Wwoofing Adventures #2

30 September 2008

12 June 2008

Our hostel in Deptford Bridge was just beyond Lewisham College’s gated car park as a tower of darkly-shadowed brick and peeling sills. It had four stories, the first of which was a pub painted in traditional white and British green. A red-striped awning housed a few weathered tables and benches and a chalkboard sign advertised last night’s menu. Frankly it looked like it could have been or still could be the target of vandals and I thought vaguely of graffiti and broken glass as we approached.

Clinton was the host on duty, a Canadian bass player who was spending his gap year in the UK. He was settling down to his chocolate cereal and offered us some breakfast, too, which we accepted as the midnight yoghurt was fast failing us. We chatted about our plans for the upcoming weeks as we learned of his time there in Deptford--since September--and the ins and outs of the Bird's Nest. Despite the rather rundown exterior, the inside held a casual charm with its heavy wood tables and creaky benches, the warm rusts and hunter greens of the cushions, the brass handled taps at the bar, and the signs pointing out the WC, drawn by a quirky hand on bright pink cardstock cut out with pinking shears. Clinton periodically scanned the digital jukebox mounted on the wall, asking for song suggestions, and I wished I had paid more attention to the Bob Dylan and Eagles' songs Kristen had been forced to learn on guitar; after furiously upending every file in every crevice of my memory I only came up with "Wild World." He said it was a good song.

Our only other breakfast companion was Ed, a tubby sixty year old man who hailed from the great state of Arkansas with tee-shirt, accent, and easy affability to prove it. It seemed he had come to the UK for the sole purpose of wandering, for when we prodded him for his day's plans he vaguely mentioned downtown Greenwich and some Hard Rock Cafe he hadn't seen yet, and I got the impression that his London expedition was as much a mystery to his friends back home as it was to us sitting now at the Bird's Nest, just a head-shakin' clumsy unspoken mystery. Relieved, therefore, of the mental acrobatics required to picture Ed shuffling among a tour group at Westminster rather than popping his can of beer in front of the t.v., I chuckled to myself at the mix of people a cheap hostel attracts.

The room was very cheap at only 10 pounds ($20) a night, but the drawback was in its being a six-bunk co-ed room. That did not appeal to my conservative nature but really, how bad could it be? Then horror flicked across my mind--What if he were staying in our room? Ha, no; that would be too funny. Besides, the only other bunk occupied in our room had a small pink beach towel draped over the head and a sleeping mask, definitely not the accoutrement of an Ed.

Our snickering was cut short when we spied soft bare shoulders peeking out from the blue striped sheets the next morning, gently rising and falling to the beat of his unabashed snores. And he did wear that sleeping mask.

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