Date: 23 August 2015.
Location: train from Edinburgh Waverly to London Kings Cross.
How far away I am now from Muttar Pradesh and its claustrophic sleeper car trains, bodies packed three high under scratchy blankets, filled with station-vendor samosas, all of us wishing we didn’t to need to go to the train ‘bathroom’ but powerless against India’s force of on our bowels, the sweaty night air rushing in from open windows.
Today I’m on a sleek Virgin Pendolino train that leans silently into the curves of the new rails and takes you from Edinburgh to London at 200km/h with coffee and croissants brought to you in your seat and a large bathroom with robotic doors and actual liquid soap and a toilet that flushes.
Already more than a year separates that first train trip from this second. That year went at 200km/h, with a stomach-turning whoosh.
I adored Edinburgh from the second I stepped out of Waverly Station and looked out over lush Princes Gardens to that beautifully jagged, cliff-top castle. But, being honest, I don’t know when I’ll be back.
“You’ve seen more of Europe in 7 months than I’ve seen in four decades!” my boss jokes when I slope into the office of a Monday after another trip, tanned and tired. I know that’s not true and so does she but it does provoke a little reflection. In my early weeks in London I would diligently use my weekends. I relished that holiday feeling and the preciousness of each morning. I saw all of the famous markets, so many landmarks, got lost on every coloured tube line. My more acclimatised, cooler friends pulled faces at me — “You’re so good, seeing everything. I just can’t be bothered!” Now, inevitably and as I knew I would but hoped I wouldn’t, I’ve been yanked back onto the Real Life Merry-Go-Round too: who wants to sweat it out on the tube then jostle for a train seat on a sunny Saturday when you desperately need a sleep in and there’s all your washing and ironing to do then you should get groceries and catch up on a little work so Monday doesn’t suck.
But doing all washing in a prompt fashion isn’t why I moved to London. (nb, though, I’m still not quite clear on why I did.)
So after this little epiphany I’m determined to set out my London to do list. Technially I only have 17 months left on my visa before Her Majesty and her Home Office may kick me out. So, here are my 17 weekend activities to complete in those 17 months, in no particular order:
- Go see the white cliffs of Dover.
- Visit Bletchley Park. Ever since a Stuff You Missed In History Class podcast I’ve wanted to go. But I may wait until the all the Cumberbatch movie hype cools a little.
- Dublin. I’ve had an unfathomable crush on all things Irish — Irish novels, Irish names, Irish people — for as long as I can remember. Did some after school TV show have a really great Irish character that imprinted upon me? I’d like to go see if my crush is quashed or quickened by the real deal.
- Belfast. Ditto.
- Go to a country fair.
- See Stonehenge.
- Then, visit Bath alone. Stay at a Georgian hotel. Pretend am a Jane Austen heroine. Unashamedly nerd out.
- See Kew Gardens next spring.
- Greenwich. I tag my post with geographic coordinates — more for my own purposes than your stalky ones — and recently noticed that one was tagged at very close to 0.0° longitude. Weird, I thought. Must be a glitch. Then realised that it wasn’t and thought that was pretty cool.
- Do a walking tour of the Square Mile. Learn things.
- Organise a Monopoly pub crawl. Slightly abridged is fine, as there’s no need to die from alcohol poisoning just yet. Possibly Railways Stations only?
- Go out partying in Machester. See a live band.
- Go see a football match. Be careful not to call it soccer.
- Do the Lake District on a road trip.
- Take the train to far northern Scotland. See the Isle of Skye, Aberdeen and Loch Ness.
- Wander around Chelsea. Have an expensive lunch and glass of wine as if am rah party girl with day ‘job’ in ‘PR’.
- Take my new infatuation with all things Tudor (Wolf Hall did it) to visit Hampton Court on a crisp winter’s day.