Wednesday, 10 October 2007

'i' for impy ink

Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 11:22:48 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: 'i' for impy ink.

This is the email I meant to send last time, but the email god (in its wisdom) chose not to send it. So here goes:

Well folks. I conquered London. I stepped of the train at Waterloo with the deep conviction that London was going to conquer me. My brain was already overloaded with what I had seen from the train windows of the suburbs.

The bus I caught from Blandford to Salisbury goes to the Blandford army camp. A soldier gets on the bus at the gate and won’t let you on or off the bus unless you have the right passes. He has a gun to enforce this. And the way people lived there looked depressing as hell. London was worse. Line after line of ugly little houses. All exactly the same. All squashed in. Flat and dark and grubby.

Before I left, the Alpha girls piled me with advice about how not to get pick pocketed and who not to talk to and who to ask for directions. They are thirteen. They seem to know what they are taking about.

I had the good fortune of a lovely sunny day (no doubt thanks to Ed). Having just got over the whole big grotty London thing between Waterloo Station and the National Theatre (where I had my job interview) I went for a walk along the Thames. And was floored again by Big Ben and the whole caboodle. And by the woman sitting under the bridge with her baby, begging for money. I looked at her and she told me she was starving and I didn’t give her any money. I bought a book of Latin poems (Virgil Ovid Catullus Horace). I don’t know what my reasons were for not giving her money and I don’t know what they would have been if I had.

I went back to the theatre feeling nervous exhaustion and the desperate need for a good coffee. Instead I went and had a fifteen-minute tour of the theatre complex. Then an interview with Lisa and Tony. They said they wanted it to be a relaxed interview then grilled me for half an hour. I tottered out of the ugly grey building (it matched the rest of the grot) and gazed about dazedly, wondering what to do with my self for the two hours before my train went back to Salisbury.

I eventually found my way back to Waterloo (you would not believe how many times during the day I went up to somebody, smiled sweetly and asked in my politest voice for directions) and caught the tube to Tottenham court rd. one of the ladies in choir on Wednesday night said to go there and for lack of any idea at all (my brain had just packed it in) I went.

If I had had any sense at all I would have remembered that I have always wanted to go to Piccadilly Circus and gone there. At Waterloo I asked one of the information guides were to go to catch the tube and he pointed over my shoulder at the enormous glowing sign saying ‘UNDERGROUND’.

At this point I feel I should interrupt my narrative to thank Gubbi for teaching me not to fear escalators. (And she is right. You can’t get sucked into the bit where the escalator disappears). And also large shopping complexes. If not for you Gubbi. I would have collapsed on the spot.
I am afraid to say I got sucked straight in to a Virgin Megastore and after much deliberation bought two CDs. The only defence I have for buying the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack is that I also bought Tom Waits’ Small Change. I am listening to them as I write as the computer room is the only place I have access to a CD player.

Having made my purchase I walked straight out the door into the arms of a con artist. She made some comment like ‘You wouldn’t be from London would you?’ and I (foolish foolish naive foolish ceels) thought ‘Oh lovely, someone wants to talk to me.’

(I pause here, sigh, and shake my head).

And said ‘oh, no, actually I am from Australia’ and she said something trite. She was collecting for something that was never really made clear and had a little book with people’s first names and how much they had given. I started to back away but I was trapped by the flow of people behind me. She said, pencil poised, ‘If you’ll just tell me your name’ and I thought ‘The bollocks I will’ and said (yes I did) ‘If I give you my name, I’ll have to give you money.’ She sensed she was loosing me and attacked again. At which stage I was completely befuddled. I tried the ‘I’m on a tight budget routine’ and she countered it with something else. Finally I showed her the coin pocket in my wallet. 41p.
Now I'm still not sure if she brushed those 41p into her bag or if I tipped my hand. But I was stinking cross. It sort of spoiled my day a bit. Sort of. I was cross about it until I went to bed last night. The tube back was hell and involved more questions ‘Am I going the right way? Am I going the right way?’

When I got on the train I checked my bus timetables for Salisbury-Blandford and discovered that I would have an hour and twenty minute wait in Salisbury. I was so tired and shattered that I thought about crying. And it turned out to be fine. There was a jazz trio on one of the streets playing some truly good music, so I sat with them for a while. Then there was a Christmas parade with a brass band. Then I found a bookshop open late and browsed. I got back to school, phoned home, and collapsed into bed.

I was supposed to get a reply about the job this afternoon, but have heard nothing. So I wait. I am sure there are other things I meant to tell you about London but I can’t remember what they are. The tube really was like the tunnels they run rats through.

London was like all the buildings in Australia squashed into a really small place. I got attacks of claustrophobia walking down the streets. and it was all grubby, even in the sunshine. I think if I live there it will knock some of the corners off my innocence, if that is the right word. And I had a really nice cheese and pickle roll from ‘the upper crust’ on the way home on the train.

Tonight I felt my first stir of patriotism. We were having dinner and laughing about the confusion caused by Jenny’s and my use of the word ‘pants’. Which we understand to mean trousers and the English understand to mean ‘undies’. Then the French mistress (who is English) and the new matron (who is dumb as two short planks) started spouting off about how Australian English had been corrupted by Americanisms then started getting all up themselves (and there is no other way to put it) about how superior they were because they spoke the queen’s English. And I got so cross for so many reasons. And all the hackles of national pride I never knew I had stood on end. And I got het up and started arguing with them. Indicating that I was offended because I have been speaking English all my life and Australia has its own identity and use of language that has developed quite independently of America and England. And I how suspect my version of English is closer to the queen’s than theirs (actually I didn’t say that, but I sure as hell thought it.) then I realised my natural superiority and calmed down and tried to make a joke.

I suggested that the only reason I could never stay in England long-term was because they don’t have Tim-tams. ha ha ha. And the French mistress got all sniffy and said she was sure if she ever went to Australia she would not judge it by what products it did or did not have.

I left it at that.

love you all, it is time for bed.

ceels ____________________________________________________________

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