Day 1 – October 10, 2010
So I’m here in London for the time being. Last night was far longer than I imagined it would be. Although I had no reason to expect that I would’ve got out of Heathrow within an hour after the plane landed, I never quite thought it would take me more than two hours to get through immigration and collect my bags!!! I guess big hubs such as Heathrow always are crowded, despite being well staffed. Boy, was it a pain to stand in the immigration line for over an hour and a half only to get to the wrong baggage carousel (they’d taken off the markings for my flight by the time I got to the collection area because it had been more than 1.5 hours after the plane had landed!) It took a good three hours to get to the train station at Hanwell.
I planned to hire a cab from there to my aunt’s place, but nooo! No cabs available, so I start walking, keep walking, and walking, and walking for more than a kilometre (possibly more) with a 15 kg rucksack, and two 6 kg. bags, each in one hand. Up the street, over the crest, down the road and into the last street. Boy, was it a fun! Not.
Strangely though, it isn’t as cold here as I was expecting it to be. The temperature is hovering around 17 degrees C, which is far from cold. Thankfully I brought along this light jumper that worked perfectly last night, although in hindsight it would’ve been better left in the bag, what with all the physical exercise I was subjected to.
Had a good time trawling through Kensington High St. in the afternoon, followed by an extremely pleasant time in Holland Park. A single narrow path leads up into the park, with all kinds of people walking up and down; kids on tiny bicycles tearing down from one end to another and parents desperate to exercise (or at least display) some kind of control over them; young couples wandering aimlessly (ahem ahem!) from one bench to another; older people basking in the sunshine watching other people go by. The path eventually leads to a huge open grassy area where everyone seemed to be enjoying a beautiful autumn evening in the sun playing football with children, or with one another. Families were sitting around, talking and laughing while groups of girls and guys were sitting and talking about whatever topics interested them the most.
As I walked on the path leading up to the main park area, taking casual pictures of leaves and other inanimate objects, all bathing in the golden evening sun, the sound of somebody playing a song came to me, and it seemed to lift the mood of the place to another level altogether. I stood and listened, trying to recognize the song but hadn’t heard it before. Everyone who had previously been talking also stopped doing so, and listened to the notes that were being played out just a small distance away, their sound being carried into our ears by the cool evening breeze flowing through all the green, yellow and red leaves hanging from branches of all the trees that stood there with us. I decided to go check this out, for it was too good to pass on.
So I walked into the park area, and stood away from this bunch of guys who were sitting in the middle, one of who wielded a classical Ibanez. He seemed to be tweaking the strings, and that went on for a while. I kept standing a fair distance away, unsure whether he would play again. In the meantime I saw three small boys playing with their father. A kiddies bike belonging to one of them lay close to where I stood, and I bent down to take their photograph, hoping to trap some of that simple childhood fun in a frame. The youngest chap saw me sitting close to his bike and came running towards me claiming it! His brothers then joined him, and they stood there smiling at me. Before I had much of a chance to chat with them, they ran back to their father. Oh well, you get some and you lose some!
By this time guitar-boy (whose name is Lourenco) seemed to have finished tuning the guitar to his satisfaction, and was making the final tweaks before he started off with another song. I strode up to where he was sitting with his friends, greeted them all and told them I’d heard to the song played earlier and thought it was very good. I asked this guy’s permission to record whatever he was going to play, to which he readily agreed. With that I sat down with them, and one of they asked me more about what I was doing and I told them I was traveling around the UK and the US, trying to experience the life in these places, and the differences in the landscapes of their lands and their people. That seemed to pique their interest a fair bit, and Lourenco asked me if I had any particular song I wanted him to play to which I simply asked him to play anything he wished to. He began playing again, and a part of that song can be heard below. Once again, it just uplifted the spirit of the entire park when those notes started coming out of Lourenco’s fingers on the fretboard. The green grass; the sun bathing the entire field with golden light; people sitting and standing listening to Lourenco play and sing. It was the perfect concurrence of everything you could ask for on a Sunday.