Sunday 25th April. London
Anzac Day today. I hope the old diggers will forgive me for not attending the dawn service this morning. I didn't get to bed till midnight, and I'd have had to be up at four o'clock to make the service. There's no trains running at that hour either, so it would've cost a mint in taxi fare. Any more excuses you need? Of course, my original plan was to be at Gallipoli in Turkey today, to join the thousands of other Australians who are drawn there every year. But as we all know, things don't always work out as planned. For starters, I didn't think I'd have to go to the expense of replacing my computer so soon. I also didn't count on making such a wonderful friend as I have in Mai.
Over the past couple of months, I've been mentioning a friend of mine who's been battling cancer (I hate that cliché, but it really has been a battle) I never actually said that person was Mai, but some of you drew the connection. Once again, Mai and I both want to thank you all for your prayers and best wishes. On Friday, her oncologist informed her that the tumour which had threatened her life is gone. Without a trace. She will still have to complete her current course of treatment, but she now stands every chance of living to be an old wrinkly woman, a prospect that seemed veryt unlikely two months ago. Throughout her awful treatment of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Mai has never felt sorry for herself. She's never been moody, bitchy or snappy *which would be something of an achievement even for a healthy woman, wouldn't it guys? oops..way to alienate 50% of my readers!* Even when her nausea has been so bad that she's been unable to keep anything down for three or four days in a row, Mai has still had a smile for everyone. She's been an inspiration to me and to everyone who knows her. Here's to Mai!
So before I hit the road, Mai and are celebrating her great news with a couple of days in London. After a quick stop at the computer store to exchange the CD/DVD drive that I bought last week (the first one stopped working after ten minutes!) we caught the underground to Queensway, on the edge of Kensington Gardens. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anywhere to leave my backpack, so I was stuck lugging twenty kilos around for the day. Oh well, good practice, I suppose.
We took a leisurely walk through the park, which used to be my backyard when I lived in Kensington ten years ago. It was the first hot sunny day of the year, and as I'd expected Kensington Gardens was abuzz with picnickers, sunbathers, rollerbladers and a general mass of humanity, out to soak up the sun after a winter of hibernation. Mai was thrilled with the twenty-five degree weather, it was the first time she's sweated since she's been here, and the first time she's worn just a tshirt. Well, not just a tshirt, you know what I mean.
We made our way across to Earls Court to have lunch at a great little restaurant that I knew, and then it was time to meet up with another world traveller, Nigel. After almost two years on the road, Nigel is in London for a while before returning to the States. We enjoyed a cold beer together in Notting Hill, then whiled away a couple of hours at the famous Portobello Markets. All in all, a very relaxing and enjoyable day.
Even though it was almost seven o'clock by the time Mai and I arrived at our host's place, it was still eighteen degrees, and broad daylight- quite a contrast from when I arrived in London four months ago!
You might recall me mentioning Mark in a previous journal update. Since he joined Globalfreeloaders, he's hosted over a hundred guests. In fact, Mai and I were number 120 and 121, I believe. Mark is self employed and mostly works from home, so from his point of view the stream of guests provides him with some diversion from routine. From the traveller's point of view, they get to see a glimpse of England through the eyes of someone who lives here, something you'd never get from inside your room in the Intercontinental!
Poor Mai was exhausted after all the walking we'd done. Only the day before, she'd still been ill from her latest chemotherapy, and we hadn't been sure whether she'd be able to join me for the weekend. When we arrived at Mark's, she excused herself and hit the sack. Mark and I sat up late, both equally intrigued with each other's experiences with this new concept of hospitality exchange. You may be surprised -or not- that between Mark having hosting over a hundred guests, and myself having been a guest in at least that many homes, neither of us had an unkind word to say about any of our exchanges.