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Always a Surprise

doorway newarkMy adventure has begun. A week ago, I boarded a plane for London. I’m living in the UK for four months, the longest I’ve ever been out of the US. My family and friends are back home. My sweetie–I miss him so. I’m making new friends, getting to know old friends again, and generally seeing the world in a very different way. Which is what adventures are about. I listened to This American Life (oh, it made me homesick) this morning while helping friends who own a catering business in Newark, England, clean up after a recent wedding. I felt quite useful scrubbing the long pans and soaking the cups and saucers as I listened to the radio spin out stories of people off on their own adventures. This one about a guy who walked across the US to listen to stories really got to me. That’s what I’ve been doing… well, not walking across the country, but I don’t have a car, so I’ve been walking a lot, and every place I go, people have stories to tell.

This past week, walking in Edinburgh among crowds of people in town for the festivals, I often felt alone. The stories and conversations were a balm, and always a surprise. On my first day in the city, I was met by the mother of a friend back home. This eased my entrance into the big city–she helped me navigate the twisting staircases and hidden closes and mixed-up traffic patterns. Crossing a multi-lane street alone can be difficult when you don’t know which way to look for traffic.

In the hostel in Edinburgh where I stayed for five nights, central hostel edinburghone woman told me about her recent bout with cancer and a loud neighbor who liked to slash car tires and bang on the apartment walls. Another woman told me about how much she loves to travel on her own, but that she’s scared to go out at night–she shakes from early-onset Parkinson’s. Women of various ages and nationalities came through my four-bunk room this past week, a 50-year old cycling all of UK, a 70+  woman traveling alone to attend the Edinburgh Book Festival and all three James plays, a Glaswegian in the city for a night of partying with school friends, a Chinese doctor taking a short break from her residency in Paris. At a concert at Tron Kirk this weekend, a Londoner up for the weekend told me about his job as a Support Aid. Tron KirkWe talked about anti-psychotic meds, and he told me about a woman he works with whose organs are failing because she’s been on meds so long. At another concert, a young Italian woman told me about her five-year-old daughter, back home in Italy, and the weekend she and her husband were having, how strange it was to find something to talk about other than their daughter, other than keeping her happy.

On my last night in the city, just when I’d decided to go back to my room and have a quiet night packing, I overheard a band playing in a pub–a three-piece acoustic group playing folk music. I took a seat at the bar and listened to the opening cords of “Long Black Veil.” I ordered a drink and decided to stay for awhile. The band, a group from Ireland called The Deans, played “On the Banks of the Ohio” after I told them thanks for easing my homesickness just a little. Then they played one of their own, “Lonely Like Me”–I was hooked. I heard so much good music this past week. I’m leaving you with three songs by my top picks. Here’s “Dreams on Fire” by Izzy’s Daughter, a singer/songwriter based in London.

Here’s ShowHawk Duo at last year’s Fringe Fest. Who knew you could do all that on acoustic guitars?

And finally, here are my new faves, The Deans.

4 thoughts on “Always a Surprise”

  1. Lania! So great to read your first post from England! I love that you’re meeting people, hearing great stories, and discovering great new music! Love and miss you! Jeanne

  2. Lania, you are indeed on a grand adventure. Listening to people’s stories is one of the things I like best in life. I can just see you doing so, because you are a concentrated listener. We miss you here! Love, John.

  3. Lania- I see you’re adjusting to extra-America? good for you; I’ve written a few stories I’m reading one or two tomorrow (time permitting); if they go over well I might send them but only if you have time; other than that it’s hot here (90’s) so be glad you’re in the cool; work smart not hard; take care and keep up the writing; send anything you like I’m listening/reading.
    e-mail good! tarzan
    PS I’ll send my ‘list’ when I compile it; short and sweet.

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