It was touch and go whether
I visited London or not. But luckily, at the last minute, I received
an email from David Boyle, an English author, saying he was interested
in seeing me and letting me know I could stay overnight at his house
in Gipsy Hill (a suburb in southern London) where he lives with his
I'd left Bristol at 11.30am
that morning, and gone straight to Heathrow Airport to leave my suitcase
in Baggage Storage. The last thing I wanted to do was cart it all
over London with me. So after sorting all that out, I took the Underground
Rail to Victoria Station, in the centre of London.
It was nearly 4pm when I
arrived, and David had said he'd be home after 6pm Sunday. So if I
was going to see London, I'd have to see it now. And I only had a
couple of hours!
As I stepped out of the
station, I noticed a roofless Double Decker bus waiting outside. Thirty
seconds, and 15 pounds later, I was part of the Big Brown Bus Tour
which would take me to the best tourist sights in London in only 2
hours 15 minutes. Boy was I lucky! And my luck stayed with me as I
claimed the last empty seat on the top level of the bus. However,
my excitement quickly disappeared once I realised why that seat was
Two rows of plug sockets
were on the side of each seat (one for each person on the seat) and
the travel commentary could be heard in 8 different languages: English,
French, German, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Japanese and Chinese. But
when I plugged my earphone into the English sockets, neither of them
At this point I felt somewhat
'ripped off'! But then it dawned on me. I had studied French for 4
years while I was in secondary school from age 12 to15. Maybe I'd
be able to understand some of the commentary in French. So I tried
it. And could I understand it? No! But the names of all the main tourist
attractions were expressed clearly in English, therefore capturing
my attention early enough to evaluate whether it warranted a photograph
or not. It must've been OK, because I managed to take 30 photos during
my London sight seeing tour.
And in typical London fashion,
the weather also managed to deteriorate from warm to cold, wet and
windy. In fact, by the time we returned to Victoria Station, I was
the only one left on the top level (probably because I was the only
one wearing a warm, waterproof leather jacket!)
My train to Gipsy Hill was
leaving in 8 minutes. Should I ring David and let him know I was on
my way? A trip to the toilet seemed more urgent. I'd ring him from
Gipsy Hill Station.
So I boarded the train and
reached for David's contact details. That's when I got that sickly
feeling deep in my stomach. Yes, I had David's contact details, but
they were in my suitcase which was in Baggage Storage at Heathrow
So what do I do now? Get
off? And then what? Stay on? But how will I find him in Gipsy Hill?
I'll find a way, I thought. And I settled into my seat as the train
set off on its journey.
By 7pm I'd arrived. Fortunately
Jane had given me an old London A-Z (street directory) before I left
Bristol, and I'd circled the street name on the map. So I remembered
his name, David Boyle, and I knew he lived in Gipsy Hill. But even
though I had his street name, I didn't have his street number! I'll
go door knocking if I have to, I thought. But rather than panic, I
decided to ask for some help.
Help was waiting for me
at the Gipsy Hill Tavern. After a pint of Guinness everything was
sorted out and I was shaking David's hand.
I know you're intrigued
in knowing what I did. It went something like this �
7.05pm - with tears in my
eyes, I told the young bartender about my plight. I'd just travelled
for 23 hours from Australia to meet an old friend of mine, but I'd
lost his contact details. Could I borrow a phone book to look up his
7.08pm - unfortunately there
wasn't a phone book anywhere!
7.09pm - my tears had turned
into torrents., and half the drinkers in the bar turned to see what
all the commotion was about.
7.11pm - after calming down
a bit, I asked if there was a phone assist line I could call to ask
for David's phone number. There was! (dial 192). I could use the public
phone beside the bar. All I needed was 20p (which I had).
7.13pm - now that I was
relieved, I ordered a pint of Guinness. And as my beer was being poured,
I dialled 192. But it wouldn't work!
7.15pm - as the tears started
welling up in my eyes again, the bartender reached into his pocket
and pulled out his mobile phone. Then he dialled 192 and handed it
7.16pm - the operator was
on line immediately. "What name please?" � (David Boyle) � "What town?"
� Gipsy Hill, London � "Would you like me to connect you?" � (Yes
please). But the line was engaged, and I got his message bank! So
I left a message, gave the mobile back to the bartender, and got stuck
into my Guinness. But what if David doesn't get my message soon �
or ever! I couldn't bear that scenario, so �
7.19pm - the tears were
harder to force now, and the feeling of guilt was starting to set
in. I caught the bartenders attention again and slid 2 euros across
to him as I sheepishly asked to use his mobile phone again. The mobile
was out in a flash, but the euros were gone even quicker!
7.22pm - "What name please?"
the operator asked again. But this time I made sure that I got David's
phone number, and I got his street number as well! I couldn't bear
to have to ask for that mobile phone again!