The man with the vest
Grasped tightly to his baguette,
Nodding down to bite.
In London, I have begun writing haikus. I find that it is an excellent way to boil down a moment to a particular sensation, oddity, feeling. The man with the vest was on the tube escalator. I fully surrendered to the tube escalators. They are just too long to consider trekking up, especially with jet-lag. So, I would settle in behind the man with the baguette and the lady with the high heels, I read the play posters, and give into the journey to the higher ground. This is clearly a luxury of my time off. When I “have to be somewhere,” I would rarely settle into an escalator, no matter how steep the climb.
Also in London, I have found the joy of traveling sans guidebook, with the guidance of a lovely cousin and her lovely boyfriend. It is such a remarkable privilege to arrive in a foreign land to the welcoming embrace of a loved one, who is willing and able to take you on a journey. In my 9 days here I did not see Big Ben or Westminster Abbey. But, I did stroll through St. James and Hyde parks, drink world-renowned coffee at Monmou Coffee while tasting the most divine flavors known to man as I weaved through Borough market. I also saw art at the Tate Modern, including the original Dali painting that donned the walls of my high school boyfriend’s bedroom in the form of a poster cut up into sections on his closet accordion door.
|Becca and Ajay preparing our first meal together|
In the countryside of England, we walked. A lot. Becca and I both came to understand why people continuously write about pastures and label music “pastoral.” Pastures are simply divine. Our most arduous day we walked 12 miles through pastures of cows and sheep to the sea where we found the Seven Sisters National Park. The coastline boasted white cliffs that dropped straight into the ocean without a hint of hesitation. We were given blue skies and sunshine and sunburns for our walking, and soaked it all up.
|Pasture walking on the South Downs Trail|
|Cousins atop the Seven Sisters|
|The Seven Sisters|
|Becca atop Seven Sisters|
We met the characters of the countryside including the man who owned the crystal shop in Littlington. I would write his name, but I fear I would butcher it… just imagine the name of a jester in a fantasy world full of dark lords and dragons. He spoke about the powers of crystals so matter-of-factly, that he might as well have been talking about car mufflers. His round belly, slightly balding head, and nerdy glasses seemed to be all too knowing, leading both my cousin and I to find crystals to help guide our ways. Or there was Roy Savage, the man who owned the tennis courts/campground in Alfriston. He went to Ohio State for a year on a tennis scholarship. There was something in the way he carried himself that made him seem like a star of years past who has all but been forgotten, but at one point was really something.
|First British Beer at George's Pub (with tunnels underneath it where Pirates used to smuggle in goods!)|
In the city, there was Simon, a friend of Becca’s who is a poet-writer-artist-performer who has many rituals he sticks to and a way of seeing the artistic talent in others. He offered free tickets to a play, so our last night in London found us at the Royal Court Theater where we watched opening night of a play about a man giving birth. It comedically explored very interesting themes about the medicalization of the birthing process, gender roles, and parenting. After the play concluded, Becca and I sealed our week with ale and porters and shared stories.
I really had an amazing time in England. But it was not because I planned the best trip itinerary. I actually never read a single guidebook, I share perhaps with a tinge of shame. I had an amazing time because I allowed myself to bump into the city as I strolled and because Becca and Ajay welcomed me into their home as only family can, creating an adventure full of beauty, delicious tastes, affirming love, and challenging questions. I left London satisfied and ready to sign up for Fare Alerts so I can hop across the pond for another visit!
|Burrough market tomatoes|
|Venison and Wild Boar sandwich|
|Monmouth Coffee made with love|
It did not hurt my impression of London when I was upgraded to business class yesterday morning, allowing me to hang out in the elite British Airways lounge and indulge in croissants and cappuccino. But clearly, the most lasting feeling from the trip is my love for my cousin and how special it was to get to share that time together. I continue to be reminded that the greatest gift one can give another is time and shared experiences. And I think when those ingredients combine, positive residue is left behind…
London streets sparkle
Not just because of the rain
Cousin love sheds jewels.
|Cousins in Camden Town|