London Daze…

(This blog was originally written on Myspace)

My trip to London didn’t get off to a good start. My parents picked me up on their way to work, and while in the car on the way to the next town, I realised I’d forgot to pack my iPod and phone charger. We’d already travelled too far to turn back (it would’ve made my parents late), so that was out. I was dropped off at my auntie’s and had some thinking to do. All my car-owning cousins were at work. The buses to my home town only run every two hours and I wouldn’t get back in time to catch my train. So, that left a taxi, but could I justify the cost?

My phone’s battery definitely wouldn’t last the couple of days I’d be away, but I could always buy a charger in London. The biggest problem for me would be the near six-hour train journey. Could I ride public transport for that long and keep my sanity intact? I mean, the last time I took the train was coming back from London after I went to Reading Festival, and then I was picked up in Newport which was only, like, a three-hour trip (thanks to work on the lines that took us all over the place). I didn’t take my Pod that time and near the end of the trip I could feel bits of my mind falling away like wet cake. No, I NEEDED my iPod.

I went into town and caught a taxi. It cost me twenty quid there and back (plus a two pound tip for the lady driver. I’m too darn nice), but i had my iPod and was prepared to face the long and arduous train trek.

I caught the train at half ten and tried my best to get comfy and rest my eyes. I’d been up since six that morning, all jacked up on excitement juice aboot my upcoming London fun. I always get that way when going somewhere. I dozed, listening to the music in my head. When I next opened my eyes we were at Llandovery, a town only twenty-five miles from my own. I checked the time. It was nearly half eleven. Almost an hour to travel twenty-five miles?! My anger and frustration was rising to put it mildly. I tried my best not to think aboot it, closed my eyes and listened to my tunes.

Eventually, we got to Swansea where I had to change for the Paddington train. It was already there and waiting, so i walked on and found a seat. Unfortunately, I was joined by some cackling harridans at the table next to me, and wasn’t long before I had my earphones in listening to my Pod again (ever get the feeling I’m not suited for public transport?). Soon after the train pulled away and it finally felt as if I was getting somewhere.

I got into London at half four and headed for my hotel. I have to admit I was a lil’ worried as to what it’d be like. I’d made the mistake of booking the hotel then reading some reviews of it online. They were mixed, to say the least. I arrived, checked in without fuss, and got to my room. It was fine. Clean, tidy, nice size bed, bathroom, and air conditioning. Couldn’t ask for much more, really. I put my stuff away and tried to get an hour or so of rest.

There was a reason for my travelling to the Big Smoke. My friend Sarah had got together some of her comic pals and formed the Storytellers’ Club, a club for stories, and it was its first night on World Storytelling Day of all days (coincidence? I’d like to think so). It had been over a year since I’d last met up with Sarah, and I thought the very least i could do was come down and offer my support.

After my rest, I had a shower and prettied myself up for the night ahead. I’d put the tv on and became sidetracked by the evening news and i didn’t leave the hotel til gone seven. Still, i had an hour to get to the stories, that’d be enough i thought. I got to the tube and, of course, it was delayed. I waited. Waited. And waited. By the time it came it must have been half seven.

I had to stop along the way to meet up with my friend Nick, who was also in town at the time. I had to wait nearly ten minutes for him to appear, even though I text him from the hotel saying I was on my way. By the time we arrived at the Cafe Cairo it was way past eight. The first face I saw, I recognised as my pal Steve. It was only the second time I’d seen him to chat to in the last five years (something I’m not willing to let go of at this moment in time). He’d travelled from Portsmouth especially for the storytelling. Then I was greeted by the lovely James who informed me that Sarah had delayed the start of the club until I’d arrived. Sarah popped up for a quick hello while Nick got the drinks, then we followed her downstairs to the lil’ den where the storytelling would take place. She even saved three stools for us to sit. Now it was time for the stories.

And wonderful they were too. Tales of meeting royalty, heartbreak and depravity, being threatened by ten year olds at a swimming pool, stories written when you were seven, a road trip from hell, and heroics on school sports day. There was a competition to win some storytellers wine with a story in ten words, which Steve won with “Most stories end in death. Except this one. It doesn’t” He’d told me it earlier on in the night, and I kinda dismissed it. Shows what I know. And at some point during the night, he disappeared with his wine without so much as a nudge in the back and/or a “I’m off”. I haven’t completely forgiven him for that yet. Or HAVE I?

Yeah, prolly.

As the night drew to a close, Nick and I were invited to join Sarah and James (and a group of friends) back at theirs for a game of Scrabble. Once there, we were kindly offered drinks and snacks which, me being I, politely declined. Why, I don’t know, because I was actually quite hungry at that point. Oh, and while we’re on the subject, I wasn’t laughing AT the cous cous. I was laughing at the idea of ME eating cous cous. C’mon, you all know me by now. I’m being experimental if choose a crisp other than ready salted.

So, to the Scrabble. We were split into three teams. I was paired with Nick, and the other duos were Sarah and Tom, and James and Yianni, while Claire kept the scores. I’m not one who usually makes excuses for poor performance (with me it’s to be expected) BUT I’m gonna anyway because i think I’ve got pretty darn good reasons. For starters, i’d never played Scrabble before. Okay, I know, the rules aren’t exactly complex, but how many of us have been good at something the first time they’ve tried it? Well, apart from you. Yes, you. You know who you are. You, with your fancy “I’m good at things first time” ways. I despise you.

Another reason for my Scrabble crapness was that i was completely cream-knackered. Oh, Yianni with your complaining that you’d been up since nine. Pfft, I had three hours on that, buddy. You don’t hear me moaning. Except for now, obviously. All I’m saying is that my human brain has trouble with its cognitive thought processes at the best of times, so expecting me to form interesting and high-scoring words when my mind is addled through lack of sleep is a bit of an ask.

But, the biggest contributing factor to my overall shitness was, of course, being paired with the Nicholarse. Talk about a handicap, i’d have been better off teamed with a cabbage. Or cous cous.

As for the game itself, it was marred with bitter recriminations over cheating. And there was cheating. Blatant, in your face cheating. Even James, who until this time i held as the very paragon of good, virtuous and true, was looking in the dictionary for words. Though, all this cheating lies squarely at the foot of one person. Their influence upon the game was insidious and all-pervasive.

Ms Sarah Bennetto, you know who you are. I saw you picking up and putting back the letters you didn’t like. I witnessed you hog the dictionary searching for the bestest of english words with your lackey, Tom. You act as if butter wouldn’t melt, lovely and ever-so-sweet, that all the boys will excuse your minor indiscretions because you’re blondie and girl-like, but i know underneath lies the dark heart of somebody willing to win at all costs, fair or foul. That first cheat was the equivalent of Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine issuing Order 66 in Star Wars, declaring all Jedi (we righteous, rule-abiding folk) enemies of the Republic. It spread throughout the Scrabble galaxy perverting all who witnessed it and shaping the game to fit your own nefarious needs.

Not that I didn’t cheat too. Just the once, mind. We had put down a word and scored a measly ten points. Everybody was somewhat distracted from the game and not paying much attention, so when Claire, who was keeping the score, asked how much we had got, i said twenty. Twenty was written down, nobody noticed. Despite the cheat we still finished over a hundred points behind the other teams, which is pretty sucky. For the record, Sarah and Tom won, with James and Yianni a close second.

It had just past three in the morn, and with the game over and much fun had by all, it was time to leave. As Nick and I waited for the night bus, Sarah and James joined us in the freezing cold to keep us company and to see us off when the bus finally came. Which was nice. Nick’s stop was only a few stops up, but he decided to ride with me all the way back to the hotel. Which was good of him. When we arrived there it was nearly five. I gave Nick a pillow and a sheet off my bed and he kipped on the floor. I collapsed on my bed.

I awoke around twelve. I could have happily stayed in bed for much of the day, but Nicholas wanted to do something. I started my slow getting up process, which involves me turning on the tv and staying in bed. I watched the news with the very lovely Soapy Titwank (Sophie Raworth), it’s something that on a normal day would cheer me up before heading to work. Nick got a phone call from his brother worried as to why he hadn’t returned home last night, and i went for a shower. After I was cleansed, we decided to go to the science museum (you know, it was something to do).

We left the hotel and wandered around for a time. We spent an age searching for the museum, going back and forth, retracing our tracks. Eventually, we found it. Was it worth the trek? You bet your sweet bippy. I saw a big tyre, and I mean BIG. Cars, new and old, even a broken Formula One one. Planes. Steam engines. Fancy rockets. I left a stupid but very funny comment on a genetic manipulation, child choosing debate thingy (something involving Our Lord, Jesus Christ) signing my name as my pal Grant, who’s currently in Canada. I also had fun messing with the practical experiments. There were far too many stairs for my liking, though.

We left the museum and slowly headed back to the hotel. It worked out perfectly as, soon after we got back, Sarah rang asking what we were up do and whether we wanted to join her and James for a drink and maybe a film later. I was game and Sarah gave the instructions as to where they’d be. I was pretty sure to where it was as i remember being taken up that back alley on a previous visit (ooh-err, missus!). Nick decided not to come and at the tube we went our separate ways. Again, I had to wait a time for it to arrive, making me late for my rendezvous. When it did come, and I got where I wanted to go, it was indeed the cobbled alley i remembered, though I would have walked straight past the cafe where we were meeting had it not been for James knocking the window to get my attention.

We chatted for a while, aboot something and nothing, and decided on what film we should see. It was down to two – Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep, or Hot Fuzz. Of course, for me it was no choice at all. Sorry Gondry, you can’t possibly compete with the mighty Pegg. We left the cafe, wandered around a bit, and i was shown a Banksy. Soon after, we made our way to the cinema for some Hot Fuzz.

And bloody good it was too. It was a bit long, and the hyperactive editing did start to grate at some points, but these were minor quibbles. The many very funny laughs more than made up for the few small faults. We left the cinema three happy people.

It was time to go our seperate ways. As we waited in the underground I handed over some lil’ things I’d saved up over the year. It was Kinney overload with the majority of their back catalogue, and a DVD of The Venture Bros., a show so fantastically brilliant I intend on spreading the word to all those I deem cool (geeky) enough to get it. We said our goodbyes and i headed back to the hotel. Once there, I packed away a few of my things, set my alarm, and went to sleep.

When my alarm rang I could have easily stayed in bed. A shower woke me up a bit and I realised that i had to ring the boss to tell her I wouldn’t be at work that day. I made some excuse that I had a bad stomach. I finished packing, checked out, and made my way to Paddington. I arrived with time to spare, so I got myself a drink and some sweets for the coming journey. It wasn’t long after that the train was ready.

As the train pulled away, Low came on my iPod with Do You Know How to Waltz, and it seemed to fit perfectly with my melancholy feeling and the view I could see from the window. That made me smile. I like those lil’ serendipitous moments.

The journey itself was uneventful, but oh-so long. Six hours later and I was back. I walked to auntie’s and she was good enough to make me some of her legendary toast (more butter than bread!). I stayed at my auntie’s until my mum picked me up after work. A short trip later and i was home, very tired but very happy to have gone.

So, that was my London adventure. It’s three weeks after the event, I know, but I’m a lazy fucker. What did you expect?

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