London Callers

Wednesday, December 7, 2005


Written by Chantelle Petersen

The last couple of weeks have been very busy here. Aside from trying to fit in as much of my own sight-seeing as possible (I’ve visited the seaside city of Brighton – U.K.’s gay capital – and Birmingham, England’s second biggest-city and home of the Cadbury factory...glorious) I’ve also been struck with the imminence of final papers, assignments, presentations etc. but most notably, I’ve had visitors. This, much to my fan club’s dismay, has kept me from my commitment to the cannon.

My mom and sister and my friend Lauren have all enjoyed ten-day stays in this wonderful city. Unfortunately, I don’t see much of any of them at home so this trip was an excuse not only to visit London for the first time but also, I’d like to think, to have some quality time with M-O-I.

My visitors have very recently departed and my experience with them was completely different to when my Dad and his girlfriend came to visit in early October. First off, my mom stayed about three times as long and in much closer proximity. For three nights of their stay, we actually shared a room. This may come as more of a shock when I describe my living quarters. I have one bedroom. Two roommates. Three beds. Three desks. Two wardrobes and the tiniest of tiny kitchens – all in a space no bigger than a triple room in South. Every inch of living space was occupied when a room barely fit for three, now was housing six. It came in handy that one of my roommates was in Dublin for most of their stay and my other one most generously volunteered to stay at her – wait - IN her boyfriend’s room who has a similar set up. Despite my hostility with our living arrangements I was overjoyed to be showing them as much of London as possible. Therein lies the second major difference between my two sets of visitors’ trips.

This time, I was able in two days to show them virtually every postcard scene of London because I have become so comfortable with the city. Knowing what attractions lie in what area and how to access them (e.g. foot, bus or tube) I was able to knock off four or five pretty large excursions in one day. I wanted them to see everything, to really get a feel for the city, how much it has to offer. You can come from one of the oldest and most important structures in London, St. Paul’s cathedral, to the most modern pedestrian bridge over the Thames and into the massive storehouse of a gallery of many important modern art pieces in the blink of an eye. Centuries of history at your fingertips. My ability to guide them through the winding and confusingly marked streets of London made me really feel for the first time that I was a local.

As impressed with myself as I am, it saddens me that it comes right before I have to leave, Thinking about it almost brings tears to my eyes which is remarkable because I didn’t experience this sense of attachment when I left Canada to come here, I was comforted knowing I’d be back.

Sadder still is that I feel with regards to my visitors, I was so caught up in trying to avoid a Schindler-syndrome departure, listing everything I COULD have shown them or done for them, I substituted entertainment for hospitality. Instead of really soaking up the quality time they may have come for, I replaced it with museums and musicals. It broke my heart that upon their departure, my mom wasn’t sure that I’d really enjoyed my time with them. Apparently, not everyone gauges their experiences with photographs and I felt shallow and wasted that I spent so much time trying to fit London into ten days and not enough time stopping to smell the roses – or company.

My eagerness to visit landmarks wasn’t an escape of social intimacy and my indifference was the result of nothing but my hardened London soul, not a distaste for the company. I’m sure that Lauren and my sister don’t feel this way, or at least not as strongly, and my early visitors seemed pleased with their time here but mothers tend to be more sensitive. I know now in her case to value conversation over crowds and laughter over...anything else.

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