Saturday, 9 August 2008

Two Fries and a Poppadom

A FEW months ago, I promised to share with you the story of the Alans, a mighty race of people from Sarmatia and the steppe. I didn't, namely because when it came down to it, I was too lazy to find out myself. Although I bought The Histories by Herodotus, and had every intention of joining the British Library to begin my research, I ended up just gleaming a few facts from Wikipedia and that was that. You see, I had a month of extreme loneliness, and the enthusiasm I mustered, knowing that I had to find something to keep my spirits up, lasted only a short while. When you are lonely and your enthusiasm has finally been drained, you become a bit useless, and all of the exciting endeavours you promised yourself are never completed. I know this well, since when I moved to London I had many plans, very few of which have materialised: I never wrote those books, I never joined a swimming pool, I never found a band. After six months, I didn't even have anyone I could call up on a Friday evening to meet up for a pint.

But things have improved, so much so that yesterday I began my quest to research the Alans once more.

The day started, as all of the best days do, with an invitation to a talk about Martians. The discussion, held, as one would expect, in a pub, was a meeting of the 'Skeptics in the Pub'. Held in Holborn in the next few weeks, I will be sure to report here of the meeting and what we can all learn from our planetary neighbours.

But then the day got weirder - from Martians and the Skeptics in the Pub to the Centre for Fortean Zoology and then the Flat Earth Society, who seem to think that Christopher Columbus was very good with mirrors. Their theories and logic made for very interesting, albeit flawed, reading. And then I began my hunt for the Alans.

As I have previous explained, I wish to know everything about everything that has ever happened. But given that that is a rather large topic, I have started with the menacing and terrifying clan that goes by the innocuous name of the Alans. I typed their name into Google, and came across 'Alan's homepage'. With the internet, and indeed electricity, not invented when the tribe ceased to exist, I didn't hold out much hope for the site - it was hardly going to be a last outpost, a plea to the world to remember the legacy of the cheeky civilization. Alas no, it was even stranger - the website of Alan Dix, a professor of computer science at Lancaster University, who once gave a talk about public toilets in Amsterdam.

From his website I quote:

"Designs for public toilets often focus on supporting cultural values of hygeniene and privacy. What do we miss by ignoring the fact that public toilets are also the site for a variety of social practices?"

Incidentally this is Amsterdam, and not Azkaban, as Rachel believed I had said when I told her last night.

I finished the day on a high. I hadn't achieved much, mind. But after feeling low for such a long time, all of these quirky sites and stupid theories were reminding me of the whims of life, something I used to embrace, something I have abandoned to focus on establishing myself, in my job, in my new location. I've devoted myself so much that, by my own admission, I've become extremely boring.

I returned to Southgate and almost went to Wimpy to celebrate. That's how happy I was. But I resisted, promising instead that I'd take Rachel there for a treat. I headed into KFC up the road for a happy Zinger meal, and watched the world go by, basking in its diversity and opportunity. And then a man came in and tried to order "two fries and a poppadom", and I couldn't help but smile.

Half an hour later I was on a tube train with Tom, youth leader at Christchurch Cockfosters, and we were off to the cinema to see The Dark Knight. It was an excellent film, and an excellent evening. I couldn't share with Tom quite how much it had meant that I had someone to go out with, as it would have sounded obsessive and stalkerish, and possibly even homoerotic. He doesn't need to know that I'm struggling to find friends here - a ridiculous notion given that this is the biggest city in the United Kingdom. But I am, and last night meant a lot - so if you ever read this Tom: thanks. You achieved two good deeds yesterday, you made a Spanish lady and a Westcountry lad very happy.

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