One last day in London and returning home

After losing much of yesterday to delays and sleep, I was determined to make the most of the last day of my adventure.

In a moment of uncharacteristic sensibility, I actually organised most of my day whilst sat waiting for my flight at San Francisco airport. Because of this I finally got around to visiting a London attraction that I’ve been meaning to visit since it opened. I’ve had lots of opportunities, but just never seemed to get around to it – to go on the London Eye.

There is something pleasurable about seeing a large queue in England. Theres something even more pleasurable about spending a whole £3 extra when purchasing your ticket on the internet to enable you to bypass that huge queue. Ah the decadence of the act, walking straight past the queue and onto the ride – in England of all places, the motherland of queuing.

The London Eye is very impressive. I know its just an overgrown fairground ride, but with the views that you get I don’t care. It was a shame that the weather didn’t decide to play nicely – all murky grays and a reduced viewing distance.

It made me feel very childlike to play spot the landmark. Everyone else was obviously playing the same game. I heard one guy quite excitedly exclaim that he’d seen Wembley Stadium and reel off a host of facts about it. This interested me greatly as I’d been scanning the horizon looking for the arch, and I knew I was looking in the right direction. This guy was at the other end of the gondola. I shuffled over and asked him to point it out for me. Excitedly he pointed it out. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he wasn’t looking at Wembley – or indeed any football ground at all. The stadium he’d discovered was The Oval. I did point out the Emirates Stadium for him, even if I’d only spotted it because I was trying to spot White Hart Lane. Alas it was too gloomy to see the Lane, or Wembley. Great views of Westminster though.

Something else I managed to do was at last see District 9. I’d wanted to see it in the States but never got the opportunity. I went to Leicester Square and saw that it had started 20 minutes earlier. Knowing just how many trailers they seem to stick in front of films nowadays I asked if I could get in anyway. The woman behind the counter just laughed and told me it only had a few minutes left. Sensing my confusion she asked what time I thought it was and then laughed even more when I told her. Somehow I’d managed to set my watch to completely the wrong time when I adjusted it after getting off the plane. Not just a few minutes wrong, but a couple of hours. I hadn’t even noticed up to now. Luckily for me there was another showing starting in 15 minutes and so I eventually managed to see the film I’d been looking forward to for ages. It was worth the wait.

My little misadventure in time keeping had thrown my plans for the rest of the afternoon out. Leaving me just enough time to get grab a McDonalds on the way back to the hotel, get changed and then get out to Covent Garden for the final act of my adventure.

I wanted to end the trip on a high, so I bought a ticket to the Lion King in the West End. In the good seats. I really enjoyed the show, but felt more of a fish out of water then I had in a very long time.

I was sat front and centre of the balcony. Glancing around me I realised that I was the only single person there. Literally every other person within eyeshot was part of a couple. That theatre know that they are onto a winner showing the Lion King. I lost count of the amount of men I saw come back after the interval with a beer in one hand and a cuddly Simba in the other. The cynic in me would conclude that the tactic worked. During the ‘love’ scene (or as close as your ever going to get to a love scene in a Disney musical), I glanced around to notice female heads resting on male shoulders in all directions. Cuddly Simbas no longer in male hands. The couples to my right had the man on the right, the woman on the left and so leaning away to the right. On my left this was reversed, and so everyone appeared to be leaning off to the left. With myself in the middle, when viewed from the stage it must have appeared like some strange parody of the parting of the waves. I’d never felt like such a leper at that moment. I half expected to have the house lights come up and for the performance to be stopped whilst the relationship police removed the ‘single’ person. I had to stifle a laugh at the thought of the same thing happening at a showing of ‘The Producers’ – men appearing after the interval with a Frankfurter and a cuddly ‘Springtime Hitler’. Mel Brooks, if you’re reading….. The non cynic in me would have liked to have had someone with me for whom I could have bought a cuddly Simba myself.

The next morning the journey home was depressingly simple and familiar. I’m now back home, the clothes are in the washing machine. I’ve a glass of orange juice in my own glass, and I’m already planning the next adventure. I feel very tired, but satisfied. I went in search of a little adventure and with a million questions and doubts. I’ve returned with some answers and million more questions, but crucially with some clarity as well. Nothing has been solved, but doubts have been assuaged. More importantly, I did learn one vitally important lesson about myself. That lesson is a private one, but remembering it will have a huge impact in times to come.

I’ll probably write more short pieces. But for now I’ll end this journal with the following:

Only in Gatwick airport departure lounge did I finally meet an American that wanted to talk about America. Approaching me initially to ask about my laptop, we chatted for an hour about my trip and what impressions did I form about America. His advice for when I return:

“We’re mostly friendly people, but if you want someone that calls themselves American to give you an opinion, just wear a badge with either a Donkey or an Elephant on it. The assholes will be lined up round the block to tell you what to think whether you want to hear it or not”.

Neil Blakely

September 2009

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