the climax of the evening’s festivities.

The next day I’d woken up in my sister’s guest house and had to pay a $350 bill at the five- star Oberoi Hotel, next door, where I’d had a reservation but had never got to check in.

But they did give me a two- day old copy of the International Herald Tribune- possibly the most expensive newspaper in the world.

Anyway, Tabatha has flown in for her annual visit with Tarka, her twelve-year-old son.

Yes, ‘Tarka!’ OK so my sister gave birth to an Otter. It happens in the best of families.

Yesterday, I took them to the Science Museum.

On the way, Tabatha asked if there was a Pret a Manger store near by, as she wanted to pick up some sandwiches for lunch.

“There are only about three shops left in the whole of London that are NOT Pret a Manger shops.” I told her. “In fact, if we just stop here and stand around looking peckish for five minutes, a new one is bound to open up.” I said.

“But there’s a new restaurant at the Science museum …why don’t we eat there.” I said.

Tabatha looked doubtful.

“Look, everything has changed. London’s now the food capital of the world. Do you know- just last week four people had dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant for only £44,000 – and that included the wine…and a packet of cigarettes.”

I parked the car right outside the museum, and spent the next five minutes pouring twenty one pound coins into the ‘Pay as you Park’ machine.

But I did get an entire two hours parking!

I want to buy one of these machines and put it on the street outside my flat.

As the money goes in, the machine will of course register only every other coin.

I ‘ll record a message saying “One for the machine and one for me… one for the machine… and one for me.”

I could retire in a month.

It’s not the first brilliant money making idea I’ve had you know.

I once worked out that, if you put on a suit and tie, and stood on the street next to a parked Mercedes or BMW, holding a twenty pound note and asking people “Do you happen to have change for the parking meter?”- nine out of ten would not, but one would push a fifty pence piece or a pound coin into your hands. and say “Take this please.”

I calculated that, if I stopped one million people a day in Oxford Street, in just a couple years I would be one of the world’s richest men.

Frankly, if my new idea of charging readers a $100,000 annual subscription fee for the Saturday Column doesn’t take off, I might have to give it a go.

“What package do you want?” the girl at the Science Museum ticket desk asked.

“What package do you recommend?” I asked.

“You can have the All Day Family Package with the I -Max experience, OR you can have the New All-inclusive Total Museum Half Day Family Group Package with access to all floors including the basement. and the Simulated Space Ride”, she said.

“Or, there’s the three adults and one child under ten and less than 32 inches tall three-month entry package, without the hands on features and no lunch experience. Or, of course, there’s the “two hour senior citizen’s pass with the I -Max included and toilet facilities.”

I made a mental note to take a Ph D in Advanced Ticket Purchasing when I had a few years to kill.

“Look, I really only wanted a quick look at Stephenson’s steam engine and a spot of lunch.” I said

” I read that, from next year, it’s going to be free entry to all the Museums.” Tabatha said, after we finally went for ‘The Super Enhanced All Day Family I -Max Adventures in Cyberspace with a Quick Look at Stephenson’s Steam Engine Thrown In’ Package.

“It’s too late… we’re in now ” I said.

We went to the new modernistic restaurant for lunch…it’s just past the huge iron wheel, which in Lancashire in1815, was the earliest pasta- making machine in the World.

The restaurant was made entirely of blue neon and blue plastic.

The menu was a twelve inch blue plastic cube. A large blue neon sign on my left announced ‘VICTIMS OF CHOLERA SUFFER VOMITING, DIORRHOEA AND SEVERE DEHYDRATION -WITHOUT TREATMENT THEY CAN DIE WITHIN HOURS.’

“Would you like to order now?” the young waiter asked.

On my left a bulletin flashed “7,780,855 new HIV infections worldwide this year.”

May I recommend the mushroom risotto?” he asked.

Later, I asked the manager if he thought it might be a good idea if they coordinated the exhibitions with the restaurant Menu.

“You should have been here last month, when we had the BSE exhibition,” he said “…diseased meat was hanging from hooks in the ceiling.”

” I am sorry I missed it.” I said, as I ordered a roast beef salad.

“£349,551,511 spent on Viagra this year already.” the fibre optic news tube flashed.

“The male pill?…Are you up for it?”… ‘BIGGER BALLS MEAN BETTER TENNIS!’

Tarka, opposite me, said “Uncle Peter you have got food on your face.”

I took the napkin and removed a piece of boiled egg from my cheek.

Tarka was eating a boiled egg salad.

“Thank you, Tarka” I said.

“That’s OK Uncle Peter.” he said.

So the next time you visit the Science Museum, may I recommend you take the simulated space ride…it’s very, very scary.

Or, if you are in a rush, just eat in the restaurant. You get lunch AND, if you look around, you get exactly the same feelings of nausea you would experience from blasting into deepest space, and in one all-inclusive family package.

BUT under no circumstances should you eat in the restaurant BEFORE taking the space ride!

Their forthcoming exhibition: EBOLA “THE FLESH EATING” DISEASE ! sounds a like a fun ‘fine dining experience for the whole family’ to me.

Personally, next time I’m taking sandwiches.


Copyright Peter Rosengard 2001. All back columns including those that first appeared in The Independent 1993/1995, are now up on the site. Please see The Saturday Column Archive.