An Old friend in London Town

What I’ll remember most about yesterday was the soaring temperature, the dry air and sticky skin, fidgeting and grinning from overwhelming excitement and anticipation and the shear relief of hearing an almost lost voice and having a hug I have missed. The last time I was in London was a little under a year ago and last time I saw Kat was a little over 2 years and 2 weeks ago. I love both immensely, for wildly different reasons but I don’t see either as much as I would like.

Kat was my roommate while I was studying in America, I hadn’t shared a room since I was eight and despised the idea of having no solitary escape. Kat made having a roommate not only bearable but a wonderful part of my experience in America. She made what had been a sparse and gloomy room, home by filling it with trinkets, colour, noise and friendship. When I finally returned to Britain and my own room, I felt like someone had ripped away part of my being, she had been such a big part of my life it was odd to now have a life and a room without her.

I can’t remember ever really doing the tourist thing in London but who could say no to that chance and seeing an old friend?? London has never disappointed me but to look at everything through the eyes of a traveller was incredible. No one cares that it is over crowed, with people rushing or the expense; we were idle and easy going, swapping stories, answering question (seriously who knew I could regurgitate so much crap about the Royals) and filling her in on a whistle stop tour of London and Britain’s culture and quirks.

We started at London Bridge before following the South Bank of the Thames to the Globe. I love it at the Globe there is so much history there and the white round architecture always amuses me. We than went next door to the Tate, which I have to say is an extraordinarily ugly building considering it houses some beautiful art work. Yesterday they also had a BBQ outside, expensive but good. We followed the burger with a walk across the Millennium Bridge (the one that gets destroyed in the Harry Potter films) to S. Pauls on the opposite side of the river. This is a stunning building and the  gardens at the beginning of summer smell fantastic. We strolled up The Mall to Buckingham Palace and down The Mall to Trafalgar Square where we people watched whilst discussing education, politics, art, music and sports just like when we were hiding in our room pretending to work.  We found time to squeeze in a visit to  St. James Park, Piccadilly Circus before it got dark and we arrived in Leicester Square  it got dark and finally we ate at a proper English pub (or at least as proper as it gets in London).

I loved every moment of it even when my camera died, particularly that I was acting like a complete  tourist. When I go to London I go to shop, to the theatre or an exhibition, for work, I don’t see London, it’s just another city. I adored yesterday because I felt like I was seeing bits I had missed and because I was with amazing people. I was with Kat and in a prolonged moment of a day, doing all those things was so much better. So here is the upside to being a bit older, I can afford to go to London and buy my friend dinner. I can spend the day doing nothing and it be a wonderful guilty pleasure because I can drop everything and still go to work the next day. I’m now old enough to have a friend from years ago who lives in a different country and maintain it.   

Where I am the best version of me.

Is there a place where you feel like a different person, or perhaps where you feel like a superior or ultimate version of yourself? Somewhere that brings out your greatest aspects, diminishes you faults, somewhere where you excel. Mine is my old university town. I have yet to find anywhere that can make me feel safe and peaceful; it is where I formed some of great ideas about literature, art, friends and life. Aberystwyth in Wales lives in its own dazzling bubble, with little crime, vice or evil one can quite happy forget there is a big bad world beyond it boarders. It was a place where I could just be, just live and be happy.

I went through a lot of pain there but I never felt isolated or lonely. It wasn’t just the incredible people I met there, the place itself stood by my side, it laughed with me, stood close by me when I cried in the dark and stopped the world to comfort me. I miss it, I miss the people I love so much I cling to them as though I’m afraid they are a wonderful dream that will slip through my fingers. I miss the person I was there, the better, smarter, prettier and happier person. I miss the conversations about politics, books, comics, films, music, love, passion and life. I wondered if it was just me who had a place like this? Or does everyone have a place where they are the person they could be?   

Tumbling Pretties

White dresses and a level up in the game of life.

My friend has moved her wedding forward by a year from September 2013 to September 2012. I’m sorry to say I was first in there with the unoriginal question ‘Are you Pregnant?’ I couldn’t help it. I am vastly ecstatic because they got engaged and then the wedding seemed so far away, now it is the highlight at the end of my summer, let alone theirs. The bride is a wonderful friend from university and her fiancée is fab, I spend a large amount of time in their spare room when I’m visiting friends in trade for a bottle of wine. I have spent many happy hours with them and I can’t wait to see them marry, I plan to cry a sea of tears and drink way too much in their honour. They are a couple that is so established in my world that if they separated I’m sure the universe would rip at the seams.


White dresses

The dresses

I’m not going to be a bridesmaid; however I spent the weekend wedding dress shopping with the bride to be and her mother. Would you believe it, the first dress, in the first shop was just perfect and nothing else after could measure up. This didn’t stop her trying on lots of dresses, I watched her try on white gown after white gown and started to feel, well, a little odd. I have never really wanted to get married, I was always in the train of thought that if you loved someone and wanted to spend your life with them just do it, why do you need a piece of paper to prove that you do or will. It’s not like in today’s society it means a lot, every marriage seems doomed to fail before it has started. Despite my cynicism and my generation’s apparent determination to devalue marriage, I always feel overwhelmingly happy when someone tells me they are going to tie the knot, I think it’s because in that moment that person seems incandescently happy. In the bridal shop, staring at mountains of white, cream, ivory, satin and lace I started to wonder if I wanted a big white dress? I can’t imagine thinking I could spend the rest of my life with anyone, let alone wanting or even choosing someone to do that with. Just because I can’t imagine it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like it, it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t make me content, it just means I have to do some serious revaluation of what makes me happy.

Everyone around me is in long term relationships, engagements and marriage. Me? Well I joined a Facebook group called ‘My friends are getting married, I’m getting drunk’, yes this is probably childish but it feels like I’m playing a game and I just went up a level in difficultly. It feels like I’m getting old and this doesn’t sit well with me, do I have to start checking for glinting gold bands on the left hand every time someone I am remotely attracted to starts talking to me? I am going to start getting sympathy looks every time I say I’m single, watching a small flash of fear in their eye as they panic I’m might burst into tears over my singleton status or even worse they might catch singletonitis? Or heartbreakingly worse am I going to be deserted, left behind by my friends? Is there room in married life for the single girl chasing a Neverland dream? If I fight to keep my friends will they accept me, chasing happiness that’s not like theirs or will we just drift apart on different tides??

Colourful Colorado

Waterfall in Steamboat Springs

Steamboat Springs

I’ve been feeling homesick for Colorado; this is probably because Britain has been having wonderful sunshine while still being cold and my current engagement in conversations with friends I left in the colourful state. I often long to be back in Colorado, it was the first time my heart felt truly at home away from my family and friends, and I’m completely in love with the state. I miss the vast geography, the irregular weather, the people and the place. I went to Colorado, to Colorado College on an exchange program to study while in my second year of university and it has been to date the greatest experience of my life. I miss the view that I have never been able to forget, it is the thing that can never be taken away from me.

I spent way to much time hanging out of windows getting photos

The heritage in Colorado was incredible; I found it remarkable that a place that seems so young can have such a depth of history. Everywhere I went in Colorado I seemed to adore, I loved Denver it was just so attractive, simply blissful to waste a day there. Steamboat Springs was so picturesque, relaxed and was just surrounded by land and ranches. I asked a police officer (cop?) what a buck was in Steamboat Springs because he told me and my friends to watch out for them when we were driving, I had no idea what one was and he told me eventually after a lot of laughter. Manitou Springs I maintain has the best chocolate and sweet shops I have ever found and was quant, yet diverse. In Colorado Springs I found that despite how big it was it felt like the small town I imagined America was full of, it was intimate and wonderful. It was where I watched my first hockey match, where I walked all alone in a strange city 4625 miles from anyone I knew and figured out what a block was. I made some amazing friends and met some fabulously interesting people that have stayed with me years later.

Pikes Peak

My favourite view of Pikes Peak

I miss the Garden of the Gods and feeling small in the majesty of nature. I miss how big it all was, I miss the vast sky that seems so small from my side of the pond. I remember arriving in the middle of the night dark and cold and went to sleep isolated in a strange room with no idea where I was and what to expect. I woke to an awe inspiring view of Pikes Peak and spent the next 6 months reassured by its dominance in the skyline and it gave me a height to strive for.

My mind doesn’t just wander there when I’m awake but takes me there in my dreams. I miss the space, the room to breathe that I have never found anywhere else and the beauty that just lives in you. I did a lot of growing there; I learnt how strong I could be and what I wanted form life. I learnt I could travel thousands of miles alone and make a whole new life, make friends and work achieving the standards I always had and be so happy.  I’d make memories and stories that would make my heart ache and create a smile. I lost my heart to Colorado completely.  Being posting my favourite images of Colorado here all week.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Rather appropriately my first week of December was spent doing fabulous Christmas things; I went to my first charity function of the Christmas period on Friday night and quite happily won 2 Christmas presents in the raffle. After which I went to the first Christmas party of the season. It was a Christmas jumper party so as far as the eye could see there were ridiculous jumpers, vulgar colours and patterns and faces of reindeer and Father Christmas assaulted the eyes. It was a night of contradiction, I spent the first half trying desperately to be sophisticated and charming to a lot of middle aged women who kept telling me how lovely I looked and asking questions about what I am doing now that I have left university that made my insides squirm with awkward guilt and discomfort. The second half was filled with frantic attempts to recapture my hedonistic youth and in particular my drunken uni antics, only to discover I’m not as good at it as I used to be.  That I have even less time for juvenile sex pests, uncontrollable drunks, belligerent intellectuals or the emotional messes and once they would have been highly amusing to me now I just want to obliterate them because I’m not one of them and they are assassinating my buzz. I went to bed however with a general feeling of good will and excitement these people where my friends and Christmas for me is all about loved ones.

With a little over 4 hours sleep I found myself riding a short train to Birmingham (desperately trying to figure out if I was still drunk or having an attack of vertigo) to meet up with some very special people. They were my flat mates from my first year of uni, Flat 133. The 7 most wonderful people I knew, we remained friends even when we no longer lived together, survived break ups and some were even engaged to each other. While some never speak to their first year flat mates mine are part of my family, stayed in my house and now we don’t see each other on regular basis are holes in my heart. We had all travelled to Birmingham City for one reason. Birmingham was holding the largest Christmas Market outside of Germany.

Everyone needs to go to a Christmas Market because there are oodles of wonderful things there. Now in its tenth year, the Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham is amazing, it smells like Christmas all hot and overpowering even when it is freezing. All you can see are the most stunning stalls, some that have to most intricate handmade and wooden toys, my favorites being the small carousels and toy nutcrackers. Some stalls with wonderful tree decorations that were red, gold, silver, that are all manner of shapes and sizes that appeal to the child in me trying to find the biggest and best to add to my adult collection that one day I hope to dress my owe tree with. There were red and gold ones that inside the ball had spinning wings that I adored. Of course then there was the food, all hot to keep the cold at bay, Gebrannte Mandeln (toasted almonds candy things), cookies, soft ginger bread, Bratwurst and of course Gluhwine.

My friends on the carousel proving you only as old as you feel.

My friends on the carousel proving you only as old as you feel.

In the very centre was the bandstand that played Christmas carols, with a huge Christmas tree and an enchanting carousel. Now in Flat 133 we are not known for maturity we were all children at heart, we honestly tried not to go on the carousel but after deciding that we had been mature enough to travel, shop and declare bridesmaids (lilac dresses) we were secure enough in our own grown up status’ that we would venture onto the carousel odd looks and all. It was delightful and childish and just what we needed. The market had been captivating and after we retired back to my house (absent of biological family who had run off for the weekend) we relived our youth at uni.

Lost in the woods

Lost in the woods

I insisted on a walk on Sunday to cure my indulgence from the previous two days a long Kinver Edge, and it felt much like edge I feel I walking now between youth and adulthood. The bride to be remarked “no matter what I do you guys will always draw me back to believing the world is fresh and I can be a superwoman.”

My old university town

For the last few days I have been visiting my old university town. I still have some very good friends who for one reason or another (mostly to continue their education) have stayed after the completion of their degree. I am very willing to admit I am a bit jealous; I would love to still be studying and living in my old university town as it was a world all its own. It had an atmosphere of complete security, people could walk around this town with cats on their shoulders, in drag, in the most outrageous outfits and no one would bat an eyelid. It was a town that cultivated bizarre friendships and brilliant and splendid individuals. It encouraged the delightful bliss of time whiled away with like minded people in a world of your own creation.

9am The morning I finished university and left my university town

Going back probably isn’t healthy because I know it is my escape, but in my defence my friends have stayed with no lasting blight other than the fact they may now never depart this dream like getaway from reality. My university town and my experience there was like that moment when you are about to jump into the water; you have already decided you are going to jump, there is no question about it and you could be excited or terrified but it doesn’t matter because you are completely exhilarated. Everything goes through your head at a fantastic speed, it makes you dizzy but you recall it all because the world has slowed down so you can savour every moment. I made friendships there so fast I can’t ever remember a moment when we weren’t friends or a time we won’t be friends, lessons I learnt there resonate with every step I take in life and I have seen beauty that is now reflected in the world around me. I go back not just to feel the friendships, lessons and gain sight more clearly I go back to feel like I’m almost about to jump again.

I also go back because in a changing world it is always familiar, it never seems to change. I walk down the same streets and corridors I did when I started three years ago and can still describe every detail, every smell, every touch, and every sight. My university and uni town is not where I found myself or my greatest friends, it is where I go to measure my life, where I have been and where I am going. I go back to measure myself alongside mountains and the sea and not be judge because it is my world and I’m only measuring it against myself and my expectations .

This time I returned to engage in something called the Christmas Coffee, it was created in my first year by me and a group of friends. We huddle together with mass amounts of boiling coffee and sizzling treats and argue horrendously about anything and everything, swapping presents and stories and well wishes before we vanish with a little bit of glitter and magic for the holiday. This year was done very early to avoid conflicts of work and commitments. A very grown up step for us all, at one time lectures and seminars would have been missed presents forgot and packing left to engage in this simple past time. I sat there with an outlandish smile on my features and came to a realisation that struck me like an unexpected icy wave that knocks all sense out of you for a moment. My university town may not be where I found myself or my greatest friends but it is where I feel most like myself because it lets me be her without judgement and with security. That said my uni town has lost its shine, I see the cracks now, the dark and dingy side that eluded my vision before and if I came back to often the shine would go and my memory would be a lie over whelmed by a new truth.

Snow on the beach

Snow on the beach, I once finished an essay at 2:30am and ran to the beach as snow fell. Just because I could.

I would have to find somewhere else to be me or risk losing my uni town forever. For now nevertheless there was coffee, there was cake and there was laughter and shouting to be had. Somehow however this time the real world crept in there was life to plan, living arrangements to hate, weddings to tease about, university work and jobs to be criticised and envied. The world of our own creation was being invaded and none of us seemed to be stopping it.