Excerpts from the Logbook: London 2016

on every trip i take, a logbook comes with me: a vast & endless journal tucked into my bag, waiting to be dotted with stories & adventures. i think perhaps the best way to share with you the stories of london would be to weave the moments straight from these quiet pages, scribbled with things that make the magic come to life all over again. and so -

 

DAY 1.

when people ask me what my favourite part of this trip was, it will not be in london at all - but during the plane ride. 14 hours, eight of them in the dark, with people dreaming all around me and i the only one sleepless - and i look out the window and we are sandwiched in constellations. there are stars everywhere. i feel weightless, gazing out at all of these pinpricks of eternity. the air is filled with the kind of wonder that only i and the night know of...

just landed in london, exhausted & exhilarated & excited. the cold air feels like coming home...

if new york is my home in america, if my veins are filled with city-blood from its sidewalk streets and alleyways, then i think that london is my home in europe. people have asked me time & time again whether i am originally british. standing on these streets, i think i am understanding that a piece of my soul is from here...

excusez-moi, parlez-vous français? - we received a few hours of downtime and i wandered into a small coffee shop and drank tea and ate gingerbread and looked out the window and smiled bigger than i have in far too long. i heard this question from an older gentleman, standing above me with a chai latte and a hopeful smile. oui, i said, mais pas couramment, and he pulled up a chair next to me and said peu importe, je vais tu rejoindrewe spoke of travel, of wanderlust, of science and art, of books and music, of history and architecture. the conversation meandered, me speaking in broken french with a few english words thrown in, and him in broken english with supplementary french words in the folds. in the end we spoke of love, and it was fascinating to hear his story, to see the photographs of his children and grandchildren in his wallet, to hear the fondness with which he spoke of his wife, gone for six years but still sharp in his memory. his smile was the whole world...

 

DAY 2.

we woke up early today and drove down to a company that does performance flights - mary poppins, peter pan, the like. it was utterly fascinating to hear of the physics behind flying, how there is such art woven into the science, how all of this is truly what makes theatre so very enchanting...

i write this sitting in a coffee shop as my friends are engaged in other pursuits all around me - one engrossed in a book, another finishing her lunch, a third gazing at me in what she thinks is a surreptitious manner, brow furrowed as she attempts to sketch me. it brings a lump to my throat. truly, as clichéd as it is, there is something so very special about having friends with whom one can sit in silence, each engaged in our own pursuits, only as alone as we are together. i adore these people. i adore that our silences are so full of words that have never needed to be said...

we are at the harry potter studio! everything is beautiful! i am incapable of not ending every sentence with an exclamation point! my handwriting is so excited that i will probably be unable to decipher it later!...

 

DAY 3.

i have realised that my internal monologue now speaks in a british accent. this is partly amusing and partly very, very odd...

we went to a workshop today with an actor and director of numerous plays, and there was something nothing short of luminous in the way he spoke of theatre, of playwriting, of the acting process. he had such light in his every action and movement, and there was passion even as he described the most mundane details of his work. i have come to believe that people are the most beautiful when they speak of the things they love most dearly in the world...

oh - oh - oh. we just saw the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. i do not have the words to say how unendingly, unfathomably, unspeakably beautiful it was. the set, the lights, the characters, the acting. i went from laughing to crying in the span of stolen breaths. this was the sort of play that not only sang to my acting-heart, but to my storyteller-heart...

after curious incident, M [my roommate] and i sat in our room and folded laundry and ate mint oreos and spoke in quiet tones of the play. quiet because we felt, on some deep & unspoken level, that it might lose some of its ineffable magic if shouted from the rooftops, no matter how much both of us were tempted to do so...

 

DAY 4.

today has been interspersed with bursts of melancholy. it feels at once too familiar and something like a stranger in this new place. i have been following the "fake it till you make it" rule in london, smiling in hopes that the sun will stay near me, but it seems the storm has found me after all...

we saw charlie and the chocolate factory. it was... good. not amazing. i am not quite sure whether this is because my expectations were too high - after all, i hold roald dahl's work so very close to my heart - or whether i was spoilt by last night's incredible performance. i suppose i should not be too disappointed - it was not horrible by any means, certainly - but all the same, it was also not spectacular. and i so badly wanted it to be spectacular...

here is a list of good things, because today is a sad day. one: all of the restaurants & cafes & bookshops we have been in today seem to have collectively decided to put on swing jazz love songs as soundtracks. it is wonderful. two: i saw three dogs of varying shapes and sizes, all of whom were lovely and friendly and very happy to be petted. three: a conversation with a passerby that happened after an impromptu performance exercise in covent gardens. i want to write it down here so that i don't forget it ever:

"excuse me, i just wanted to ask - are you of south american descent?" "i'm afraid not. indian, actually." "oh." "why do you ask?" "i was watching your performance, and all i could think was: she looks like an inca princess." ...

 

DAY 5.

my nickname amongst the group is now "inca princess". i adore it...

i have been trying today to be happier than i was yesterday. it was made easier by the surfacing of the victoria and albert art museum - we unexpectedly had two and a half hours to kill after today's workshop ended early, and were set loose in the museum to wander. it was, to be frank, nothing short of marvellous. i plugged in my music and simply roamed, letting my feet take me where they would, sometimes focusing on the art and sometimes lost in my own furious whirlpool of a mind. i feel so much more balanced now. so much more at peace...

oh goodness. we saw billy elliot. it stole the air from my lungs. a story of music, of how music transcends the darkest nights, of how, when the dust settles, music is always left. a love letter to melody. the sort of musical i will go back and watch over and over and over once more - up there with wicked and the phantom of the opera. i had thought that nothing could surpass curious incident, but oh, how wrong i was...

 

DAY 6.

our last day here. i have tried not to think of ending too much - endings make me unbearably sad, though i know that they are necessary even for the most beautiful experiences. it is difficult to avoid now, though, as all of us hold on a little bit tighter, press a little bit closer, steadily avoid talk of the plane ride tomorrow and then leaving each other behind as we go our separate ways in singapore...

our final workshop was for makeup, and while i was rather apprehensive at first, i enjoyed it so much more than i thought i would. it was rather like art, truly. we began with 1920s makeup, then moved onto aging, and ended with wounds. the highlight was a conversation i had at the restaurant we ate at afterwards, as a waitress eyed the cuts and bruises dotting all of our faces, many looking rather disgusting and swollen and infected:

"what happened to all of you?" "ah, nothing much. we just got into a small bus accident." "you - a bus accident? oh my goodness, are you all right? that is just terrifying, i can't believe -" "miss! calm down, i was joking, we're only theatre students playing around with makeup!"

(the look on her face was absolutely priceless. it was a cross between i don't want to serve you anymore and you had better tip me extra for this)...

i am swinging wildly between joy and sadness - joy because oh, what a wonderful trip it has been. i do not think i will ever find another love like london. it is one of those special places, like new york, that spins itself into my soul and does not let go. and sadness because i do not want to leave this magic behind. it is not forever - of course not - but it is for too long. i want to explore all of the nooks and crannies this city has to offer, to unravel the enchantment in its concrete pulse...

i am leaving for now. but not forever. london, i am coming for you once more. someday, i believe, i will be back to stay.

 

 

 

(p.s. photographs will be on the blog. it is slightly painful right now to sift through my enormous collection - it only reminds me of how i am not there anymore, and how much i wish i could be - but soon. soon. soon.)