I got two entries into my chronicle about my trip to the UK in May before I found out what I suspected all along - I shouldn't have gone. But I did go, and on my last night there, not only did I FINALLY get to spend some quality time with my Hitchin friends, but I even managed to meet and instantly befriend a few more, most notably MrBalls. And since I'd already scheduled the time off work in September for a different trip I wouldn't be going on, I decided to take a mulligan on that first trip, go back to England and do the things I wanted to do the first time.
It is amazing how much easier it is to pack for a longish trip overseas when you don't have to pack five pairs of shoes, twenty ridiculous outfits and a dozen sex toys. In fact, I wound up taking a much smaller suitcase, which was enormously handy during my travel marathon of the brown line to downtown, the blue line to the airport, the tram to the international terminal, a plane across the ocean, the longest line to clear customs ever, the tube to Kings Cross and a train to Hitchin, where blessedly MrBalls was there to pick me up in a car I'm pretty sure he bought specifically for its strong resemblance to a storm trooper helmet (also the smaller suitcase allowed my colleagues at work to make fun of the neon kitty cat paw prints I'd painted all over it to make it recognizable at baggage claim). After checking in at the hotel, we headed across the street and had a beer while we awaited the arrival of Nat the Evil Lesbian who was joining us for lunch. After some nice Italian food with another beer and a trip to Just Desserts for a piece of cheesecake that tasted like angels having sex in my mouth paired with a delicious pear cider, we started casting about for something to do for the rest of the day. This was important: I'd been up for over 24 hours but sleeping was not an option. The only way to get through the jet lag associated with long distance travel is to power through that first day and not go to bed until everyone else does. Obviously what I needed were mass amounts of depressants. For this we headed down The Vic*, which seems to qualify as my local despite the fact that I don't even live in the same country. There we picked up a couple more friends, i.c. hater and the beautiful Sulu. Unfortunately, we also picked up a completely random drunk at the next table. I'm not sure how this happened, though I suspect it had something to do with my hair (Melle had cut it several days before under the instruction that she make me instantly recognizable to a complete stranger in the middle of London. She translated that into bright purple with some red peeking out around my face, which for some reason does not get you a free upgrade on Virgin Atlantic). Regardless, I made the same mistake I always make - I was nice to the idiot and then we couldn't get rid of him. It wasn't so bad at first. He was annoying, but also seemed quite taken with my foreignness, right up until I corrected him that my accent wasn't Canadian but American, at which point all hell broke loose. Suddenly I went from adorable purple haired tourist to wayward insolent colonist. "You're our CHILDREN!" he shouted at me while I ill advisedly stoked the fire by loudly giving thanks to France for financing our revolution and for the lovely statue. When he called MrBalls fat, we took it as our signal to leave and went down the road to a different pub, where we met up with Sulu's old school friend who was freakishly tall and where I had my first accidental run in with someone I know. The Canadian barmaid from The Vic was drinking at a table with some nice gentleman (who would later engage me in a fabulous compare and contrast conversation (cricket/baseball, rugby/American football) which for once didn't involve an argument over which version was better) and we recognized each other. And then I got the Loud. "OH MY GOD NAT I JUST RANDOMLY RAN INTO SOMEONE I KNEW IN HITCHIN," I screamed at her, apparently repeatedly all night long. After several hours of this, Nat finally walked my drunk ass back to the hotel. We had to be up early the next morning for our day at Thorpe Park.
*Or, in the American vernacular, down to The Vic.