The first day pretty much adhered to Murphy's law.
As I may or may not have stated here before, I am pretty broke at the moment, and have a huge electricity bill to pay next week. I know, I know, it is suicide for broke people to visit London, but I had plenty to occupy me that did not involve spending (much) and so decided to take the plunge. I had my 'free' day of pampering (note the quote-unquote) and my book-signing, and my time with friends, and my cheap tickets, and so. Off I went, with a song in my heart and a swing in my step and random bits of rubbish in my wallet.
I started out by missing the coach.
I have never travelled at 8.00 am and therefore, thoroughly forgot to account for the morning rush. I left half an hour to get to the station, as it usually takes about ten minutes by cab. This time, it took ten minutes to get halfway down the main road. I missed the bus by about two minutes. My friend (Kanchi) was there on time, face anxiously glued to her watch. So obviously I paid for both of our tickets, it being my fault, and sadly waved goodbye to about 34 quid before we even started out.
Once there, we found our way to the studio without any trouble, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves drinking juice and getting styled and made-up according to our request. Kanchi made some very good industry contacts (the stylist and photographer) and we dressed up in our favourite clothes and had pictures taken on a variety of different sets. To my complete and utter shock, I was not in the least bit camera shy, and when we got to see the pictures at the end of it, they were absolutely gorgeous.
So where does Murphy's law come in?
FRIENDLY MANAGER: So, ladies! Do you like your pictures?
US: OMG YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES.
FRIENDLY MANAGER: Good! They start out at £70 each.
FRIENDLY MANAGER: So these are our different, very expensive, deals. Would you like some time alone to discuss which you'd prefer?
US: PLEASE GO AWAY NOW.
For those of you unfamiliar with the pound and the student budget, let me put it this way...I would not shell out 70 quid for a winter coat, much less a photograph of myself. I could just imagine my housemate's reaction, considering how I'd hyperventilated when confronted with a 4-month electricity bill of £80 each. "OMG WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, DON'T YOU HAVE A MIRROR IN YOUR ROOM?!?!"
Such sentences were going through my mind.
So when the very nice lady came back, we informed her that we could not afford anything very much, which meant, in a nutshell, anything. She was shocked and very sorry for us, because those pictures really were *sob* awesome. So she kept bringing the price down and offering us different, secret deals to suit our wallets. She did not succeed. Finally we ended up getting a few pictures between us, at a price that we will take to our graves (even though it was much much cheaper than the original). I got about four. That was all I could afford. When confronted by the Best Deal Possible, and the reproachful line "So what CAN you afford?" I finally cracked and said "OKAYFINE". Then I hyperventilated for the rest of the day, partly because of my financial condition and partly because of all the pictures I had to leave behind.
Damn you, Murphy! Bright side: at least I got four gorgeous pictures, plus a few good ones of the both of us thrown in free.
The above narcissistic line is a testament to just how good the saleslady was. I mean, I'm a Visual Communications student and I have friends in the photography department. If I really wanted pictures of myself I could get them for free in our free studio that VisComm students get to use for free. Did I mention free?
Of course it took a long while trying to decide which pictures to take with us (Good God, what has happened to me?) The next event on the charts was my book signing, the main reason I had come to London in the first place. All I had in my hand was an address. Using the studio's computer, we discovered that it was very close to where we were. However, it required two buses, a long walk, and a certain amount of intuition to get there.
We took the first bus. It was packed. The driver had no mercy. I was almost cut in half by the door. I was lucky, and got away with merely being violently flung into the opposite wall. Kanchi was very nice and sympathetic and supportive.
I was finally forced to admit that I would never reach my destination in time. So I consumed a £1 burger of sorrow (it was delicious) and then set out to meet two of my good friends from back home, Anisha and Prashant. I would be staying the night with Anisha, and had promised to cook them my special chicken. I hadn't seen them in ages, and was really looking forward to it, so of course my first reaction on seeing them again was "OMG GUYS I AM SO STUPID AAAAH YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE WHAT I JUST DID!!!! *passout*"
They were very comforting. I did not receive a lecture on the value of currency. I was calmed down and comforted without being sedated, which I had not thought possible. And then we all made dinner together, and Anisha's Spanish housemate told me how to make a Spanish omelette, which I intend to try out asap now that I'm back home. I sniffled and sneezed throughout, since - did I mention? - it had been raining the entire time, but I had an awesome time being with them again.
The next day, I had my eye out for Murphy, and was all ready to dodge him whenever he tried edging into the picture. I sneezed and sniffled my way to Earl's Court, where the awesome Kanchi was waiting for me, and then we spent the morning and afternoon at the Graduate Fashion Week courtesy of our good friend Aj who had a (very awesome) stand over there. I was absolutely thrilled to be there and get to see it, as he is my housemate and very good friend and I've been watching his project develop all year. We also got to see all sorts of brilliance by this year's UK Fashion Graduates, plus a real live fashion show which was all kinds of awesome. And we got a goody-bag with useful things in it, which is a rarity. And as many free Skinny Cow ice-creams as we wanted. There were many brilliant graphic design things for me to go "oooh" at, and as Kanchi's in the fashion industry, she made even more useful contacts, and all in all we had a great time.
Afterwards, we made our way to Saravana Bhavan.
Now, Kanchi and I are two lonely South Indians in a sea of North Indians. In the UK, naans and rotis and butter chicken are easily available, but dosais and vadais are few and far between. Saravana Bhavan is the most delectable of South Indian havens, and there is one branch of it in one corner of London. We decided to make the excursion, 1) because we are dosai-deprived and 2) because we were studiously avoiding Camden Market due to lack of funding, and figured this would be an inexpensive and productive way to spend our time. We were later joined by Aj, which meant we spent about two blissful hours there, consuming between us sambar vadais, medhu vadais, masala dosai, onion rava masala dosai (my staple) and...wait for it...TAMIL NADU FILTER COFFEE.
MUM *on phone*: Hi! It's been a while, what are you up to and how are you?
ME: Mum, I'm busy concentrating on my onion rava masala dosai, can I call you back?
Kanchi and I had to catch a coach at nine, and a tube strike was due to begin at seven. We evaded Murphy by getting to our station well before the time, and passing our time with Kanchi's friend in the free seating area at the food court. We were full after stuffing ourselves with dosais and the like, and so could wait until we were back in Birmingham to have dinner (at 12.30 am). I stayed over with Kanchi to avoid cab fare, and reached home the next afternoon. Since when I have been curled up under my duvet with books, movies and cold medicine, which is actually quite fun. Naturally, it is bright and sunny now that I'm spending my time indoors again.
So, all-in-all, it was a great trip. I got to spend quality time with my friends, especially Kanchi who will be leaving me soon *sob*, I have some great pictures and some greater memories, I got to look around at the GFW and its accompanying awesomeness, I ate authentic South Indian food which I had been CRAVING for, and Murphy's barbs were totally worth all that.
For those who don't know, Murphy's Law: Anything that can go wrong, will.
And for those interested (read: parents) I have since managed to sort out my financial troubles.
Also, tomorrow is my first day at work. Wish me luck, everyone :)