Hola! Hope you're smiling :)
Each day of this adventure so far was amazing. But this particular day was just really, really awesome.
My dream as a child was to travel alone, which I was doing but so far, I had only been to England. I only qualify as a traveler to England but not so much an international traveler. This day held the promise that it would change.
The plan was to get to London from Birmingham. Meet my favourite writer ever, Georgina Harding for the second time! Have lunch with Georgina. Take a train from St Pancras to reach Brussels via Paris. My Belgian Schengen Visa allows me to land or enter Schengen territory only through Belgium, so I had to get to Belgium first.
I was pretty afraid. I wasn’t even sure if this would happen because I never believed I could be an international traveler. I thought things can’t be so easy! I didn’t want it to be complex at all but something in me held this massive disbelief that things with me can’t be so wonderful – I am not sure if this is pessimism or fear or apprehension.
After the recce last evening, it was easy to get to Birmingham train station. I arrived 10 minutes early in London as the train broke down and all passengers were hustled into another – I chuckled at the thought of the same happening in India which would easily cost one at least a few hours.
While waiting for Georgina at the Victoria station, I was treated to a surprise, a flash mob, only that the mob was that of tiny tots singing Christmas carols. Sweet! Georgina soon messaged saying she was near the ‘carol kids.’ It was a refreshing sight to see her, my hero, on her wonderful bicycle, wafting trough the crowds. As we walked out of the station, Georgina told me that the bike is practically her most regular mode of transport. Georgina is clearly over 40 years old but she held this teenager like possibility and energy in her that I , nearly 20 years younger, couldn’t think of.
We hoped to drop off my luggage at the British Museum as Georgina had a special pass but the Museum officials were rigid. So I used the left luggage at St Pancras next door to leave my trolley there for an hour – 20 pounds for an hour and for a single piece of luggage – outrageous. Georgina hated the expense but there was nothing more we could. Honestly, I didn’t mind paying that money because I wasn’t thinking about it all. I was fascinated with my favourite writer and only thought of treasuring the time I’d spend with her.
We went back to Museum where Georgina showed me some special things in the Museum of which I most remember an original letter by James Boswell. I told her that I had missed going to Edinburgh and was sad about it to which she said ‘You need more than a day in Edinburgh,” after which I felt better, hopefully I will have a few days in Edinburgh sometime.
As we walked, Georgina spoke with me as a friend. To add to that, she said on a phone call that she was with an ‘Indian friend.’ I felt wonderful. She was excited about a wedding of her niece with an Indian man, perhaps that is why we got talking about the challenges of being a middle class, Indian woman from a semi-liberal Muslim family. I am not sure if Georgina understood my societal situations completely but I do believe she empathized with my disappointment. After the visit to the museum, we strolled to a nearby gallery where a potter friend of hers had some of her works on display. We found the gallery and checked out the potter’s collection too – it was a large exhibition of many artists and Georgina’s friend wasn’t at the gallery, so we didn’t spend much time there.
We walked to a nice place with many restaurants. I loved the Christmas lighting in the area which Georgina looked at extra carefully and told me that her son helped in putting up the lighting. My only introduction to Georgina’s son is through one of her biographical-travel books in which he featured, however, I was proud of him.
We made our way into a simple Italian restaurant and I let Georgina order for me. She said ‘let’s get you some good lunch that will keep you warm.’ These blog stories about my meetings with Georgina, filled with ‘She’s my hero and I love her’ lines can never truly tell how much I really admire Georgina. I was careful about my table manners, obviously, I couldn’t be embarrassed!
After lunch, we walked back to St Pancras, walking through another big museum (the name of which I don’t remember) with a great ceiling. Georgina accompanied me all the way to luggage counter and helped me check in. I think without her, I would’ve been lonely, confused and unsure about anyting. With Georgina by my side, I didn’t worry one bit and was very sure my international travel would come by smoothly. I felt wonderful! All set to Brussels!