On Saturday morning, I checked out of the hotel to spend a couple of nights with my mate Chris. First, breakfast in the hotel and i sat out in their garden in the sun for a bit. Later, i impatiently waited through a long queue and got onto the tube and out to Leyton. Someone kindly helps me up the stairs with my suitcase and Chris is waiting. We walk to his flat and get all my stuff inside. The plan for the day is to go to Camden to Resurrection Records where I want to seek out a particular cd and then eventually to a pub in Islington where some people are due to descend for a get together. An easy day with little walking.
We head out to the tube again in fairly short time only the weather has changed dramatically. The wind has come up quite strong and the clouds have dashed in and start chucking down sideways. Chris's umbrella gets snapped in half after a particularly random gust catches it. He tries to hold it up over us at least to keep our heads somewhat dry. The rest of us gets soaked. Ah, London weather! Just like here at home in Halifax in fact! I'm wearing a light blouse over a tank top so at least I can take the wet blouse off and it dries quickly.
Resurrection Records is part clothing and Goth/punk gear and below street level, a small record and cd retailer. There are bins of cd's in the centre and along the walls are racks of vinyl. They specialize in alternative, electronica, punk, industrial and metal music. I find what I'm looking for and we grab a quick bite in a canal side pub. It's too chilly and wet to do much shopping and the Saturday crowds in Camden are making it difficult to get around. We decide to head to the pub where we're meeting some people, a bit early. The rest of the day was spent sat there enjoying the company of friends who came and went during the afternoon and evening.
The next day was overcast as well. We have been invited to a "Vicarage" tea party in Milton Keynes by a friend of Chris's. MK is a sort of manufactured "planned" city about an hour and a half drive from London. It's got a very sterile air with the city centre looking very much like an industrial park of businesses, a few leisure and arts facilities and a very large shopping centre. It's all low rise, no tall office or apartment blocks and all the streets are numbered. The outlying areas of the city are where the residential neighbourhoods are as well as an Open University. The two story brick houses are clustered in cul de sacs amid lots of trees and though quite nice, they all look the same.
The tea party is in full swing when we get there and the hostess, is gracious and warm, welcoming everyone and making sure we all have tea, coffee and lots of lovely things to eat. I only really know Chris though he knows quite a few of the guests. Eventually though, I discover another Canadian who is married to an Irishman as well as two transplanted Americans. I am at a tea party in England and the people I end up talking most to are from North America! The afternoon speeds by, and eventually descends into silliness and gales of giggles, clearly fuelled by too much sugar and caffeine! It was thoroughly enjoyable though the drive back to London was a lot slower. The traffic was pretty heavy and it took us an extra hour or more.
I'm heading to Manchester in the morning to meet someone very special face to face for the first time. I'm an anxious nervous wreck, not worried, just wanting to get that first 5 minutes done with so we can relax and get to know each other properly.
So I didn't think I'd sleep but I did manage to get a few hours. Chris drives me to the tube with my luggage. Lots of hugs and off I go. I am at St. Pancras in loads of time to grab something to eat and drink.
Glitch number…er. Where were we? Anyway, I am standing by the platform waiting for the 9 o'clock train to Manchester which hasn't arrived. About 9:15 a train pulls in and I ask one of the station workers if that's the train I need and he looks at me like I'm a dumb tourist (I am!) and tells me my train left on time, from two platforms over! Didn't I hear the announcement? Well you *know* what public announcements in echoey train stations are like! I don't know how I missed getting the platform wrong but I think I must have been looking at the arrivals board not the departures one. Gah!!!!!!!
I can't use my ticket either because it was an advance purchase for a specific seat and train. I have to change it and that costs me another £21! Trains and I really don't see eye to eye it seems. I've had misfires with them before! Anyway, I return to the platform area, calling Graham in a frustrated rant to let him know I'll be an hour or so late. Highly paranoid now, but I do manage to get on the right train at the right platform. The three hours goes by fairly quickly and I'm finally there at Piccadilly station!
Falling in love over the internet was definitely not in my game plan but, it was probably inevitable. The first face to face meeting is exciting and scary and you are filled with all sorts of emotions. We knew what each other looked like and set a place to meet. There he was! But just as he would have seen me, he was side tracked by tourists asking questions. I slowed down so that I wouldn't be right in his face when he saw me. He turned, oh man! Well, let's just say it was like something you see in the movies. Sounds and visuals seemed to fade away around me and all I could see was his blue eyes as we hugged, kissed and grinned foolishly at each other!
We clutched hands and promptly managed to miss the exit for the taxi rank. We ended up walking from the station over to the Arndale shopping centre a few blocks away before we found a cab to take us to his place.
The rest of the day was pretty much "us" time. I let my mom know I'd arrived and that Graham was *not* an axe murderer! Everything was exactly as we expected it would be, no shyness, no awkward moments. Just… Bliss!
The next day is free though we are meeting my friends friends for dinner tonight. I always like to check out a few favourite shops in Manchester where I've been a few times as i have other friends there and we were planning to go to the Manchester Art Gallery on Mosely Street as well. The sun is breaking through the clouds so it seems like it's going to be fairly decent weather.
We start off around St. Anne's Square and the shops around the Royal Exchange/Corporation and Market streets. We stop for a coffee across from the Art Gallery and then spend an hour or two inside, gazing at the collections. There are some very good Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian collections in the gallery as well as good representations of artists from the north west area.
We walk down by Oxford Road, window shopping, stopping for tea, with me always looking up at the great Victorian architecture. Graham found it interesting to see the city from my point of view, things he rarely notices. In addition, Manchester is the focus of Cows on Parade and there are near life sized cement cows everywhere and in unexpected places! The cows are all painted and decorated by local artists and exhibited for a few months, then sold for charity.
We didn't have time to goback to Graham's flat to change and head back out so we sat in a sunny square for an hour or so, chatting. The Chinese restaurant is out in the village of Chorlton and we caught the bus out a little early, having arranged to meet Annie about a half hour before the rest were due to arrive.
As always, it was a wonderful evening spent with good friends, good food and lots of laughter. We caught the last bus back to the city centre and since we'd missed the last bus to Salford, took a taxi from Deansgate.