Sunday, April 9, 1989

Piccadilly at 3 a.m. (The Journey from Madrid to Hull, Part Two) ...

The train from Longfield to London rolled into Victoria Station at about midnight. However, I told the ticket agent on the train that I had boarded the train at a different station, so I ended up paying about half as much as I should have for the train ride to London. That was necessary, as I now realized that I needed to account for every pence that I had until I returned to Hull tomorrow evening.

At 1.30 a.m. in Victoria Station, after a coffee, rest, and a repacking of my bag into a locker so that I wouldn't have to carry it around all night, I made a decision regarding my fate for this evening. Rather than just sit at the station all night, doggone it, I was going to explore this city and try to salvage potential misery into fortune as best I could.

So I began my trek walking down Buckingham Palace Road to go - where else? - to visit the Queen and the Royal Family. Well they were tired and not accepting foreign visitors at this late hour, so I didn't stick around too long. I walked from the palace down Birdcage Walk on the St. James' Park side, toward Parliament Square to say hello to Mrs. Thatcher.

In the square were your typical landmarks... Big Ben, Parliament. Next I continued down Whitehall past 10 Downing Street, which was heavily guarded. So I assumed there would be no lodging for a wayfaring American here, either.

I continued to walk down Whitehall to The Mall, which brought me back to St. James' Park again. At this point I decided to take a break, sat at a park bench, popped a cassette tape of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Trilogy" album and listened to that here until it was done. I was tired at that point, but I got up and continued to walk, because that was the best way to keep warm, and by now it was quite cold outside. I headed back past Buckingham Palace and along Green Park to the Wellington Arch.

Here, I got a bit confused, and instead of going down Piccadilly, I ended up walking down Park Lane and through Mayfair... indeed, the wealthiest neighborhood in London, and I could clearly see why with the posh homes here. I was feeling rather safe in this neighborhood, though I must admit that throughout the night, I never felt threatened or unsafe... try doing this in New York City!)

I passed the Roosevelt Monument and soon found my way back to Piccadilly, which brought me shortly thereafter to Piccadilly Circus, where even though it was after 3 a.m., it was quite crowded here. I found myself wandering the streets in this vicinity, walking nostagically passed the Prince Edward Theatre, where Viv and I saw the musical "Chess" last December... and in the nick of time, too. It turned out that the cast performed its final show at the Prince Edward this very evening.

I then decided to make my way back to Piccadilly Circus and grab a donut and some coffee at the Dunkin Donuts there. I warmed myself up a bit here in the eatery, and even chatted a bit with the security guard there, named Dave. I parlayed my saga to him, and he offered to try and find me a place to crash for the rest of the evening after he went off duty at 5 a.m., if I wished, rather than continue wandering around the city. I told him I'd think about it and possibly come back at that time.

I also chatted with a nice fellow from Belgium, who only spoke a little English and was sitting in the booth seat across from me at the Dunkin Donuts. Despite the language difficulties, we had a nice conversation about world travel, before I set off once again on my own late night travels.

Continued walking a ways down Piccadilly, passing several airline offices (Zimbabwe Air, Aeroflot, Iran Air (picture of Khomeni inside), Libyian Arab Airlines (portrait of Khadafi inside), just to name a few that you don't often see in America.

I returned to the Dunkin Donuts at Piccadilly at 5 a.m. to see if Dave was serious about his offer; however I couldn't find him anywhere. So I continued my explorations up Regents Street, where I passed Hamley's toy store and a Lloyd's Bank that had its burglar alarm going off. Well that was splendid timing. I looked at the building with interest and curiosity, and then saw across the road a female cop, who summoned me to come over to her.

The cop asked me a few questions about where I was going and other things, and then said she was just concerned because I looked confused and she was trying to help me out. Not confused, just curious about the blaring alarm, which didn't seem to bother her much. She was very nice and we talked for a minute as I briefly explained my situation, before I continued my streetwalking past the BBC building, and up Portland Place to Regent's Park.

By now, it was starting to get lighter, and it was approaching 6 a.m. The park was closed, so I ventured down Marylbone Road, passing Madame Tussaud's, and then back down Baker Street. Still no sign of Sherlock Holmes' house at 221B. Made my way down Oxford Street, and now, on the brink of daybreak, I found myself in Hyde Park. They had a stack of wooden lawn chairs here, so I unfolded one and relaxed for awhile. Still a bit cold, so I didn't stay here very long.

Next I continued through the Serpentine to Hyde Park Corner. Next I passed by the Wellington Arch, Green Park, and marveled again at the numerous ducks and fowl congregated in St. James' Park (right). Amazing.

I took another stroll past Mrs. Thatcher's home, this time in the daylight, then finally made my way back to Victoria Station... stopping along the way at a small restaurant where I had a very nice English breakfast for only £2.65.

Next I decided to look for a grocery store to find some food that would get me through the return trip to Hull. I ended up walking down King's Road and through Chelsea (the place that Elvis Costello didn't want to go to...), as well as South Kensington, before finding a grocery store. Where do these people shop? I also walked past Harrod's along the way.

Well soon I found myself on Knightsbridge, which brought me back to Hyde Park Corner. Made my way down Grosvenor Place back to Victoria Station. This time I decided to stay close by, since it was finally getting close to the time when I could catch my bus. I went into a little shop and found a Spanish flag that I bought (something I couldn't find while I was in Spain. Odd.) Gathered my gear from the locker at Victoria Station, and I was at the bus station before 2, a half-hour before the bus left.

Finally, a chance for some extended rest!

But it was not to be. I took a few short naps along the way, and had a cup of chicken soup, which was nice. But I spent a good bit of the trip talking to the guy sitting next to me on the bus. Although I never got his name, I know his name must have been Bob. For some reason, he looked like a Bob to me. So he was Bob.

Well, the bus arrived in Hull a bit early (a little before 7 p.m.), and I caught a local bus (the fare had risen to 38p) back to The Grange. On the bus were Abbey and Cat, also returning to the Grange from their travels over Spring Break, so we chatted about where we had been until we arrived at our destination.

Boy, after all of that, I was glad to finally be back in my room! My only real meal of the day was that breakfast I had had back in London. Fortunately it was a filling as it was.

And then I saw Sid and J.P. when they arrived, a full day later than I had initially expected to see them. They were both relieved to see me, and then gave me a full account about what had happened.

It turned out that J.P. did come to the airport to meet me yesterday. Heathrow Airport, instead of Gatwick. The rest of the ordeal was simply us not crossing paths at the same time. Had I stayed at Sid's house, they did eventually return that evening.

It seemed like they were more worried about the situation than I was. At this point, with it all now in the past, I was OK with how things transpired. It turned out to be a much more interesting experience than I had anticipated.

Sid gave me back my bag-o-things that I gave her to watch while I was gone... and then J.P. hit bottom. We walked into his room and discovered that someone had broken into his first-floor room by smashing his window, then taking the stereo that was on the table next to his bed. Quite a bummer, especially since it wasn't insured. So the stereo that Doug bought, then J.P. bought from him, was now gone forever.

On the upside, I had a nice large stack of mail, including another package of Snappers from Millersville. So I reminisced with everyone, gave them some of the highlights from my month in Spain, then returned to my room.

Although you'd think I would've crashed at this point, I pulled out The Snappers and started reading them to get updated on news at Millersville. I finally fell asleep at about 2.30 a.m. - nearly 40 hours after I last had a night's sleep, crushing my old record of not sleeping, Camp Hill High School's "Wizard of Oz" cast party in 1986. Not exactly a record that I will be looking to try and break.

This has certainly been one of the most interesting days of my life, and quite an ending to one of the most interesting month's of my life.

Pictured top is a postcard that most accurately depicts the first half of this particular day!

  • Number One Song in Britain This Week: "Like a Prayer" - Madonna
  • Number One Song in America This Week: "The Look" - Roxette

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