British Holiday Chapter 1: Getting There

One of them had a flick knife. The leader. The others stood around me, preventing my escape. There was no one else about this dark back street in Southwark.

"Give us the phone and the money!" demanded the leader.

I wasn't having it. It was time to make my move. I squinted. Asked quietly "Are you having a fucking laugh!?"

But I've messed this up. This is starting in the middle. I should tell this story in order. It's a tale of friendship, pints, parks, airbnbs, trains, pubs, boats, food and sandwiches, which as the fellow once said, is a type of food. Let's go back to the beginning, shall we?

It starts on a cold, rainy March day in Bremerton. The taxi driver, despite having only a single mile for conversation and being distracted by two phone calls, still manages to tell us that jesus is the answer and how global warming is a political issue. At the ferry terminal, we resolve never to use that taxi company again.

Rakka and I... Rakka, that's my traveling companion. Or am I hers? Either way, Rakka and I were early to the ferry, in the same way we were early to SeaTac and every other thing. On the return we got to Terminal 5 so early that the bag drop wasn't even opened yet.

Many hours later, we found ourselves on a BA 747 direct to Heathrow. This was my first time on BA. It is a telling combination of the worst and the best that Britain can deliver. It starts with the blanket and pillow placed on your seat in a gracious gesture of welome, which is nice but there's no place to put them, and there are 200 people waiting for you to sit the fuck down. Directly following that is the safety video that they always eventually give up on, but only after rebooting the system, twice. But then comes the meal, which is prefaced by a complimentary G&T and arrives with wine, and is served by a smiling flight attendant who will joke around with you given half a chance.

video
BA's inflight entertainment. Not quite 100%.

BA could be the poster child for the Cynics' Britain; the Britain where fire extinguishers catch on fire. But it comes with a sense of humor, booze and a curry.

Heathrow Connect, on the other hand, is just solidly bad. It's a joint venture between Heathrow Express and First Great Western and it's designed to frustrate you in to upgrading to the Express. Especially from  Terminal 5 which they don't actually serve. That was fun to figure out after 12 hours of traveling. Let me tell you. Actually I won't.

We finally arrived in Elephant & Castle. We had arranged to rent a room though airbnb. The room was in the Strata SE1, also known as the Razor and Isengard. We were on the 10th floor and the view from the room was fantastic, with part of the Eye, part of the Clock Tower, and BT Tower. The living room was a trainspotters dream, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the tracks.

Eye and BT Tower
After about 15 hours on the move, we took an hour nap.

Elephant & Castle from the Strata SE1
Refreshed, sort of, it was time to charge up our Oyster Cards and head out to Islington to meet Bob the tube cat at his book signing. We arrived, early surprisingly enough, and so stood around trying to coordinate with three separate parties that we trying to meet all at the same time. Nix, Kiki and Glew. We had never met Nix or Kiki in person. None of them knew each other, or anything about Bob Cat.

Eventually though, after standing in the queue for an hour, Kiki and Nix all found us. We saw Bob and James and they signed our joint copy of the book. At some point Kiki and his friend Amanda gave up and  and went to some pub to claim us a table at a pub. We went and met them.

Bob and James
After a time and hundreds of confused text messages later, my old friend Glew showed up. It was great seeing Glew, and I love that I can say "Oh, I just ran in to a on old friend in London. Like you do."

This was a great night. Drinking with friends, old and new. Being terribly jet-lagged. Eating nothing but half a plate of chips. Watching sexy Neanderthals count on Amanda's iphone while walking to the tube. If going out was always like that I'd do it all the time.

Friends at the Pub

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