Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Lost in London - Eve Ainsworth

I had an event. So as usual, I did the normal preparations. In this instance, I was to be chairing my first ever panel – so I made doubly sure that I knew what I was doing. I read all my authors’ books. I scribbled notes in my well-worn notepad. Then I listed out my questions, emailed them out to the other authors to make sure they were happy. I rehearsed possible answers in my head, role-played the possible scenarios.

I was prepared.

Or so I thought.

As I packed my case, I couldn’t have felt better. I was like a boy scout. I had everything I needed. I’d braced myself for every eventuality. I had even packed 5 pairs of knickers for goodness sake and two toothbrushes (I was away for one night!) But who knew? I might get kidnapped, or run over by that runaway bus that my Nan always warned me about. I needed to be prepared.

Except I wasn’t.

I wasn’t prepared for the tube not working.

I wasn’t prepared for the crowds.

I wasn’t prepared for my brain completely switching off.

I stood at Victoria, case clutched in my sweaty hand – staring up at the shut gates of the underground. I was actually having a hot flush. What now? I wasn’t ready for this. I had to get to the other side of London and hadn’t a clue how. Swarms of frantic, sweaty people shoved in front of me. They all seemed to have purpose. I had none. My five pairs of knickers would not help me now.

Then a light bulb popped up in my head. A taxi! They did it all the time in films – just stepped out in the road and flagged one down, it couldn’t be that hard surely? I would leap into one and be saved. All would be well again.

So I staggered, trailing a wonky case behind me in the vague direction of West. There were no taxis. Just lots and lots of people that don’t look at you. I kept walking. Hoping I might find another underground station. I called my husband, who was at home trying to feed two hyperactive children. “I’m lost. I can’t find Green Park.”

“It’s not here,” he muttered helpfully. I think he was distracted by his own burst eardrums.

Then I saw a taxi. I shut the phone on my husband and attempted to flag it down. To be fair it probably looked more like a suicide attempt. I failed to get it, but I did manage to keep my left arm – just.

I was nearly sobbing by now. My feet hurt. My case was lurching from side to side like a drunk sailor and it was getting dark. Then suddenly a man appeared by my side, tall and smiling. He asked if I needed any help. He said he could escort me to the nearest tube station.

I honestly thought I had been saved. I beamed up at him. I wanted to kiss him, but I didn’t. Instead I recited my dreadful journey and showed him the bent up wheel on my case.

“I was looking for Green Park…..” I said sadly.

“Well, you’re nowhere near. Let me walk you.”

I honestly didn’t care who he was. He could have been Hannibal Lector or bloody George Osborne, I would have happily trotted along aside him.

He smiled sweetly at me.

"It's ok," He said, showing me his pass "I'm a mental health professional..."

So my advice after this rather crazy affair, is plan your journeys carefully. They can go wrong. Next time I’m packing a map, a compass and several distress flares.


Sue Purkiss said...

Goodness - scary!

Ann Turnbull said...

Oh dear, I do sympathise! I have never managed to hail a taxi in my life. These days, when I go to London, I travel very light and walk everywhere. Even so, none of the streets ever look like they do on the A-Z. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers!

Pippa Goodhart said...

I thought I was hailing a taxi when feeling a bit scared of dark deserted streets walking home from a London publisher party once ... but the black car with an orange light turned out to be a police car! These things make you feel a right country bumpkin.

kathryn evans said...

Oh you poor lovely! When I get lost ( often) I look out for the bowler hatted guides, they're quite often hanging around at Victoria - the taxis are right around the back though, silly place to keep them - also , google Addison Lee and put their number in your phone - reliable and safe.

Lynne Benton said...

Oh dear, poor you! Hope the event went well, when you eventually got there!

Eve Ainsworth said...

Thanks everyone. Love all the tips! I'm also glad I'm not alone!

obi duatilu said...
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Dianne Hofmeyr said...

You have described ALL the feelings I had when I moved to London from South Africa. Everyone else seemed to know when they popped up from the Tube like moles which exit and where they were at that exit but fro me it took forever of feeling very lost and very stupid. Now after 18 years in London, I can do it in my sleep and and in fact often do and bypass where I'm supposed to get off... actually not sleeping but planning a new story! Loved this blog. Felt so akin to it.