Finally. I had waited for a very long time to go back to London. All the efforts of the American Airlines staff to screw up my mood did not have a chance to succeed - I was finally there.
At the UK border I joined the queue for native people. I had waited for this for a very, very long time. No visa, no favours of being let into the country. 1st class citizen. Finally!
- What is your business in the United Kingdom?
I smiled. The guy at the border probably thought I was an idiot, but I could not stop smiling. I smiled at a number of things. I smiled at his English accent. And I smiled at what I was about to say. They say, you should not provoke border officials, even if if you in the right and they are being stupid, as this will only delay your happy arrival, and I fully agree with this opinion, but not this time. Too long had I waited. Too many times did I rehearse this in my mind.
- My business is my own.
The border clerk was not pleased. But I still could not stop smiling. I did not know why he asked me in the first place, maybe he just wanted to wish me a nice day, or maybe he was confused by my foolish smile. I was sorry for him that it was him who had to bear with me that morning, but someone had to, and I just happened to queue at his counter. He looked at me bending the brows. It did not work. I grinned even wider. Today I would not tell them what my business is. My business was my own. No one was doing me a favour by letting me through, I was exercising my civil right and it would take them a lot of legal effort if they wanted to find out what my business was on that day. He knew that, we both did. The border guy loured heavily. I did not care. He measured up the queue building up being me with a quick glance and probably imagined what would happen if he went to call his supervisor. Nothing would. I'd be on my way a few minutes later anyhow. I did not care. He glanced on my foolish smile one more time.
- Next, he called out, returning my passport.
I was in the UK for 3 weeks. During that time I attended ALife XI, visited my parents in Hamburg, did some work for VLab, competed in a triathlon, caught up with a lot of old friends, and made some new ones.
First thing that stroke me in London was that everyone was in a hurry. I really had forgotten this set of mind since I went to Oz. Everyone was in a hurry somewhere and I had soon figured out where it was. Everyone who was passing by had a distant point fixed with their eyes. It was in a big distance straight in front of them and they navigated with an astonishing skill around inanimate objects like street light poles and trash bins and around other hindrances such as myself without ever loosing the fix. I wondered what would happen once they all got there and whether it would create some kind of imbalance, but I then noticed that people coming from the opposite direction were pushing towards a point exactly opposite, so the balance would keep itself. I then wondered whether all these people may have a nicer time if they stopped and looked around themselves, and realised what a pleasant day it was, and in what a beautiful city they lived in and generally that chilling out is a good thing to do. But as one of the guys I was yet to meet on my trip has put it - there is no chilling in zone 1 (that is the central London transport zone, if you do not know). Indeed, there was no chilling there.
I must say, this state of mind is quite infectious. It did not take long. A few days later I was on my way to meet someone. I do not remember who and where, but it's not really important. I was not even late. Nevertheless, as I walked down one of London's busy streets, I caught myself doing something, or rather thinking something about other people. What I thought was this: "Get out of my way!". I didn't even look at them while thinking that, of course not, I was too busy looking straight towards a distant point directly in front of me. I felt home..
I love London. I love the hectic centre, I love the beautiful buildings that tell the story of a great nation and, in fact, of the whole world, I love the trashy Victorian houses of North London, I love the posh houses in Kensington, I love the South Bank, the parks, the City, Covent Garden, the clubs, the shops, the over-crowdedness, the museums and theatres, the tube, the buses, and everything else about it. I love the people. And I love getting out of there. It gives you a chance to grab some breath and then to come back.
I won't bore you with the details of what I did in London. This is a story of my trip for friends and family, and I need to spare some details now in order to still have a enough new stories when I meet them in person. But I had a great time.
I am grateful to my former teachers at UCL-CS who took the time to meet me while I was in town and also to many of my friends who did not forget me and who took the time to catch up. And I am looking forward to seeing you and others, who were not in town this time, again. Thank you all.
After great 3 weeks in Europe the travelling part of my trip was coming to an end. Soon I would not have to live out of a suitcase any more. I was on my way to Redmond to do some work for a local software company. Actually, you may have heard of them. But this is really an entirely different story..
Here are some pictures of London. Enjoy!