London Day 5

It was interesting enough to meet up with a bunch of people I knew from a large gaming forum and Twitter over the weekend. Wednesday however, things got even more interesting. I was going to meet up with someone I’ve known from Stickam and YouTube. Stickam being the webcam chat site that has a bad reputation – one it actually deserves as well.

Long ago, a much younger me was a vlogger on YouTube. A moderately succesful one at that. I knew all the big vloggers, talked to a lot of them over Skype. Got listed on drama sites. I’ve even been featured, just in my own country, but still. I basically had too much time and was spending it in all the wrong ways. Even more-so than I am now. YouTube was just the gateway drug to a bigger time sink though. A lot of YouTubers would spend time together in chatrooms on Stickam. Sometimes it’d be live show from a user where a bunch of people got on cam together. Sometimes a bigger chatroom with more, but smaller camslot. Somehow one room led to another and I found myself in a room called Tranquility. It wasn’t a room for YouTubers. It was a room where people were just hanging out, talking about absolutely nothing at all. Most of the users were on cam constantly, including me. Even if we weren’t really paying attention to the room, or really talking, we’d be on cam. Strangers would be kicked, fast. Anyone PMing any of the girls in the room would be instantly kicked. There were so many in jokes flying around the place it was absurd.

Now imagine having seen someone who you’ve seen regularly online on that kind of site. On camera, with voice chat being enabled. You know what the person looks and sound like. You’ve seen each other streamed online so often for over a year it’s like you already know each other personally… And then you actually do meet up in person. It’s that feeling of meeting a familiar stranger all over again.

We met up at Victoria Station around midday. I was a bit worried at first that we might have a problem finding each other because we didn’t have a proper meeting point besides just Victoria Station. I hadn’t been there yet, but I already imagined it be a crowded there. I was right as well. I chose an easy enough place to spot someone at if they’d walk out of the station and decided to wait there. Until it started raining. Then I moved back in and checked the time. It was the time to meet already. I saw a bunch of payphones right next to me and decided to try to call her, seeing as I had her phone number in my notebook anyway. That’s when I learned that the tone for dialing a number that doesn’t work is the same in England as it is here. For a moment I was afraid she might either be late, or that we wouldn’t be able to find each other. There was no use stealing bandwidth on my PSP and tweeting about it in the hope she’d see it, England actually takes good care of their wireless security. I decided to walk around and see if she wasn’t waiting somewhere herself. Then when I felt someone grab me by the shoulders from behind. It could have been the most enthusiastic and cheerful mugger I’ve encountered, luckily it was Claire Swaffield.

Now the fun thing when you’re going to some place in the middle of two underground stations is that it’s hard to tell what direction the other station is if you’re not used to the city. What’s even better is that if you’ve actually found that middle point from one station but didn’t think it through enough to actually continue walking to find the other one, as you might have a hard time finding it from that one. That’s pretty much what happened. We tried making our way to Chimes of Pimlico, like we’d planned, but after a long time of looking at a map, or in my case, looking at Claire look at a map on her phone, we set off in a direction. It might not have been the right direction, but it was one direction at least. After a short walk we found ourselves back at Victoria Station.We made another attempt to find the place, we actually did find the that time.

Chances are that I like this pie more than you.

I had my first ever meat pie in there. Also my first ever cider. Cider tasted a bit like… well.. Apple juice. Although I was told to expect that. It’s not a bad thing either. The meat pie however… Wow. To think that we don’t have that here in the Netherlands. I’ve heard about it before, I’ve seen people discuss them online. References in books and sometimes even TV and movies… We don’t have this here in the Netherlands. The only added thing with pies that we do is apple, and I think that’s not a good mix. I like apples. I like pies. The two should never meet. Now meat pie, that’s a slice of heaven in itself. I was sure that when I’d get back and I’d tell people about it, they’d look at me in disgust as if I’d told them I had just eaten a baby seal. I was right about that as well. It’s not exactly a common concept here to mix things that go well together. It’s not a common concept here to really mix anything together. Next time I’m in England, the first thing I’ll probably eat is a pie. Not sure what kind I’ll have, but I’m sure to have a pie.

While eating we discussed the old chat room and how things have changed since. Claire brought up how the other people that she’d met from the room so far are mostly the same in real life . We both reached a conclusion that the idea  that everyone is being someone else on the internet isn’t true. If you know someone long enough,you can see through them after a while. They leave traces of who they really are behind and if you’re smart enough you can catch on to that. Most people don’t bother though with putting up much of an act. They may be a bit more active and open, but when it comes down to it they’re the same people. Besides, the people pretending to be someone else on the internet are the kind that would do the exact same thing in real life as well.

After we finished eating, we took a tube down to the British Museum. One of the amazing things that I found out on that day is that in London, museums are free. If I’d known that I’d have gone to a few more the day before. I’m not sure if it’s the same everywhere else. It’s certainly not the case here. It’s quite amazing to have so much ancient history stored up together for anyone to see. The sheer size of the museum, both inside and outside was just amazing. The sight of that building on the outside is almost more impressive than all the things that are stored on the inside. We walked around the museum for a bit, looking at ancient artifacts and relics of the past. I mistook a belt buckle for a Scouter from DragonBall Z. Although in my defence, it was hard to see it was a belt buckle and had just the right size and shape to be a scouter.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square, without the pigeons

When the museum started getting busier and we’d seen most of the things we wanted to see, we went out and headed towards Trafalgar Square. Sadly, there were almost no pidgeons to be seen here. What was to be seen however, was some celebratory act for the Olympics. At least, the Olympics in 2012. From there we walked towards the Palace of Westminster, the Big Ben being our guide. We saw a bunch of people protesting against the wars, several of them on a hunger strike. There was a strange guy dressed as a cardboard box robot… thing. We kept walking until we found our way back to Victoria Station. I don’t think we were deliberatively going in that direction either. It was as if that place was pulling us like some sort of magnet. There was so much history and sights to be seen during that walk, it was just amazing. It was almost impossible to look in any direction and not see anything interesting. I saw a lot of those Open Bus tours going around. Claire asked me if I’d gone on one yet, I told her I hadn’t and then promised her I would the next day.

We stopped at some coffee place and had a drink while talking about movies, Dutch music and all sorts of weird things. After that it was time to drop Claire of at her coach stop. There was a hug, a last-minute picture we took to prove we have actually met in real life (that she still has to upload) and then she was off.

When I came back to the hostel, I was tired. I didn’t plan to walk too much the next day. The idea of going around London in a big open bus seemed like a great idea because it’d mean I wouldn’t have to walk all that often. Silly, foolish me.

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