1) A woman dressed in a full-body fluffy crocodile suit (presumably it was the warmest clothing she had) riding her bike past posh Kensington houses
2) An old man feeding peanuts and talking to the squirrels
3) Geese the size of small children (who actually look like they might eat small children) in Hyde Park
4) Pink Pelicans
5) Jane Austen’s writing desk at the British Library
6) Charlotte Bronte’s hand-written copy of ‘Jane Eyre’ at the British Library
7) Listening to James Joyce reading ‘Finnegan’s Wake’, Alan Bennet read, ‘Alice in Wonderland’, Juliet Stevenson read, ‘Charlotte Bronte’, Seamus Heaney read some of his poems and W.B.Yeats read some of his, whilst collapsed in a jet-lagged heap on the floor of the British Library
8) Reading a poster about the evacuation of children from London during WWII at the Imperial War Museum and being approached by an old man…
OM: You’re lost in thought
Jen: I’m just reading this poster.
OM: Oh, yes, I was one of those children.
Jen: Really? Where were you evacuated to?
Old Man then tells very interesting and detailed story of living with a blacksmith in Oxfordshire and with a doctor…. somewhere else. Much of which I missed because I was concentrating too hard on his delightful accent. *Sigh*
9) Many varied editions of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ at the British Library, including a Russian version, a version illustrated by Dali and one created by Guinness, which inserted references to the black stuff into all important moments of the story.
10) Men dressed in metal vests and metal hats with feathery fountains coming out of the top, riding horses in formation at Kensington Gardens and no one thinking this was odd.
11) The following poster/mug/notebook:
(which is very me, but not very ‘British’)
1) A women being refused entry to the Imperial War Museum because her jumper said, ‘Fuck Reality’.
2) Using a red-phone box that smelt so badly of stale urine, I had to hang out the door whilst making my phone call to prevent myself from throwing up
3) Middle of the night jet-lag induced paranoia about male dorm room members, who I was convinced were going to rob me, rape me, or even worse, keep me up all night with their horrendous snoring. Said paranoia escalating into helpless, middle-of-the-night sobbing and fervent wishes to go home and existential cries of, ‘What have I done, what have I done?’ All of which, of course, was forgotten as soon as I managed 8 hours sleep and got a nice big bowl of muesli, some toast, and oh-so-lovely English Breakfast tea into me.
So, that is London so far. I’m finding the whole experience very odd, though. The city feels ridiculously familiar and comfortable for somewhere I have never lived and only visited once before. It must be the countless BBC dramas, the piles of 19th century novels, Harry Potter etc. etc. that I have read and watched (and re-read and re-watched) over the years that just makes being here seem so normal. I’ve devoured the city by osmosis. It seems, also, that traveling alone somehow makes it more difficult to realise you are traveling. I don’t know why that would make sense. It seems like, without talking to someone else about the experiences, they just float by – as if they have to be remarked upon to exist. It feels like I’m just watching a particularly good movie at the moment, because I haven’t really interacted with many people yet. I’m meeting up with a mate, Sons, tonight, though, for dinner and drinks in Brick Lane, so hopefully things will change after that.