October 20, 2008

26 Hours

L and I met just outside Camden station late Saturday afternoon to walk through the markets. Not planning to buy anything, she ended up with two pairs of shoes, a ring and a lip ring and I bought a new winter coat. But I have been saying I wanted another one that wasn’t black. So I justified it in my head.

It was L’s first Camden experience so I took her round the entire market, past the steaming aisles of Indian, Japanese, Moroccan, Chinese, etc., ooohing and ahhhing at all of the dresses, bags, shoes and even to Cyberdog, the crazy shop on the corner with pounding techno, glow-in-the-dark space age clothes and occasional dancers. We went to Proud Galleries and looked at photos of Janis Joplin while a band was going through a sound check.

Then I found the first mulled wine I’ve seen this season. It was quite possibly the best mulled wine I’ve ever tasted as well. Perfect warm temperature when I wrapped my cold hands around the white Styrofoam cup, perfect amount of spice and sufficiently strong enough to make me slightly giddy when I finished.

Just before the sun set, we sat down to dig into £2 trays of Chinese food.
N, the Australian guy I met on the N52 the night before called then from the station. The three of us walked through the side streets to Dublin Castle. We found a place to perch ourselves on a wide window sill open to the night sky, people drinking on either side of us.

After a drink, we walked down to The Monarch, formerly Misty Moon, formerly The Man in the Moon. There was an open corner full of couches and we made ourselves comfortable pouring over the travel section of the paper someone left behind and planning imaginary trips around the world.

Then it was on to Barfly for some live music. Live music must be my favourite thing in the world besides travelling. L left halfway through and N and I stayed for all four bands.

I took him to Marathon next which is quite possibly my absolute favourite little hideaway in London. It’s one of those places you know about through word of mouth. On the outside, it is a kebab shop. On the inside, once you walk through the kebab shop, it is a jazz cafĂ©. Inside, there are benches and tables with Jack Daniel’s bottles dripping with candle wax. It fills to the brim, shoulder to shoulder with people from ages 18 – 80 just mingling together, squashed, laughing, dancing, singing along as the same man and women who are always there work their magic on the sax and a variety of other instruments.

Another amusing thing about this place is that it has unisex toilets so the guys have to wait in the queue with us. Sweet revenge.
Anyway, N and I had an absolute blast - relaxed with the jazz and smiling faces and people standing up in the crowd eating kebabs over the shoulder of the person next to them.

By the last song, New York, New York by Frank Sinatra, we were all singing loudly and standing up kicking feet simultaneously everyone with their arms around a bunch of strangers. We giggled over silly things and fell into the stream of bodies flowing out of the small door and into the cool night.

I don’t know why we couldn’t stop laughing, but everything was funny. We ran halfway across the street and stopped in the middle bit. We stood there forever trying to take pictures of ourselves while cars zoomed past us on both sides.

It was probably after 5am when I walked in the door. A day later, and N is already back in Melbourne. When he was hugging me goodbye earlier, I said, “It’s so strange to know we might never see each other again, isn’t it?” He said, “Well, that would be a sad ending to the past 26 hours.” It’s incredible actually, to think I met him on the bus the night before, and only by chance – but he was absolutely lovely and for what it matters, we each brought about 26 hours of smiles to each other’s lives. That has to count for something.

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