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As directed by my friend, I reached Angels and followed the directions further. Exit and take left said Catharine pointing to the little map in her map book. From there keep walking and … I only knew that I should take the left and then my instinct would guide me. I thought it was funny and foolish of me to trust my overconfidence but it really did feel right.
As I got out of Angels, I knew exactly which way to go. I was at this place five months ago but then I had followed Catharine and we found the place in broad day light. Now I was alone and it was a foggy, smoky, cold winter night. And yet, I knew the place perfectly. Just to make sure I wasn’t wrong and also to carry a pen and some paper with me, I stepped into a tiny stationery store on the left. The shop looked very Indian, like our small public phone shops that keep cheap pens, notebooks, cigarettes, lighters, and few other inexpensive things. It was only a moment later that I realized that the shop was indeed run by an Indian who seemed pleased to see me. He is from Gujarat he said and inquired about where I came from and if I lived in London. I asked for directions to The Charles Lamb pub which were exactly what I had thought should be.
And I found myself right in front of The Charles Lamb within minutes. The last time I was here was in the summer of the same year. The Charles Lamb is my personal symbol of discovery, a great travel story and a personal piece of this treasure called London, a corner I am familiar with like the Hyde Park Corner, just that this is cozier and more personal.
I was hoping to find the nice men I had befriended last time. I had written to one of them about my visit and hoped I’d find him there. I did, just as I entered the door. Also with him was the bar manager who spoke with us last time. The ten-rupee note I had left on the pub counter was still there and it made me very emotional.
I missed Catharine terribly and wished she’d see me at the bar as was the plan. I instantly felt at home, chatted with my ‘friends’ and when one of them had to leave, I stepped out for a bit to say bye to him as the bar owner entered the pub and instantly recognized me.
It was quite a wonderful surprise, to be recognized by him and be welcomed with a hug. I felt very special and The Charles Lamb became an even more personal, more wonderful part of ‘my’ London. The pub staff gave me great souvenirs which are now safely treasured in my Hyderabad home.
After my friend left, I settled at a table and basked in the warmth of this pub. I guessed that it would be at least an hour and a half before Catharine arrives at the pub. And just as I was preparing myself for the long wait, I saw a familiar figure walk towards me – Catharine! I couldn’t believe they’re at the pub so early – “what happened to Handel’s Messiah at St Paul’s” I asked. And to my surprise, they said that they just couldn’t sit through it as their seats were really far from the choir and was barely audible. To my great delight, they chose to be at the pub with me than watch a muted performance. I couldn’t be more thankful to them!
We ate and drank and then clicked a few pictures outside the pub before waiting for a bus to get back home.
Throughout the day, I was very careful with the Oyster card I was using, lent to me by Catharine who said she needed the card back as it is her sisters and also because it is a special edition Olympic card which they didn’t want to lose. But while climbing the stairs of the double decker bus, I dropped the card as I almost fell down. I didn’t care about getting injured but reached for the card immediately . Thankfully, I didn’t lose the card but understood the great burden of guarding something valuable while traveling – it could be nerve-wracking: I believe travelers should be more carefree. Hence, I only carried the cash I needed for the day, left the passport at home and didn’t have anything on me that I didn’t want to lose except the Oyster card. This proved well for sometime through my travels until I reached Berlin ten days later.