Victoria August 23, 2007Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” I think to myself within half a second of arriving in the UK. “Fuck, fuck, fuck. Why did I come? Shit, I miss home. Damn, I must have missed at least 300 spam e-mails by now. Fuck. It’ll be awkward seeing the brother I still owe 80 million pounds to. Bugger, I won’t get a chance to see a single London friend and then will feel guilty and this feeling will only be redoubled by getting testy e-mails from the relatives/friends I didn’t see at all or enough saying, ‘Well, I must say, I think you could have…’ Bugger, it’s too late to text everyone I know. Why is eaSyjet always late? I wish Luton Airport would stop pretending it was in London.”
“Bugger,” I think to myself having got out of the airport building. “There isn’t a bus to the station for another hour. Bugger, it’s already a million o’clock. God, it’s freezing for the middle of summer. There’ll be no trains. I bet that Australian regrets wearing shorts. Fuck, I haven’t got a jacket. Christ, there are designated smoking areas outside. Can’t I smoke anywhere I can freeze? Bugger, I’ll have to get a coach.”
Which was quite entertaining. “Where ya gaain’?” a member of coach-staff asked each of the frozen tourists proffering their bags for safe-keeping. After lots of sorrys and excuse-mes, they would answer. “Finchley Road,” a Latvian might say, shyly. “Baker Street,” an American might offer, hoping they’d understood the question rightly. “Victoria,” I said, having forgotten London’s geography and hoping I’d be able to make it from there to the wilds of far south-west London. “That’ll be 700 pounds,” said the driver. “Can you wait a couple of hours while I try and earn the fare working as a prostitute?” “Yeah, no fuckin’ problem, mate.”
We trundled off to London. Brent Cross. (“Why did we go out of town to shop?”) Childs Hill. (I waved to my father buried close by.) Swiss Cottage. (“Oh god, did I think that was a tourist attraction when we had Spanish exchange students when I was 14?”) Lords Cricket Ground. (No-one got off.) Baker Street. (Saw a mad, ancient, freezing, homeless man who made me have positive thoughts about Sweden.) Marble Arch. (“God, isn’t Oxford Street a shit-hole?”) Hyde Park Corner. (“That Wellington Memorial should be much famouser than Marble Arch.”) And Victoria.
I followed some Italians who seemed to know London better than I did and made my way to the train station. And, for whatever time it was in the morning – maybe 2 by now – the place was heaving with life. People milling around outside the train station. Homeless folk in sleeping bags. Ne’er-do-wells loitering with ill intent. (I pursed my lips.) Police cruising around. Gazillions of lost tourists (the category I fit best into). And drunk Londoners waiting for night buses. I went to a cashpoint to withdraw another 900 quid for whichever bus it was I’d end up taking. Sainsbury’s was the only bank around. “Sainsbury’s?” Then I wandered frozenly from stop to stop, seeing if any of the N-routes went to anywhere I’d heard of. Nsomething. Camberwell. “Oh buggery fuck.” Nsomethingelse. Tulse Hill. “Double buggery.” I wandered on, thinking how long it would be before regular transport started again. Then collared two gents wearing fluorescent yellow and asked if there was a bus to Waterloo, which I naively thought might have trains running through the night. And, sure enough, there was a 24-hour bus-route that’d take me there.
I settled in for a freezing wait and watched London life go by. An Italian homeless man came and offered me a one-day travelcard seeing me struggling with the machine. I explained I had no change. I dashed off to an open café. Bought the smallest drink I could see, a minute bottle of apple-juice. Gave the cashier 400 quid and dashed off to finish off my transaction with the Italian. He started his next transaction with a pair of mystified Japanese tourists. A Polish boy with lovely Slavic hair helped a French woman with the slightly incomprehensible London transport system. “No, you must go to stop X.” “Got a Rizla, pal?” asked a Scottish gent who’d fallen on the hardest of times. Unfortunately, his askees were the same Japanese couple who by now must have been suffering from a persecution complex. Another homeless man approached me and asked with exasperation, as if he’d already asked me 19 times and I was being particularly intransigent, “Can ya just fuckin’ gimme 80 pence?” I splashed out and gave him a quid. “At long fuckin’ last,” he exclaimed cirrhotically and wandered off. Two Korean girls looked uncomprehendingly between their watches and the timetable.
The bus came in its own good time. I clambered on and asked, touristically, for the driver to let me off at the nearest stop to Waterloo. He duly did so. The Eye was resplendent. Parliament gave me a thrill. I wondered what would become of Waterloo’s international terminus whenever the new Eurostar bit will be ready. Wished I had a jacket. And got to Waterloo. Which was as closed as closed could be. “Oh stinking buggery fuck,” I hollered internally, longing for a warm bed in Pankow and the Russian’s generous girth.
Luckily, there was an all-night hypnotherapy centre open and I dashed in and uncovered from the depths of my cerebral recesses that there was a night-bus from Piccadilly to Twickenham which would only mean a 20-minute walk on either side of the journey. Struggled over Hungerford Bridge. “God, isn’t London fab?” Saw youngsters hanging around outside an expensive-looking night-club. Trolled up to Trafalgar Square. Examined the incomprehensible night-bus map. Gave up. Wandered to Piccadilly through Leicester Square. Caught hypothermia. And then wondered at London’s huge size as I took the night-bus for three hundred hours as far as Twickenham. Posher youngsters loitering outside an even more expensive-looking night-club on Kings Road. Worried I’d fallen asleep and had ended up in Dorset as we drove forever through Putney Common. And then hoped I’d at least get the sight of some lovely foxes scampering about in night-time Twickers…
Did I buggery. Too freezing even for them.