Each year, colleagues ask why I travel to London on my own dime, when I can easily justify a business trip given that I attend a conference and spend a day or two in one of our regional offices whilst there.
But the beauty of my time in London is just that. On my dime, it’s my time. Free to spend hours at a time reading a book whilst enjoying high tea in Covent Garden, or wandering through the Museum of Natural History, pouring through books at Waterstone’s on Piccadilly or merely taking in the people all around me whilst sitting on an anonymous bench in Hyde park. This year, I decided to go old school, spending time in the Natural History Museum, the British Library and even the National Portrait Gallery. The Tate and Tate Modern can wait until next year.
For whatever reason, this trip was about reconnecting. With former colleagues I haven’t seen in at least 3-4 years and revisiting some of my favorite museums that never lose their mystique or appeal. I also wandered throughout the city more this time around, without an agenda or a place to be.
It was with nervous and giddy excitement that I paced the small space at the station near the turnstiles.
The trains were running on time that day and without fail, the train pulled in and I tried not to scan the crowd. I tried to be nonchalant, as if it were every week night that I met him. There, at the train.
And then my eyes met his cerulean blue eyes and the next thing I knew all decorum flew out the proverbial window as I stood up on my tip toes to kiss him…
Fellow Bloggers and people in my real life alike often ask what it is about London, that resonates with me? I don’t know the answer to that. No, wait, that’s not quite accurate. I don’t know that I can articulate what it is about Central London but it’s definitely a state of mind for me. Not unlike Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind
Truthfully, it’s not about England, or the other, even more amazing places throughout Britain or the United Kingdom. It’s definitely central London. I’ve friends and colleagues that are definite Anglophile’s and that isn’t me. I wish I could say it was but it’s not. No, it’s even more base than that. My entire being feels different the moment I step off the jet way and head towards immigration at LHR. It’s as if an electrical current is running through my veins and my soul sighs “ah, it’s good to be home.” There is no rational explanation but that feeling, the feeling of being right where I belong started from my very trip across the pond 13-years ago.
For a while, I worked in an organization where I traveled the world quarterly, which meant I was in London four times a year for a week. Granted, my free time was limited to the walk from my hotel to the offices in Soho and back. If I wasn’t too exhausted I would take my time walking back, take in central London at night, stop at any one of the numerous eateries for a bite or hit a museum that had late hours. I’d find ways to get out of the obligatory office dinner and drinks at least twice in a week to either take in a show or to simply immerse myself in London. Even after I moved to a new role in a different organization, London was never far from my mind.
So much so that instead of joining girlfriends for long weekends in Vegas or Napa, for the past 5-years I’ve set aside a week each September for a solo trek to mecca. I still have work accountabilities, and I make time for family time via Skype but with the time difference and my insomnia, I have entire days in London.
My personality shifts when I’m in London as well. Shifts may be too strong of a word. Maybe it’s more of an attitude adjustment. I feel more alive, I have more energy, I walk everywhere and I feel sexy. Not sexy as in come hither sexy but confident. No one knows me in London, well okay, that’s not true but it’s not like walking around the city I live in or even San Francisco or Los Angeles where I’ve lived etc. But in London, I am anonymous. Not invisible but anonymous.
As Ann St. Vincent knows, I had an appointment at Agent Provocateur during this past trip. While I’ve lost over 130-pounds and kept them off for the last 4-years, I’m still a bit too ample (or curvy as polite people will say to me-lol) to purchase some of the delicious items they have for sale. That doesn’t stop me from making an appointment each year and finding something to spend way too much money on, but I can assure you that I don’t know that I could do that here in the States. My state of mind whilst in London is one in which I don’t feel as if I have to shrink to belong in a store. Or perhaps it’s the more open culture in Europe in general?
Another store I adore is Coco de Mer, outside of San Francisco or New York City, I can’t think of any large, metropolitan city in the U.S. where you will find a beautiful and classy BDSM boutique amongst the high end shopping, boutique hotels, salons and eateries such as Coco de Mer in Covent Garden. While I may giggle a bit to myself whenever I cross the threshold, I never feel judged as I browse their offerings or when I step back out into the bustling sidewalks on Monmouth. The same can be said when scheduling a service at the Ministry of Wax (Hollywood all the way) no overriding feeling of needing to apologize in advance for being a plus size gal.
And of course, there are the book stores, the museums, the various walks of life every where. It’s the rush of life every where around you.
There is something to be said for confidence. For feeling good about where you are at that moment. For me, London personifies all of this for me…
The past 4 weeks have passed in almost a blur in which even in the rare moments of free time; true free time not dealing with the office across time zones, or spending family time via Skype or calls in the middle of the night (my time), or work in the time zone I was in at the time; I was mentally if not physically exhausted and just didn’t have the energy to post or keep current on the blogs I follow consistently. Oh, I “liked” posts here and there and even occasionally commented. But about three days into my extended travel over several time zones, for the first time in any of my travels, I had to simply focus on where I was at that time. Ok, that and I had eaten my way through the mini-bar in my lovely hotel in London. I not only spent way too many pounds, I gained a few too *smirk*.
Just started going through the pictures snapped since September 1st and realized I’ve traveled round-trip, from home to someplace back home, every weekend since Labor Day. Oy.
Each trip has provided lasting memories. But London. *sigh* London…
travel well my friend. for the rest of the month not only are we separated by distance and time zones, the distance is literally half a world away and the time zones increased to a day+
given the way things need to be and the new normal of limited virtual contact, the additional distance and separator of time zones pierces my heart more than ever before. I miss your touch. yes, of course the actual physical touch but more importantly the touch of our conversations and human kindness in the mutual admiration society we have. the voicemails of encouragement before and after a chemo treatment, the funny limerick left in my mailbox or the good night wish sent as a single note in the ether. that’s the touch I miss the most.
may be last entry for awhile landed in NYC only to talk to dh and turn around and barely make the return flight home. not sure of how to handle the shitstorm that’s sure to be coming other than head on, honestly and with all the strength I can to remain healthy and emotionally whole.
I can’t deny that to be so close to seeing him again, to kiss him to find solace in his arms before we say goodbye and then not to hurts my core more than it should.
the reality of our mutual admiration society is one in which we are buoys in one another’s harbors of real life. truthfully, when we met and embarked on what was to be the fwb ideal, he was traveling to the west coast, specifically my area, roughly every 3-4 months. and he did return, two months later for a few days and then all sorts of real life changed the face of his clients, the areas in which he traveled and worse of all, his personal life was dealt a blow that impacted his bride and he had to focus elsewhere. we muddled through, with several weeks where he went dark, i was confused and being inexperienced and naïve, didn’t understand when he compartmentalizes, it’s a complete shut off of communication of any kind. and yet we reconnected (ok, ok if you ask him, he doesn’t think he went dark, really, and there was never a doubt we would reconnect) and by the fall of that first year, as he was balancing the challenges in his real life, he proved to be a good friend and companion, virtually, when a medical crisis imploded within my own family. even though weeks had gone by, almost 18, i was more connected than ever. and when we met that year, it was as if we weren’t apart. last year, we were fortunate to see one another on a steady cadence, more importantly we knew when we would see each other again. While I wouldn’t trade those times together, I know myself well enough to know that i was going to miss him. Terribly so. And each separation is harder than the next. I provide this rambling for context. You see, traveling to meet one another, on the cadence of his business travel or when i can travel on business out his way, isn’t sustainable. In his line of work, more and more of the client interactions can be done online, via Skype or virtual meetings, and the cost savings are too great to ignore. And so I wonder, will we fall into a Same Time Next Year or One Day cadence? Will that be enough for him? The bigger question is will I be able to live with and accept that as a new reality? Will I be able to reconcile that he will likely, if he doesn’t already, have a local “lady friend” and of course his bride? Or, as I become reflective and even more contemplative as of late, will we simply come to an end of the road? i too wish for the happy ending, mine just looks different than most, in that it would be to be together, in parallel to our real lives, for as long as possible. if even for those moments strung together once a year.