Sunday, 14 July 2013

Chester! Crewe! Bangor!

Dear Friends,

Where have I been, you wonder? And I must apologize, deeply and sincerely, for not updating. But you see, I have been very busy not doing anything at all for the past week, other than reading through my dad's childhood collection of the Hardy Boys and unhelpfully pottering about the garden and trying and failing to write on my story. I keep thinking I'll get to my blog in a moment or find some sudden spurt of energy, and those fancies work very well in the imagination but not as well in real life. Furthermore I was hindered by the processing capabilities of my tiny blue computer and the lack of an internet connection out here in the woods.

However, I have at last found both the time and the means to tell  you all of my adventures, and I will do so from the beginning to avoid confusion. After I arrived in Heathrow, I had to wait for the 6.30 train that left from Euston station, London, which actually meant I had to take the underground from Heathrow to reach the appropriate station. My bag was large and cumbersome, and at one point in time I found myself staring disbelievingly at the flight of stairs that would take me to the Victoria line, and I must have looked sufficiently perplexed because a good-looking young Irishman asked me if I needed help and proceeded to haul my luggage up the stairs. I was very grateful and upon retelling this encounter to Natalie later in that very-long-day, she said, "I don't understand how everything happens to you. Everyone is so nice to you. That would never have happened to me."

I attribute it to my red hair and bow tie. Everyone loves a good bow tie.

No one can resist.

Pretty schnazzy for someone getting ready in an airport bathroom.

The underground was easy enough to navigate, probably because it is what inspired the Singapore MRT and I know that well enough, and you should be impressed with my lateral thinking. The train ride to Bangor, where I was to meet with Natalie and attend her conference, would have been much nicer had I not needed to switch trains twice. All in all I went from London to Chester to Crewe to Bangor in the beautiful, hilly countryside of Gwynedd Wales.

The train pulled up to Bangor Station, and I moved my luggage onto the platform through sheer force of will and then I turned to survey my surroundings. I was in a small train station on soil completely foreign to me, and I was completely and utterly alone. I was tired and being unnecessarily dramatic, and driven by some ungodly determination, I carted my luggage out of the station and into the pouring rain. I had directions to Bangor University, and the town is honestly one of the nicest little places you could imagine, but I was unhappy with the rain and the leaden skies, with the cold and the wet that by the time I had climbed a steep hill at a snail's pace, bags in hand, and wandered gracelessly around the cobblestoned streets of the town, I had stopped believing in a future altogether. There had never been anything but this inching along, this trudge-trudge through wet streets, my sopping skirts sticking to my legs in a mean-spirited attempt to fell me in my tracks. I was Elizabeth Bennett, six inches of my hem gone to the dogs, but I must say my version was slightly more fretful and self-important. And there was no Darcy to happen upon me and find my disarray charming.

After stumbling up the stone steps of the university and finding a bathroom in which to change my shoes and squeeze the water out of my skirt, I was finally welcomed by Natalie Jayne Moore, my dear, sweet friend of years and years, who stood in the doorway and just smiled, thinking of the time we (as gushing teenagers in the hot, tropical island of Singapore) dreamed of studies and conferences in faraway England. And that, I suppose, is why we do the things we do, why traveling from Singapore to Doha to Stockholm to Oslo to Heathrow to Euston to Chester to Crewe to Bangor does not seem like quite such an absurd idea after all.

A young American setting up the sound for her gig later in the evening

After the conference, we marched to a pub with a load of medievalists in tow, and escaped the rain for a few hours before it was off to bed. When I was again staggering out the door with my heavy luggage, a kind young man helped me carry it. He handed me my luggage with a question. "You leaving then?"
"Yes," I said.
"For the summer?"
"Yes," I said, not quite understanding.
"That's too bad. Well, have a good time." He waved and went back inside.
And Natalie gawped at our exchange and shook her head.

Medievalists drink wine. Of course.


Rebecca Shang said...

I reiterate Natalie's sentiments: how does that ALWAYS happen to you??

Judith Shang said...

Yes, I agree; your hair and bow tie are quite irresistible!