I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Off the rails

It's Thursday early evening and I'm standing at a bus stop, waiting for a bus. Gripping my iPhone - now reconfigured for day to day use, rather than a command centre for navigation - fairly tight, a consequence of having my last one nicked right from my hand by a ride-by hoodie scrote back in May, just up the road from here. It's almost 48 hours since I crossed an international border and I'm heading home from a day at work, with my laptop and pager because I'm on 24/7 call.

This sucks.

It's not all bad. Far, far from it. I'm cleaner than I've been for nearly 3 weeks and my bags no longer give me a sore throat when I open them. A trip to the local Hobo-B-Gone at lunch has lessened the likelihood of people offering me change in pity, a shave doubling as a quick way to lose weight. I've caught up with the world of fake sport, with friends and colleagues - and on the whole I like my job. I've slept in a stationary bed, the same one, for 2 nights running, without having to share the room with anywhere between 1 and 11 snoring sweaty smelly blokes. I might go for a run on Saturday. I'm spending money in the same currency in which I get paid. I get paid, tomorrow in fact. I can navigate with my eyes closed, no longer having to maintain visuals with 8+ people in a strange place or cart 3 bags at all times. I can vary my route and relax the timing. I know the geography and the language and the rules. Predictability, as relief from the mental bombardment of relentless new experience, and - believe it or not - respite from all that fucking booze, are both welcome. London is a beautiful, warm, cosmopolitan, bustling city full of life and energy and it's my home.

But still...

We got to St Pancras on time, the cognac all gone. I'd narrowly avoided slicing my fingers open on a bread knife that it really should have been impossible to get on board (what are those x-ray machines for again?). Someone had a curry and I'd had a Waitrose sandwich. At the station, approaching 10pm, a welcoming committee was present. Some other halves, some parents, some friends. It was great. I was hyper as fuck, glad it was over only in the sense that we'd done something fantastic, and had such great memories and a story to tell, and that people want(ed) to hear about it. I'm better at accepting compliments than I once was and am happy people read and enjoyed my blog, vicariously experiencing a small slice of what we/I went through. Steve's friend Clare went one further, telling me to keep writing - but what about? Not that it's necessarily for me to say, but, really, I'm not so exciting or interesting. Maybe when I next travel I'll fire up the keyboard again - next February, I go London-Lille-Paris by train, then Paris-Kuala Lumpur-Bali-Sydney-Melbourne-Dubai-London by plane. But solo.

So, after 3 very welcome pints of Guinness the Betjeman was shutting. Numbers had dwindled and now it was my turn to leave, a bus to Waterloo then a train to Surbiton. I don't know how I stayed awake. Home just after midnight I went almost immediately to bed, after plugging many things into many sockets. I had work the following day. In the morning I had the most wonderful shower, and a somewhat less wonderful half hour search for my work ID badge. In the office I fell asleep at my desk 3 times, but nonetheless managed at least some semblance of productivity and lucid communication. The lunch burrito went down very well. At home in the evening I wolfed down a curry ten times hotter than the "madras" in Lisbon, and uploaded almost 300 photos to Flickr.

There's a bit more life to eke out of GCERC yet - like I said, a post about stats, technology and a map and stuff. A roll call. And I'm looking forward to telling tales down the pub with my friends, in the flesh rather than in [like]/SMS/comment form, including the bits that didn't, couldn't, and never will make it onto here. But right now I'm finishing this standing in a hot, crowded, cramped commuter train trundling through SW London. Tonight there'll be no late night beer as I cross a border towards yet another capital city while trying to convince some Australians that we went to Rome, en route from Venice to Milan, to pick up a €1000 picnic that we didn't eat until Switzerland, largely because the deli in Milan doesn't open before 8am, as if that made any fucking sense whatsoever let alone seemed perfectly rational. Instead everything is back to normal. There's a girl loudly complaining about SEO on her phone. She just actually said, out loud, OH EM GEE, and I winced. When I get home I will slump on my sofa and watch horror movies or cartoons, and then sleep in the same bed as last night, wake up in the same city as today, ..., ..., ...

 It's over.


Unknown said...

One you start to travel.. really travel... the journey never stops.

And although we're back to familiar surroundings, this is one trip that hasn't yet run it's course. The events in Galicia of yesterday brought home again how precarious all this familiarity remains. And how precious the memories and friendships made on that crazy trip are.

Anonymous said...

Darren, I have been following you journey with a large amount of jealousy. I was hoping to bump into you in Paris but i missed you all by a day.

I'll see you at an AFC game this season


dsf said...

@Steve - that Galicia crash is awful, huh? made me shiver, a lot. could pretty easily have been us, just a couple of days after marvelling at travelling 300kmh through Spain...

@Warren - my season ticket arrived in the post yesterday. shame about Paris but Kingsmeadow will do! :)

KS said...

Wonderful read! Congrats on completing and surviving GCEREC!