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Thoughts of a wandering soul The "IT WAS TIME" Trip!

Friends in London

UNITED KINGDOM | Wednesday, 16 January 2013 | Views [346]

My trip to London, I have to confess, was more about meeting the people who are there rather than actually looking around London because let's face it, winter in London is FREEZING!!!!

And you don't want to be walking about outdoors in that kind of temperature...

With that in mind, I caught up with an old high school friend the next day for lunch (I did manage to check out a bit of London Bridge) and we walked along the freezing cold river!

He points out the "Gherkin" which is a rather odd name for this beautiful glass (more bullet like I thought) building in the middle of the area. He hasn't changed a bit in the however many years we've not seen each other. We chat about where he is and what he's up to now.

Turns out, him & his wife have bought a place and they're moving next month! Wow! Unfortunately, the hour goes by far too quick so we arrange to catch up after dinner as well.

After that I also caught up with an ex colleague of mine who was there with his cousin who is also visiting from Australia. Cool!

His cousin is absolutely delightful and has a beautiful smile. I see it runs in the family!

We head over to Borough Market - which is a place that was suggested by several people. It's a smaller market than I was expecting, but there are A LOT of food stalls. Serving both fresh and cooked food. Sweet & savoury. Fishmongers sell fresh seafood next to a stall that has five giant woks of different types of paella. There are cheese stalls next to cookie & brownie stalls.

After having heard about the virtues of the market brownie, I of course have to buy one. We are chasing an elusive fishburger, but it appears that the stall that sells it is not there today. The cousin decides to have a chicken burger instead and heads off as I'm buying the brownie. As my ex colleague and I catch up with her, she tells us they're giving away free burgers and do we want one? Free? Sure!

The burgers have a double patty of chicken & also some lettuce and a sweet chilli sauce. Both her & I remove one patty as it's just too much.

It's okay, but for some reason it has a ridiculously crispy bottom bun.

Oh well. I'm thinking I'm glad none of us paid 3 pounds for this burger!

After that we head over to Regent & Oxford streets as my ex colleague needs to buy a pair of boots for his weekend away in Cologne. How nice to be able to travel to a completely different country just for the weekend to check out the Christmas markets.

This is truly a joy we lack in Australia. The streets look beautiful - all decked out for the Christmas season, but there are so many people!! So many people!!!! Where do they all come from?? Aren't they freezing and shouldn't they be home??

We head off in search for a Doc Martens store where these boots are meant to be. He buys them and then we part ways and I head off to meet another ex colleague for dinner.

She has said she will let me know when she arrives so I don't have to wait out in the cold.

Easier said than done. I head towards the station where she will arrive to wait in a store nearby.

It is a BAD idea! They play music in there so ridiculously loud, and I think I'm missing the female gene that allows me to wander aimlessly in shops without getting a massive headache. So I brave the cold again and think I really need some meds, but I've left them at home. I'm hoping there's a pharmacy nearby, but no such luck!

I get a text that my ex colleague has arrived at the station. I'll come to you I tell her, where are you? Corner of Oxford and Regent Streets she tells me.

Okay, side note - why do people think it's okay to give such a vague location? There are four corners to an intersection! Unless the intersection is deserted or only a metre apart, give a specific location! Either say which quadrant you're in, or, if not so directionally minded, mention some landmark you are standing in front of!

Anyways, turns out she was standing on the corner I was walking towards so all good. It was great to see her! She looked just the same, but was much better rugged up. We start walking towards this mexican place she has suggested for dinner and thankfully pass a pharmacy on the way.

I dash in for emergency cold & flu tablets. I don't see any codral so I'm trying to remember the ingredients so I can buy the highest dosage.

We continue on our way and soon are in front of this cool, neon lit place. This is a restaurant? We walk in and get a table. Thank goodness we're early because normally there's a queue all the way out. Lucky indeed!

We check the menu and she proposes ordering a selection of appetisers so we can try a bit of everything.

Perfect. And to drink? I see a drink with tamarind in it. Done!

The first dish is arancini ball type things with this spicy harissa sauce. Next, spicy chicken mini soft tacos. Then corn & mushroom quesadillas. For dessert she orders churros and I get a shot of something Christmassy because I figure the alcohol will help kill the cold & flu germs! It's all quite delicious and we eat and chat about how things have been in London for her.

She tells me about her experiences in getting a job, and that she's just rented a nice place that she shares with the girl who owns the place. My high school friend joins us. We spend a little bit longer there before being subtly asked to leave.

We head to a bar, but it's loud and there's nowhere to sit. My ex colleague heads off home, so high school friend and I decide to find a quieter bar. Unfortunately, it's that time of night when people have already arrived & settled in everywhere. As we wander around getting colder and colder (and I keep feeling like I'm in the US for some reason!) we stop in a pub & I decide I need a brandy!

It's the only drink I can think of that will warm me & hopefully help my throat. My friend gets the drinks 'cause I'm too scared to go up to the bar. He gets a huge something of beer. I think it's a pint but it's in a narrow and very tall glass so I think it's bigger.

Are you gonna be able to finish all that, I ask in wonder. By the time it's time to go? Yes. Okay.

We stand and chat as there's nowhere to sit. Without the lunchtime constraint it's a lot easier to chat. I find I've finished my drink already! I think I need another one I tell him. I'm not exactly warm yet.

While on my second drink, a couple of seats open up.

Ah! This is so much better! I finish my second drink as well.

I think I can get the next one myself I tell him. I go up to the crowded bar and realise everyone's just resting there!

Both bartenders are leaning against the wall not doing anything. I motion the bartender over. I'll have another brandy please. 3.50 pounds she tells me. Really? That's amazing! I take it back to my seat. I'm feeling much better now. And then my friend tells me it's time to head off.

What? Oh fine...he's got a curfew or some such. But he offers to catch the train with me until he gets to a stop he can change to his line.

Okay, thanks! I'm feeling warm and good.

And then we step outside...and all the heat disappears! How is this possible?? Every part of me is covered! How does the heat escape?

We head to the station and before I know it, his stop has arrived. I carry on home, and thank goodness it's nice and warm there! Nick, Davina & I chat about our days while Darcia plays.

The next day is a saturday, but I've got lunch plans at 12pm in Covent Garden.

I also discover I've lost my voice. Nick can't help but make fun, whereas Davina is much more sympathetic and suggests at least it means the cold is progressing through the stages towards ending. 

I don't know how people dress so quickly here. After I put on all my layers, I'm running late and arrive closer to 12.30pm.

I'm meeting another high school friend - we weren't that close in high school, but we've kept in touch in bits and pieces over the years. Still, as we sit there in Jamie Oliver's restaurant sharing our lives, I completely understand when she says she never thought we'd be sitting in London one day having lunch together.

I tell her the same story I told Gillian about the people I've caught up with. I don't know what it is, do we just sense the bandwidths that are on our frequency at any given point in time and tune in to others? There were other people in London I could have tried to catch up with - people I might even have known better once upon a time, but somehow these are the people who, for whatever reason, I have chosen to contact, and who, of course have reciprocated. I find it interesting how we have both gone through a very specific, but not common situation at work. Of course, we work for completely different types of companies. I'm in a small private financial services & she works for one of the biggest companies in mining. And yet, funny how we've both had this experience recently.

She's meeting a fund investor from Australia in the afternoon and they're going for beer tasting and she asks me to come along. I decline - beer is just not my thing. I'm thinking I should message the guy I met on the train, but of course I've run out of credits and can't use my phone anymore. Plus, given how I'm feeling, I would rather take the opportunity to rest. So she decides to show me around Covent Gardens til then, and we head up to Trafalgar Square.

It is really lovely and we realise there's a big gathering of the Olympic volunteers. My friend recognises their uniforms. Turns out there's a concert there to thank them all. Also, there are a group of people giving out free hugs! Feels like forever since I had a good one, even though it's actually only been a couple of weeks, but don't want to seem odd, and plus I might not let go! Besides, apart from mum, my brother and Beth give the best hugs ever! So that's a pretty high standard to live up to. I'm too weak to take disappointing hugs right now. Soon it's time to go and my friend leaves me with the offer of staying at her place next time. That's really sweet of her I think.

I head home and take more meds. Everyone's home & Nick of course continues to make fun of my voice. I have dinner plans with a guy from my previous work when I was in Boston & his wife. Again - same situation. We were friends at work, but have mainly kept in touch via facebook over the years. They come to pick me up, which is super nice and we head off to a Thai place that has been recommended to his wife. It is ridiculously good to see them as they fill me in on what's been going on. They've bought a house too & he's changed his job to a less stressful one, which is always a good thing. We arrive at the restaurant and let his wife order 'cause she seems like she's knowing what she's doing! She orders about six starters and three mains. Even the waiter suggests she might have over ordered, but she sticks to her guns. The waiter is overjoyed and tells her he wishes she would come every week!

We look around and see a lot of locals eating there, and this is underscored by the taste of the food which is quite delicious! We have tom yum soup, moneybags, friend wontons, spring rolls, pandan chicken and thai beef salad. Then for mains we have a deep fried seabass, green curry chicken & pad grapow. We actually manage to finish off most of it, but are completely stuffed! It really has been too long since we all caught up  and again the story of random strangers comes up. When I tell them how fleetingly I've known the people I've stayed with, he asks when I met the people I'm staying with - yesterday? Ha! I tell him I met them on the train to London & asked if I could stay with them! Davina & I played chess together on the school team, but again, it wasn't until she moved to the UK and came to Australia for a visit that we developed this friendship.

It is quite strange the kind of specific connections you make with people. I think of people who've shared such intimate and personal stories with me, and yet I wouldn't have a clue about what their favourite colour was or what books or movies they like. I think due to the number of people we now have access to, we make very narrow, specific connections with a lot more people. In a way it's good I guess, 'cause you can make really deep (albeit narrow) connections with a lot more people without necessarily sharing every part of you, but at the same time it's sad because then how many people do we really fully know and understand? And especially more to the point, if we only know one piece of a person, how could we ever tell if that person needed help at any point in time? I know, I'm completely off topic, but was just thinking.

Anyway, to facilitate getting to know people better I suggest to them that we should all meet somewhere on holiday! Which is also what I suggested to Gillian when she wanted to go on holiday, but wanted to see a lot of people too! They like it and we talk of where we could go. Thailand and African safari top the list, although the main event will be a bungy jump off Victoria Falls! His wife doesn't look convinced, but after my account of the bungy jump experience in Macau, he's very keen! And he's done a little one in Jamaica already. It's getting late, and even though it would be nice to go elsewhere, anywhere outside is too cold for me and I probably need to rest.

They pick up the tab for dinner, which is really sweet and drop me home. I feel totally spoilt, fat and ready to sleep. At home, Davina & Nick are still up and I'm introduced to "Strictly Come Dancing" - it's the equivalent of "Dancing with the Stars" except I don't know who any of the stars are! Still it's fun and I'm relieved when they confirm they don't like the demented brunette host either! They've had dinner that Nick made - doh it! Apparently he's a very good cook~ They ask me what I've seen so far, and I confess this leg is more about the people than the place, but I am doing some touristy stuff tomorrow.

Luv, a family friend of mine (like a little brother, really!) has been seconded to London only a couple of months ago so he hasn't seen much either. It'll be fun for us to check out the town together. Davina has been hunting around in their loft (loft! Can you believe it? It has a full down fire escape type ladder and all!) and found me a London coat! So I don't freeze to death. It's definitely a lot more stylish than my bulky snow jacket.

We talk more and I feel really blessed to have them both in my life and the easy relationship we seem to have. Soon enough it's time for bed so we go to sleep.

Tags: borough market, covent garden, london

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