HIMMGF — Part 15 — London Adventures Trilogy

Here is the next installment of How I Met My Girlfriend! Links to all HIMMGF posts here.

Early November, Jas and I took a few-day trip to London and met our friend, Harri. Though we had a great time there, our arrival in the city wasn’t so smooth. I’d been dealing with issues with my bank because my dumb ass forgot to tell them I was going to be abroad. Still trying to figure out a way to get ahold of them, I’d been unable to use my debit card for fear of it getting blocked. I was able to use my credit card, but this lovely country seems to only take my credit card carrier at only 1 out of every 300 tills I make purchases at.

As soon as we’d arrived at London Liverpool Street, Jas and I had to top up our Oyster Cards for underground travel, and to my excitement, the Oyster machines displayed my credit card carrier! Yet, when I went to pay with my card, the machine withdrew its ability to authorize my carrier, so I got sent back to square one and Jas had to top up the travelcard for me.

The bank demons even followed me back to Jas’ home, where I’d finally run out of cash and made a seven minute and $15 (£13) phone call to get the whole issue sorted. As an added bonus, they told me I had to call them every 30 days and verify that I am still abroad :).  This monthly phone call nearly costs as much money as the top up for my sim card :).

Jas and I had some time to kill in London before getting the keys to our Airbnb and meeting Harri, so we decided to go for a stroll along the Thames. I rolled my small carry-on suitcase behind us and felt one of the wheels drag along stiffly. I pulled off to a bench, ready to unjam whatever city trash had lodged itself into the wheel. Turned out, no lodging had taken place. Instead, part of the plastic wheel just decided to fall off. As in, part of my wheel was no longer on my suitcase, so the wheel didn’t turn anymore.

I took to Google to quickly find out that for most suitcases, you can just unscrew the broken wheel and replace it. But not with my vintage suitcase! Nope! With this floral valise from hell, you have to cut into the wheel bar with a chainsaw, and that is so not worth my time! Nor do I have access to a chainsaw! Or know how to use one! I am not your average home depot lesbian! Needless to say, I will be making a purchase for a new carry-on suitcase in the near future.

Since I’m on a roll with the things that went wrong this week: I also got hit by a biker after trying to navigate back to the Airbnb in the rain after getting slightly drunk at a Spoons.

Ginger family! Left: Harri, Right: Me.

Harri made it all worth it, though. We had such an amazing time with them, and I loved getting to the know them. Pure family bonding. We spent some time in Camden before going to the London Bridge and Tombs attraction that I had booked for Jas for her birthday. We both really loved a similar tour attraction called London Dungeons, and the same company runs both. But when I made the booking, I severely underestimated how scary it was going to be.

Even just going to the ticket window to purchase Harri’s extra ticket scared me. Actors crept up on us and a motion-sensor machine was rigged to jump scare us, which worked more than once. The signs near the ticket window stated the Tombs were “The U.K.’s Scariest Attraction,” which couldn’t have been stated on the website when I purchased the tickets, because I can’t imagine myself going through with it after reading that.

The first half of the attraction had very much the same vibes as the London Dungeons attraction we’d been to before. Actors from different time periods cleverly integrated history about the London Bridge, each new room of the building decorated in different eras and spooky props. At the second half of the tour, we were stopped before entering the next room. One of the workers explained that the next part wasn’t suitable for the following people: those with heart conditions, asthma, epilepsy, people who are pregnant, and people with nervous disposition.

She told the group that now was the time to turn back if we had these conditions or didn’t want to go through the scarier part. At this point, I’d built up the courage to convince myself to stay. Whatever lie ahead, I could take it. It’d be fine. When I turned to Jas to verify this, I saw half our tour group turn to leave, which of course had me second-guessing my freshly-baked courage. The only thing keeping me from joining the people ditching the “scariest attraction” level part of the tour was the fact that a 18-year-old Harri was standing on my left and my scared-to-sleep-with-the-closet-door-slightly-ajar girlfriend on my right, and I refused to be the person that lumped our party with the rest of the wimps who walked out.

What did lie ahead? For my Americans, it was at the same level as a haunted house. Actors chased us, screamed at us, revved chainsaws and sported clown costumes. Lights flashed, fog crept, projections on floors and walls gave the illusion of hallucinations. I screamed until my voice went hoarse. I’m really glad that we went through with it, but I can happily say I will never do it again.

On our overground back to the Airbnb, a drunk woman holding a glass of wine sat across from us, filling the coach with nearly incoherent scoffing at the woman asking everyone for money. “My husband has no money, but he took me drinking for my sixtieth birthday!!” She said probably six times, along with “Does she know kids in Africa are starving???” Her husband got up and left her in the coach, finding a new seat beyond sight. She followed him after setting her now-empty wine glass by the train door, which we snatched up on our way onto the platform after the two never came back for it. The wine glass now remains cleaned and lively on Jas’ kitchen counter.

A couple weeks later, Jas and I went on a double date with our friends, Riley and Chloe, whom Jas met through work a few years back. I’ve gotten to know Riley with our shared bond of girlfriends with BPD. Both are such genuine, fun, and hilarious people. Now, “hilarious people” is quite the compliment for an American to give away to someone on the other side of the pond. Let’s break this down:

British and American humor are, often times, incompatible. This is due to the fact that there are only two types of British humor used commonly amongst my encounters with natives. 1. Crude and/or toilet jokes. Since Americans are prudes, you’d understand why this doesn’t work. 2. Poorly-timed dad jokes/puns. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a lover of dad jokes. Use them all the time. But it’s all about timing and Brits always deliver late. For dad jokes to work, they need quick-wit and solid communication, just a couple things that most Brits lack.

Lucky for me, something about Riley and Chloe fell just outside these tracks. The four of us just click so well together, Chloe and Jas laughing at themselves over newfound similarities, and Riley and I confirming this with anecdotes of our lives together.

The way we all laugh together without keeping too much in touch when we’re apart makes me think of friendships my parents have. When their own lives get too busy to know everything about their friends’ lives, and years might pass between visits before one set can travel state lines to see the other, oftentimes dragging their families in tow. But the laughs are still the same, no matter how much time passes. With some luck, maybe the four of us will be like this.

At the beginning of December, we made a few more trips to London. As another part of something I got Jas for her birthday, I booked us tickets to a cat café that we’ve been eyeballing for a couple years. Because of how popular it is, we had to book a specific time for our high tea. Beforehand, we took a trip to browse London’s several-story toy and department stores. On level four of Harrod’s and a half hour before needing to leave for our tea time at 3:30, I decided to check my confirmation email to be sure everything was going to plan.

Jas leaned over to check too and saw the tea time: 13:30.

“It’s at 1:30?”

“No, 3:30.”

She pointed on my screen, “1:30.”

Instantly, I realized my mistake. Jas caught myself before I slipped into a sob right there in the crowded Harrod’s. “We can call them, it’s okay. Hey, it’s okay. It’s an easy mistake.”

When I rang, they were able to change the time for us, thankfully. I really thought I ruined this for the both of us. Luckily, we still enjoyed exactly what we expected to.

Our high tea treated us to two drinks each, a savory plate of sandwiches, cheese scones, and cornbread, a plate of scones with clotted cream and jam, and a sweet plate of macaroons, cupcakes, cake slices, and chocolate shortbreads, alongside dozens of cats. My favorite cat weighed a near twenty pounds, covered in long, brown fur, and carried the name, Wookie.

Earlier that week, Jas and I, and Jas’ childhood friend, Chan, headed to London for Winter Wonderland, where we’ve booked ice skating tickets. I had ice skated a few times on the pond in my backyard at home and had been rolling blading my whole life, so I was pretty excited to go. Chan had skated a few times, but not since she was younger. Jas, however, had never ice skated or rollerbladed in her life, and she was pretty nervous about trying it.

She wobbled in her skates on the ramp to the rink, and while I’d spent the days and hours previous reassuring her that it would be fine, I was pretty worried that she would get so worked up about not being able to do it at first, she wouldn’t enjoy it at all.

Our tickets granted us an hour’s worth of skating, half of which Jas and Chan clung to the railing, letting their hands balance them instead of their feet. After a while, they both let go, slowly, and the three of us hung onto each other, making our way across some ice inches at a time before Jas reached for the railing again. Eventually Jas’ confidence did grow to letting me hold her hand and she stopped reaching for the railing. Unfortunately, my confidence in her grew a little faster, and my grip lost its strength when Jas thudded to the ground. After the second fall (which was less my fault), she sported some purple knee bruises, but otherwise seemed to enjoy herself (so long as I took the blame for the first fall).

Regardless, being at Winter Wonderland made me very excited to celebrate our first Christmas together. Later that week, I had plans to go Christmas shopping with Jas’ friend, Sophie. And I knew exactly all the things I needed to check off the list.

Read part 16: Cambridge and Christmas!!!

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