A midlands canal and a London living room.
When I landed at Heathrow airport it was after 8pm. Surprisingly, I wasn’t tired. In fact, I felt a slight buzz simply due to the fact that I was in a somewhat familiar place (I had visited London a few times before) and about to meet up with one of my cousins, Chris. I’m quite lucky to have various family members spread around the UK, many of which I can (and plan to) stay with while I’m over here. Chris lives in the east side of London, and his apartment overlooks the north end of Shoreditch High Street. This is where I spent most of my time in London.
I broke up my time there, however, by going north to Mirfield to visit my grandparents (on my dad’s side). So, after one day of seeing the local area I would soon realise is like the Grünerløkka of London – which I believe is like the Brunswick of Oslo – and catching up with Chris, I boarded a train heading up towards Leeds. I was unfortunately not met at the train station by my grandpa as we had discussed, since my train arrived later than I anticipated and I failed to make that clear to him early enough. My vague email also failed to make the fact that I planned to stay with him for a few nights clear. But once we had figured all this out with each other (and my half-asleep parents), I found myself at a familiar little white house.
It’s important to make an effort to see your grandparents – I recognised this fact more than ever in those three days. I’ve never been that close with any of mine, and frankly I don’t mind spending vast periods of time on the other side of the planet to them, but they do. And (more importantly to me) my parents mind. Age is catching up with my grandparents, and my mum cares whether or not I can see her folks and my dad cares whether or not I can see his. So I try. Seeing my grandma (dad’s side) in a home only made me feel more distant, but I could see the toll it took on my grandpa. And I understand the significance of visiting the old folks when I can, for all parties. I think it’s also important to see family friends, especially if they are retired and have a lot of free time. This is why I made the short trip to Leeds for lunch with one of my dad’s oldest friends – his son popped in for a lunchtime drink too. The burger, beers and banter were all nice (and free) treats.
Back in London, after four weeks of travelling, I was able to settle in to somewhere for more than a couple of (busy) days. This was simultaneously a fantastic and problematic circumstance. For the first time in a month, I had no pressure to go out and do anything – with the extra incentive of Netflix access to keep me indoors. So I stayed in the apartment for the better part of the next few days, with shopping being the only thing that drew me outside. And although I am incredibly grateful I had those days to take a proper break (and a night out ‘boozing’ with Chris’ flatmate), I can’t help but feel like I wasted my weekend in London. I said to myself that I would adventure out on the Monday, being my last full day in London, and I set my sights primarily on the Design Museum. I met up with another Aussie traveler after lunch in Holland Park and we investigated the museum, its gift shop and an exhibition with far too many watches on display. We parted ways following a nice Indian meal, and I went to explore Shoreditch and Hoxton a little more.
I initially planned to vacate the apartment at noon the next day. I didn’t end up leaving until 2pm. I wasn’t under much pressure though, as the flight I was catching wasn’t boarding until the evening. The only thing on my to-do list before I left was to buy shorts (returning an ill-fitting pair in the process) and a cap – I would need them for my next destination, Malta. This I am very excited for. I’m meeting up with two mates for what is sure to be an entertaining week – even though the first 12 hours has been spent in the airport waiting for their arrival.
From landing in the UK to departing it (albeit only briefly), I’ve felt ever so slightly more comfortable travelling alone. And although I may have sat on my ass for far too much of the time, I feel I’ve seen enough of London (having also seen the touristy parts last time I visited) to satisfy my small thirst for it.
Observations from the past 10 days:
- It doesn’t always rain in the country that always rains.
- My dad shares many story-telling mannerisms with his dad.
- Londoners go hard from Thursday through Sunday.