i mentioned before that i may have pissed off some grand cosmic power before departing on this trip.  this theory continues to gain plausibility.  before i launch into the latest installment, though, i’ve prepared a handy visual to put it into scale with the rest of the trip.  (the wollaton hall closure actually happened this morning but doesn’t really factor into the evening’s events – i was just visiting some family in nottingham, and hoped to look around the building, on the one day anyone local can remember it ever being closed.)

useful background information:

1. for the overnight trip to nottingham last night, i traveled light, taking only a backpack and leaving my 23-kg suitcase with the friends i’d been staying with in london.

2. the battery on my uk cell phone, in spite of being essentially brand new, lasts less than 24 hours after being fully charged.

3. it has been raining cats and dogs in london for a full day.

ready? 

ok.

 i returned to london from notts by train this afternoon in time to meet up with our good friend pome, who was mc at our wedding, and with whom i’m staying this week while working at the museum.  my cell phone battery had begun gasping out its dying breaths last night already, so i turned it on only periodically to check messages, knowing i would need it for meeting up with pome this afternoon and for contacting my suitcase-sitting friends in chiswick.  while waiting to rendezvous with pome, i spotted a cell-phone-charging station inside a vodafone store, swallowed my ire at the £1 fee for ‘up to 30 minutes,’ dropped the coin in the slot and fiddled with four different charging plugs, all of the right configuration, none of which worked.  when pome appeared while i was still uselessly plugging and unplugging, i asked for my pound back and was offered the half-hearted story that the charging station didn’t really *belong* to the vodafone store, and so they couldn’t refund me, but my steely glare ultimately won out.  this becomes important later, since this £1 was the sum total of the cash i carried.

pome and i squelched home to his flat in the ongoing downpour, enjoyed a very civilized cup of tea and a quick chat, and then parted ways, he to an italian lesson and i to retrieve my suitcase from chiswick.  important plot developments: (1) pome realized on the walk to the tube station that he had forgotten his cell phone, and (2) i was the likelier to return to the flat first, so i took his sole set of house keys.

when i got onto the platform to begin leg 1 of the tube journey, the tail lights of an appropriate train were just disappearing down the tunnel.  the next train arrived no sooner than 25 minutes later, and a sorry, steamy, sardine-can of a train it was, too.  (although someone was traveling with an absolutely gorgeous young rhodesian ridgeback.)  so i arrived into the transfer station three stops later, already halfway through the time it was supposed to take me for the entire venture.  i hustled across the street to connect to the other train line (it’s a weird station) and made it to the platform, before an announcement was made that trains to the destination i needed weren’t running. 

well, i was flummoxed.  on one hand, i needed to let pome back into his own apartment shortly (and he had no phone to receive updates; nor did i have the battery to send them); on the other, my friends in chiswick were waiting and i would be appearing very wet and grubby at the museum in the morning if i didn’t manage to recover my suitcase.  £1 wasn’t exactly sufficient cab fare, i didn’t know the bus system, and in this weather, walking would probably have been faster, but carried the risk of drowning.  i decided to gamble with my solitary coin and called the friends in chiswick, who volunteered to throw my gear in their car and rescue me, estimating they would arrive in about ten minutes.  this seemed optimistic given the weather and traffic, but also seemed like the best option, and we barely had time to arrange a meeting place before the pay phone clicked off and left me penniless.

truly at the mercy of the cosmos, i stood hunched under an eave with my cheap h&m umbrella (the kind that turns inside out immediately when you open it; my rain jacket was safely stored in the absent suitcase) for forty minutes.  soaked down to, and up to, the knees, with plunging blood sugar, i imagined a sodden pome pounding on the front door of his own flat, and texted him a heartfelt apology on the off-chance he had been able to get in and retrieve his phone. three lanes of traffic inched forward along the street in front of me (intended for two); it took a police car with lights and sirens a full five minutes to get down the block of road in front of me.  for perspective, i reminded myself that six thousand africans die of AIDS-related illnesses every day and that the scale of my problems was rather miniscule, but i think ‘rapture’ is not too strong a word to describe the emotion that accompanied ultimately climbing into the passenger side of the car when my recuers arrived, lances high and banners (or at least windows) streaming.

and now the story (out of sheer necessity) takes a turn for the better.  we made it back to pome’s without incident, the pebbles called me and heard my tale of woe, making appropriate sympathetic noises in all the right places, and while we were talking, pome himself appeared (none the wiser or wetter for my prolonged absence).  i settled into my room for the next few days and scuttled off through the unchecked monsoon to buy a large bag of greasy fast food, which was deliciously disgusting, and now i have sufficient blood sugar, dry jeans and socks, and the world is a much brighter place.  tomorrow holds an enormous natural history museum with new exhibits, a giant squid, and toad-in-the-hole for tea, so all is ultimately well.

 

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