Four years ago, today I had a going away party in London, down the road at a pub that paraded at being an ‘American themed’ bar. At the time, it seemed appropriate. But this was because I knew I couldn’t have it at the pub I wanted it at, The Golden Lion, aka Old Man Pub. Now, this was a pub for the locals. They’d be there from open to close. Every day. Like a UK Cheers. In London, if you are not a part of that locale, you don’t go into that kind of pubs. There’s a stigma that you don’t belong, and it’s genuinely uncomfortable. However, my core team braved a half pint for me because I was so desperate to be inside, even for five minutes. I could never be one with the culture, but for a brief period, I was able to experience it.
My manager bought the round, and we were flabbergasted at how cheap the half pints where. It became apparent why the locals didn’t want to share.
We sat outside in the cold. Reveling in how uncomfortable we felt but excited at the thrill of being somewhere we didn’t fit in. I was all smiles. I had built my life around these types of adventures. These little oddity outings. Dragging those who were unafraid, or perhaps, just curious out to random places of the city to find an egg, an elephant statue phallic looking Olympic statues. Out to pubs down dark alleys during the twilight hours, piranhas in the children’s section of a bookstore. “You simply must! Let me show you!” My smile would say, and then we’d be off. Even strangers were not immune.
Armed with a copy of Harry Potter in hand I booked a train to Oxford and spent my day skipping around the town snapping photos of pretty much everything. I dined by the sign of where The Inklings used to meet, walked up and down a staircase used during the filming of one of the Harry Potter movies and caught my breath at the delicate beauty of C.S. Lewis’ stain glass windows. When night fell I headed to my favorite pub for a pint, read my book and was approached by a gentleman.
I proceed to drag him all over town pointing out the things he had missed. He tried to get me to stay the evening (ha!). I flounced to the train station without looking back. I settled back into reading when another gentleman approached me because of what I was reading.
I did not read a lot that day.
I miss that about life in London, connecting with strangers over books.
Things were hard back then, but they weren’t dark as they are now.
I wish I had the strength to put my life path back to books. Maybe one day.