Monday, April 19, 2010

Volcanoes and Grocery-Store Tulips

I'm on day 2 of stranded, day 11 of vacation. I landed in London on a Saturday morning, intending for a long week of vacation and rejuvenation with a friend who's been here since 2006. I'd explore London while he worked, then the two of us would scoot to Paris for a few nights for some real excitement. When we met at the train station to catch a train to Paris, we beheld the beginning of the chaos--the volcano had erupted that morning, and flights from noon onward had been rerouted. That was on Thursday, and today is Monday. British airports have been solidly closed, due to a large cloud of volcanic ash invisible in the clear blue skies. My Sunday flight home was canceled, and I found myself, in a pattern developing these few months, with broken plans.

So I sucked it up and stayed in London...sounds tough, I know.

My friend's flat here is large and lovely, with four bedrooms and four inhabitants. The neighborhood is quiet and the backyard is a lovely patio with two benches perfect for grabbing some spring sunshine. The house is a tall, narrow thing, with several sets of stairs. I am sleeping in the living/dining room, on a long red couch from Ikea. The only other communal room is the kitchen, so I feel bad for hogging half of the shared space. While I was vacationing, I wasn't around too much, but now that we are in the holding pattern, I've set up camp with a computer in this living room. Not only am I haunting the common space, but I'm a whole second person that my friend feels responsible for.

Naturally, I decided to make a curry, to try for amends. Not a British curry (Indian), but a Thai curry. I went to the store today to pick up supplies (Thai curry paste is not easy to find in English grocery stores), and saw all the flowers for sale. I always think it's lovely to come home to fresh flowers, so I thought it would be a nice touch. I went for some tulips, a big batch, and carried them home in their special flower bag. I always feel like Mrs. Dalloway when I'm walking home with a bundle of flowers and some festive foods.

I got home and divvied the flowers up in the kitchen and common room. No one had arrived home from work yet, so I was quite pleased with myself, the empty house, and the flowers and curry supplies.

The food went over famously, but standing in the kitchen with three males, all of a sudden, I found my tulips being mocked! They weren't mocking me for buying flowers, so much as teasing each other over the idea of bringing flowers home to men. My friend is American, and the other two are English and French Canadian.

It has been fun being in London, because all the people I've met have represented a fair swatch of Europe: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Ireland, France, etc. But standing in the kitchen with those boys, laughing about tulips, I felt like maybe I wasn't so far from home after all.

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