понедельник, 8 октября 2007 г.

badgerabroad

Lying in a bed in Elephant & Castle, London. No one else is around. Blue walls, red brick out the windows, street lights so old they've gone that winsome, wistful gold color of faded lights. They look tired, like autumn is here - last barbecue, nights at the lake, hot apple cider, fires, the promise of winter and long days spent reading and staring as the world goes by. The Australians still don't know what they're in for. This is a rare moment of comfort and privacy. I'm deeply content, and exhausted. The university did not contact me today, so I carry on the job hunt in the morning. I flirted with the receptionist and she gave me the business wireless password, so I can catch up on my e-mails, write a few, and look for jobs/apartments all without the boundless joys of London internet cafes. Not all internet cafes are created equal. They are cheaper here than in Ireland, but not as comfortable. The one I've been using lately is a pound for two hours (compared to upwards of 5 euros an hour in some places in the emerald isle), and they seem to make their money by creating an environment that no human being can tolerate for more than 30 minutes. The weekend was wonderful, if a little indulgent. On Saturday, I went to the Tate Britain to see the Millais exhibit with a friend. She was in London six years ago, and after the exhibit we walked around the area where she used to work - the first time she'd seen it again. The place is closed now, the sign cracked and faded from an oilfield sunrise orange to dried apricot. There is something warmly human about someone else's nostalgia. After picking apart the easy bits of our lives and eccentricities - what is a French country girl, who doesn't like big cities, doing in London? Again? - we joined some of her friends for the France v. New Zealand rugby match. Got home late (for London! The tube stops running around midnight!) The 'underground' is experimenting with licensed busker stalls in the pedestrian walkways, and I hearing someone playing "London Bridge is falling down," someone else playing Green Day songs. "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," I think. Reminded me strongly of Neverwhere. Yet another book I need to read again... I've talked another friend into letting me store some books in her room. She's a long-termer at one of the hostels I frequent. The room has an improbable closet with a ridiculous shelf at the top, some 10' off the floor. Suffice to say, no one else was using it. By jumping a bit I managed to stuff most of my luggage into it. I feel safe with them there, as I figure anyone else who tries to pull a bag of lugubrious texts off of the shelf will meet a grisly end. It amuses me no end to think about my hardcover copy of "The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for The Third World" crushing some would-be book thief. Proof of my addiction. A partial count reveals I have at least 20 books now, and I know there are more locked in inaccessible parts of my suitcase. I'm averaging one every other day right now, and have found some people I like enough to actually give my books to when I'm done with them. "Blink" was a really good read. I've left a few books behind without knowing who got them, and I wonder about them frequently. Who picked up my copy of "An Arab-Syrian Warrior-Gentleman in the Period of The Crusades"? I know someone did, because it was gone the next day... who is reading about the British stay-behind force in Malaya during WWII? Presumably this is akin to how parents feel about their children. It must be exhausting. Still, books can't write home. It'd be nice to hear from them. (Hi Mom! Hi Dad! Everything Is Great!) Sunday was quiet, luxurious during the day. Slept late, found a place with a fantastic brunch. Ate too much in a happy way. It was one of my better Sundays in Europe, as I had no where to be and nothing to do, which made me feel like a real Londoner. There is no where to be and nothing to do before two o'clock, so its all parks and long lunches... if you can find a place that is open. Sunday is forever Sunday from "The Man Who Was Thursday," representative of all the good and all the evil in the world - incomprehensibly huge, majestically obese like a red rubber ball or a dirigible. The strongest image that remains with me from the read is Sunday leaping over a balcony and bounding away in huge, impossible strides. This is what I think about during the day. Sunday evening turned into Monday morning watching another rugby game at the hostel. I know most of the staff now, so its increasingly home-like. The stories people tell are beginning to overlap with the lore from movies and music. Things 'sound right,' like they're the stories that people should be telling. Charlie, the bartender, knows the owner and thats how he got the job ... he wants to join the army as an infantry officer, and he's outrageously preferential in his treatment of female customers. Jerrod is a Kiwi who says he hates London and hates his job, but he seems pretty happy about it all. Mike is awkward, he has a degree in some brand of engineering, but he's working at the hostel as security, trying to be something that he is not - whether it is self-improvement or denial, I may never know. There were a few Irishmen in the hostel bar that night. I hadn't realized how much I'd learned about Irish culture in my emerald exile, but it was an easy jovial banter until they descended into drunkenness and then an early bed. At some point, sitting with all the girls in the bar and Charlie, I mentioned that I was under the impression that far more women traveled than men - that most of the people I know in London, and knew in Ireland, were female. One of the savvier members of the group pointed out that I was probably avoiding the cheapest of all hostels (true, but not by much - I have an elaborate calculus comparing rating to price, and a 20% rating boost is worth 50 pence a night!) She also pointed out that there were plenty of guys in the bar that night, they were just all playing wall-flower and/or too drunk to be bothered talking. So perhaps my thoughts about the gender-gap in travel (and work, school, ...) are erroneous - maybe its just me. Perhaps most of the guys are just too quiet to be noticed. Perhaps kissing the blarney stone really WAS magic... or, more likely, I'm just so damned pleased with myself that everyone else is too. Its pretty cool feeling like you're the protagonist in your own life.

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