Spring is a visiting time of year. One of my last group of visitors asked, “So how many people have you had come visit you in England?” My answer was, “You guys are the fourth through seventh, but it all started only about a month ago.” Yes, there’s nothing like spring and its sudden flood of great companions from your past!
This time it was a family I’ve known since elementary school–especially Elizabeth, my classmate in the fourth and fifth grades, and her mother Debbie, who volunteered at the school and graded my math homework. (Well, I didn’t know her when she was doing the grading, but she continues to make sure I remember the elaborate, often spectacularly weird doodles I drew on the back of my work!) Elizabeth will probably be a bit embarrassed to hear me say this, but she’s my oldest friend. Most of my pre-Texas friends have migrated into the land of memories and random, unsolicited Facebook shout-outs.
And yet here we all were. This was the first time we got to spend a whole week together in literally ten years, and yet after a mere matter of seconds, it felt as if no time had passed. How could that be? Maybe the best friendships exist outside of time, and just lie in wait, hoping someday to express themselves again.
We did all the sightseeing we could think of: Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, the cafeteria at Harrod’s (with its $25 hot dogs), the British Museum. While I was in class, they hit the Tower of London, where they apparently saw a golden punch bowl big enough to hold 144 bottles of wine. No doubt you’ll be seeing this at the upcoming royal wedding.
My visitors got to take in many of London’s quirks, like goofy protesters…
…awesome marketing slogans…
…London’s exciting food scene…
and something even I didn’t expect: spring!
Yes! Elizabeth and her family chose to descend on London for the first week of genuine spring, and for undoubtedly the best weather we’ve had since September. It was funny timing, because they had to deal with their tour guide being continually shocked by blooming flowers, T-shirt temperatures, and budding trees. I spent most of the time dumbfounded, because it turns out that, after six months ranging from bland to miserable, springtime in London is spectacular: like returning home after a long, long time away.
Of course, that’s an especially apt simile because being with Elizabeth’s family is like being at home. I think this will end up being subject of a later blog post, but even the copious bounty of emails we’ve written over the years doesn’t quite prepare us for how surprising it is to reunite and still be just as close, just as in mental sync, as we were years ago. It’s one of those miraculous feelings you can only understand if you’ve had it yourself.
I think I’ve got the tour-guiding thing down to a science now. My role is simple: walk around having fun and taking pictures, then make sure everybody is exceedingly well-fed. Given that I like walking, photography, and (especially) eating, this is more or less a dream job. And with Elizabeth I got to add a few new items to the repertoire: we had an ecstatic night at a Philharmonia concert, found superb cannoli at an Italian dive in Soho, chowed on scrumptious roast duck and pork belly sandwiches at Borough Market, and then, wonder of wonders, spent an afternoon sitting outside in a park.
If you’ve ever been to London in March, you’ll know how improbable that is. But yes! The time of year is upon us (though it’s taken a step back this week) in which we city-dwellers can cash in our months of clouded life and Underground journeys for a gorgeous, warm afternoon lounging about Green Park taking in the flowers, the sunlight, the trees, and the company of old friends. All that drudgery is finally paying off, because it turns out that “springtime” doesn’t just mean spring has arrived: it means my best friends have, too. If you’re thinking of coming to London, why delay? There’s never been a better time.
(Note: The tour guide is booked 22 May to 6 June.)