2008 was a difficult year for me. I was recovering from the dissolution of a long-term relationship. By the start of 2009, I was over the weeping and moaning; the woe is me, I’ll never love again; my heart has been ripped out of my chest mercilessly; men are vessels of evil; why God, why?; please can I be a lesbian? and more overly dramatic exclamations of post-breakup-life and ready to rejoin the world of the living. My friend Heidi had expatriated to London from Orange County a few years prior and kept encouraging me to visit her. I figured it was just what I needed. Since I was heading to Europe, I reasoned I should visit as many countries as I could while there. Within a 10-day span I planned to visit England, The Netherlands, Belgium and France.
By this point I’d seen almost everything Hugh Grant appeared in post-Four Weddings and a Funeral, including the way he charmed his way out of seeming like skeez for picking up a prostitute when he was a guest on Leno. Colin Firth had already swept Renee Zellwegger away in Bridget Jones’ Diary and Love Actually was one of my favorite movies. Perhaps, I too, would meet a dashing young, worldly English bloke who would reaffirm my heterosexuality and sweep me off my American feet. I had high hopes.
When I arrived, Heidi had me meet her at her office in the heart of London’s West End. From one of the windows, I captured a great view of Piccadilly Circus, which is neither a cafeteria -style restaurant nor an exploitation of cute farm animals.
My first night in London, I:
- 1. learned people take turns buying rounds of drinks for their friends. This caused me a bit of panic since based on the 2:1 exchange rate, I already envisioned having to eat out of the trash in Paris by the end of my trip. I would have to look up how to say in French, “Please sir, might you spare a few euros for a poor American Negress?” There were also at least 5 people in our party, including 2 tall men. No way could I drink as much as them. In 5 rounds I’d be on the floor.
- 2. learned you can drink outside on the street, act a fool and put your empty glasses on the sidewalk and some kind angel will clean up after you.
- 3. met an international DJ who claimed to have a third nipple. He didn’t. Sad.
- 4. made the mistake of smiling at an older, swarthy gentleman who eyed me like a juicy rack of pork ribs. My imagination runs wild so I assumed he wanted to sell me into white, black slavery.
- 5. was mean-mugged by a British Middle Eastern woman in a schwarma joint. Women mean-mug other women all around the world.
- 6. The electrical currents mean business and will blow up your camera, forcing you to use your crappy blackberry to take photos the rest of you trip. (I apologize for the poor quality of the images I post henceforth.)
The next morning I began a long day of touring the city. I hopped on one of the double-decker tour busses London is known for and visited Buckingham Palace, The Clock Tower with Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and many other landmarks.
A few other observations of London:
- Londoners do not care how excited you are to be in London, so quit smiling at them you goofy American. Victoria Beckham isn’t the only Brit afraid to crack a smile.
- Black Londoners do not participate in the same greeting traditions as American blacks: the head nod and unspoken acknowledgement that says, “Hey you’re black and I’m black! Sup?’ No one cares. They’ll think you have a weird head tic.
- You and your heavy-ass luggage WILL be run down in the stairwell as others try to catch the tube. And that little baby in the pram is in their way too!
- You’re lost? Sucks for you. Do not approach a random Londoner on the street to ask for help. You will be met with a look of puzzlement followed by a look of fear and a quick scurry away.
- No one will join you in a juvenile giggle as this stop is announced on the tube: St. John’s Wood. Just me? Really? St. John’s WOOD?!
My first 24 hours in London were exhausting, educational and honestly, a little disappointing. I was off to the English countryside the next day. Perhaps someone would at least smirk, if not smile, at me there?
- London, It’s Not You, It’s Me (emmastraveltales.co.uk)
- Today’s Big Issue: Stop buying rounds, stop binge drinking? (cosmopolitan.co.uk)
- Rude Tube (livesandliberties.wordpress.com)