Diana, I miss your smile
Subtle and charming
Even though we never met
Your soul in the water
Washing over limestone
The frolic paused
To remember you
As I often do.
So, I finally gave up on finding a memory card for my camera by the time we got to London. The first chance I got I went to a little convenience store and bought two disposable cameras because that was about all I felt I could spend of the euros I had left. By that time in the trip we had two days left and I figured I would just take as many pictures as the cameras would afford me and hope they came out alright. It’s funny to think back on it now, but those photos I took were probably the most authentic of the whole trip, which in some small way makes London the most authentic place we traveled to and through. Perhaps it was because I couldn’t see and analyze them, deleting the ones I didn’t like. Once I took them they were there to stay, for better or for worse, and I never saw them until I got back to the States and had them developed. It turned out to be a good choice.
We went on a bus tour of the city early that next morning and I took pictures through the bus windows, photos of Big Ben and the Tower Bridge. In fact, I recall us driving over London Bridge, and I was thinking, “This is London Bridge?” The bridge itself was pretty ordinary, and it made me question why anyone would write a children’s song about it. Then our tour guide explained to us why London Bridge was so ordinary, how it was a far iteration from the original bridge that was as wide as a city street, the one that did indeed burn down a long, long time ago. He told us that the bridge that’s there now is just functional because it costs too much to keep replacing the bridge, and the latest one was shipped to a town in Iowa, or some other midwestern place (I wasn’t really listening, so fascinated was I by Tower Bridge, that I could see on the left as we drove across).
Then we were dropped off the bus outside of Buckingham Palace right around the time for the changing of the guard, which is one of those things you can’t really describe unless you see it. Continue reading “You Call This a Shower?: Part 13”
It dumped buckets the entire bus ride into the city of London early that next day, making me remember that we should have packed umbrellas. Oops. I joked that London was the Seattle of Europe, to which no one laughed, but my group had something else in store for me. They were finally talking to me again after the Oxford “incident,” and the type of talking they were doing was dreadful. You see, they all decided to affect a British accent just in time for London, and it was only the members of my group. Suddenly everyone was “bobbies,” “gits,” and “wankers,” and man, those accents made me cringe they were so horrible. But apparently they were planning to embarrass me to death in front of the other members of our party. It succeeded tremendously.
We pulled into the city in mid-afternoon with the rain still coming down in sheets, a perfect shower to clean us off after yet another filthy bus ride (I’m kidding. The buses we used were always immaculate). When we got to our hotel to drop off our bags, we were all exhausted. A trip like the one we were on takes a lot out of you, and we could all see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we were definitely going to have to crawl there in order to reach it. London was our final destination, though, and we were going to enjoy it if it killed us. The hotel was right across the street from the new Wembley Stadium, which was seriously cool, but I had no more memory in my camera card, and there were no more photos I wanted to delete, so my first priority was finding a shop and getting a card if I could.
Just like with London we had some free time that first day, but a lot of us ended up doing the Jack the Ripper tour, with the others staying at the hotel. We took the tube into the city, and I was finally treated to those lovely signs that said “Mind the Gap,” and yes, they were plastered everywhere at each tube stop. There were eight stops between Wembley, where we were, and the city center, where the tour was going to start. When we emerged from the underground station we were right across the street from the Tower of London, which was quite surreal. After hearing so much talk about the tower, it was just so odd to finally see it up close and personal right in front of us. Then the tour started. Continue reading “You Call This a Shower?: Part 12”
London, baby! I am standing on London Bridge and wondering if it is going to fall down again. And, yeah, I know all that stuff about it not being the original bridge, and how the real one burned to the ground (to the water?) and how this one is the seventh iteration of it, but you know how it is sometimes. And I think it’s funny how it looks like a regular bridge, with none of the trappings you would expect of a famous landmark. So yeah, I’m standing here, looking out across the Thames (it’s pronounced “Tims,” — weird, huh?) and I see this boat chugging along slowly but surely. It is full of about a hundred tourists, all with cameras out, ready to snap a picture or 50. I knew how it was, because I was one of them, two years ago.
I first came to London on a lark. It was a dare, really, a wager that I thought I would lose. My friend Stephanie said I would never fly anywhere, and she was certainly right back then, not that I wanted to admit it. I have always been deathly afraid of heights, so a ride in a vehicle with wings seemed practically suicidal to me. But my boyfriend of five years, Steve, had just broken up with me for a cliche of all cliches, a younger girl (not even going to call her a woman) who was born when I was turning 18. Sometimes when I think back to that time period, I still can’t believe I let him determine my happiness like that. I mean, it was obvious after year three that we weren’t going to be going the distance, but I could never give up on anything. I’m the type who will read a book all the way through, even though from page one it has been horrendous.
So I put Steph in her place and said I was going to do it. Of course it took me nearly a month to get up the nerve to actually do it, though. It was a month of hyperventilating and meditating, trying to psych myself into being all “Eat Pray Love,” and it eventually worked. Well, that and all the drugs I took before boarding. Shhh. Don’t tell anybody. Anyway, when I finally boarded, on Christmas day in 2010, I swore I was going to get Steph back for making me prove her wrong. As I looked down at my ticket and I saw again the words “London Heathrow Airport,” I knew I was biting off more than I could chew, but I stayed in my seat and somehow survived all the way across the Atlantic (thank god for barf bags — sorry, dude who was sitting next to me). When I stumbled off that plane, I vowed never to fly in another one (which would of course make it pretty hard to get back home), and that’s why I’m still here two years later. But it hasn’t been a bad time. At all.
No, it hasn’t been like a romantic comedy where the sweet but shy Canadian girl comes to London, meet a beatnik poet type with a scruffy goatee, falls madly in love, whelps six kids for him, and still somehow they live happily ever after. It’s two years later and I haven’t sniffed so much as a second date from any guy. I guess it doesn’t help that I have this insane tendency to sleep with guys on the first date. Something about getting milk for free or something, I guess (there goes that sweet but shy label). Maybe I need to go back to therapy or something, but I’m not dissatisfied with my life. Far from it. I have a solid group of mates, which is strange to say but it’s true. I mean, I’m not the life of the party, but I’m definitely a good member of a posse. Much respect. So, I haven’t lacked for entertainment, and Steph comes to visit every few months. I think she’s still shocked I did it, and her hair has finally gone back to its original color so she doesn’t mind being seen in public anymore. I tell her we should do another dare sometime, but not if it involves flying again. Done with that.
So, I’m standing here on London Bridge, crowded up against the railing because the traffic is relatively heavy, trying to remember which direction I came from to get here. I mean usually on a Thursday afternoon I’m heading downtown for my yoga class, but that was cancelled this week because the instructor went into labor yesterday (I know, inconvenient, right?) so where was I going? I look south toward the Eye, that amazing ferris wheel that is so much larger and more complex than any I have seen before. The first time I saw it, it took my breath away, something Big Ben and Buckingham Palace failed to do. But it’s so expensive to ride, and I saw this movie where it got destroyed while people were on it. Not to mention my fear of heights. Yet, for some odd reason I can’t help wishing I was there, and before I know it my feet are taking me of their own accord, heading south. My cell goes off, the sounds of Katy Perry’s “ET” drowning out the street noise, but only momentarily. Yet, it is enough to break me from my reverie, and I get in the queue for the number 10 bus. Heading downtown. I glance at my phone’s screen. It’s Gary. He wants a second date.