The Restart

28 April 2011

Central London

I wake up to a bowlfull of weetabix (far superior English cereal similar to weetbix) and before I know it I’m on an electric train to London Waterloo. Oh, it’s all too familiar. Especially in spending two hours in public transport which I did every evening for weeks. Too familiar indeed.

It passes quickly thanks to the iPod. Whoever thought those things would catch on?

Just as quickly I’m swept down into the Underground to my booked hostel in Paddington. I thought and hoped there would be some renewed novelty in this–alas, there is none. A new novelty is formed shortly thereafter as I walk up the creaking stairs of the hostel, which is in fact just a pub with hostel accommodation above it. What’s the new novelty? After staying in other people’s houses either on the couch or on the ground, to be finally checking into a hostel feels liberating and exciting–like it was meant to be like this all along.

I take a little while to observe the little goings-on of the hostel, and revert to a sense of over-cautiousness even though I know the people in the cramped dorms are nicer than 99% of the human population. It’s all just to form a habit.

I start talking to an Italian girl, but go out and get some food after a short while.

If you ever want to get a little sense of what a city in Egypt is like, go to Edgware rd., London. The further down the road I walk the more of an outsider I feel. Arabic writing is by far the most common thing seen here apart from ‘Western Union’ and’MoneyGram’. The Egyptians stand close to each other, talking loudly and smoking next door to the many Shisha venues.

I return not by Mohammed’s taxi service, but by walking to the pub and see the same Italian speaking to some middle-aged hippie woman. “So I hear you’re from Australia! Northern Beaches, right?” I confirm and ask her the same question. She’s from Nelson Bay, Port Stephens, an area I know like the back of my hands–and feet for that matter. As each day has passed in 2011, Europe has gotten gradually smaller and smaller. It doesn’t take long for me to realise she is a space cadet, for she speaks so softly and randomly between different topics as if she has thirty seven bloody pillows in front of her face. Doesn’t she realise I’m shouting into her ear to try and get some volume over the pub gig going on? Obviously not. Besides, she’s been sitting in the same place there for at least 11 hours with a microphone and headphones on her head even though she’s speaking to no one at all. With those ear muffs, wouldn’t she be speaking louder than usual without realising it? Bloody crazy.

Thankfully after my day of crunching numbers from my payslip, visiting another hostel to ask about luggage storage and finding a meeting place for tomorrow, the Italian was there to talk to.

“He’s smashed!” “È fottuto!” she replies.

We teach each other swear words and how to say someone is drunk in our respective mother tongues; Almost always the 1st things you learn of a foreign language.

The song “Killer” by Van der Graaf Generator blares through the speakers in the pub, and not my own speakers; the only other place where I’ve heard the song played. Yet, here it plays with all its eccentric eclectic-ness. This is the same London–the same Europe, for that matter–I was in before, I’ve just switched sides.

It’s past midnight and I’m still awake because I thought it would be nice to lend my UK–>AU converter to that crazy woman. Altruism aside, it turns out she is going to the same hostel tomorrow night, and for an unknown reason booked a taxi to this place which is only a 20 minute walk away (at the very most). I don’t point out how crazy this is because she offers me to hop in the taxi for free.

With that little deal sorted, I shake hands with a desperately drunk and desperately overweight Austrian girl as I climb up to my bunk, right under the not-so-ambient light. There was no hope of sleep yet, so I start talking to the most perfect stereotype of an’American Nerd’ whom the’jocks’ love to hate. This guy went to Oxford to study Medieval history and ethics. I don’t believe he was all that clever, because that tone of voice, his manner, that pen in his top pocket of his shirt which was tucked into his belly button high jeans and, above all, his’jokes’–Christ almighty… Now that I think about it, I had a shirt on (not buttoned up to the neck), jeans (below belly button), long hair (not slicked back with grease) and even a pencil with me (in my jeans pocket). Ha! I still have no idea what to make of this.

The hospital light within arms reach is still on and the American guy came back in his dressing gown. The Austrian and her friend are snoring.