I’ve started to have a realisation that going out with friends in what at first appear to be normal nights out in London usually end up having rather bizarre and surreal conclusions. Don’t get me wrong, they certainly make life more interesting, and allows one to increase one’s repertoire of dinner party anecdotes. The catch is of course that it makes the evening slightly more tiring than is often initially planned!
Take a few weeks ago for example, when JW visited London, and JG and I went out to a bar we know (colloquially christened “Creepy Joe’s” by JW). As with any other night, we started off with a few beers (and enjoyed the excellent music “Creepy Joe’s” had to offer – 70s and 80s rock for the most part). Anyway, as the night drew on, and the last trains departed, the bar got more and more busy. The good thing about busy bars is that you meet some rather interesting characters. In this instance, the character in question was slightly intimidating at a first glance, with long dark hair and a leather jacket. He was a Portuguese chap who formerly worked for the MoD. He was enjoying his last few weeks of freedom – quite literally as it happened – he got sacked from the MoD and was due a stretch in chokey for having a rather vicious fight with some Polish gent apparently. I thought it prudent not to ask for details, but he seemed quite charming.
Anyway, as is often the inevitable conclusion, owing to all the public transport being shut at night, I had no way of getting back to Woking, so I opted to walk to London Bridge (from “Creepy Joe’s” – nearest tube: Angel) to get a train back to my parents’ home (I was visiting them anyway the next day). Unfortunately for muggins here (who’d forgotten), London Bridge was closed, and so it was a rather lengthy walk from there to Victoria for the train. It did mean I got to walk past Parliament at half three, which was beautiful as ever.
Moving on to a few weeks later (i.e. last night), I was out with some ancient friends (known for ~18/19 years ish), which was a lovely catch up as I’d not seen them for a while. After they all dispersed, I went to see some university friends at another pub nearby. We headed back to one of their flats and watched some TV (because why not?). At this stage someone suggested going out to a club which was “really good”. A few minutes later, we got there, and discovered it wasn’t “really good” (think Fifth Form “prom” meets college bop). It was after this that things came to their inevitable surreal conclusion.
Walking back from around Tottenham Court Road to Waterloo (where said friend’s flat is), we encountered a young American student who had lost her friends (and was not really in a fit state to walk, let alone be left by herself, certainly not at half two in the morning in Central London). She asked us where Piccadilly Circus was as her friends were waiting there for her. As it wasn’t too far, I offered to take her and waved goodbye to my friends, saying I’d catch up with them later (as the last trains had left, I’d been offered the floor of the flat to sleep on that night). Anyway, my new charge soon realised her friends were not in fact waiting at Piccadilly Circus and asked if I’d mind helping her home. Naturally I agreed (I thought it better than for her to be on the streets alone before being picked up and put in a cell overnight to sober up or worse) and asked where she lived. The reply “Baron’s Court” was not quite the response I was hoping for, given that Hammersmith is a bit of a walk from the West End (~4 miles away), but she was insistent that that was where she lived and she knew her way back from the tube station. Clearly, I was in for a long night! Anyway, 90 minutes later, just past Gloucester Road tube station, there was an epiphany (she had sobered up a bit at this point – nothing a good spot of fresh air can’t fix eh?). Baron’s Court was in fact not where she lived, instead she lived in an exceptionally similarly named Hall of Residence, by Russell Square tube station. Again as before, this was not the response I was hoping for. Cue another 4 mile walk back towards Central London.
For those of you who aren’t particularly familiar with London geography, here’s a handy map showing the magnitude of the error in all its cartographical glory!:
The green circle shows where I found her, while the red ones show the dichotomy in where we originally heading, compared to where she actually lived. The blue star shows how far we got before she realised the mistake. (Image: Google Maps with own annotations). Click to enlarge
Eventually (at half past five in the morning) we arrived and I deposited her with the porters who were (rather understandably) slightly concerned by her disappearance (to the extent that they’d declared her missing to the Met). Luckily though, all’s well that ends well, and they were grateful for my assistance. I bade them all farewell and was on my way (to Waterloo to collect my stuff from that flat).
Unfortunately (or rather, obviously) when I arrived at a quarter past six in the morning, I couldn’t get in, so I had to call one of my friends sleeping there (who wasn’t especially thrilled of course – HL I really really owe you one for letting me in)! I collected my stuff and decided that it was time to head home. A few minutes later, I was on the 6:30 train to Southampton (Woking was the second stop thank goodness), and I was back in my own bed just as the sun was rising. Thank goodness it’s the weekend and I can have a quiet day!
So what have we learned from these two incidents? Well first of all it is that strange and peculiar things seem to happen to me on a night out with friends. Life does have a tendency to be more bizarre these days (certainly when one combines beer, late nights, and Central London). The second lesson to be taken from this is that London is a BIG city. Walking it, while exceptionally scenic, does have an element of making you somewhat knackered. I’ll be honest, 24 hour tubes from next year will make a great difference! Seeing the City, Parliament, and all that business in the middle of the night is absolutely stunning though.
Oh, and before you ask, I never did catch her name.