The Awakening Chapter 3: If I were a hobbit

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Part I: The Awakening

Chapter 3: If I were a hobbit

London is a big place, there’s no doubt about that. It is big, bold and beautiful. It is also vibrant, vivid and varied. It keeps being violently so each and every day of its existence, like it needs to prove to the world that nothing is impossible in such a grandiose city. It keeps throwing so much stuff at you that you do not know what to make with it and of it any more. That is why it can get a little ticklish. It may even prove too much for some, but it sure as hell is a place that never ceases to impress.

That being said, the only logical question which I should had asked myself that day would have to have been this one: “Why would anybody want to walk through as much as possible of such a city’s huge central area while wearing sandals? My goodness, why?!?” But I did not care. I had it all figured out, an unforgettable itinerary which ought to bring me, at least in passing, through each of the most important areas of the mega-city’s central area.

The thing is that on that day I did nothing else than more or less walk in the rhythm of what much closely resembled a race rather than a stroll. I managed to see most of what I intended to see, that much is true, but that came at a cost: I managed to destroy my feet. Utterly, literally destroy them! I probably would have done so even if I was to wear some proper shoes, but those sandals of mine were the most stupid choice I could have made for that day. Sure, it was pretty hot all right, but it was the month of May in Britain, not the month of May on some tropical island! I could feel my feet no more, so the fact that my toes were really injured did not trouble me, at first. But that was subject to change once the fatigue left my body. And that did happen!

I imagined myself to be a hobbit. After all, J.R.R. Tolkien was British and I, one of his most loyal fans, found myself in Britain. Since his characters were able to walk so much with just their bare, hairy feet, than I probably could do that too. The resilience of hobbits in my human body, well, that was a sight to behold!

The stroll ended before I could realize it. I saw what I had intended to see and so in the evening I got back to Paul’s house in order to say goodbye and then head for Liverpool. Paul’s family drove me to Euston Station, where we parted ways: “I wish you all best in your task of taking care of a three-year-old — and a foreigner at that! It is not an easy task, believe you me!” said Julie before I ran past the gates, disappearing in the crowd.

The journey towards Liverpool progressed pretty much eventless, which in fact felt like a relief, wasted as I was. I tried to sleep, but in my mind there were too many thoughts which did not care to let me go. There were not a lot of people on the train, so I felt very relaxed, despite the state I found myself in.

“Oh, how magnificent the Houses of Parliament looked from up close! And how magical Tower Bridge felt like! No pictures did them justice before I actually saw them!” I declared, like possessed, when a tower-of-a-man asked for my ticket. I knew not what got into me, but I felt like I needed to say it out loud. He smiled at me, even though he clearly was a little puzzled by my sudden display of enthusiasm. “Well, he should already be used to similar things coming from foreigner’s mouths”, I dared say to myself.

Chapter 4

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The Awakening Chapter 2: You ought to become a cabbie!

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Part I: The Awakening

Chapter 2: You ought to become a cabbie!

I woke up after a few hours sleep, feeling fresh and invigorated. In case you are wondering, I am Luck’s conscience. I know everything inside Luck’s head, aside from when he’s sleeping, moments in which he is in an unconscious state and cannot be bothered to make me privy to his dreams. But that is all right, since I know pretty much everything regarding him that is of any real significance. I’ll impersonate him through much of the rest of his journey, so get used to me!

That being said, I woke up in a freshly-painted room, a boy’s room all red and full of toys which did serve but one purpose: to fill the empty space and to violently express the fact that he, Georgie, was different than his two sisters. He was the man of the house. Georgie had the typical boy’s toys: lots of cars, trucks and robots, soldiers, knights, warriors and everything else you could fathom, all ready for combat. You’d think they were preparing for an assault from Georgie’s sisters, that is how they stood there, keeping watch, vigilantly.

I felt like Gulliver in Lilliput, like every toy starred at me curiously, wondering who I was supposed to be. But then I heard Paul’s wife, Julie, yell as loud as she could: “Kids, come to breakfast! You’d better be all dressed up or you’ll miss school!” I left Georgie’s toys to mind their business and got into the dim-lit hallway. I saw Georgie, chasing his older sisters through the small hallway and down the stairs, into the kitchen. I almost tripped over some toys left on the stairs, but I somehow managed to keep my balance.

In the kitchen Julie was making English tea and breakfast. Like most people living in Britain, they too drank as much of the stuff as often as possible. “Good morning, traveler! Welcome to our home! I hope you’ve had a nice trip and some good night’s sleep.”, said she. “I’ve heard a lot about you and most importantly, that you’d really want to take a stroll through London today.”

“Good morning, Mrs. Julie! Yeah, it’s all been good and yeah, of course I want to take advantage of the few hours I’ve got till my train leaves for Liverpool, this evening.” I replied, strongly feeling that I was not an intruder in her house, but a welcomed guest. Not that I had ever been treated like an intruder, but you know, it generally feels odd when you walk for the first time into some stranger’s home.

The two of us talked for a bit while eating breakfast, but soon my impatience got the better of me and I caved, expressing my wish to leave for central London at soon as possible. Paul walked in an took me to the train station, from which I was supposed to take the train “downtown”. The house was in Borenhamwood and the station’s name stuck to my mind, Elstree & Borehamwood. I did not know why, but I kept associating Elstree to words like fairy, fay, pixie or nymph, probably because my brains were then as intoxicated as they are now with different media which took fantasy very seriously.

The station was nowhere near fantastic, otherworldly and such, it just served its purpose of taking people from the suburbs into central London. But it did not have to be anything other than a normal station, anyhow. While on the train, I saw a gal which was reading a book and seemed so involved in her business that the noise around her simply ceased to exist for her.

She was clearly pure British, slender, nicely dressed but not too formally. And, ahem, no make up. She had an elegant air which made me stare at her for longer than I usually did when I singled out an intriguing woman. Her beautiful face, even if not budging at anything happening around her, emanated a tranquility which made her eyes starring into that book of her seem like two powerful stars who only had the sole interest of reading as much as possible during the journey.

I regretted not trying to talk to her, but hey, I used to be a lot shyer than I am now. Not that nowadays I would lightly dare disturb such a creature. It would still feel so silly to jump around acting all interested in such a person, while disturbing some peaceful reading.

The train got me to St. Pancras Station, which yet again, caused me to become even more euphoric than I did in Luton Airport. New, fresh, daring and linked to old King’s Cross Station, the station was a sight to behold. Not that King’s Cross was anything but just as ominous, only with an older touch. I strolled through the two adjacent stations and when I got out, fanciful Bloomsbury opened up before me and I knew exactly how to make the most of my day in London. I had a map of it in my memory already, which was expecting to be filled with more stuff.

After I’ve gotten out of King’s Cross Station, I chanced upon a Scottish chap, around thirty years old, with an awkwardly pleasant accent typical to those kilt-wearers of the north. He asked me if I knew how to get to Liverpool Street Station and I tried to remember as best I could where that station was. I looked upon his map of London and showed him what routes he might choose to take in order to get there.

“Thanks a bunch, stranger! May I ask where you are from? You looked like a Brit, but I see now that you ain’t one, even though you seem to know your away around the capital of Ol’England pretty well.” said the Scot. “I’m Romanian, thank you very much! I’ve just set foot in London for the first time”, I replied, feeling kinda proud of myself and my knowledge. “Oh, you ought to take ‘The Knowledge’ test and become a cabbie in London, as you know quite a lot for a foreigner!” he declared without joking. “I’m not much into driving, but thank you all the same for your vote of confidence!” I replied, enthusiastically. Oh, how flattered I felt and how so much more confidence I had for the rest of the promenade through London!

Chapter 3

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The Awakening Chapter 1: First contact

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Part I: The awakening

Chapter 1: First contact

He left behind his country while grinning excitedly. It mattered little what others thought, not because their opinions were insignificant to him, but because he wanted so much to get out of the country that no argument in the world could possibly amass the power to derail his plans. He got on a plane destination London by desiring one thing and one thing only, to go to the United Kingdom. Fact is, he had always been interested in foreign countries, especially those of Europe, but the fixation on the former “empire on which the sun never sets” came unexpectedly and furiously at that. For months he had been dreaming of nothing else, but he realized he had little choice of actually doing something about it. So he took the easy way out of that impasse: he searched for an au-pair post somewhere in England. He found a very promising family, tried to make them believe that he was the one fit to take the job of caring for their little son and after a month or so of negotiations, they were ready and finally paid for his plane ticket. So he left for England. Imagine where his grinning was coming from…

Luck was his name, and, as he later came to find out, the similitude between his name and the English word signifying the chance happening of fortunate or unfortunate events was not so by chance alone. He would experience both bad and good luck, and thus he was rarely able to determine whether or not his luck smiled upon him or on the contrary, kept dooming him time and again. The thing is that humans don’t know how to interpret the concept of luck. They suppose that random events have an innate quality of being positive or negative, when in fact there is no such thing as good or bad luck, as awful events may lead to great happiness and vice-versa. One has to make the most of one’s life, no matter what it might keep throwing at him. So no, the chain of events affecting our protagonist was not fundamentally positive, nor was it purely negative either. Even when fate might seem not to shine on him at all, newly found hope was never too far away.

Whether he was lucky or unlucky, it was too soon to tell. The fact was that Luck found himself aboard a plane to London, the opulent capital of a former empire. He had never left the country before but in spite of that, he was not in the least afraid of any of the possible outcomes of his journey. For the first time in his life, he felt confident. He had no idea why that was or how such a newly discovered feeling took charge of him, but somehow, it happened all the same. Maybe it was time to mature, to get past the troubled teenage years. Luck had an easy life, but still, a troubled one at that. He needed to grow up and get past any inconvenience his entourage might have caused him. And what better way to do that than to travel?

He did not manage to see much while rapidly flying over much of central Europe, as the night allowed him just the luxury of spotting the bright street lights of towns but not much else. He would have loved to be able to know exactly over what town he was passing over at any given time, but he could only take a guess as to what the itinerary looked like. All the same, he found it easy to spot the British capital, even if at night the majority of its areas were poorly lit or, as was the case with the many parks of London, not lit at all. Luton Airport some 30 km north of London transformed that blistering darkness into a carnival of light sources. Compared to the tiny provincial airport from which he took off, Luton was of a member of a totally different class. He wondered how the much bigger and bolder Heatrow Airport must have looked like at night.

Getting off the plane, he realized the extent of the immigration in the UK: tantalizing, in every sense of the word. It was like the whole world was moving to London. During that single night! Every conceivable nation was represented, so the employees of the Border Agency seemed to greet the entire planet during a couple of hours, as if the Empire was still alive and kicking.

“Sir, your passport, please!” said a seemingly tired but still pretty much lively gentleman. He looked White British all right, but most of his colleagues did not: blacks, Asians, a Russian lady, different flavors for every taste. “I don’t have a passport, just an ID! Our countries are both in the European Union so it should suffice, I think!”, said the young man in front of Luck. “Yes, indeed, an ID is quite enough, don’t you worry!”, said the employee, smiling. The apparent lack of any thorough check-up regarding the reason and extent of stay of travelers took Luck by surprise. He expected more of an attempt to stop illegal immigration, but it seemed that the ID check was able to do just that, somehow.

“Who am I to question British policies? If they choose to let themselves get invaded by all those immigrants begging for social care, then why should I care?” though Luck silently. He handed his ID and in an instant he was able to step on British soil for the first time. It felt great, even though the majority of those immigrants surrounding him seemed a little less excited, as the lot of them probably came to England to work hard in menial jobs and would not have done so but for the lack of jobs in their over impoverished countries of origin.

Luton airport felt huge, even though it was nowhere near the biggest one in the UK, namely Heathrow, one of the busiest in the world. It took Luck a while to get to the front entrance where a friend of his mother, Paul, was waiting to take him to his home in north London in order to pass the night. Luck had never met him before so he had no idea how the guy was supposed to look like, only that he resembled his brother back in the home country.

The sight of a car waiting near the bus stand caught his eyes and he went there to inquiry: “Good evening or should I say, good night! Are you Paul, George’s brother, the one who’s supposed to pick me up?”. “Indeed I am!”, replied Paul. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Luck!” “The pleasure is all mine, Paul! I’m feeling so nervous that I don’t think I could manage to get myself to your house all by myself, so your coming here is God given!”, replied Luck.

“Don’t mention it”, said Paul, while helping Luck put his luggage into the trunk of his car. If memory serves, the car was a Fiat or something like that, but what mattered more than the proper identification of Paul’s automobile was the impatience of getting to London, having a good night’s sleep and then enjoying a stroll through central London.

The airport had a built-in tunnel over which the planes landed and through which cars leaving the airport area got to the motorway. The motorway which took them into London, the M1, was like nothing Luck had seen before. Properly illuminated, wide and smooth, it took them pretty fast into north London. Pretty darn impressive, for one coming from a small east European country which lacked even the most basic cross-country roads. Paul and Luck chatted for a bit, the usual small talk one might expect so late at night, and soon they crossed the M25, the motorway encircling the whole of Greater London, thus properly entering London.

What went through Luck’s head at the time was hard to tell. They soon arrived in front of a typical semi-detached house found all throughout Britain. Luck went straight upstairs, to one of the rooms in which Paul’s little boy was sleeping like an angel. They said goodnight to each other after which Luck fell asleep in an instant. What he dreamt of, who could tell? But it must’ve been good dreams.

Chapter 2

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