It never fails, you know.
In the weeks preceding each of my visits to London, weird and random objects that are all English in nature will appear before me.
It could be that I'm just more aware of it, much like my sister who just bought a Cavalier, and now sees 10 of them a day, or my friend who bought a bright purple car because it was such a unique colour, and then kept seeing bright purple vehicles pulling up next to her at the lights.
I don't think so, though. The day after I bought my ticket for my last trip, a discarded Walker's Crisp (Prawn Cocktail flavour) bag flew around the sidewalk ahead of me. They don't even make Walker's in North America! I mean, those are English potato chips!
In the weeks before each of my trips, the paperbacks that I buy based on cover art alone, or the books that I borrow from the library - random and unheard of, all - will be set in England. When I moved to London in 1998, during those last few days when I wasn't packing or saying good-bye or biting my fingernails down to the nub, I was furiously racing through a stack of Harlequin's unearthed from a box in the basement. They're the worst kind of disposable stories, but they calmed my nerves, and it's better than closet eating, right? Anyway, the point is that they were British, all of them. The feisty heroines hailed from London, or, on a stretch from the theme, Edinburgh. But you see my point, don't you? It's like the world was re-aligning itself for me, warming up the view a little.
Oh, I know it's a weak shoestring of coincidences for sure, but it's fun to think about nonetheless.
This time around though, it's all a little different. Four visits - the first of which was eight months long, the last of which was only 15 months ago - really does make London more mine, you know? And I guess because it's so near and dear to my heart, the recurring Anglo-theme takes shape in things that are equally close.
Bear with me for a moment. This next bit does have a point... I've a horrible habit of not emptying my purses of their various bits of detritus. A book of matches from a restaurant will stay in the evening clutch I used that night, and if it was a good night, it will never leave. When I was sixteen, Hamlet and Mandy and Derek and I put on our glad-rags and went to dinner, and then to see A Chorus Line. I'd never felt so grown-up, in two-and-a-half inch heels, with the purse that matched perfectly. I know, though I haven't seen that purse in years, that if I went searching in the inside pocket, I will find the flattened wrapper from a roll of Lifesavers I bought that night, and I will pull it out, smile in memory, and tuck it back in. Some things just go together, you know? Because it was a very good evening, and there's nothing lovelier than a good memory you happen upon by surprise.
Yesterday, because it's far easier than fighting rush-hour traffic and looking for parking, I boarded a cross-town bus, and thus prepared myself for the ride with a book. (Dead Air, by Iain Banks, set in London, recommended to me by Stewart, a good friend. From London. But that doesn't count because I totally chose it on purpose.) No, what does count is that I grabbed a purse I hadn't used in a while, tossed in my wallet and keys and the Banks, and ran for the bus. An hour later, when the bus approached my stop, I rooted around the bottom of my purse for something to use as a bookmark. And lo, up came the receipt from Cafe Mode, the restaurant in Covent Garden where Stewart and Aric, Daniel and the Amazon, and I, had dinner that Wednesday night the last time I was there. There was goat cheese and there was Amaretto, and there were bawdy stories that made me scream with laughter. It was one of my favorite nights on that trip, and though it was a Wednesday night and I had to be in the office early the next day, I stayed out until after 3 in the morning, and pretended that I was 22 and could still manage that sort of thing.
I know, I know. It's only a few random coincidences, and some rather disturbing proof that I'm a rather disgusting packrat, but what the hell.... I'm going to London!
Seventeen days! London, baby!
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