Staring down at the green marble countertop feeling the cool air conditioned air waft through the slatted glass window in front of me, listening to the police sergeant one-finger type a report, I thought… this is really not where I pictured my day going.
I woke early Sunday morning SUPER excited for the vintage meet up ahead of me. I dressed in a simple grey 1940s cotton day dress, did a victory roll/half poodle mash-up inspired by Miss Bettie Bookworm and packed my picnic lunch. After an hour on the train I reached King’s Cross station and through the throngs of summer Sunday travelers, I found my friend Beth. Together, two vintage clad ladies ready for a sunny day at the park, we confidently strolled through the underground making our way to Hyde Park and the Italian Gardens. We laughed and chatted the whole way and I felt immensely comfortable in my new country. It was as if I’ve always been here and Beth and I have always been friends rather than the six weeks we’ve actually known each other. As we made our way through the park, we watched dogs trot with their owners, happy to be running in the sunshine, couples strolling hand in hand and families enjoying the first gorgeous day of July. In short, it was a picture-perfect London day.
Beth and I found a nice patch of shade, spread out our blanket and laid out our delicious spread of lunch. We brought fresh fruit, crackers, cheese and hummus. As we dug in, more vintage ladies arrived one by one and it we greeted them all like we were old friends. Meeting everyone with such a core passion as vintage is so nice when you’re learning the ways of a new country, and even though today didn’t end the best, I’m so grateful I ventured out to meet them anyway.
As the afternoon wore on, we chatted to each other about how we started loving vintage, started dressing as such and how we felt when we saw others staring. We discussed swing dancing and learning to adjust to life in England (me and Miss Bea) and of course the weather. It was so blessedly wonderful until a lady dressed in bright turquoise pants and an embroidered shirt walked up to our group. Speaking in a foreign language mixed with just mumbling and grunting, she thrust a paper in our faces and pointed at it. She was seemed to be begging and yet we didn’t know what she wanted. Food? Money? what? We all sat uncomfortably saying “no, no” and trying not to make eye contact. At least I was trying not to. She then pushed her way between Beth and I and onto our blanket, pointing at my wallet. Afraid and so consumed with ensuring that my wallet didn’t get snatched, I didn’t notice her pocket my cell phone. I noticed minutes later and ran to the edge of the park, but I knew in my heart she was long gone. The rest of the group was amazing and were able to help me call O2 and turn the phone off. Next, I called Tim and then… we packed our stuff and started our trek to tell the police.
Normally, a twenty minute walk would be a good time to see the wonderful site on the streets of London, but I barely saw anything more than what was just in front of me. And even then, didn’t see much of the pavement. I tripped three times on the way to the station because I was in such a fog. We finally made it to Paddington Green and…they were closed… because you know… crime doesn’t happen on Sunday. Luckily there was an off duty policeman going inside and he told us Charring Cross station was open. Or at least he thought it was. (gah!)
We popped onto the tube and sat in the stifling heat for six stops to get to Charring Cross. While the stops passed the windows opposite us, somewhere in the back of my brain it registered that we were passing Baker street… where Sherlock Holmes lives. We also breezed through the Oxford Circus and Picadilly Circus stops… where, in my foggy brain, I vaguely though why do they call it a circus, were there ever elephants up there?
After our stiflingly hot ride on the tube, the breeze as we came out of the subway was glorious. And after another ten minute walk we found the blessedly open police station. A half dozen people stood ahead of us in line and I was shocked to see so many people in a police station on a lazy Sunday summer afternoon. Were they here because of a theft too? I still have no idea.
A short wait later, I was at the slatted glass window with the green marble countertops. As the air con blew through the slats at me, I told the large, imposing police sergeant about my incident. And while he wasn’t cold, or uncaring, he wasn’t surprised or too terribly concerned. I filled out the paper work and handed it over and he started to type up the report. He didn’t say much to us, other than the few tips I gleaned. These thieves are professionals, they target anyone who has phones or wallets out on their blankets, or tables, even being so bold as to go into restaurants to do this!
Whenever you’re in the city, don’t leave anything unattended and in plain view. And I’m not talking unattended like you walk away, I’m talking unattended meaning you’re not touching it! My phone was inches, INCHES from me, and she was able to snatch it from under my nose. The search out for phones and wallets just lying on the table and use that opportunity to distract you and take it.
Later that afternoon, after Beth took me back King’s Cross and I was seated alone on the train home, with phones all around me pinging and brringing and basically singing the song of my plight. I was keenly aware of my phonelessness. I think we truly take for granted the little pocket computers we walk around with everyday. Tell me… what is the first thing you do when you wake up? Is it look at your phone? Read your emails, texts, Snaps and Facebook messages? Because for me it is, especially now that most of my friends are 8 hours behind me in time and their whole afternoon and evening happens while I’m sleeping. As an expat my phone is also my lifeline home. It’s what I use to stay connected to friends and family no matter what I’m doing here. It lets me see my nieces and godson. It lets me continue my morning chats with my mum before she gets to work. It makes me feel a little less lonely when Tim’s at work and my anxiety rushes to make me feel like I’m all alone in a foreign land.
I had a long time to think on the train with no one to talk to, no games to play, no facebook to scroll through. It’s crazy what your mind things about when you’re so alone with your thoughts. I wonder sometimes if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that we’re all so connected with each other on a consistent basis. I think, living so far from home, I’m truly grateful for technology, but the silent ride home made me realize that I need to look up more. I spent an hour just watching the landscape of the English countryside unfold before me and it was truly beautiful. I don’t think anyone else on that train looked out the window for as long as I did. I’ll definitely do that more next time I ride the train.
My lonely trip home also let me reflect on the kindness of my new vintage friends, especially Beth. She’s only known me a few weeks, yet took care of me as if we had been best friends for years. I am truly grateful for her and I know the biggest lesson I learned on Sunday is not to take my phone, my friends, or my digital connection to them for granted because you never know when they’ll be gone.