On a knife edge in London

The are some conversations that are life affirming. I had two yesterday, in really unlikely circumstances.

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The first was on the train, with Janey Godley. We met via twitter, in what’s becoming a relatively regular way for me to meet people. The train we were on from Glasgow to London stopped. Tracks flooded. No information about how long it would take to get past. I was imagining sitting on the train for hours, just outside of Lockerbie, and wondered what I’d do if we ended up stuck.

While looking for more information from Virgin on twitter, I noticed that Janey was threatening to do an impromptu standup show on the train. I volunteered to be an audience. 10 minutes later, after some negotiation (which I lost), I made my way to first class to find her.

What followed was a great flowing conversation that lasted hours, weaving comedy, coaching, creativity, existential questions, sexual abuse, and mutual support. I walked away with a bunch of thoughts swirling around, about how to see the world like a wonderfully resilient Scottish comedian:

  1. Life is an adventure. Enjoy it.
  2. Do what you love. Why would you do anything else?! Duh.
  3. Hard stuff is easier to deal with if you can laugh about it.
  4. There’s always a way to get what you want in life. You’ve just got to be willing to go for it.
  5. Be as crazy as you are. It really doesn’t make much sense to be anything else.
  6. Trusting people comes at potential cost. Make sure you know what that cost is.
  7. Create something every day. It helps to keep you alive.

I had another similarly wonderful conversation with Alex, the Portuguese concierge at the Crowne Plaza hotel in London. I was in a sticky situation, having messed up room bookings and been ordered out of a flat by a crazed fundamentalist Hindu ‘guru’ who was ordering me to agree with his worldview. I chose to leave and take my chances, and ended up in a situation unlike any other I’ve ever been in. Turns out that after midnight there’s no easy way to book hotels online. And London is full. I couldn’t find any rooms in central London for less than £300, and they were smoking rooms. Doesn’t mix well with my asthma. Ibis hotels sold out throughout London. Grange hotels sold out. Premier inn sold out. Crowne Plaza sold out. The list got to about 40 hotels before I started looking further afield, with the help of the night concierge. We talked about the fine line between “roomless” and homeless, and he told me about the guys who sleep in their entrance overnight. All it would have taken is for me to be mugged, and I’d have been in the same position as them. We talked about how homeless people somehow have less fear. They’ve nothing left to lose. And how clinging to stuff and comfort can mask what really drives us in life, what brings us to life. He spoke of a friend of his in Portugal who spends his time busking his way around Europe. He loves playing music, and is willing to simply be an itinerant so he can do what he loves. Got me thinking about what price I’m willing to pay to do what I want to in life.

Eventually I found a bed for the night, at a Youth Hostel five miles away. £28 taxi ride for a £23 bed in a room with 15 guys. I’d completely forgotten how smelly hostels are, but I got five hours of fitful sleep with door banging every 30 minutes between the snoring and farting.

Like I say to the boys, at least I’ve got a story to tell for it. And yes, I’ve since thought that I could have asked for help via twitter, but somehow it didn’t even cross my mind. Next time. Oooft.

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