23rd July 2016 –
I didn’t sleep *quite* as badly as I thought I would, and my headache is mostly better, thankfully. I made myself a crappy, black, instant coffee, because I didn’t think to bring soy milk with me, and had a breakfast of rice protein/chia seed nuggets that I discovered in Holland & Barrett yesterday. They were okay, but the last thing I felt like for breakfast. I have a habit, when I travel, of eating the things I need least, and forgetting to buy the things I need most. What I need right now is fruit.
I got chatting with a German lady who has the top bunk of my bed, and we talked about travel, and universities, and countries. I’m starting to see the benefits of hostels – i.e. that there are people to talk to. There’s something fascinating about talking to strangers, particularly when you know you’ll never speak to them again. Conversations connect us, they place us in the category of “same”, rather than “other”, which is so important when you travel, because it means that – when everything feels alien – you can find that tiny point of common connection. (Also known as: this is why I love being in a country which speaks English). If I don’t have a headache tonight, I might hang out in the common areas, rather than going to bed so early. Now though, time to explore.
When I left the hostel this morning, I decided to revisit the university campus. I walk down Sauchiehall Street, taken in by the charm of cities in the morning, by that essence of vivacity that lurks just below the surface, waiting to burst with the hustle and bustle of life, yet holds off, waiting, waiting, waiting. There is something about the air, about the peaceful quiet, where the traffic is near non-existent, and pretty much everyone you pass by is walking a dog. Dogs are adorable. When I see dogs, I feel the great need to tell them how adorable they are. And their owners laugh at me.
I leave Sauchiehall street, and venture into Kelvingrove park. I am surrounded by vibrant greenery, and flowers in an array of colours. And dogs, so many dogs. I walk at a languid, thoughtful pace, and send so many photos to my friend that it’s almost like she’s here with me.
I stand on the bridge, and watch the water flow past me, and I can’t help but laugh with joy, both at my location, and at the conversation I’m having with my friend, via Facebook messenger, about the incompatibility of our diets (I’m vegan, she’s Italian, you do the math!). And I’m immensely happy. Because it’s not just me, standing here, it’s my future, the joys of friendship, the joy of new beginnings.
Kelvingrove Park borders the university campus, and my wanders take me to the Film & TV Studies building, where I will spend a great deal of time over the next four years. It’s located in a converted church, and it’s ridiculously pretty. I brave the traffic to cross the road in order to find a better angle for taking photographs. I then locate the gym, the Philosophy building, and the library. I’m ridiculously excited, because – oh my god – this is going to be my LIFE! I’m going to spend four years immersed in this gorgeous world.
Now, I sit in the East Quadrangle courtyard (which is basically Hogwarts, from Harry Potter, minus the magic), and write postcards to my friend. I’m so happy I could burst! Gardeners prod sand into the grass with pitchforks, and Chinese tourists pose for photographs amongst the cloisters, and the sun shines (briefly). Before I know it, it’s raining.
I take a stroll down Byres Road, for second breakfast. Juice Garden calls out my name on the wind, singing me love songs in the rainy summer breeze. I get an “appleberry” smoothie, and raw vegan “mars” and “bounty” bars. The bounty one was nice, the mars was AMAZING!
I then go to the Botanic Gardens, where I find this adorable grey squirrel, who is somewhat of an instagram celebrity – I swear half the photos tagged at the Botanic Gardens feature his furry face. He is the sweetest little dude.
I walk along Kelvin Walkway, and let myself get lost in the deep greenery. The river is as green as the trees, and I am certain I reside in another world. However, this beautiful world must wait, because my heart says “lunch”, and I always follow my heart. I decide to check out Roots Fruits & Flowers – a wholefoods/ fruit/veg store and florist/café.
It would have been a sensible decision to sit in and eat, because my feet are killing me, but I want fresh air, and to continue my explorations, so I opt for takeaway: celeriac, pea, and potato soup, and white bean, courgette, and potato pasty. I take another walk by the side of the river Kelvin, for half-an-hour-or-so, in what soon reveals itself to be a circle, and end up outside Roots Fruits & Flowers again. I buy lemonade and woodland strawberries, before setting off for the city centre. After fifteen minutes, I decide to be a weakling and take the bus.
I get off at the St Enoch stop, and end up near the suspension bridge on the Clyde. I hang out there for a bit, because it’s pretty, though I didn’t realise that “suspension bridge” means it is suspended, rather than having foundations beneath it. This thing MOVES slightly. Man, that freaks me out! I stand on the bridge and take selfies, because I am way too comfortable acting like a typical millennial. But my phone battery gradually decreases, so I know it’s time to leave. I go to Pret on Queen Street, and purchase a mango and passion fruit smoothie, and sit for a good hour-and-a-half while I wait for my phone to charge. By which point, it’s nearly five thirty.
I find myself in café Mono once again, because I am in love with this place. Do not be fooled by the slightly-scruffy, artsy hipster vibe, because Mono is first class! The walk was easier than yesterday, because I knew vaguely where I was going. I order mango lychee green tea lemonade, artichoke fritters, and a battered vegan sausage with chips and mushy peas (vegan junk food is a godsend!). My waiter looks like John Lennon.
Artichoke fritters are the most amazing thing on the planet, and I would actually marry them if such a thing were possible. I’m so satisfied with my meal, that I have the most ingenious idea: I should order dessert! Banana split sundae, with chocolate fudge sauce? Why not?!
I now sit on a bench on Sauchiehall street (it’s impossible to say that without putting on a Scottish accent!) outside the Buchannan Galleries. There’s a blond guy busking, singing with a guitar. He has a man bun, and wears skinny jeans – a total hipster, with a slight Ed Sheeran vibe. I enjoy the music, and the evening breeze blows my hair about my face. I’m sad to be leaving tomorrow. It’s not the same sadness I felt leaving Tallinn, because I’ll be back here in September. I’m going to live here for at least four years of my life – what’s there to be sad about?
I guess the answer to that question lies in the answer to another: why did I choose to come here this weekend? I chose to come because I was bored. I hadn’t been back in England for even two weeks, and I missed travelling. I missed train stations; I missed waking up in a new city; I missed writing about myself like I was interesting, rather than writing only about fictional characters. So I made it happen.
In typical Eliza fashion, I got ridiculously lost on my way back to the hostel. But I stopped at a Sainsbury’s Local, and bought porridge oats and almond milk, to make breakfast in the morning. However, Eliza Brain was like “woooo, fooooood! Let’s eat nooowww!” So when I finally found the hostel, I headed straight for the kitchen, where I proceeded to make myself porridge, and a cup of tea, after which I intended to have a shower, and go straight to bed.
But fate had other plans. This is it, people. This is the night where I met the great love of my life!
Just kidding. This is the night where I played my first drinking game (which is FAR more entertaining, right?) As I was leaving the common area, a thirty-something Scottish guy, with stubble, and a beer belly, asked if I wanted to join in the game they were playing. I was bored, it was my last night, and I was sick of being the antisocial good-girl I’ve always conditioned myself to be, so I thought “Why the hell not?” and agreed. It was a drinking game, and involved playing cards. I, being a young, naïve, sheltered 18-year-old, had never played a drinking game before, and I decided I would just watch, rather than participate.
But the Scottish guy (David, I think he was called. It was hard to tell. His accent was strong) had poured me some Buckfast wine. For those who aren’t familiar with Scottish drinking culture, Buckfast Tonic Wine has a bit of a reputation… It’s cheap, it’s sweet, and it is utter trash. But it is GOOD trash!
Amy – a short, chatty, half-Chinese girl from Essex – and Alex – a rather drunk dude from Newcastle – got into a heated argument about whether Germany or Finland had a higher English literacy rate (they both claimed that their chosen country spoke better English than English people). They started googling it; got statistics involved; started dividing it by population size. Weirdoes. When I finished my Buckfast, David poured me some cider.
I have consumed alcohol perhaps four times since the beginning of this year. I’m just not someone who really drinks. But it was my last night, so I decided to go along with it. I don’t know whether I actually had fun, or just enjoyed the experience of experiencing new experiences. I’ve had a few experiences recently where I’ve felt incredibly grounded. I was at work on Friday night, and the vacuum cleaner wasn’t working, so I had to use another, older one to vacuum the soft play centre, and the end bit was missing, so I had to do it crawling on my hands and knees, rather than standing up.
It wasn’t a pleasant experience – crawling on carpet that’s probably been puked on by half the children in Penrith at some point or another, my trousers falling down, vacuuming up crumbs of God-knows-what. But I was there. I was in that moment. I wasn’t off in la-la land, painting myself as the hero. I let myself be the 18-year-old girl, working in a crappy job on a zero-hours-contract. I let myself be humbled. Or perhaps humility let me be Eliza, and JUST Eliza.
Playing drinking games doesn’t ground you in the same way. But it makes you laugh (Drunk Eliza laughs A LOT); it makes you be there, in your body, rather than floating away in your head. Alex suggested that after this round, we should all go out. I had never been to a club before. I almost went to one once, after Prom. But it was the day before I set off for Estonia, so my sensible brain vetoed the idea.
The same brain initially had the same response this time, but a random Canadian woman convinced me.
I’d known my companions for all of two hours, but there was a certain camaraderie between us. Amy and I stuck together the whole time. Even though I barely knew her, it was good to have a buddy.
What did Eliza the Introvert think of clubbing? My initial response was “Which fathom of hell have I fallen into?” You could feel the bass vibrating through your feet, people spilled drinks on you, shoved you out the way, chucked plastic cups on the floor (why must they torture me in this way?). Drunk Eliza is even more judgmental than Sober Eliza.
Most of the guys were neds (Scottish chavs), or ugly, or gay. ALL the attractive guys were gay.
Because it was loud in there, we couldn’t hear each other speak, but Amy and I soon developed a system of communication: we’d raise out eyebrows suggestively and nudge each other when we saw someone attractive. She also liked to accidentally-on-purpose knock me into every vaguely attractively guy in the near vicinity. But after about two minutes, the penny would drop, and we would mouth the word “gay”, and shrug our shoulders resignedly.
Our little group from the hostel danced together for hours, and there were times when it was actually fun. There were also times when I wanted to punch everybody, like “WHY MUST YOU SPILL YOUR DRINK ON ME, YOU UTTER MORONS?”
At one point, I got separated from the group, and ended up dancing with a random Arab guy. He wasn’t my type at all (he was too skinny), but at least he was taller than me (I am a very tall person).
At the end of the day, it was a new experience, and I’ve come to realise something about new experiences: they happen, and then they’ve happened. I’m not a different person for having played a drinking game and gone to a club. I’m a person who has now experienced those things, and knows what to expect next time, but that’s it. We’re not shaped by what we do, but by how we respond to it. And how did I respond to three hours in a club? I responded by writing blogs in my head for pretty much the entire time I was in there!
When I went back to the hostel, at approximately three a.m. I had a shower – which had two temperatures: arctic, and equator. As I was stepping into the world’s most comfortable pair of tracksuit pants, which I was using instead of pyjamas, I – probably due to the amounts of alcohol I’d consumed – tripped, and fell backwards. I grabbed onto the shower curtain, and tried to steady myself, to no avail. Thank God for my wonderful reflexes! I managed to bend my knees beneath me as I collapsed, and thankfully didn’t break anything, though I think I pulled a muscle in my foot. I crept quietly to my room, because, unlike my roommates, I try NOT to wake people up in the middle of the night. It was nearly 4:30 a.m. by the time I got to sleep.
24th July 2016 –
I had worried that I would oversleep; given how late I got to bed. The joy of being in a room with nine other people is that you will never, ever oversleep. I woke at 6:55, 7:30, and, finally, 8:51, at which point I got up, because I had to check out of the hostel by 10:00. I made myself porridge and Crappy Instant Coffee (a travel staple!), and then I left, without looking back.
I walked down Sauchiehall Street, through Kelvingrove Park, and through University Avenue, to Byres Road, where I want to good old Juice Garden.
It was a day of rain, rain, and even more rain – typical Glasgow weather – so I decided to go on a Café Crawl, and familiarise myself with the city’s coffee spots. After Juice Garden, I went to Roots Fruits & Flowers for lunch (a vegan sausage roll and a pack of Mexican-flavoured tofu sausages, because I couldn’t be bothered to get hot food), and set off for the city centre. I planned to get a bus (because it was freaking raining, dude!) but Google Maps kept telling me that I was at the wrong bus stop, so I gave up, got slightly (very) lost, yet (miraculously) found my way to Sauchiehall street (the city centre section, not the West End bit).
I was wet, I was miserable, and my heart was like “toooiiilllleettt!”, so I decided to check out Waterstones. It turned out that Waterstones had a café which not only served soy lattes, but also a wonderful vegan date slice, which made me marvellously happy. I sat for a while, waiting for the raindrops to fall from my hair, and then decided to check out the books. I found a section of film and TV books, which I started fangirling over because oh my God, there were SO MANY books on screenwriting. I sent pictures of the bookshelves to my friend, with very excited captions, all in block capitals, because that was the only way to convey the extent of my extreme joy.
I went a-wandering again, because I didn’t want to spend my last day sitting inside. I went to George Square, took some photos, and decided to go to the Pret on Queen Street. IT WAS FREAKING CLOSED. LIKE, WHAT THE HELL, DUDE? THIS IS WHY I HAVE TRUST ISSUES! I went to Costa instead, and spent some time messaging my friend, discussing the benefits of eavesdropping on random people’s conversations (the table next to me were talking about how much they hate Theresa May, and I was silently cheering them on).
By this point, it was nearly time to collect my train tickets. On my way to Glasgow Central Station, I noticed another branch of Juice Garden, so once my tickets were safely collected, I retraced my steps to this point. I love Juice Garden anyway, but I particularly loved this visit. I was served by a beautiful, friendly African man, who was very, very tall. (As in, several inches taller than me – that is rare, dude!) I was perhaps a tad too smiley (did I mention he was beautiful?), but he returned my 3000-smiles-per-second, so it was all good.
I skipped to the train station, sucking on the straw of my smoothie, thinking wistfully of how wonderful university will (hopefully) be.
The train ride passed pleasantly (particularly when I located a plug socket to charge my phone in). I messaged my friend as the train pulled out of the station, and we conversed for the entire journey. I sent her pictures (she’d made me go into Poundland and take pictures of all the cheap things. I had some fun with this…), and I spent most of the train ride giggling at my phone. I felt closer to her than I ever had, and all I could see when I closed my eyes was the life that will be mine so soon. The world was filled with possibilities, and I laughed.