Woke up this morning fully intending to be good, responsible, productive. (Go to the gym, get errands done. Write email, make phone calls.) Made the mistake of turning on the 'puter before doing anything else, the morning pretty much went to hell from there.
There are those days when sitting in front of my laptop becomes my personal equivalent of zoning out in front of the T and V. My own personal time machine -- one minute it's 9 o'clock, next thing I know it's closing in on 11:30 and nothing of any substance, much less import, has gotten done.
When I finally dragged myself away from the 'puter screen, out the door, into the street, I discovered a whole world carrying on life beneath gray Saturday a.m. skies. Stores open, cafés serving wake-up liquids and morning finger food. People walking in couples (hetero and otherwise, this being the Greenwich Village of Madrid), stopping in front of tienda windows, conferring about things seen there. Others sitting together at café tables, slowly coming to.
I've been short on sleep these last 2-3 weeks, to the point that I could feel the swelling drain of it during my waking hours. These last two nights, however, brought long stretches of lovely, satisfying shuteye, and I can feel my body wanting more. The lack has produced an odd feeling of disconnect, something the holiday season has amplified. I am not part of any religious tradition or belief system. I don't have much in the way of family. And right now I am not part of a romantic partnership. Without those ties, I find myself drifting along as the days of this season slip past, enjoying the lights, the store displays, the general growing sense of anticipation. Living my own little existence -- going to classes, writing, passing time with various people, pondering what I need to do with myself in the coming months. Nothing wrong with any of it, unless I choose to distract myself with worrying thoughts of one kind or another, something I recognize to be a complete waste of time.
One of the nicest angles of this last trip to the U.K. [see previous two entries] was hooking up with friends not seen in a while, spending sizeable chunks of time with them, often in places I've never been before (Mayfair, Hampton Court, Oxford, Stoke-on-Trent). Being ferried about either on public transport -- on my own, checking out the people around me -- or in friends' cars, watching the local version of the world sweep on by.
Meeting one old friend at her office in Mayfair Thursday night, going to a middle-eastern restaurant, ordering a sampler meal, then watching plate after plate after plate of food materialize in front of us. An amazing, table-covering display that we pretty much demolished in no time flat.
Taking a train out to Oxford Friday morning to rendezvous with a friend from Bristol, where we talked nonstop, wandering from museum to pub to café to restaurant beneath skies dark and gray, rain coming and going. Christmas lights shining through it all. (My friend, N.: five feet or so tall, with an impressive head of thick, wavy red hair -- quite a bit more of it than the last time I saw her, nearly 2-1/2 years ago. Me to her: "You have more hair!" Her to me: "You have less!" Given that I am blessed with abundant naturally-occuring head insulation, I can only assume she meant my haircut. Probably shorter than the version she saw in 2001.)
Meeting C.and J., a friend and his wife, on Saturday -- post visit to the Saatchi Gallery, a place whose overriding goal may be to provoke and/or gross out -- for a ride on the London Eye, followed by a trip out through London's western reaches to Hampton Court. A beautiful, impressive place, probably spectacular in warmer, sunnier seasons, when the gardens are in full, extravagant bloom (and which now seems to be the site of a Christmas haunting).
And this is something else that stood out for me on this trip -- Londoners are often characterized as distant, unapproachable. Not my experience. I am not shy about asking questions of folks around me on the street or in the underground, and did so regularly during this trip. Without fail, they answered my queries as best they could. I find the Brits to be warm, generous, interesting. C. and J. pushed the generosity thing, not just taking out a Christmas season afternoon to show me around, but insisting on paying for my tickets to the Eye and Hampton Court. Don't ask me why -- it's not like I'm impoverished. I had to sneak in payments for a couple of smaller expenditures, stuffing money into C.'s hand for parking before J. could drag her own cash out, paying for my own food/coffee at the Hampton Court cafeteria before J. realized what was happening. (This is not a complaint, by the way. Please, all those who want to buy me meals and pay my way into attractions of all kinds, send email and propose traveling fun.)
I have the feeling I'd enjoy living in the U.K. Apart from the climate.
Speaking of which, as I've written this, the Madrid sky has lightened up. Clouds have thinned, sunlight pouring through.
Must go outside.
The South Bank, London, by the Royal Festival Hall -- wind generator, the London Eye, Charing Cross train trestle, Christmas tree