My eyes opened in the morning and my hand reached out to check the time on my phone. Ugh. It’s way too early but however hard I tried my eyes did not allow sleep to overtake me. I gave up and got up and promptly allowed peristaltic movements to expel some of the pressure. The food I’ve been eating lately has not been agreeing with me. The canteen in the hospital is the culprit I think. Corporate interests have spoiled this necessary pleasure. This may not be the only thing that is causing my insomnia but it is a contributing factor today.
What a way to begin this day. I’ve been looking forward to this day for a while. I finally get to pick up the package that Barbs has sent me for Valentine’s Day. I had no way of getting it earlier firstly because of a lack of funds and secondly because of a lack of time. I am quickly approaching my fourth week here and that is something that is hard to believe. The numbers don’t lie however. My mood was boosted a little with the first deposit for my work into my bank account. The pounds slide continues however and since I got here it has lost ten percent of its value. The British should expect this slide to continue as money leaves into more stable markets. If they decide to leave expect the pound to drop precipitously even further. The sting will hurt for a long time by which point the economy will be nothing resembling what I knew. June twenty-third is only a few months away.
This early in the morning any noise is loud and I cautiously step in and out of my room using my ninja skills trying to not rouse my flatmates. I think there is only one of them here at the moment and he is the one closest to the exit and the one who hates waking up in the morning. The door creeks as I open it to climb down the stairs for some fresh air. At one point I opened my window and snuck a fag out the window while it was still dark. It was a restless morning and I made the best of it by organizing my stuff for the journey ahead as well as removing a weeks worth of growth from my face.
Breakfast was a good idea before the morning journey. The futuristic arches contrast with the old town center. Touch screens greet the customer instead of a smiling face the food prepared with a mechanical precision for hygienic purposes. This corporate rigor is necessary to maintain a profit and maintain its image. One of the workers lazily set up the tables outside chatting up the regulars as they walked in and out of the establishment. Barbs and I messaged each other with our worries and affirmations as she was heading to bed to sleep. This distance apart is hard but we continue to talk and get to know each other. Each conversation reveals more of each other’s personality and ways of though. The good and bad are immaterial to the honesty we express to each other.
The train approaches as we say our goodbyes and goodnights. I find a seat and listen to the bunch of lads chatting loudly listening to music. There is a constant sound of cans popping and the chatter is in an accent that Bernie pulls off to a ‘T’. There is a loud “psst!” as they pop gas canisters into balloons and rebreathe that gas over and over for a short little high. These lads are going hard at it at nine am in the morning. Can’t tell if they’re going to see a darby sometime or just carrying on from last night. Regardless of their motive it creates a tension in the carriage as these canisters go off in regular intervals and they take turns going to the can. There is one stop before Euston and the train fills further but they carry on. Their number and boisterous behavior affects all who get on. There is however an old man on the other side from where I’m sitting who sleeps through it all. London is fast approaching and we all want to just get off.
As soon as one gets off the train the hustle and bustle as well as the sounds and smells of London overwhelm the senses. There is a rush to the exit and then a rush for the tube until one gets to the platform and waits for the train before rushing on and continuing the journey. People dress differently here with a bit more style. To be fair some people dress well up north where I am now but not like here. Some people really look good. Women in their chic outfits and since it’s the weekend not as many men dressed in their tailored suits. I think there are some sporting events happening so the guys are out in packs. Some of them wearing colors but many in plain dark colors lumbering towards the exit with their shiny shaved heads reflecting the white lights.
For a slow travel day there sure were a lot of police patrolling the stations. They stood out in their high vis vests all congregated together thumbs in their belts eyeing myself and others as they walked by. The lady in Euston let me in to the underground without a valid pass and the lady at Waterloo gave me a hard time. I told her what happened and with an excaserbated expression let me through. One of the best features of the Underground is the ability to pay directly with your debit card. The chip contactless payment system is a marvelous innovation. For it to be used as a payment system it also incorporates another important feature that you will only be charged a maximum amount for your daily journeys as well as for the week according to the zones one travels in and to. This feature eliminates the need to buy tickets or top up your card. Brilliant!
I had an early meeting with a friend which was slightly delayed due to problems with his phone. Afterwards there was another meeting with another friend near Victoria Station. We talked as he waited for a phone call from his extended family who were flying in from abroad. His wife was waiting to meet up with her friend who was late. They each had a kid in tow. Why didn’t we all meet up together? I don’t know. Maybe there was concern about history between her friend and me but there was never any animosity between us just distance and growing apart. Life gets in the way. I felt a finality all those months ago when we parted for the last time. I don’t feel that way with Barbs…
Sitting in the pub sharing stories over a pint with Joe was nice. He’s always had a knack for bypassing all the bull shit and finding the important things in life. Because of this talent he has managed to have a family and buy a house. I’ve seen him do all these things as I’ve seen him dig himself out of a hole that any of us could find ourselves in. It’s good to see him so content and relaxed about it all. The unexpected visit of his in laws did prompt him to have another pint though. I finally however have my Valentine’s Day present that’s been sitting there for a while. I can’t quite open it yet until I have a chat with Barbs tomorrow.
There was another reason why I came to this city and that is to buy some basic necessities socks, t-shirts, and pants (underwear in North America 😉). Victoria is not far from Buckingham Palace which is not that far from Regents Street a mecca of shopping. As I looked around maneuvering through the throngs of shoppers I picture Barbs walking here with me starring at all the buildings and shops trying to decide where to go and what to buy. Here there were some well dressed people many already clutching designer bags of pieces that they have picked up. I stuffed my purchases inside my rucksack so that it would be easier to move through the crowd. I got a message from Joe and tried to respond. I stopped at Oxford Circus and watched while I waited for a response. There were some transit police that we’re getting out of the van. They were armed with pistols and had their vests with all their gear with puffed out chests. They opened the boot of their van and pulled out some machine guns which they strapped on themselves. The muzzles were pointed towards the ground and they chatted to each other that they were going to take a short cut down the exit stairs here at the side. They had an effect on the passengers coming up the stairs based on some of their expressions as they left the stairs. Cops don’t carry guns here so if they have ’em it means something, it means that they are patrolling for something or maybe practicing or intimidating by being visible. There is a subconscious fear of a potential terrorist attack. This city is definitely a target and it has happened here before. Joe told me about his experiences of that day.
Euston station is not far from Oxford Circus. My walk towards the station continued as I followed a zig zag pattern on my way to the station the little streets offer views of buildings I never saw before. There are thousands of streets in the city and most in this area have some kind of significance or interesting shape. The University College London is here as is the hospital. It is a massive building. A tall (what I presume to be) tranny was handing out flyers in a giant blond wig and sparkly mini dress. She looked be up and down and in a seductive tone said “hello there, would you like a free haircut from a trainee?” I thanked her for her time and the flyer and continued on. I could feel her eyeing me as I crossed the street.
The Wellcome Trust is some kind of a scientific research foundation and often they have some exhibits there. There was something about the states of consciousness on display there and as with many London museums it was free admission. Looking at me watch and calculating how much time before departure I decided to go in. There was a long queue waiting to get into the exhibit. There was no way I would make it to my train if I waited. There was another mini permanent exhibit and I spent a few minutes checking it out before heading to the station. There was enough time to grab a quick bite and a coffee before queueing to board the train. There was a lot of people waiting for this train. It didn’t help that it was short. When the doors closed there were people standing. Two ladies with their lively kids sat behind me. The overflow kid sat beside me. They were all animated as one of them kept shouting out ‘Thomasland! I can see it!’ before each stop until they got off. I had a good chat with Rita. We haven’t spoken in a while. She told me about her troubles with work as her bosses are not accommodating her needs in this time. She told me about the problems with her tests as the clinic messed up a couple of times. They spelled her last name wrong on something so she has to repeat some test again. Besides these little hiccups it sounds like she’s doing fine and her and Jaco were relaxing this Saturday night.
As I walked back to me flat a thought occurred to me. I should visit the local super shop. It’s open until midnight tonight whilst tomorrow it’s only open eleven to four. It will give me some time to play with instead of factoring it into me day. I could have done it as I walked to me flat now but I’d rather drop of all this baggage and roll. It made the walk to the shop a lot more insightful. Like what should I do with me time? I decided to try to track me dietary intake trying to measure what I put into me body.
It also gave me a chance to see what goes on in this town on a Saturday night. The route that me takes goes through the centre of town. At least the periphery where drinking establishment could be found. As me turned the corner me encountered a group of about fifteen people walking down the middle of the street. Some of the women were carrying champagne bottles. They were clumped into small groups of two or more. Their ages ranged from maybe twenty-five and up to forty-five. The average was likely skewed toward thirty something. There was boisterous chatter as the group slowly shifted onto the sidewalk as by this point me was passing them.
Saturday night inside a super shop can feel surreal sometimes. There are moments when one is utterly alone then all of a sudden there is a crowd around you. All the things that me buys has nutritional values printed on the label including the prepared fruit me enjoys. The resent gastrointestinal irritation mostly involves flatulance. The culprit is likely to be the breakfast at the canteen and probably the lunches too. Me thinks me just solved me breakfast problem. Yoghurt and prepared fruit. Me can carry it to work and eat it while me waits to work. Me needs solutions that are practical and low on additional equipment. Although having said that me needs to get a thermos for coffee. Me is finding the coffee service both tedious and expensive as well as and most importantly it doesn’t taste good.
There are many aisles to ponder. Me has been in this store before so finding things is more efficient now. Me bought some nutritional supplements. They added significantly to the cost of me groceries however the aforementioned problem has to be mitigated. When it becomes excessive and overly noticeable it tells me something. Me likes to use these self service tills. It gives me a chance to properly pack the single bag me keeps reusing. These mandatory charges for plastic bags that the UK government has introduced has made the bags stronger and it inspired me to carry one at all times. Me has a bag with me all the time.