London Calling

In case any of you were wondering, I survived my trans-Atlantic flight and arrived at Gatwick on that Saturday morning only moderately jetlagged. Let me preface the following with an apology: I am sorry that it has taken me this long to continue my epic odyssey. I wish I could justify it by saying that my plane crashed, dumping me on some island covered in polar bears and smoke monsters, but I can’t. I’ll just blame it on a writer’s strike. (And just as a warning, this post will be more informative than funny, so stop reading now if that doesn’t interest you. I won’t feel bad. I hate bloggers who write in the style of “I DID THIS AND THEN I DID THIS HERE IS A PIC LOL,” and I will likely stoop to that level at some point during this post. The next thing you know I’ll have a Geocities page covered in glittery .gif images and yellow Comic Sans. And then when my readership dwindles even further I’ll have to leave the Internet for real life: clinging to my half-completed English degree and forty cats, and quoting Internet memes for spare change. O, HOW BRIGHT THE FUTURE IS!) Anyway, after a slightly annoying bus and tube and foot journey to Golders Green, I spent my few days of limbo traipsing around the city centre and enjoying the wonderfully un-Londonlike sunshine.

This country feels like my second home more than Tacoma does in some respects. I lived in England during my gap year, during which I volunteered at three Catholic secondary schools in Bristol. This is where my eighteen-year-old self received her first taste of independence, of responsibility, and of adulthood; I pomp-and-circumstanced my way out of a Minnesotan cornfield and across the pond, surrounding myself with some strange English dialect and a remarkable amount of cobblestones. I can neither convey how much that year shaped me into the person I am today nor accurately express how right it feels to be back on this small island, but I shall do my best.

London is one of those cities that I never seem to tire of. Even though I have been here countless times over the past few years, I still find new nooks and crannies during each visit. This trip was particularly lovely since I was able to explore more of North London, a borough I never really had a reason to traverse before. One of my closest English friends, Alasdair, attends university in London and graciously allowed me to crash at his flat for the weekend. After dropping off a year’s worth of things, we whipped out our Oyster cards and walked along the Thames for a while, battling the crowds of tourists to admire that quintessential Englishness nestled around Westminster.

One of my better memories of that afternoon is accidentally joining a protest outside the Houses of Parliament. Alasdair and I were just walking on a sidewalk when suddenly all of the humans in front of us raised picket signs and began saying things in unison. I thought it was a flash mob until I realized it was a real mob, which the Internet hadn’t prepared me for. And we were at the back of it. And we couldn’t just turn around a leave because many, many police officers decided to follow us. Perhaps the best thing about this entire situation was the fact that we had no idea what exactly everyone was on about the entire time since all of the signs were facing the other direction and we couldn’t understand anything they were saying. But I like chanting things and making signs sometimes, too. So at least we have something in common. I figured that was enough and kept walking.

As awesome as central London is, however, remaining in the heart of it is like going to California and only seeing Disneyland. There is so much more to old London town than Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, and I believe one cannot truly experience the city without going to the outer regions of it.

I completely ignored this advice on Sunday when a German friend of mine, Ilarion, flew to London for the weekend!  The last time we saw each other was during a particularly frigid Reykjavik winter, so I felt no guilt about touristing around the National Gallery, Covent Garden, AND THE DOTOR WHO EXPERIENCE with him now that frostbite wasn’t an imminent threat. Here is a pic lol.

I may or may not be borderline obsessed with Doctor Who, and if any of you are fans, you will understand how epic of a pilgrimage this must have been for me. I might have been about twelve years older than everyone else there, but whatever. I can barely put into words what it was like to be inside the TARDIS. Or to have a Dalek plunge my brain. Or to touch actual real life Time Lord things even though I wasn’t supposed to.

As much as I love London, however, it does not have the same sense of “home” that the South West does. On Sunday night I decided on a whim to catch the last train to Bristol and spend my last day seeing Alasdair’s family. It is again difficult to explain the comforting sense of familiarity I felt when my train called into Bristol Temple Meads. When I stepped onto the platform and smelled that oddly familiar air, I could not help but chuckle as the word nostos flitted through my mind. (This moment brought to you by the Honors Program.) This must have been how Odysseus felt as he saw the first wafts of smoke from the hearths of Ithaca. Walking around those same city centre streets, even if only for a few hours, felt like eating your favourite childhood sweet, the one you can’t find anywhere anymore except for in the one working gas station in East Jesus Nowhere, North Dakota, or in bulk from the Internet. But you don’t care. You don’t care because, with that first taste, you dip your face into the pensive. You find yourself submerged in memory, in bittersweet happiness, and nothing compares to that. I do miss Bristol, but I know that Dublin will become just as much my home.  I look forward to that.  And I also look forward to the nostos I know I will feel after I leave in a year’s time, that and the sweet swell of joy each time Aeolus guides me back to it.

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