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Global Quest For Local LETS
Copyright � James Taris

6. Lost in London

With David Boyle and his partner, Sarah, at the New Economic Foundation office.

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 partner, Sarah.

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 still empty.

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 worked!

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 Airport!

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 name.

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 to me.

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!

This article is taken from the ebook,
Global Quest for Local LETS

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