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Tabytha Towe Diaries - That Vancouver Girl in London

Tabythat Towe's Diaries

Unique, magnificent, busy, expensive, cold, surreal, hectic, exciting, rushing, competitive, historic, windy…I love London!

What a horrendous journey. A 17 hour bus ride, (royally uncomfortable,) then a goddamned 8 hour stop over at the Joburg airport, utter bollocks. Then I had another 16 hours or so on the plane! Drove me ballistic.
Lucky for me my cousin Dom was in London as well by then, he arrived a month before me, so he came to pick me up. Then we had yet another journey on the tube to his brothers, carting around that bloody heavy suitcase from all the goodies I bought with me. First thing I wanted to do was shower, oh my god it was nearly 3 days of horrible traveling without one, I felt so dirty and yucky it was all I wanted. After my neverending journey I was beginning to get emotional and bitchy at this point, somewhat irritable, but after my glorious shower, not only do I get to befriend one cousin on this trip but I also got to meet my other, whom I have never seen before either. I couldn’t really think properly but we made good first impressions.

He is super cool too. I am a bit disappointed that I only got to meet them now because they are both so great. They are unique individuals for one thing. At least I got to meet both of them during my travels, it made it more interesting for us all. There we were all three cousins meeting up in London. Trust me I sure caught up with a lot of family history while in there. A lot of different versions to certain stories of course, especially with this side of the family. Especially when I got to my grandmothers, there’s another six hour journey by train again. Not that anyone necessarily contradicts the other on purpose, just that others remember things happening a certain way, which could mean something entirely different.

Some people I met in CT were also in London when I came through. It was nice to know that this time I’d know someone there already. People I met at the Cape Argus whom I went on a long wine tour with, there was also the guy I met on the plane when I first took off from Vancouver. I met up with him again in London and then again in Vancouver , soon after I came back, (we keep crossing each others paths in each others home towns) and last but not least I also had an old friend of mine who was an old crush of mine there. I hadn’t seen him in over four years, so it was quite different this time. His mother is my godmother and my mother is his godmother. Our mothers were friends from South Africa all those years ago and our families used to see each other a lot, so I kind of grew up with him in a way. To humour you all, when I was 14 years old I started to grow a little infatuation with him, stupid teenage puppy love you know. Apparently I even wanted to lose my virginity to him (one day)! So you can see it was very different seeing each other again.

He was nothing but an absolute doll to me, very sweet. I practically moved into his place and came into his life for a week, not for very long, but it was good enough to leave another impression. He had no idea I was going to crash with him, I actually had no choice at that point, but sometimes you just have to invite yourself. Oh I’m sure he didn’t mind.


As fairly as I can sum up London for the brief few weeks I was there to observe this much, this is what I gather of it. London is massive, just a monstrous city. Train stations everywhere, like an airport packed with desperate ants on a mission, all in a hurry, rushing, pushing and eager to get through the mad crowds of line-ups by any means possible to get a space on the endless escalator. Only to be squeezed into a carriage with hundreds of other people, crammed in there like a jar of flies that cannot move or barely breathe. A stranger’s ass rubbing against yours, faces squished upon the glass, later, after an hour on the tube and finally reaching your stop, people jump off quickly without trampling anyone in their way.

Running to the next escalator, next platform, next stop, next jar of flies with a final destination in mind, all over again. That’s just getting there, never mind having to come back later on. I saw a lot of trendy and pretentious clothing, the fashion is definitely not old fashioned let’s say. In what I call a business men’s circus, you’ll come across many short skirts with tacky stockings and sharp clapping high heels, polished black work shoes and outlandish ties strutting the streets with their important deals, their dominant outfits, their dependant cell phones, their 20 pound file-filled suitcases. They look panic stricken checking their watches as they all have to make it to their appointment, meeting or lunch break in another mad rush; a business men’s’ circus, insane! London is business, business, business…if you’re not in a suit heading for the office with coffee in hand, than you probably are a teenager, a roaming the streets with your friends, bumming cigarettes, hanging out or perhaps even pushing a baby stroller already, likely with a McDonalds coke in hand.

Then you have me, a tourist, a traveller that tips bartenders because she doesn’t know that you don’t have to here and who helps bring up the economy by buying souvenirs, looking confused on the corner with map in hand. Some of you may not appreciate these stereotypes as I have described them, but seriously, this is the majority of what I noticed every day. You do not see very many children at all, not in the city anyhow, accept on the train after school in their formal uniforms. Otherwise you hardly even hear them. I figured a lot of families either live in quieter suburbs or outskirts of the chaotic, trivial world. I don’t know? London has so many taxi cabs and buses. Since they charge drivers to drive into the city everyone seems to use the underground transport system now as it is more efficient and much cheaper.

There tends to be a coffee house on every corner just waiting for you to get another caffeine fix, and on either side at least two or three pubs each with traditional English names such as "Frog and Lily", "Banker boy and barrow", "Pig and Whistle", the list goes on. During the morning rush, the army of ants flood into to these various coffee shops relying on them to stimulate and alert them for their busy work schedule ahead of them. When they are all quit they eventually hit the nearby pub, still dressed in their executive skirts and collared shirts, boozing beer with their mates. It’s not even 11pm yet, but everyone who’s anyone is already smashed and waiting in another line up for last call to get even more smashed.

Eventually the happy, tired drunk people pour into the streets hailing cabs or going back to the underground or train station. (Hopefully none of them fall asleep and miss their stop as I had to learn the hard way) all trying to get home. A long day, a good old long night, just to go home, go to sleep for 5 hours, to wake up, go to the coffee shop, go to work, to go to the pub, to go the tube station over again in this monotonous cycle of London life.

London is:
Tall, elegantly standing buildings, statues of influential people, engravings in the walls, huge clocks, red buses, series of art galleries, various street markets, exquisite restaurants, all smoking friendly, packed train/tube stations, football pride, royal patriotism, colourful sweet shops and crazy, wonderful life. Unique, magnificent, busy, expensive, cold, surreal, hectic, exciting, rushing, competitive, historic, windy…I love London!
(Although a couple of weeks is all I could survive there. Unless I had 3 times the amount of money I came with there was no way I could have survived longer.)

VIsiting Grandma
I headed to my grandmother Jo in Grimsby, which way out of London and not a fun place to be at all. But I suppose that is OK if you are a senior. I was quite relaxed considering I have not seen her in about 5 years, so this was to be special. She remembers me as a troublesome teenager, I am sure I gave her enough reasons to remember that, so meeting up with her as an adult now would be an interesting encounter. I’m still 15 in her eyes. She is getting older and her health is running low, so I am grateful I got to see her. (She is part of the reason I left Cape Town so quickly.)

We played cards, did some reminiscing, and had good, old fashioned English cooking which is simply divine. She makes the most exquisite and hearty meals, mmm, mmm, mmm. I listened to her talk about life about growing up, her siblings, what it was like growing up eighty years ago and also about the spirits that guide her, her children and her marriage to her late husband. All the granny kind of topics. I actually devoted my attention to her for once, not just out of respect but out of interest too. The old have a lot to say of their day, it’s not bullshit, although sometimes it can appear to be. I felt compassionate for her. We never were close before so this was good for me to hear all this. My mother’s mother, there’s so much to be said here.

She has a cat named Tabytha that she adopted a few years ago, her true companion. Unfortunately the poor feline was very old and ill so she passed away soon after I left my grandmothers. However, when she upsettingly had said to others that Tabytha had passed away, well you can imagine what people must have thought that she was talking about me. That got clarified quite quickly, that the cat had gone and actually not myself. Although it could have been a lot of fun playing with that rumour.

Now my grandmother is alone in her house. I hope my stay cheered her up and that she will be alright.
Thanks to Jo, I’ll see you again hopefully, got to get those recipes from you, take care.

Simon, it was good to see you again and very funny at times, you better come for a visit before I come back to the UK, we’ll keep in touch and pick up where we left off perhaps in another four years!
Michael , I’ll probably run into you here somewhere along the lines when you quit your job and move where you want to be, see you soon then?

Denise, can’t believe we met up in London of all places (she used to be my old babysitter) when are you coming back? Thank everyone, I enjoyed my short lived visit with you and in this lively city. I’ll be back no doubt.
Back home: I have a lot of re-adjustments to make and get into. I have learned a lot and there have been many changes, but the leaves still need some turning over, it’s getting there.

When I write next in a few months, (apologies again for not writing in so long as is,) we’ll see where I am by then.
Hopefully on my way to another country! Have a good summer everyone!
Take care, cheers!
Tabytha xox
© Tabytha Towe June 21st 2003

To my friends there:

Part One - Leaving Vancouver
Part Two: Cape Town
Part Three- London

Previous moments from Tabytha Towe's diary:

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