So where did I leave off?
Right, the hostel.
The first week has been a bit of a blur, so I’ll go over my Tweets and use them as notes. I’ll see how well this goes.
I’ve been swiftly recalling bits of knowledge gleaned from the last time I was in London. Within ten minutes of riding the tube, I was called out with a deep, resounding, “Oy!” I was standing on the wrong side of the escalator. I mean, I was on the correct one and all, I was simply standing on the left. See, the English like their efficiency, in an almost German manner. People who are just having a mosey about the city, or tired, elderly, or whatever – they have to stand to the right. People in a hurry, those who are very, very important, walk up the escalator on the left.
You’d think this means they’d walk on the left for everything. You’d be wrong. The English have this wonderful nonchalance about their walking (“wonderful” is to be read with a thick coat of sarcasm”). They meander in every direction, but somehow they stay in a straight line. Think of the ball in Pong. You know how it bounces based on where it hits the paddles and the wall, but there’s never any arc to it’s path? That’s how they walk. And they’re everywhere.
I just stick the cane out and sally forth, as though entering a battle of old. I follow people, which sounds terribly creepy, but I do. I use this tactic to ensure there’s a brief open space as the person in front of me cuts through the throngs of people. Generally I end up where I want to go, but if I don’t, I’m in no hurry.
Generally the tube is a great system. It’s fast, direct, efficient, and doesn’t seem to break down too often. And as a person with a disability, I’m in love with the Oyster Card. It’s a declining cash balance card used on the tube, bus, and certain other rail systems. It’s got a little RFID chip inside it, and when you approach the turnstile you wave this magic piece of plastic over a bright yellow circle. A connection is made through some wizardly means and *fsssh*, the doors open. You do the same thing on your exit trip and you’re charged for your ride at a slightly discounted rate (over cash). The same goes for the bus, except you don’t swipe it on your way out. You just get off.
Plus, my card is a special edition one with the Queen on it. I’m torn between keeping it and getting my £5 deposit on it back.
I’ve only been lost down there once. No, sorry, twice. The first time I managed it, I was at the Baker Street station. I wanted to get on the Jubilee line (note: there is a Jubilee everything in this country). I instead got on…I believe it was the Northern line. I didn’t find out until I realized there hadn’t been a stop for a good fifteen minutes. I waddled off at Wembley Stadium and managed to find the Jubilee line proper. It wasn’t an awful detour, it was just a bit of a learning experience.
When I did it again, that’s when I was pissed off. I had agreed t o meet with some people from a site I use. We meant to meet at a pub (delightfully called “The Goat”), and follow that up with Rockaoke. For the curious, “Rockaoke” is karaoke with a proper band. It seemed fun.
Well, of course I didn’t get on the right train. When I corrected this, I failed to get on the right bus. Then I got off at the wrong stop at the insistence of an elderly Italian man. “Si, si, is the Green Park” he said. It was not, in fact, “the Green Park,” it was in fact “The Trafalgar Square.” I was bummed, found some wifi, and told the others to go on without me. I snagged a sandwich and sat as the sun set around Trafalgar Square. People milling around, laughing, shouting, having fun. If you’re not in a bad mood, it’s a great place.
I walked down Whitehall, passing government buildings. I was intently stared at as I passed 10 Downing Street. I eavesdropped as an American lady was wondering “if their prime minister does autographs” at 9:30 at night. I kept a solid mosey on, passing Pall Mall and ending up at Westminster Abbey. I stared up at it, squinting. The deep hue of the clear night sky, the spotlights banking off the buttresses of ancient grey stone, and the constant flicker and flash of tourists’ flashbulbs meant I couldn’t see a damn thing. I took a few pictures myself – those I could see.
I toured a little bit, visiting sites I’d been to on my fist day. I walked to see Rodin’s Burghers of Calais (a bronze statue cast 13 years after the original). I guess at night, however, that’s not possible. It wasn’t for me, anyhow, since the gates were closed to the Victoria Tower Gardens (just outside Parliament). I made my way back towards Westminster Station, after having taken a few decent pictures of the Clock Tower (in which hangs Big Ben, the bell). My station approach was hastened by the appearance of a large, jovial homeless man who wanted a hug. I turned down his offer and he seemeed so upset. No hugs.
I entered the Westminster station and flopped down in the train. Unbeknownst to me, the lines were under temporary changes and I was being swiftly whisked off to the East end. I do not live in the East end, I’m north of downtown. So I hop off at Temple, wait, and get the next train back. I finally rolled into my hostel at shortly after 10:15 and I decided I needed a drink.
Next time: the rest of that night, and more about London!