This morning I didn’t wake up particularly inspired. I had planned to do some writing in the afternoon, but I started the day off with paperwork and bureaucracy and that kind of thing just puts me off. Bureaucracy and paperwork will do that to you.
I went to meet a friend for lunch fully convinced my afternoon would be a waste of brain effort trying to put together three words and coming up with two numbers. So I made up my mind: I should go shopping for the new flat instead. But as we started catching up and chatting about our lives, my stressed nerves (from bureaucracy) relaxed and I started feeling like myself again rather than the gremlin I’d turned into.
By the time we said our goodbyes I still wasn’t feeling inspired but at least I was feeling positive and bubbly again. I didn’t feel like making my way through the sea of tourists in the shops and decided to return home and give my writing a go. On my way to the tube (underground, metro, subway) I made the most brilliant decision ever: ‘Why don’t I take the double-decker Bus instead? I’ve got time, I’m not particularly inspired, what’s the rush?’
*Note to non-Londoner readers: The buses usually take forever. The tube gets you there in 20 min, the bus takes 45 min. Minimum. They’re great fun at night though. And if you’re a tourist.
I look up at the Bus timetables. ‘My Bus is in 3 minutes, Perfect!’ I hop on the Bus and head for the best seat in the house: front row of the double-decker. Second to walking, this is the best way to see this beautiful city.
Sitting next to me by the window there’s a lady, late 50’s early 60’s (I assume), taking pictures with her iPhone of all the buildings and parks as we pass by. I am curious but don’t ask anything. At some point I accidentally get in the way of her picture of Hyde Park, it gets awkward we both laugh and we strike a conversation.
“Are you English?” – She asks politely.
“No, I am Portuguese. I’ve lived here for 3 years” – I reply.
“I am a Londoner, but I’ve never taken the time to look ‘up’ at London buildings. Yesterday I was bored, and someone mentioned the architecture of London. So I’ve decided to take a Bus and take some pictures. I don’t understand much of the architecture, I’m not artistic, but it’s a nice view. Are you artistic?”
We get to talk about artistic, architecture, pictures and iPhone, what’s a time-lapse (because she accidentally pressed it), and about life in general.
She used to ride her horse through Duke of Wellington Place straight into Hyde Park Corner, for a stroll around the park “before all this traffic, of course”. “The stables were right there”, she says pointing at Grosvenor Cres, right behind the hotels.
She has a daughter and a granddaughter, whom she’s taken to Harrods not long ago. “I hadn’t been in forever it’s so expensive! We went to the toy kingdom, all she got was a Harry Potter wand, I think it was the cheapest thing there” – she laughs – “I shouldn’t say these things really”. I reassure her she should, most of us think the same either way. I’ve only been to Harrods as a tourist, and once since I’m here, to look for a specific wedding suit. It’s not really what I can afford, even though it’s gorgeous. We both agree the building is extremely beautiful though and that it is lovely when the lights are on and at Christmas time.
Her daughter, she tells me, had the misfortune of meeting an evil man who has turned her life upside down, but hopefully it’s changing and they’ll be sorted soon. We both believe all is going to be alright.
She asks me about what I do for a living, it’s complicated but I try. I ask her what did she used to do; she was a psychiatrist, and has worked in a lot of different fields with many different patients, including teenagers with eating disorders. “It’s unbelievable what kids will do to themselves” – she adds. All to fit in with whatever stereotype you feel you have to fit in and feel accepted – we both think.
“I’ve learned that we all have crosses to carry though; everyone has their own” – she adds wisely, as if saying we shouldn’t judge anyone. I quietly agree. It’s true, we all carry our own stories, skeletons, our crosses, our secrets, our pains and joys, and whatever makes us ‘us’, in our deepest layers. Just like icebergs we don’t show everything straight away, do we?
The Bus goes on and so does the conversation. She recently turned 60 and tells me how great it is that she can ride all the London buses for free – “might as well make a touristic day out of it”. Might as well.
“It’s the funniest thing, I’ve lived here so long and never looked up. I never noticed most of these buildings, I never ‘visited’ London.” – She comments.
“I think we’re usually just so busy, going about our day to-day-businesses that…” – I start.
“…We take it for granted” – She finishes.
We do take it for granted. How many times do you actually take some time to notice what’s around you? Take some time to meet the person sitting next to you on the bus and learn their story? Learn that she is on her way to the dentist because the crown fell off (she giggles), and this was the best dentist she could find. Also this way she can start checking that architecture.
My stop is up next, we say our goodbyes and wish the best of luck to each other’s future. I walk home with a smile on my face not even realizing my top is unbuttoned. (Gosh! Imagine what people may have thought when they saw me walking up the street unbuttoned and smiling at everyone). Still, I get home with a restored feeling of well-being and happiness. I am inspired.
Most of the time we’re just rushing to get our ‘stuff’ done, quite literally if you live in London or a big metropolis. We’re trying to get to our meetings and appointments, running late, doing chores, something. And we don’t stop. And not just to look up at the buildings. To look at each other. To look at ourselves and see who we are and what we’re doing with our lives. Stop. Take a moment to let it sink in and realize just how blessed and lucky you are to be alive.
It happens to us all, we’re all guilty of it, my-bubbliness-self included. So it’s good from time to just hop on the Bus. Take things slow and let it sink in. And if you’re as lucky as I am, the stranger sitting next to you might just as well inspire you and make your day brighter. Keep looking up.