Friday, August 12, 2016

England, 2016, Part 5: Late Night Delirium

After my epic DAY/NIGHT/DAY of travel, I totally, spectactularly crashed into my motel room bed in Waterloo at 6pm. This was going to be a sleep for the ages - poems and songs would be written abou -

I popped wide awake four hours later at 10pm.

It was nighty-night local time, but 2pm really local time, in my head. What I hoped would be my overnight sleep turned out to be just an afternoon nap for my poor, abused pineal gland.


I was still exhausted and sore, but totally wide awake. Might as well go do something, I guess. I pulled on some new clothes and exited the Days Hotel, through the wall of cigarette smoke that greeted me at the door of every building in London (I guess they haven’t enacted the ‘within 25 ft. of a doorway’ law yet).

10pm this far North in late July meant that full-on darkness had just taken hold. There were businesses to my left, a residential neighborhood to my right and a large park katty-corner from me across the intersection. The businesses held the best chance of something being open so I went that way……

……and ended up in the residences because I was strung out on an 8 time zone bender. My poor confused phone had finally caught up with my new reality but the streets were so close together here the GPS felt like it was following about 2 blocks behind me.

I felt like a deranged stalker (Fooking Loony) wandering around housing tracts, so I headed (I hoped) for the Geraldine Mary Holmsworth park, because you use all your names when somebody names something after you.

Technically the neighborhood was Lambeth, not Waterloo.
Here was a relative hive of activity. Young people in small groups were walking excitedly all over the grounds. I thought it was great that this younger generation was exercise positive and happy to be out in Nature, such as it was in a big city.

Then I realized that everyone here was hunting Pokemon on their phones. Bloody hell (Golly!). I sat down on a park bench, feeling old and addicted. I was jonesin’ for my own time zone, wide awake in the dark (afternoon) of the night (day) but I closed my eyes anyway and just listened.

What I heard was many variations of the British Accent, the dropped jaw, the emphasized consonants, the ricocheting tonguework. It was loverly to hear. But mixed in with classic Cockney was quite a bit of harsh Rap speak, the ‘asthmatic panting’ of American English, texting and Instant Message abbreviations, and a generous helping of Jamaicanisms: “dere/dat/dem/Man” and so on. 

All of these young people had more-or-less the same accent, but the accent itself was a total hodge-podge of influences. 

Bonus factoid: From my hotel room I had
a great view of the ugliest building in the UK.
And when I opened my eyes I realized why. Most of these groups of young people were composed of all kinds of folks. The whole gamut of skin tones, facial features, nose and ear sizes, heights, hair colors and consistencies. I was watching a U.N. parade, except they were all speaking the same language - which was composed of all of the languages smooshed together.

There were a few pairings of Generic Local White Guys, and some groups composed of Hajib wearing young women, but the overwhelming majority of the groups of friends was an incredible diversity of races and faiths. All speaking a new accent, “Multicultural London English”, and all hunting Japanese cartoon characters in a park.

I DO love a multi-culti Cosmopolitan city, even if it is because historically the Brits used their gargantuan navy to invade 90% of the worlds countries, forcibly trade with them, protect their (we, our) interests and then ‘Police’ their (your, our) waterways for them (us, we, errr). 

Bloody Hell (Oy vey). I needed a drink. Hey! (Right-o!) Here is something that would be open this late. Aaaaand, yep, you are almost always in sight of a bar (Pub) in this country. I put away the flashlight (Torch) on my cell phone (Mobile), hoisted my pants (Trousers), walked over to the sidewalk (Pavement) and crossed the street at the crosswalk (Zebra Crossing).

And I was in the Grand Union, which was a very nice neighborhood pub, full of brash, bangers and beer, and I was welcomed as one of their own. That is, until they heard me speak.

“Wot, Love?” Said Molly, the seemingly 14 year old bartender.
“A Shirley Temple, please.” I tried to not smile when I spoke (Americans do that, apparently), lower the jaw and hit those consonants.
178 out of 200 countries (so far!)
“What the bleedin’ codgerwoddle is a Shirley Temple?” Ah, so it wasn’t pronunciation that was holding me back.
“Grenadine and 7-Up”. 
Molly made a face like she wanted to throw up on me and then belt me one across my face. The place grew quiet.
I waited, because I was way more awake than she was at this time of night.
She stared right back at me and deadpanningly said “Would you like to make that a double, Mate?”

Which was apparently hilarious and the whole room laughed and suddenly I was okay again. I got my little girlie drink and retreated to the corner of the room by the front door to write out Episode One of these exceedingly detailed little recaps.

That was far and away the worst Shirley Temple I will ever have. Their grenadine tasted like cough syrup and Molly put ice in it - so the two (2! Only two!) ingredients separated. It was pink 7-up with a NyQuil chaser. Blech! (Bloke! [No, that’s wrong.])

There was quite a ruckus (Hullaballoo) going on above me, and when Molly came over to see how I was doing I asked about their upstairs patio (Pavilion). “Oh, thats just a Hen-Do, love” She said, frowning at the two-tone drink she had created as she walked away. 

Hen-do. Hen….do. Right. But then more sloshed people arrived and staggered upstairs, talking about the bride and the wedding tomorrow. Ah. So let’s put that in our Britishism translator: Hen-Do (Bachelorette Party). 

Interior of the Grand Union, Waterloo
Back here on the first (Ground) floor the main source of decibels was a rowdy group of 7 locals, consisting of a tall Chinese man, a Norska looking large woman, a short, Italian-looking man, a wide African-American (African-British?) gent, a tough-looking shorter person with light brown skin who was of indeterminate sex, an Indian looking woman in a plain headscarf, and your straight-out-of-central-casting ruddy dude (Bloke). The Chinese and Italian guys appeared to be a couple, as Queen Victoria rolls over in her grave. All of them were totally (Bleedin’ Well) drunk (Pissed) and all of them were talking as loud as they could, simultaneously. 

At that stage of inebriation though, the gentle, Caribbean polyrhythms of Multi-Cultural-English give way to Straight. Cockney. Roar.

And then Ruddy Bloke comes over to my table, tacking left and then right until he could triangulate my position, and says, at 110 decibels, 6 inches from my face: “HEY! We all were just wondering that you looked like brrrrrrrraaappppp that guy on ‘Dog: the Bounty Hunter’."

I just smiled at him, but glared with my eyes, hoping he would get the subtle referen - no.

“Wot doose you shink abouts DAT?” 

Exterior, with the 2nd story pavilion (from
“I think” I said, rising off my stool to put some distance between me and his cigarette/pot/Guinness breath “I will choose to take that as a compliment.”

Ruddy laughed at that, but then he would have laughed if I had replied in Klingon and/or shit (Shat) on his shoes. He retreated to his table to relay our exchange, in an 80 decibel whisper. 

I found Molly and ordered another Shirley Temple. She raised an eyebrow at that, but not at me. It was aimed at Ruddy who came up from behind me, bumped into my back and yelled in my ear: “Letsh take a pissshure together, Dog!” And they suddenly were all around me, taking, no doubt, a Selfie of such courage and composition that it will someday hang in the Tate gallery as “Blur #35”

I extracted myself from their sweaty embrace and tried to pay for my drink, but Molly smiled and said that my new fans were picking up this one. So I tipped her with all of the myriad funky coins in my pocket. “I never get tips……” She said gratefully. “Welcome to America” I said.

I retreated to my table, where I gulped my gawdawful drink and then left quickly. That was enough adventure for one night, and tomorrow (later today? Earlier this evening? Gawww…..) would be my first day of exploration, beginning with the CENTERPIECE of that very park across the street.

Angus McMahan

1 comment:

  1. We missed being out in the dark world while we were in London. Well, maybe not.