london pt 1
The thing about traveling is that sense of loss of where home is. Home is wherever you just laid your head to sleep and wherever you are heading to next. I was making my way back to him.
I got off at Paddington, I followed the signs, I took the 476 bus, put a pin on the map on my phone and watched it advance in small increments, my excitement growing exponentially. He met me at the bus stop with flowers, I melted, we chatted incessantly for hours telling each other every single detail of our time apart, namely how much we missed each other and how silly it was to spend so many nights apart when there were so few to begin with.
It is a flurry of activity that will last for the next 10 days as I am being ushered from one social event to the next. Hence the need to section off this London segment into several bits. Highlights of my first weekend in London include:
- Seeing Morgan O’Donovan’s Facebook Project at the Dalston Superstore. The people present were as eclectic as the portraits on the wall (Joe, his brother and mother were just a few of the 500 portraits taken for the project). It was a bit like stepping into Alice in Wonderland, if Alice were Peaches and Wonderland a bit more industrial chic. And with a hip soundtrack.
- Dinner at the Stone Cave, a Turkish restaurant with the most random decor; faux wood tables that looked like garden furniture if the parasol holes were any indication, walls made to resemble a grotto (what is that? polyethylene composite? I could almost see the infomercial “Your customers will be amazed! It’s the most realistic looking synthetic rock ever. Touch it and you won’t even know the difference.”). But the golden cherubs carrying the toilet sign took the cake. However, let not the cheesy decor fool you, the food was fabulous. Authentic and delicious. Crusty, bubbly, hot flat breads, hummus, calamari, deep-fried spinach & feta, spicy tomato chicken over rice.
- Taking a mid-morning shower with him. The dance of it all. Chatting and switching. One person rinsing off while the other lathers up. It is a sacrifice to shower with someone else. One person is always cold or has shampoo in their eyes. But then you come together for a brief moment under the hot stream and it’s that moment that makes it all worthwhile. I remember my parents used to shower together occasionally when I was a kid. I remember feeling happy when they did because it meant everything was okay.
- Meeting the very enchanting Xanthe Berkeley. I have yet to meet a blogger in person that I have not liked online. Xanthe is no exception, indeed she is even more charming in real life. We spent such a lovely day together…
- Grabbing a double espresso at MonMouth and strolling around Borough Market, the smell of hot mulled cider wafting through the cold November air, chatting and taking photos of wild mushrooms and bushels of tomatoes and pink apples and bouquets of lavender and heather. Surely on of my very favorite things to do. Particularly with a fellow photographer as I never have to worry about stopping to take a photo of something that some people might perceive as insignificant.
- Seeing Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seed exhibit at the Tate Modern. 100 million hand-crafted porcelain sunflower seeds covering the floor of the turbine hall. Each one unique, yet all seemingly identical. It is a sight to behold.
- Having a gigantic bowl of soup at Wagamama on a cold winter day, which warmed the soul and was particularly lovely since there was nary a potato to be found floating in the broth. I am all potato’d out, people! Xanthe and I talk about life, the strangeness of blogging, the wonderful people we’ve met and the opportunities afforded. Not very many people understand this peculiar world. I remember when I first started blogging, a friend of mine said: “Hold up! You write about your life on the internet and people READ about it? Why?”
- Afternoon tea in the crypt at St-Martin in the Fields church, where the café floor is lined with gravestones, which, for the girl with a fascination for cemeteries, is particularly exhilarating.
- Taking a nap in the lobby of the National Portrait Gallery (after visiting, naturally, I didn’t simply pop into the lobby off the street for a nap… I have a little bit more class than that). I needed to recharge my batteries and am quite gifted in the art of the 15-minute power nap in random public places, which is ironic given that I am not a particular fan of sleep. It’s always something I have to do, you know, to function and all. Rarely something I want to do. But a cozy leather chair 5 feet away from of group of Uni students doing presentations on obscure historical figures simply begs for a nap, wouldn’t you say? Perfect napping conditions, indeed. After which I am en feu and ready to tackle Thursday night.
- Getting together with the first group of friends at a pub and not actually dying. I survived the meeting of the friends, which, if you ask me, is far more intimidating than meeting the parents. But his friends were so friendly and easy and by the time the dim sum rolled around at PingPong, I was feeling quite comfortable. Little steamed parcels of deliciousness will do that to you. As will sake.
- Noon time rendez-vous with the British Boy at Mother Mash for pumpkin & goat cheese pie with horseradish mashed potatoes and veggie gravy. There is something very sweet about meeting your lover, boyfriend, husband for lunch on a Friday then kissing him good-bye as he heads back to work, knowing that you will see him again in a few short hours. I hope to never lose my appreciation for those little moments.
- Meeting the second group of friends on a Friday night at the Duke of Cambridge, London’s first organic pub. Gorgeous venue, brilliant atmosphere, high ceilings, dim lighting. Large, hearty (and very expensive) glasses of organic wine were consumed with mussels and salad. The rest of the meal was peppered with me answering the same questions over and over… “So Jeanine, when are you moving here? Where do you live again? What do you do? How did you meet?” Usually punctuated with, “Well, you hit the jackpot with Joe. He’s my favorite of all the guys. You couldn’t have chosen a better man, seriously.” I couldn’t agree more. I am a very lucky woman indeed.
- Lazy Saturday morning in bed, sleeping in until 10am or so, which is quite late by my standards but I find myself simply incapable of getting out of bed with this man in it. A magnet, he is. I lose all sense of time when we are under the sheets. What would you have me do?
- Breakfast at Tina, We Salute You, a trendy one-room café with a giant communal table in the center and a few seats by the windows. We squeeze in with a few friends from the night before and I have the best granola ever (best granola EVER!) with yoghurt and warm honey.
- Pub Crawl Saturday. An afternoon at the Southampton Arms Pub, which I wrote about here. Followed by a bottle of red with Ed & Jen at the Paradise Pub in a room so cold from the constant coming and going of patrons that we kept our coats on as ghostly air snuck up our spines. We then piled into a cab and headed to The Troubadour, where we met a whole other slew of friends (group #3) for dinner. More bottles of wine flowed, everyone split the bill, I answered the same questions as the previous two nights (different friends, same questions) and then we all stumbled into the Pembroke Pub next door. I remember being rather sensible upon entering pub number 4 and ordering mint tea at the bar. I remember mainly because the bar tender repeated mint tea? Then rolled his eyes before starting the arduous task of POURING HOT WATER IN A CUP. How dare I ask such things of him? But then someone ordered a tray of vodka shots and sensibility flew out the window right about the time the name game began. One person names a famous figure and the next person has to name a celebrity with a name starting with the same letter as the last celebrity’s surname. Hesitation gets you a shot of vodka, which is only ever a good deal if you are a broke university student. When you’re 35, you want to know your celebrities because that vodka shot could be the death of you. At 11pm, they rang the bell for last call (gasp! on a friday night?). Which, in retrospect was probably a good thing as one friend had started playing air guitar to Michael Jackson. Something I have never seen in all my years. Air guitar to Guns and Roses, Pink Floyd, AD/DC? Sure. But Michael Jackson? So once again, we all piled into a cab, 3 girls and 2 guys, back to Ed & Jen’s place where the party continued with more wine and Ed reading me Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas (You can hear the dew falling, and the hushed town breathing) until the wee hours of the morning at which point we crashed. Hard.
- Sunday morning. Post pub crawl. Joe and I sprawled out on Ed’s couch eating breakfast sandwiches and watching Monty Python. Wine glasses lying around the house in various states from full to nearly empty to the few with the red ring stain at the bottom of the glass. When his wife comes downstairs feeling like death itself, Ed asks her is she wants him to make her a bacon sandwich. And to me, that is love. When your man knows what would make you feel better and is willing to go that extra mile to make you a bacon sandwich even though he feels a little bit like death too.
- Taking Layla & Diesel, the Hudson dogs, out for a walk in Hyde Park. Me, my man, 2 geriatric dogs, fresh air, hand in hand, walking a path of golden ginkgo leaves. It felt like a glimpse into our future. It felt good.
- Sunday roast at yet another group of friends. The kitchen was warm upon arrival and smelled like a Sunday. The way Sundays used to be when they meant time spent with family. Chicken, potatoes roasted in duck fat, a cheese platter with bread and quince jelly. And wine, more wine, always wine.
Sorry for the late post, folks. I’ve been fighting a particularly stubborn bout of bronchitis and this damn cough is all up in my business. This is my 4th consecutive winter in Montreal and I just don’t think my body can take another harsh Canadian winter (-39 degrees with the windchill is simply inhumane, if you ask me, and I think me lungs are trying to tell me something). So let’s hope that I am posting from London this time next year, otherwise I’m moving to Mexico and selling pina coladas on the beach.