It’s clear now that I packed badly.
I should have listened to everyone. It would have cost less to ship the books than to carry them; and with much less hassle. I had to pay for extra baggage on the flight to London via Iceland. Sadly, I saw nothing of Iceland but the dawn above Reykavik in the distance. When I got to London, harassed with the umbrella and violin and computer and hand luggage, seeing that there was no possibility of physically moving with three additional (heavy suitcases), I ran into a storage facility, which wrapped the bags and stored them for two days. And – of course – the bags were wrapped before it was distractedly remembered that my credit card and other important papers were inside. So they had to be unwrapped and wrapped up again, and charged twice for the pleasure.
Then it was on the tube to central London, but not before I went to the wrong exit. I tried to load the Oyster card Autumn was so kind to give me, but in the rush at the machine, ended up paying twice as much as I should be a ticket on the Piccadilly Line to the Russell Square station where I was “to alight” for the hostel in Bloomsbury.
The streets around the hostel, which is on Tavistock road, are small and cobbled and English. It was raining lightly, the telephone boxes were red, there were accents of every sort. We won’t talk about the hostel. It was wonderfully situated, but gaudy in electric blue and yellow, overrun with Australian girls on their gap-year, and Euro pop. This may sound exotic, but it was tiring and I would’ve paid for a conversation with a friend.
Because I had a zone 1-6 day pass I took the tube to Leicester Square, with every intent of finding the bookshops on Charing Cross Road. I found two antiquarian bookshops and left them quickly in search of more but didn’t find any. I got very quickly lost walking through the West End, the theatre district and Convent Garden.
When I came upon Covent Garden I thought my heart would jump out of my throat – so many people in rain jackets and umbrellas, out for a stroll on a Saturday afternoon, the picturesque buildings, the thoughts of Pepys (there was a sign saying that he may have watched a Punch and Judy show there), the cobbled streets, voices and babble and languages and dialects, the stray sentences that jump out of the hubbub in a counter-puntal cacophony; the movement – of buses and trains and pedestrians and cyclists and prams.
Then I was lost trying to find Trafalgar Square, but I found it eventually. The grandness of the monuments and large national buildings. I stood in awe and satisfaction until a homeless man vomited near my feet to the general applause of his friends. I popped into the National Gallery fifteen minutes before it closed (managed to see mostly Dutch masters), and then got lost meandering over to Westminster Abbey and Parliament before turning back home for dinner at a pub where I ate by myself very conspicuously, trying hard not to be so conspicuous.