Tag Archives: London

Christmas in London

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London at Christmas is, by far, the most magical place on the planet. Since visiting I have developed a deep and unwavering love of how the English flawlessly pull off this widespread holiday. I’m nearly convinced there is no actual North Pole, but instead Santa holds up in a little shop on a side street of London. Between the lights along Regent Street, The Eye, the Museums lit up at night and every single square inch of Harrods there is really no comparison to anything I’ve ever seen before; Or smelled for that matter. On Westminster Bridge there is always someone selling roast chestnuts and the moment I laid nostrils on them I would have sworn I’d never smelled anything so scrumptious.

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In North America, Christmas seems to be ALL about the commercialism, the shopping, the spending, the economy boosting power of women with credit cards and men with no time so will essentially buy anything. We just survived Black Friday and here in Canada, and although it’s not the crowd control nightmare that it is in America, I still don’t like going within a mile of any major shopping centre. I won’t dwell on the details of this strange and unnecessary tradition because frankly, it’s stressing me out. Bottom line is the ‘Holidays’  here are not so much about giving people time off to spend with their family and loved ones. They’re about long hours, out-doing both yourself and others around you, and stress in general.

While in London and its’ surrounding boroughs during the weeks leading up to Christmas, I felt a certain magical charm that came from somewhere in this city. Whether it was the meat pies in shop windows, Christmas puddings on display, a light and magical snowfall, subtle twinkling lights on everything or just the general cheeriness of everyone about, it was so lovely I swear my heart grew three sizes and I genuinely felt the true meaning of Christmas.

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So now, every year I scramble around, desperately trying to find that feeling again. I walk the streets at night, I peer into all the shop windows, I brew all the mulled wine, cider and hot chocolate I can get my hands on, but something about it all is missing. There is a London factor that’s been absent from my Christmas’s for the past few years, and no matter how hard I try to infuse it into this culture, I am simply unable to recreate it.

 

It may just be magic after all.

– Hailey Jane


How to NOT Look Like a Tourist in London

And how I failed miserably in this respect…DSC03418

Hello friends! And welcome back to another instalment of Hailey’s travel tips. Today I have a simple life lesson that stands no real purpose other than perhaps making you feel slightly better about yourself, but in actual fact, will have little difference and no one will really notice. Because let’s face it…it’s a crazy, complicated, ever-changing world, and no one really knows what the fuck they’re doing.

I’ll also have you know, I am basically an expert in what NOT to do…as every single one of these things…I have done. Perhaps repeatedly.

Let’s get started shall we!

-Avoid taking pictures of literally everything…tube stations…street signs…pigeons….bits of writing on the ground.  It can get out of control pretty quickly. Next thing you know you’ll be snapping photo’s of empty restaurant tables and what’s on the television. Then eventually wondering why you did so several years later while trying to write a blog post about it.

-Also avoid selfies in front of national monuments and playing in red phone booths. The local consensus is to just use them for public lavatory’s.

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-Ordering a white tea, will get you a black tea with milk in it…for some reason.

-A tartan scarf and Chelsea boots isn’t enough to mask your thick Canadian accent; which until recently you didn’t realize you had.

-Stand on the right for christ sakes….escalators are your friend, but if you stand on the left, you’re going to get bowled over by am unapologetic solicitor on his way to work.

-Don’t try to pull a suitcase through the paddles at tube stations. You  may think you’re quick enough, and that your luggage is small enough…but it WILL get stuck, and a scary security guard will have to free a very embarrassed you who holds up the line, while strictly instructing that in future use the doors designed for prams and wheelchairs.

-Don’t deliberately try to speak with an accent. Nine times out of ten you come out sounding like an Australian. Dead giveaway.

-Dress in layers, sensible footwear and have an umbrella with you at all times. Tourists are generally wetter than locals.

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-When walking, if you’re very serious about blending in, walk briskly and look where you are going. Gentle saunterers who are staring at the sky are nearly always mocked by passers by…not necessarily for being a visitor, but more likely because the lack of attention paid to the walkway caused them saunter right into a post.

-Standing and looking in a confused manner at the wall-mounted spaghetti factory that is the Tube Map, is a beacon of your touristy origins.

-The NUMBER ONE way to let the world know that you’re just here to visit, is after you’ve mastered the ‘queue’ and patiently waited your turn, bought your train ticket to the destination station of your choice, and are asked by the attendant for..say… 6 pound 40, you fail in all entirety to sort through your change to find the correct denomination. A pocket full of strangely heavy, oddly shaped currency baffles you and you eventually just throw it all on the counter and hope it’s enough to cover the fare and escape the judgemental eyes of the Londoners behind you. Unless of course you were smart enough to get an oyster card…But you weren’t.

Seriously though…what on earth is the point of a tuppence! And why is it so huge if it’s not worth anything!  In a world where 5p look like dimes, 10p look like quarters and a pound is smaller than 50p, I seem to have no idea which way is up anymore.

Don’t even get me started on the inappropriately sized paper money.

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Do I blend in yet??

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you all enjoyed my rendition of how to avoid looking touristy in such a fabulous place.

xx

-Hailey Jane

(Who misses London terribly and would really like to go back again…)


Some Random Things that Happened in England, Completely Out of Context – Part One

Ahh! David Attenborough! <3

Ahh! David Attenborough! ❤

Rogue Dinosaurs in England! Title of my new book I think? Hell yeah!

Rogue Dinosaurs in England! Title of my new book I think? Hell yeah!

Erotically caressing the Rosetta Stone...Yeah I did that....(it was the touchy replica...keep your pants on)

Erotically caressing the Rosetta Stone…Yeah I did that….(it was the touchy replica…keep your pants on)

Herman Ze German ...what else can I say? AWESOME

Herman Ze German …what else can I say? AWESOME

Buahh! Surprise flash!

Buahh! Surprise flash!

Mr. Bones in a provocative pose, slash unflattering angle.

Mr. Bones in a provocative pose, slash unflattering angle.

Knife juggler in Bath. "Yeah, I juggle knives...no big deal."

Knife juggler in Bath. “Yeah, I juggle knives…no big deal.”

Sissies...

Sissies…

SNOW! It wasn’t really all that much though.

A very suave Mr. Bones in Camden Town

Spontaneous bra shopping! *Intense*

Spontaneous bra shopping! *Intense*

I never thought I'd meet a rock that was as fond of baked goods as this little guy.

I never thought I’d meet a rock that was as fond of baked goods as this little guy.
I dont even....yeah.

I dont even….yeah.

Best antique text book ever!

Best antique text book ever!

Squirrel Jokes

“Just chilling in Hyde Park, and then a squirrel ran up my leg”….
“Hold on….say squirrel again”
“What, ok, squuurl?”..
“Ha! You say it funny!”
Thus the beginning of never ending Squirrel jokes.

Ohh Harrods, You've fallen prey to the inevitable, mullets and handlebars. It's the future!

Ohh Harrods, You’ve fallen prey to the inevitable, mullets and handlebars. It’s the future!

Don't we all love getting fiddled at! A Covent Garden adventure.

Don’t we all love getting fiddled at! A Covent Garden adventure.

And that was some of my random adventures without any context what so ever! Any questions, I will address them in the comments section…maybe.  Only if you’re good.

Stay tuned for Parts Two and Three in the coming weeks.

Miss Hailey Jane


You Can Stay?

My heart sank and my insides felt thick and clouded, slowing both my thoughts and movements. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make in such a short time, and I will always wonder what would have happened if I had made the other one.

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My first two weeks in England were thus far the best two weeks I had ever experienced as a human being, relishing what the earth had to offer me. They say the best way to learn about your country and culture is to leave it behind; I’ve said this before but I just want to repeat it because it still holds true. It’s also no coincidence that the best way to learn about who you really are, is much the same process. And I will tell you one very important thing. For the first time in my life, the self that I found those two weeks was the first one I’ve ever really fond of.

I found a welcoming home in the hearts of my long lost friends, I made new ones who I will never forget, I saw so many wonderful things and learned more about life than most of the 22 years before me had taught.

And now, after all of my adventures, I found myself waiting for a westbound plane, sitting in a Costa at Gatwick Airport with two of my friends, the lot of us being completely miserable. Even in the insanity of a churning and flowing plane station, I swear you could have heard a pin drop.

“You know, you could just…stay?” she said quietly and nonchalantly, as simple as one would ask ‘could you pick up some milk?’,  and like it was the obvious answer to all of our discomfort.

“I could…” I said passively, nodding my head slowly and staring at the bottom of my coffee cup, expressionless.

“We’d look after you, you’d always have somewhere to stay” he threw into the budding serious life-altering conversation.

Moments which seemed like hours passed in silence…

My brain began to run at top speed, overanalyzing all of the implications of not getting on that plane. The pros, the cons, all the other stuff that doesn’t really matter. Would my cat miss me if I never came home? What would the government think? Would it botch my chances of getting back in later if I stayed? I’ve got 6 months as a tourist before they get suspicious…How much money do I have left? Oh wait, my Mom would throw a fit, and I don’t think my boyfriend would like it much either. I would be out the cost of the flight too…and I’m actually SUPPOSED to be there. What if the person sitting next to my seat is worried I was killed by the people in security, or being held hostage by secret terrorists and the whole flight is doomed to failure and fiery death?? I wouldn’t want to wish that on them. But on the other hand, she (or he I guess) definitely doesn’t deserve that extra seat space for the ride. My friends also just drove me all the way to the airport, and having to drive back with me would seem like a big waste and I’d feel guilty for the rest of my life…but It’s just so lovely here and I don’t want to go!  GRAHH!

I have gone off on several ridiculous mental tangents before someone spoke up again.

“You are so happy here, do you really want to give it all up and go home?” She said

“No, I want to stay.” I say smiling, seriously entertaining the thought of just staying here.

The mood of the conversation changed to reluctant excitement, so hopefully this new simple idea wouldn’t get destroyed by too much enthusiasm all at once. Like it was a lost and lonely kitten and we didn’t want to scare it away, even though we wanted to cuddle the shit out of it.

The minutes to the flights’ departure were counting down faster than I would have liked them to, and I was beginning to panic.

‘I want to stay…’ I kept repeating over and over in my head, an unhealthy mantra that would soon lose it’s meaning due to blind repetition  My emotions were viscously rolling between excitement at the thought of staying, and terror from the thought of leaving everything I knew and loved in Canada behind me.

“I want to stay….But I can’t.” I finally said, desperately trying not to cry. I was disappointing everyone I knew in that room including myself, but it was all for the benefit of everyone and everything I had back home.

And that was it.

We all said very reluctant goodbyes on my way to the gate, but I was confident I would see them again. Not that that was any consolation for openly choosing to leave. I felt like a bad person and began to regret my decision. In the movies people always get up off the plane on the last minute to run back into the arms of a lover, but it seemed like the moment of decision was past and once I stepped through security I was committed to going home.

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I punished myself with two simple thoughts over the next 10 hours. The first was my now over stated mantra now in the past tense, of “I could have stayed” and the second which was torture in the nature of itself, “I can always come back”, which everyone knows is only an excuse and a terrible one at that used only to actually avoid doing things.

I was a coward that day and it changed my life. I’m not saying for the worse or for the better, but it made a drastic change on the outcome and on who I am as a person.

When the flight landed at the Pearson intl Plane Station, I de-planed, got my bags and went out to meet a comforting face so everything could go back to normal. I was exhausted, I was covered in plane grime and wished for no more than a hug, a kiss, some fresh air, and a shower.  I crossed the threshold into the arrival area and looked for someone I knew. I couldn’t see anyone right away, no one flailing and jumping at my momentous return, so I just moved out of the way to let others have their moment.

I thwumped my bags down next to a stone pillar and waited. I then started to think… I began to think about being back in cold and grimy Canada, where no one had come to meet me at the gate, or bother to pick me up on time.  I couldn’t help it, but it was then that I finally began to cry. I cried quietly but with every single emotion in my body. I was disappointed, I was scared, I was angry, I was alone, and I was SO full of regret I thought about running all the way over to the departure gate and getting a ticket back to England. But instead I just stood there, crying.

After an hour I was beyond frustrated and began actively searching for him. I found him sitting on a bench down some odd and random hallway that was clearly not the arrival gate, sitting under a sign that pointed towards where the gate actually was.

‘So much for the hug and kiss’ I thought, as I looked at the unshaven trollop before me. I just wanted to go home.

Maybe I should have just stayed.

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-Miss Hailey Jane

(Note: As it has been pointed out to me that ‘trollop’ is a word describing something very different, I would like to say that I know it probably shouldn’t be in there. But due to the general hilarity in describing an ‘unshaven’  person as a promiscuous woman, I will leave it for your general enjoyment. Thank you. This has been a Note.)


London; Through the Fog

Good afternoon loyal reader people! Another instalment of Hailey’s English Adventures is about to ensue. I will also promise to try to keep it less than 500 words, because 1200 word posts aren’t really doing me any favours here.

Today I am going to regale all of you fantastic intellectuals with the aftermath of the London Bridge Train Station incident, which immediately proceeded my misguided behaviour in Brighton.  If anything it will feel like a lovely and lax stroll around my favourite city in the world, being a tourist in the strongest sense of the word.

After grasping tightly to what was left of my consciousness against a wall outside of Charing Cross, I was located by my friend and then set off into the world of  the Londoner, with mussed hair, smeared makeup, a glazed look in my eyes and a very empty stomach. She took me to a place completely new to me called Camden, which turns out is a fantastically awesome place.

It is known as a centre of alternative culture and let me tell you, the shops there were outrageously brilliant. If you want leather or PVC anything, here would be the place to get it. Here’s a video about Camden to give you a better idea . I also was not the only person walking around after a wild night. My enthusiasm grew as I walked along the cobblestones experiencing all of the different and beautiful things. Old buildings, a horse hospital, so many shops and stalls, and the smell of the food from all over the world was intoxicating. Not the ideal kind of intoxicating either from the perspective of a sensitive tummy, but once I got some Chinese food in me I was feeling much better. After a few hours of wandering around and seeing what there was to see, we hopped on the tube and headed to Westminster.

Here was the centre of tourist London in my opinion, with Parliament, The Eye, Westminster Abbey and the Aquarium all in relative proximity. We walked along the Thames, I snapped photos like the out-of-towner I was, trying to be at least a bit creative…

My head still pounded and most of the day so far had been seen through the fog of my hangover, but it was clearing and the beauty of the day itself was coming through. We opted to avoid the high fees and the line for a ride on the Eye, as well as the Abbey, but just being there with them was a spectacle all on its’ own.

It was late afternoon and the way the light was hitting everything made it nearly sparkle. It was a cool and crisp fall day, but the sun warmed our faces and the smell of chestnuts roasting on Westminster Bridge was the lovely pick me up I needed.

I tried to think about the history of the place I was standing in, all of the important things that had happened here. But it was so hard to grasp with the buzzing and constant hum of tourists everywhere.

You can still see the evidence of the previous night’s escapades in my hair and under my eyes, but with the help of excitement and internal motivation, London was opened up to me once again with the comfort of home.

It was such a gift to spend the day in London with her, and I hope to return again some day soon. There is so much more to do and see. People to meet, drinks to drink, songs to sing terribly off-key and embarrassing moments that have yet to be experienced.  London may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely for me. The next photo, which was taken of the ground outside the south end of Parliament says it all I think…

-Miss Hailey Jane

I also seemed to have failed utterly in my world count goal. Oh well, it was unrealistic anyway… And don’t worry, we’ll get around to ‘Kissing Ron Howard’ soon enough…didn’t your mother ever teach you any patience?


Throwing Up in London Bridge Train Station

The morning after a blissful night of binge drinking and terribly irresponsible fun (Bon Jovi: The Enabler), I awoke in a bed I had never slept in before, in a city I really didn’t know my way around very well, with a hankering for coffee that was all consuming. I also had a chain gang of tiny men taking up residence in my head, banging away at the insides to make way for a very small railroad apparently. It took a few moments to get my bearings, and then trying to see through the fog of my hangover I had to solve my missing sock problem and figure out how to get to where I was supposed to be. Which in this case was over an hour away at a train station in London I’d never been to…

Third Day in England ever! Woo! I’m awesome!

With the internal motivation and encouragement aflame I set out into this new world with aid of my bed buddy and was lead, ever so sweetly, to the train station in Brighton. Ugh, such lovely shoes… I said goodbye and promised to come back again sometime, then headed off on a train that I figured would get me to somewhere in London. From there I told myself I’d find a way to meet my friend at St. Pancras once I arrived.

I was all happiness, adrenaline and left over alcohol up to this point, but once I got settled on the train I seriously felt like I was going to die.  My head pounded, I had no idea how few hours of sleep I had actually managed to get, and my stomach was starting to preform some very acrobatic gestures in there. My only care in the world at this point though, was to shut off the world and try to get some sleep. I would worry about London when I got there, I would worry about finding her when I was able to walk again, and would focus all of my energy on not defacing any of the surprisingly comfy upholstery.

The trail rattled onwards towards London. The morning countryside flew by without my notice and I slipped gracefully into a state of non-existence. Beautiful nothingness. Suddenly and all too soon, the train began to slow down with jerky motions and I was jolted awake and knew it was now that I had to hold myself together. I’m sure I was getting some rather strange looks from the morning commuters with their tea and newspapers, but I sincerely hadn’t noticed and wouldn’t have cared either way. Which says a lot about my condition.

 

I waited in my seat once the train stopped and was the last to disembark. Breathe….in through nose…out through mouth….in through nose…out through mouth….repeat…. It was surprising how difficult it was to preform this very automatic bodily function. I quickly taught myself to walk again and was thrust out into the growing crowd of Londoners. The smell and thickness of the air was what I think did it. That coupled with the lack of breathing room triggered a signal in my brain that I had been all too familiar with. I needed to get to a loo, and fast.

I desperately looked around, up and down the platform for that small sign that would promise a respite from extreme humiliation. It was that or risk my life and neck and lean over towards the tracks and most certainly get escorted out of the station forever.  I looked and looked, trying to choke back any premature guttural spasms.  And it was then that I saw it. The Toilets, in white letters on a blue sign. It was beautiful and a hot sense of relief washed over me. I might have relaxed a bit too much, because my sense of urgency increased once again. I ran towards it, pushing past the commuters and encountered the makings of my worst nightmare. Bloody women’s loo’s! There was a line…There’s always a line. The woman in front of me informed me that I’d have to wait, and the queueing master she was, doing a fine job representing her country and it’s cultural stereotypes, made sure I knew it.

I couldn’t wait, there was no way, and what happened next I had no say in…the colour escaped my face in a single moment and my insides heaved and twisted. The sink was close enough and did a fine job for the task at hand.  I, in an instant, had horrified the entire population of the woman’s loo, and changed their feelings for me indefinitely. My stomach contents, having mostly consisted of alcohol, weren’t much of a problem for the sink, save a few slices of onion from the spag bolo the night before (lovely, I know).  I was rinsing and fishing out the onion like the polite Canadian I am, when the queueing master behind me spoke up in a very concerned motherly tone.

“Are you alright miss?”

My response to this has always made me secretly proud…

“If I said yes… I’d be lying…” I said sniffling into the sink.

“Is there someone I can call for you?” She asked, genuinely concerned. I imagine she believed it was more serious than the violent yet typical hangover I was dealing with.

“No, I’ll be fine thanks…I’m sorta new around here.” I was thinking about it, and the rock solid Nokia in my pocket wasn’t even mine, I didn’t know any numbers, and the friend I was staying with was two hours away and at work. I’m such a clever girl sometimes. Geez.

“Well take care of yourself dear…make sure you get some water and rest soon.”

“Thanks, I will.” And with that she went about her business, surely telling everyone at work that she ran into a poor American that couldn’t handle herself at the train station. She would be wrong of course, on two counts.

I felt refreshed after the whole ordeal and wasn’t as humiliated as I should have been. The task of finding my way to St. Pancras was now ready to be dealt with.  I would fail utterly at this as well.

I ended up waiting at Charing Cross…

The moral of the story is, if one’s body is experiencing a state of distress, it completely destroys any feelings of shame.

Miss Hailey Jane


My First London

After experiencing the tilt-a-whorl of emotions that was A Considerably More Pleasant Moment in Time, smelling the smells and feeling the feels, and then drinking one of the most necessary coffee’s of my life, I and my companion hopped on a train from Gatwick and headed straight for the heart of London. Being my first time, naturally I sucked up every little new feeling I could, including being wobbled around on a train and track that may or may not have been built before there were strict safety guidelines. It was overcast when we arrived, and as I stepped out of the train station onto the London streets I was engrossed with how different every little thing was, yet fundamentally the same.

The people all had the same basic destinations, the office, work, calling on family or friends, buying groceries and other necessities. It was just they all did it in a rather different way, in much smaller cars, on much bigger buses and on windy-er more complicated streets.  The buildings were significantly shorter but were squished together and arranged with more talent, and everything seemed so much older. There were shiny buildings, but they were not the dominant feature of this iconic city. I was thankful for this.  We walked along the South bank of the Thames, past London Bridge, the new one, and then on towards Tower Bridge, the massive and beautifully designed crossing that defines the beginning of east London. The first thing I thought as I looked at it, was ‘Who the hell decided to paint it that awful blue?’.  Cool bridge, terrible colour, it’s a shame really. And just so you know, I totally felt like Bridget Jones as I  crossed it.

Tower Bridge in London

About crossing it…I had been carrying my luggage along behind me thus far, heading toward Fenchurch Station to continue the rest of our journey to Southend on Sea, and it was at this point when I encountered the most terrifying set of stairs I had ever seen in my life, that led up towards the bridge. OK, maybe they’re not THAT bad, but let’s keep in mind I am thoroughly exhausted. After an 8 hour night flight without sleep, five hour time difference, customs, endless queues, a train ride and then walking across London lugging approximately 20 kilos plus a carry-on full of books, plus a purse, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. After slight motivation, I came around, and thought ‘I’m in London, dammit, I should be able to fly up these stairs!’. Well I didn’t quite fly, but after lots of very unfeminine grunts lots of laughter and a lot of “Sorry, pardon me”s I made it to the top, and crossed the Thames for the first time.

On the other side there was another terrifying set of stairs, very much exactly similar to the set I had just conquered. Of course there was, why wouldn’t there be. All of my pride and self praise for making it up the other stairs vanished instantly.  I eventually conjured some extra gumption after huffing and puffing a bit, and made the decent, only slipping and nearly falling to my death once….maybe twice. I swore to myself to pack lighter next time, but we all know that was a big lie.

We stopped for a well deserved break in front of the Tower of London. We had a quick drink and cigarette and talked a bit more in depth about what the two of us had been up to over the past four years. It felt like we hadn’t been apart that long, but the amount of things we needed to tell each other was a good indication that there was a lot of time between us. It would take nearly the entire two weeks to relay all the necessary information. It would have taken less if several existential life altering crisis’ hadn’t occurred in the meantime. But more on those later.

The November air was crisp and cool, and we loaded up again and trudged along in front of the Tower, snapped a few photos and then wandered around to the train station. On the train, after very embarrassingly fumbling with my change for fare, because I had never seen any of it before, there were more “I can’t believe you’re really here”s and “I can’t believe I’m really here either”s. Even though I was completely exhausted I was perfectly happy, and knew I was going to really like it here.

The Tower

As we arrived at Chalkwell station, the cabby was just about the most upfront and personal stranger I’d ever met in my life. I was a little nervous about how nice he was being, and when I say nice, I don’t mean polite and courteous like the average Canadian, I mean complimentary and in your face about it. The first thing he did was grab my bags and say “A beautiful girl like you shouldn’t have to carry your own bags” loaded them, and then when we got in (as I quickly got over the steering wheel being on the wrong side) he asked where we “lovely ladies” would like to go. When he found out I was visiting from Canada, he was full of praise for us Canadians, and continued being just as friendly all the way to the house. He unloaded my bags for me and walked them to the door. I could really get used to this!  My friend told me that was perfectly normal behaviour and that I really should get used to it, and also learn to take a bloody compliment without turning beet red.

Once inside I explored the tiny kitchen, funny light switches (that to this day make me happy), the funny faced outlets and the strange toilets. Everything was completely recognizable, just a little different. It was like I was in some strange parallel Universe, but I liked it. I then half unpacked my suitcase and had the most fantastic shower pretty much ever. It was absolutely glorious to be able to wash the ‘airplane’ and ‘streets of London’ grime off of me, I swear that stuff is like a film on your skin. After I was done and had dressed in a clean set of clothes, we sat down and had a delicious cup of coffee, and for the first time in about 24 hours, I relaxed, and it felt like home.

-Miss Hailey Jane


A Considerably More Pleasant, Moment in Time

It was not my first time across the Atlantic, but it was my first important trip out into the world all on my own. I had been through University, supposedly gained a new understanding of life the universe and all that, but as it turns out I really felt just as vulnerable and alone as I had stepping out the doors of my High School the last time. I tried the “working for a living” thing, and nothing stuck for longer than a few months, so with the small wad of cash I had collected, I made the most brilliant and irrational decision I could think of.

I was in the shower one day, where all the best decisions happen, and it came to me alongside an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction. It felt like this was the right thing to do, and the only possible thing I could do at the particular juncture in my life. I would buy a ticket to England with the money I had made digging holes over the past few months, and I would visit my friends whom I hadn’t seen for over four years. I was free to do as I chose, and freedom was what I wanted. So away I went!

When my Mother left me all alone in the airport (or plane station as I have come to call it) in Toronto after check-in to fend for myself it finally hit me. I was going to cross the ocean all by myself and the feeling was exhilarating. The last time I crossed the sea I was escorted by several teachers as well as 12 of my fellow classmates, which changes the feeling of it altogether. This was a whole different world, and I couldn’t wait for it. As my Mother retreated towards the door and headed back to her life, I thought about how the next person I would see that I knew or could recognize would be my best friend who I hadn’t seen for four years. Then, obviously, I panicked worried what I would do if she wasn’t there at the terminal on the other end to pick me up. I quickly got over this rather unpleasant thought and moved on.

I wandered around the main area of the airport for a while, having a look at some of the shops that sold overpriced Canadian garb like maple syrup and soapstone carvings, and then headed through security into the heart of the terminal. Passport clenched tightly to me, I was mentally going over anything that was in my bags hoping I hadn’t forgot any offensive materials, like hand cream or nail clippers. Heaven forbid I upset an airport security guard…

I made it through with ease and was free to explore the inner bustling confines of  this strange place. People were absolutely everywhere, like ants in a freshly smooshed ant hill. I stop and look at as many of them as I could, and wonder intently where they’re all going and if it was anywhere near as exciting as my current adventure. Like that man hidden underneath his backpack, is he off to India? South America? To live in the jungles for a few months? I hope he doesn’t get malaria…Oh, or one of the many families from what appears to be the Middle East, are they going back home for fun or moving somewhere else because Canada just didn’t cut it for them? There is also that old woman over there that keeps glancing at me. She and her husband are apparently moving back home to England on the same flight as me, which I learn after a brief chat.  His accent makes me happy. They miss it terribly, which makes me even more excited.

I then wonder where it is I should be going. I glance up at the monitor and see that they haven’t assigned a gate to my flight yet, so I make myself comfortable with a hot cup of caffeine and get used to my new and overstimulating surroundings. With nearly two hours to kill I start to get terribly antsy. Thinking what it could possibly be like over there, in England. A whole country full of people living their lives in a completely different way than I do. Coming from a small country town out in the boons, this will be the most novelty I would have had to deal with all at once. I hope I can handle it.

It’s time to head to my gate, number 39. Ughhh why is it so far away, I feel like I’m speed walking a gauntlet. I eventually reach it with the help of super-fast floors, and settle in to wait for my plane to be ready. After far too long they announce boarding and away I go, heart in mouth, ticket and passport in hand, feet on plane, butt in window seat.

As the plane takes off I’m smiling so big I’m nearly giggling, and with no one around to giggle at I’m sure the others on the plane thought I was a bit off.  The clouds fall below me and the sky opens up to a highway with absolutely no traffic. Nothing is stopping me now! Wahoo!

The tiny food on the flight makes me smile even more, and the courteous attendants are well received. Especially when they bring me a tiny ice cream cone that looks to be the right size for a cat. It’s precious!  Not to mention delicious. After lots of hours, lots of bad music I will not admit to, and the novelty nearly wearing off, we begin to descend on London. My sleepy eyes become fully alert, I am sitting straight up, sucking on that mint like it’s the last mint on earth. As I see the patchwork land below me, I feel a strange feeling of relief wash over me, like I am back where I am supposed to be, yet have never been here before.

The tiny wheels touch down and we skid to a halt. No one claps…this is good. I hate it when people clap on planes…way to not have confidence in your pilot…

Anyway…I sit and wait until most people have de-planed and take my time collecting all of my things and then mentally prepare myself for setting foot on a new continent once again. The first thing I notice is how it smells different. Not different enough to really notice, but it’s a new and exciting smell and it seems to be everywhere. After a bit of analysis, I decide it’s a warm, old and comforting smell that I assume comes from a place that has been populated for many centuries longer than…say…my ‘native land’.

I wander along another long hallway of windows and find myself in another long line at customs. The nerves come back, and I fear that if they don’t like the look of me they have the power to turn me right around and send me packing on another flight in the direction of home again, just after I’ve come all this way to get here. Turns out it was not that difficult and before I knew it was free to collect my luggage and meet my friend on…the other side…dum dum dum..

I was worried I wouldn’t recognize her after not seeing her for so long, but again I overanalysed it and in reality had noticed her instantly as I walked through the doors and gave her the biggest hug I could muster. I was finally here, in England, free to lark about as I thought fit, for two whole weeks. It was right then, from that moment of arrival and onwards, that my life would begin and I would have meaning and purpose back again. It was sensational.

-Miss Hailey Jane