As any good hitchhiker knows, there is one thing you can’t forget to bring when you leave for another galaxy –ahem, I mean before you hit the road – and that is a towel. In this case, my towel was my camera and a pen. Without these two things, I don’t know if these last three days would have been as successful or as documented.
Should I start at the beginning? No. That’s no fun. Let’s start with last night and the “small” shindig we had at the flat and then I’ll take you through my tour of London, stay in Kent, afternoon watching the World Cup with the English and arrival in Gravesend for the party.
A Sunday Night Party
After spending the day in London, I arrived home to loads of people I didn’t know. James Goding’s face was a welcoming and comforting surprise. I honestly hadn’t been to a party of this size and craziness in a while.
Walking to the kitchen, I was stopped by two girls asking who I was, and after saying I lived here, I started walking only to step on a passed out drunk 19-year-old sleeping in a sleeping bag. You couldn’t even see him! – Opps.
The rest of the night was full of drinking, meeting new people and being held accountable for the war in Iraq. I felt very lucky and very appreciative to have my friends there to have my back. I hadn’t met an English person who didn’t like Americans, but I don’t plan to hold it against him. I will take the opportunity to present us in a good light.
But I also met some very nice people too, such as Sarah and Ollie, and it was a very fun party. Max and Jon’s friends are always so nice, and I definitely feel a little blessed to have such good housemates and be in the position to meet so many people. With that being said, this experience in England is vastly different than the first. With no safety net, i.e., American flat mates, and living with five English people, I am submerged in English culture. I quite like it.
I only ended up at this party at our flat after spending the day in London getting lost and then touring the cultural epicenter – yes, that’s what I will call it – of London with Lee Martin.
A Tour of London’s Urban-Cultural Side on Brick Lane
So as I said, I spend most of yesterday getting lost. There is something so freeing walking around a city where you don’t know where anything is. I wanted to change my clothes – I hadn’t brought enough because I thought my travels were only going to last one night, not three days – so I decided to go buy some. I found my way to Piccadilly Circus, got directions from some lovely locals and started shopping.
After that I headed over to Trafalgar Square only because I recognized the name and thought it was in the theater area. I got lost for another hour trying to find an Internet café, but my wandering proved fruitful. I met an American who had just graduated from UC Irvine named Ben. It was nice to recap our travels – Good luck, Ben! – And it was nice to hear the American accent.
After attempting a phone interview, I met up with Lee outside the national gallery. I met Lee at Tom Mullen’s birthday, and we made plans to go to London and see a show. Unfortunately, the shows were too expensive, so we spent our time on Brick Lane. Brick lane is apparently well-known – not to me -, but others seem to know of it.
We sat outside of a pub that had an indoor and outdoor seating area, and we drank cans of beer and discussed the world. It was a nice conversation, and at one point, we popped over to a record shop to browse through music.
I bought a Wild Beasts’ CD based on Lee’s recommendation. He described them as “eccentric,” but I’ll let you guys pass your own judgment.
Brick Lane is a very cultural, artistic area, according to Lee, and I would agree. The art on the building walls added to the atmosphere, and I learned so much about English culture, music, and Russian and Euro literature. We were given flyer about The Secret Garden Party at dusk and I used to write down my new friend’s music suggestions. This is will be fun research. =) It was really nice to talk about those sorts of things because, as you can expect, these conversations don’t take place too much in downtown Chico.
However, I was reminded of Chico at one point. Anyone know about Steel Reserve? Well, I found out about its English counterpart. I will post it as soon as I can figure out the name. I swear I took a picture of it, but anyway, yes, poor people drink it and its more than 9 percent.
Lee is very well-read and has traveled to 10 percent of the world “according to Facebook.” His views on the world and music were a bit different than mine, but that’s the beauty of being in another country and experiencing another culture. “–83zaaaaa” says Fi’s hamster, Mr. Bear, as he walked across my keyboard. But back to culture, there is no way better to hear someone else’s views than doing so in their home country. It just adds so much context to the conversation.
And apparently there are better artist than Banksy. I’m not sure I believe this, but again, I am open to new ideas.
This experience in London was quite different from my experience in Kent, where I had spent the 17 hours before heading to the city.
The Garden of England a.k.a Kent
Kent is the “Garden of England,” according to Fi, and I think she’s right. It was a beautiful, proper English suburb. The village of Hartley is where Fi’s family lives, and the village is very quiet. The loudest thing I heard while there were the birds. Her house is equally as beautiful. It was my first time staying in an actually English house, and this followed my first ride in an English car that wasn’t a taxi.
I have to say, meeting Fi’s parents was a bit scary. I felt as if I was meeting the parents, which I was doing but this wasn’t a boy’s parents. This feeling isn’t supposed to happen! But they were so nice, and we ate dinner in Fi’s picturesque backyard garden. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, and I think it would have been rude anyway.
The Cracker/Crown Mystery is Solved
That night we watched English movies because I wanted to ask Fi questions. And I learned two new things. First, soccer hooligans are real. Who knew that Raider fans had relatives over here? Second, the paper crowns you see people wearing at Christmas is an English tradition. The crowns come from “crackers.”
Now let me explain this to you. A cracker is a tube, and two people each hold an end of it. They pull the ends and a pop sound happens. The person who ends up with the bigger side gets the toy, joke and crown that are inside.
This is an English tradition, and the English people I’m sitting outside with right now didn’t know that American’s didn’t have this tradition. At least I don’t think we do. Asking whether Thanksgiving was a bigger holiday than Christmas then followed their question. Ha.
Watching movies and chilling on Fi’s couch was a welcomed activity after the day’s events.
England vs. Germany – The Battle of the Year
Fi and had I slept at Jack’s house the night before and woke up to get ready for the England vs. Germany World Cup game. This was a big game because Germany and England are old rivals.
I was excited to be surrounded by English “football” fans for this historic game. Jack, Fi and I walked from Jack’s house to Stu’s house, which was about 45 minutes away. – It was a long, hot walk, but I have video of it!
We arrived about 30 minutes before the game began. I got to see an epic song/commercial, which I will post at the bottom of this blog for all you to see – or you can click here!
Unfortunately, England lost to Germany 4-1. At least it wasn’t 5-1, or so the consensus was.
I still can’t believe we made it to Stu’s house after the night we had. Tom Mullens’ party was crazy.
A Party to Remember
Tom Mullens is Fi’s friend from back home, but he lives in Gravesend. He was having a massive party, which was the reason Fi and I started this whole excursion.
Gravesend is extremely different compared to Brighton and London. Lee described the atmosphere as feeling like the world was coming to an end, but it had some charm.
The party was the most colorful part of the city. So many people were there, and of course I tried to meet them all. I even got to play beer pong, – and yes, I represented Chico!
The music was awesome; indie and punk rock just as I like it. And I had some great conversations. This is where I met Lee. We talked about the world for a while, sipping wine and smoking cigs. He really caught my attention because he wasn’t “partying” like the rest. Of course, the lush that I am chats up the one person who probably didn’t want to talk to a drunk Marcia –No laughing Rando and Mark! But it was fun.
This trip has left me very appreciative of my little bed in Fi’s room and very impressed with myself.
Now, I’m not being vain but think about it. In just 10 days, I’ve experienced as much as I did in two months of my last time here. I went off the path with a new friend and went to a part of London I didn’t know existed. I party-ed with my English housemates. I went to Gravesend and Kent. I stayed at an English house. I’ve done so much!
Thank you Fi Davis, Tom Mullens, Stu Borland, Lee Martin, Max Fletcher, Jon Dunn and James Goding! I’d give you all hugs and kisses, but I think that might be awkward.
Here’s the video! Enjoy.