The London Years: The knight in well-travelled armor (11 of 20)

We went in and the bar was somewhat dark – it being late already. Introductions were made, this is Sofia, this is the birthday man, hello, thank you for having us etc. And then the birthday man went around, this is my friend, this is my other friend and then the dancing boy with the long wild hair turned around with his crooked smile and I thought “oh fuck!”

Don’t know what’s going on? I’m leaving London soon so this is one of my 20 London stories – a celebration of 20 years of my life here.

Wait, wait, maybe we should start somewhere else. Maybe I should first of all declare that my love life is not remarkable in the slightest – but I have indeed been a drama queen because that’s how I’m made. I wish I could tell you I got game or that I’m generally cool but I’m not. And like most, I’ve been cruel to some kind people and some not so kind people have been cruel to me and that’s basically life.

But that’s not really a London thing because that could have happened anywhere. What seemed to me to be a London thing is how difficult it was to meet people! In the main the local boys don’t flirt without some alcohol in em and I don’t drink. I’m generalising but there it is. Number of local boys who have randomly approached to chat me up without alcohol – zero. Number of more… continental boys and without alcohol – more than zero. So, going by my confirmation bias, it was generally tough.

On this particular day I had spent a whole afternoon complaining to my friend K. that I was bored out of my mind. Finally, after we had smoked a couple of cigarettes, completely exasperated, he invited me to go to a birthday party with him. “It’s a bit random,” he said, “but you may have a bit of fun and, who knows, meet someone”. Famous last words.

So we met up outside the Blues Kitchen in Camden and went inside together – which is where the boy with the long wild hair turned around, all sparkly eyes and a crooked smile and I knew. Like the Greek song goes, “this man, this”. Later that evening as we were walking towards the tube he asked me about my research and hearing the reply cautiously asked: “What do you actually play?” I think I said “World of Warcraft naturally” and he assures me to this days that that was his “oh, fuck!” moment.

And then… nothing happened. We got along famously. We went out for drinks, we went to the theatre together, we shared meals and went out with friends – his and mine. And that went on for years. We can split hairs about the why but sometimes things just happen, what the hell.

You can blink.

Years later, he turned up for coffee in his Sunday best – what a dirty trick to play – and spoke to me about his upcoming sabbatical. Six months off. “Please tell me you’re taking off with a band”, I said and it was his turn to stare at me, stunned, because I knew who he was before he had said anything and to be honest, that’s how it all happened.

We got married a little while later and celebrated with very few friends and members of our family in our London garden. I’ve documented some of our preparations in this blog. The registrar who married us announced to the world that we were now Mr and Mrs, adorably mispronouncing his surname which I did not take as my own.

Blink again.

Antonis has been in London twenty years, same as me. His London is somewhat similar but also very different than mine. When we got together, I took him to places he had never been before and he did the same for me. There is no universal London. This place is so big and so multicultural that you can absolutely live the life you want to live here. It was no hardship but I can’t imagine anyone else dragging me to a rock festival. He is an open minded guy but I do wonder who else could have dragged him to the Royal Opera House. But there is no magic that happened, or maybe there is. We followed each other because we trusted each other.

I do wonder what’s the story about how this trust happened and I’m mainly reminded about a lunch we had together at a North London pub. He asked about my research at the time and he listened intently, seriously and with interest. He asked questions. We plotted together, he gave me some ideas, I learned from his experience. We ended that day *admiring* each other, I’m sure. Even though I still tease him that my hand was on that table during the whole lunch and it was touched not even once.

We ended up living in a semi-suburb of London and for a couple of years we were the street weirdos. All around us there were little old ladies and young families while he’d leave the house dressed like a pirate to go to a concert and we’d go off together to a Secret Cinema evening looking a bit peculiar.

Very early on in our relationship, he was abroad and I was staying over in his house. This was before we had settled anything between us, before our first trip together, before anything that would have given us any certainty. I was lying on the couch watching a film and it felt… right. I was surrounded by books, games, music and it felt like home. It felt like this could have easily been my house. And that’s when I knew.

London before Antonis is a completely different city in my mind. Sometimes it was more mine, more… personal I guess. But it was never as exciting and as endless. It was as if I was somewhat done, had settled into a rhythm and this guy turned up and we lighted up different parts of the city for each other.

“How come you agreed so readily to leave London”, I asked him when I started interviewing for jobs that would lead us almost exclusively to different countries. “Because you are home” he said, “you and the boy”.


My #20LondonStories

  1. Grexit/ Brexit 
  2. The way to anyone’s heart is through the stomach
  3. The night bus 
  4. Words save our lives… sometimes 
  5. The rest is noise 
  6. How not to bite your nails in the Officials’ Box 
  7. Always have a sister 
  8. Greek London 
  9. This green and pleasant land 
  10. The bridge of aspiration 
  11. The knight in well travelled armor 
  12. Carpets in the toilet and other adventures in housing
  13. Moments in Art 
  14. The NHS hunger games 
  15. In nocte consilium
  16. The friends we found, the friends we lost
  17. Blogging tips for beginners 
  18. Lord of Gondolin, Bane of Gothmog, mighty beater of his headboard, conqueror of the slide, aka our child
  19. γνῶθι σεαυτόν
  20. How to leave London

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