Where there is room in the heart, there is room in the house
-- Norwegian proverb
Sorry for taking so long to post this thing. I am a bloody housewife after all.
I went to London to take part in hell hath no furry, and while the finer points of the nodermeet title somewhat escapes me, foreign whale meat eating thug that I am, the fact that you can spend a whole Saturday in a foreign country's park surrounded by people you don't actually know while having a sense of being in the right place have not.
My travel itinerary was shot to smithereens upon attempting to check in at the local low fares airport, the kind of airport with only the bare necessities as far as airports are concerned, where nobody are in any sort of hurry cause they're all going to the next big city over to kill some time. No meetings, no businessmen or businesswomen with immaculate business suits, mobile phones or impatient binge drinking in the VIP lounge. There were no last minute phonecalls with strategy changes or antisocial carry-on luggage. Just a short SMS to my hosts saying that my original plan was at this point thoroughly destroyed and that I would be a tiny bit late coming to Twickenham.
It was all because of some computer, but that's not important at all. All I missed was a few hours on my own in London, something that wasn't part of the reason for going to the nodermeet in the first place.
So I eventually checked in, waited a bit, went through passport control and found a seat abord the almost empty airliner. Ryanair's newer Boeing 737's are definitely no-nonsense. They have ripped out anything not contributing to their bottom line, including legroom. Ryanair have managed to cram 189 seats into the 737-800, ten more than the SAS models on domestic Norwegian flights. I stretch 188 centimeters above the ground (that's six foot two to imperial people) when I get up in the morning, and the only body parts I could move normally while seated were my toes and to some extent my arms.
The menu describing the things you could have in exchange for money while being stuck in the plastic seat was attached to the little lid covering the oxygen masks. You know, the large white panel just behind the reading lights and the button which make the 19 year old Irish or Spanish stewardess come over and lean real close to you. In order to read the menu you only had to position your head in a slightly unnatural position and squint just a little. The in-flight magazine was laid right on the seat, and the passenger before me evidently failed to finish his mini box of sour cream and onion Pringles. Or maybe he dropped it. I don't know. I do know that if you drop something on the floor in a Ryanair plane, it's gone forever. Bending forwards to pick something up will give you a Ryanair logo in your forehead and leave you with a useless dangling hand, mid-air just below your knee.
But it didn't matter too much. I have sat in the back of a truck in the midst of a snow storm, pretending to not freeze my bollocks off for more than two hours. I have fallen asleep in a cramped C-130 Hercules, and upon waking up finding out that the only part of my body that didn't also fall asleep were my eyeballs. I have taken off on a road trip in an old Simca with just gear number one and four working. I drove 1800 kilometres in it. The reverse gear gave up halfway through. I have flown on chartered flights to Cyprus where you literally had to stand up for six hours. Compared to some of the rather uncomfortable ways of travelling I've done before, this was a luxury trip. And the people at the other end would definitely be much much nicer.
A couple of nights earlier, booyaa had given me just enough directions to get to Twickenham. I was to go to Waterloo station and from there to here. Navigating the London Underground is fairly easy, even for a slow moving guy with an enormous backpack, clogging the Friday evening bustle for the numerous men and women in nice suits and summery office attire. Did you know that over 80% of the women taking the tube paint their toenails? I have no empirical study to back up this claim so I'm probably just making shit up again, but that's what it looked like. Painted toenails sort of gives me back faith in humanity. On a short term, giving your toenails a completely unnatural colour sends a message to those around you: "Look! My toes are pretty. I spent ten minutes doing a useless thing, and after that I listened to Rachmaninov while the varnish dried." This is what separates us from the animals. We can flaunt our prettyness without necessarily becoming pregnant. Animals also probably doesn't do amateur anthropological studies in fast moving cars in tunnels under ground.
A little after nine I was hugged by princess loulou. All booyaa got was a handshake. I must rectify this at a later opportunity, but only after reading up on geek etiquette. Who knows, maybe I'm expelled from the secret Brotherhood Of Geeks after a possible faux pas like that? I had arrived.
Then we went for spicy food and a pitcher of Margueritas at the local Mexican joint. As could be expected, my spoken english was in tatters after being absent from nodermeets for about nine months, as well as from the dreariness of travel.
They have a roof garden, lou and boo. They have an air lock, a situation room and a server room too, but don't let this fool you. Above all, they live in a home. There is nothing as comforting as ending up in someone's home, air full of I'm glad you came, being offered tea, a chance to sit outside, barefoot in the humid London suburb night, slowly spending a cigarette while good people helps you lose the weight of a backpack and relent the clench of timetables.
"Picnic", said lou. "Duuude", said boo.
Under a tree in Hyde Park
Thirteen noders under a tree, merrily drinking Pimm's, eating cheese and wearing funny hats are not hard to spot. I felt like running, but history have shown us that running Vikings are dealt with in London. Poor little sock monkeys too.
There is not much to say about the meet proper, that won't be cryptic in-jokes and virtual high fives and other more or less self referential nostalgia of questionable historical value, except maybe for this: If you contemplate going to one of these things, just go. The worst that can happen is that you meet people that will become your friends. You'll perhaps get to climb trees. The police may come around, but only to envy your cold beer on a hot day. People will mention something you wrote, unaware of who wrote it. You'll hear Tom Lehrer renditions from people who ought to know better, see field surgery on knit toys and hear accents you have never before heard for real.
Black Pawn: "In year seven in the Australian schools, they start teaching us about the really important things. They teach us about sex, parenting and that you should not drink Foster's."
StrawberryFrog to wertperch: "You are a very unconvincing old fart."
minisecret to StrawberryFrog, commenting on the feel of his hair: "Are you sure you're not three month's old?"
Things I didn't know before coming to Hyde Park
The London Metropolitan Police is a very friendly gang. They pose with goths and stuff and play frisbee with the local nutters. Foster's arent sold or consumed in Australia. How about that? spiregrain is teh keg ninja. HugoRune is probably kidnapped from the Chariots of Fire cast and is one of three people on this planet who has read one of the same books as I have. minisecret has the brightest smile this side of Tau Ceti. la petite mort sleeps with monkeys. If you need to do a high speed beer run or negotiate confusing public mazes, hire pookie and booyaa. lou's potato salad kicks ass in a nice kind of way. The English deposit rubbish like the Italians make wine. I could go on and on, but I won't since I honestly can't remember any more.
Since the Twickenham flat was now occupied by five people as opposed to the normal two, getting everyone through the bathroom ritual, breakfast eating and whatnot took a while. After that, we sorta managed to get nothing done apart from conversing on a wide variety of subjects and see wertperch off to the trains. The four of us left behind went out to try and find Pope's Grotto, but it is apparently only available to the public once a year. We had to comfort ourselves with drinks before heading off to eat some Indian food.
Before leaving England, I had half a blank hour on the travel itinerary. It was spent sitting on my backpack in Bishops Gate, taking in the locals scurrying to work on a late Monday morning. Then it was off to the Stansted Express and a sandwich. So long, noders.
And then I was home again.