This Is Pretty Perfect

On my last weekend in London, we decided we were going to have an adventure. We dubbed the day we'd have it Adventure Sunday and we talked about Adventure Sunday all week. In the end, it was decided that we'd have too much to do on Adventure Sunday to squeeze it all into one day, so we took a vote and came to the decision that we'd need to instigate Adventure Monday as well. Monday, as the fates would have it, was a public holiday, so that worked out pretty nicely. We don't have Memorial Day in England, but thank goodness for Whitsun, eh? Or else no-one would ever go boating in Regent's Park.

The agendas for both Adventure Sunday and Adventure Monday were to be set by me. My friends were incredibly accommodating; I merely had to say "I'd quite like to have a picnic on Adventure Sunday," and half an hour later I'd be on top of a hill in Greenwich, surrounded by a veritable smorgasbord of pork pies, Camembert, hummus, cherry tomatoes, and a nice Chardonnay (which, I have to admit, half of us drank before the picnic in the parking lot of the Toys R'Us while the other half were inside buying a kite. Guess which half I was in? Hey, I never said it was Classy Adventure Sunday.)

One of our activities on Adventure Sunday was a visit to the Tate Modern. We started out together, but the Tate Modern is big and looking at artwork with other people is tedious; some of you want to scrutinize every piece in minute detail, reading the explanation next to it and debating the difference between Cubism and Vorticism in your head---and Dadaism! What the hell is Dadaism?---and some of you just want to head straight for that cool installation where a video screen shows people walking through Times Square in the 1970s while a Supremes song plays in the background. Eventually, I found myself alone on the top floor in front a work entitled "167 White Conversations." The artist, Joseph Grigely, is deaf; the piece is a collection of all the scribbled notes other people have written him on scraps of paper over the last few years. I lingered in front of it for half an hour, reading each and every out-of-context conversation. I couldn't help it; it was compelling. The ones that stood out most were a plain piece of notebook paper that just said "Nevermind" in block caps in the center, and an old People subscription card that had "This is pretty perfect," scrawled by someone on the side.

I could have written that "This is pretty perfect" one myself, and it would have applied to every minute of Adventure Sunday and Adventure Monday, indeed, to every minute I spent in London, barring, of course, that one time we spilled a round of Baileys in the pub and decided to SLURP IT UP FROM THE TABLECLOTH, OH GOD, THAT GRIMY TABLECLOTH, I PROBABLY HAVE AVIAN FLU OR SOMETHING, so that we didn't miss a drop. It was that same night, in fact---though prior to the Baileys hoovering, so it's safe to say I would have had all my faculties intact---that I couldn't stop looking around at all my friends in the noisy, crowded, incredibly English pub, and shouting "I'm so happy! I'm just so happy!"

When I lived in London, I always wanted to be somewhere else, but when I was there last month, I felt like I was finally home. It was something about the sullenness of the grocery store clerks, the way they didn't say "have a nice day!" or offer to help me bag my purchases, and the way I didn't expect them to. It was something to do with knowing intrinsically where to change on the Tube, with the way they spoke more slowly on television and applauded less, with not having to repeat my name---"no, Holly, Holly, not Honey"---or make a quick-snap judgment on whether to use "tomato" (authentic) or "tomayto" (just easier in the end.) It was about not having the same old "London, actually....oh, really, have you been there?...yes, I miss it, but Charleston's nice too," conversation, of not automatically turning around in surprise upon hearing another English accent, of taking a certain pride in remembering exactly where the bus stop or the post office or the cash machines were, of just being another English person in a sea of English people, all eager to get home, take their shoes off, and have a nice cup of tea.

Back in Charleston, I'm having to get used to driving again, to the irritating way I already seem to be drawing out the vowels in words like "job," creating a hideous Madonna-esque hybrid of an accent that's neither British nor American. I'm getting used to wearing shorts and t-shirts instead of coats and boots, to showing flesh that had hitherto been hidden---even before I left for London---under long-ish sleeves and inside socks. I'm getting used to the incessant commercial breaks, to paying tax at the cash register, and to the glory, the sweet, sweet glory, of a constant wireless connection. I'm happy, of course---"I'm just so happy!"---but it's different, and that's obvious.

Jun 07, 2006

It's a testament to your writing that I've never been to London OR Charleston, and yet I totally understand.

Jun 07, 2006

I burnt the baguette.

what an absolute loser.

Jun 07, 2006

I spent 6 months in Belarus during college. I learned Russian, fell in love and wanted to live there forever. I came back home and...I didn't have an accent, people understood me without having to try hard and I could eat things I'd missed for so long. Home is so comfortable. It's joyous to fit in without effort.

Jun 07, 2006

Ahh, how I feel about China. I miss it there. I miss the people and the busy city life and the walking-everywhere-I-go. I miss the bags of shrimp-flavored Cheetos that I couldn't read and therefore had to guess what I was buying based on the picture. I miss the general wonder I had for life while I lived there.

The U.S. is superb also, but there's something about being overseas, being where you feel you just "fit," that makes me want to give up all my possessions here in favor of traveling there again, and starting a new life.

Jun 08, 2006

Ahhh you said it all.

I love your joie de vivre, Honey. I mean, Holly.

Jun 08, 2006

I find it funny how when you lived in London you always wanted to be somewhere else because I am trying to get there as fast as I can. It is good to know that other people have felt the same way as I do right now. Even if they were trying to leave where I am trying so hard to go.

Jun 08, 2006

I feel it. You must be a very jovial person as the others have said to still have such close friends in the UK. I think that's a good indication of all the new and interesting people you are yet to be old friends with on your new adventure.

Jun 08, 2006

Home. You always know it when you find it, even if you weren't looking for it. It doesn't have to be where you currently reside, or even somewhere you visit often, or where you were born. It just has to be there, and knowing it's there makes all the difference.

Vaguely Urban
Jun 08, 2006

It sounds, too, like you have amazing friends both in Charleston and in London. Definitely a key ingredient for Happy.

Mind the gap, Holly, and keep on sharing your joy!

Jun 08, 2006

Fun. You have, indeed, sounded so happy whilst in London. Even your writing contains more Britishisms (such as "whilst"! ha!) than it did a month ago. I always sort of cringe a bit thinking what loud boorish self-absorbed PRATS Americans must seem to Britons. Oh, I know England has assholes as well, but as my husband pointed out, even an asshole can sound tolerable with a British accent.

The Grigely sounds fascinating. I wish I'd had his idea! Maybe I'll just rip it off, since I guarantee my version will never be marketed for sale.

By the way, Ben and I have decided to GET THE HELL OUT OF CALIFORNIA within a few years, and guess where we picked? North Carolina. Tentatively, anyway. You'll have left the American South, but we can always haunt the taverns for you.

Thespian Libby
Jun 08, 2006

Oh please let's make it very very clear that there is Charleston, and then there is the rest of the country.

Jun 08, 2006

The art piece reminded me of the book "Found" that a friend of mine picked up at B & N. I think there may be a website as well (just googled, it's One of my favorites is the 13 year old girl who writes a note to a guy that she wants to have his baby (cuz she saw him w/ her cousin and he is SO fine). Apparently, that's just what you do as a 13 year old girl to prove your love to a boy.

REALLY not relevant to your lovely adventurous holiday. I find it very sweet that you can find home in different time zones.

PS I have been compelled to ask what the shake down was with your landlady while you were gone (previous posted comment). It's none of my business but it sounded like high-noon drama. I kept hoping you'd post something scandalous (the apt landlady had an affair with the groundskeeper in your loft & clipped the naked pictures to your fridge using the realtor magnet). Or you know, something like that...

Jun 08, 2006

Ahh, I feel the same way about my parent's town, even though it's a mere two hours from the urban area I live in now. When I'm there, I slip back into an accent that can really only be described as "Back Hills," but it's more than that. It's a slower paced life. And it's not something I want all the time, or else I wouldn't have left, but with the distance I have now, I can enjoy it so much more when I go back.

Jun 08, 2006

Your entry reminded me of a quote from the Wizard of Oz when Glinda the Good Witch says to Dorothy "You only have to look outside your own window to find your heart's desire".

Home is such an ephemeral concept - you don't know what you are looking for until you find it. Congratulations on finding it because it truly is a fantastic feeling. Good for you that you have a home - with fantastic friends - on 2 continents.

Jun 08, 2006

It was too perfect, John!

Jun 09, 2006

I know just how you feel. I remember stepping off the plane in NYC after a year in India and feeling a vast, euphoric relief at being anonymous and knowing exactly how to make a phone call. The ease, the innate understanding of subtext, and the fitting-in---it's such a relief. Not that the challenge of NOT fitting in isn't's just that it's wonderful to savor the times of coming home.

Jun 09, 2006

Who's John? Meh. For all my pathetically small contribution to the weekend of adventure, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Even if the picture of me lying down does make my nose look like Everest.

Jun 09, 2006

This was just lovely. I could practically smell the Underground, feel the crisp air lifting my kite skyward at Hampstead heath, and taste Salt & Vinegar crisps after reading this. You've made me homesick for a place I called home for six months a lifetime ago. Thank you.