Unlucky but Lucky

28 June 2011 Bournemouth to London, UK

A bright and early 3:30am to pick up my sister from Heathrow airport, who’s arrived earlier for one reason or another.

There’s something great about waking up like I did this morning, day’s clothes laid out after having gone to sleep in the afternoon: you always do it in anticipation of something exciting. Christmas, camp, catching an early plane, going somewhere new. You think you’ll be the walking dead, but you roll and fall into your clothes, then the excitement kicks in and it may as well be ten minutes before the big race.

I’m joined on the bus by just five others a young man with a hoodie, who once was sitting at the back but has since moved into my row, two Chinese students on a trip away from their family homes and another two young men who look much more reasonable. All youth and stupidity go hand in hand because we’re all up at this time!

The bus bumbles along smoothly enough to watch the sun rise over land that will be so different and new to someone else.

I arrive at last, stepping out into a lovely English summer’s day: rain. Go down a dodgy lift that looks like a well-used bomb shelter to the terminal and wait nervously to see someone who I used see everyday, but haven’t seen in six months. When I do see Maddie walk through, it’s all very emotional, but that’s not something to go on about here! Maddie’s the first person I’ve seen from my ‘previous lifestyle’, and that’s why it still feels like I haven’t seen her in ages.

The benefits of jetlag start here and end here; Maddie is 100% awake even though it’s not even 6am, whereas I’m starting to feel like I really have woken up at 3am.

We’re sitting in Hyde Park now, bags flopped onto the soggy, though very green, grass, recalling countless stories.

We thought it would be funny to share a little bit of hostel life, but my sister being under eighteen, it’s not guaranteed.

From Hyde Park, we walk through some very nice neighbourhoods, clean neighbourhoods, accidentally passing the hostel about five times.

I can’t help but think how checking into a hostel be so alien to someone so close. My sister is hesitant to open the door. I open it to find more doors, which is really disappointing. We go through the jokes and ritual again, and open the door. Disappointing again! There’s no one inside. The emptiness, though, turns out to be a godsend for Maddie’s incredibly embarassing introduction to hostel life.

The obligatory London Underground photo. I don’t even know why I took this; she’s been in London three times now.

A thunderstorm ruins our attempts to look around London. We’re trapped in Green Park, right next to Buckingham Palace, in a huge circle of trees. Pushed up to the tree trunk, we don’t get completely drenched, but we do get soaked. Apart from two others imitating us, there’s a fully-suited man sitting in a deck chair in the open, legs stretched out in humility.

Stuck here, laughing harder than the rain on our heads, it’s like we saw each other yesterday. Unlucky, but so lucky.

Sister Maddie fades fast. Jet-lag is a basketball to the crotch: far funnier in observation than in experience. It’s just impossible to keep her awake, but why I get so frustrated is beyond me (one of biggest regrets this year, Maddie, I know you’ll read this sometime. You know that already, but this is here for good measure). I took a bit of a tennis ball to the crotch in being up so early, so here we are, brother and sister, keeling over together.