Like a good girl, I wake up early. This is a miracle and I am ready within 45mins. Miracle two of the morning so far. Surely this has no longevity. My dicey relationship with karma never fails to play a returning hand of ridiculousness for phenomenon too good to be true. I even remember all the items required for my southbound journey and do not need to unlock my front entrance and bedroom doors after realising I had left my oxygen tank in the bathroom. This usually occurs nought but three steps from my apartment departure – which is the usual state of affairs on any given morning. However, today, the only absent item is my project list and contact telephone numbers that I had forgotten to take from my desk yesterday evening but no matter, I can fix the projects via email whilst on the train.
Upon my person, my unforgotten items consist of : signed visa application form; passport-sized photo (glued to the visa application form with mighty old Pritt Stick); a supporting letter written in Belarusian; cash for express visa service; laptop; mi-fi; work phone; personal phone; and battery chargers for all three devices. Happy days. Plus Nanoman. Fantabulous! Laptop bag on shoulder and handbag on arm (armbag) which is the now-trendy way to hold a bag as if we are all, suddenly, superstar celebrities, this is a good day! I take a walk in the beautiful sunshine to the station thinking about my forthcoming business trip to Minsk.
Now if you do not know much about this city, let me enlighten you – in a nutshell. Minsk has been twinned with Nottingham since 1957, factual fact for you I am sure you will agree. A minor planet (3012 Minsk) was discovered by a Soviet astronomer in 1979 (the visit is destined) is of course named after the city, WOW! Sinisterly though and perhaps more to your taste, Lee Harvey Oswald (I know you know the name, but you cannot place him, let me jog your memory: alleged assassin of U.S. President John F Kennedy) was a resident of Minsk for over two years in the late 1950s. He was sent there to work in a factory after defecting from the U.S. to the Soviet Union: as if Russia was America’s version of England’s Australia. Oddly enough, Minsk is the adopted hometown of Star Trek’s Worf (especially for you Trekkies out there). Now that I have relevant topics to converse with the locals, I can return to recounting the story…
I arrive at my local train station with a good few minutes to spare, Ticket Attendant even fast tracks me and I now have my special orange pass that will take me to Narnia. Well, the Strand was on fire today and I realise this is the closest I will get to Narnia and Charing Cross Station in the movie adaptation: passing through the networked underworld from Embankment whilst all the commotion was um, commoting, up top. Oh, life above ground, it has to be so complicated and dramatic (our capital is not called the Big Smoke for nothing). Bunsen burners, for goodness sake, do builders not take Chemistry lessons at school? And oh my claim to fame, Gleeds, who are consultants for the roofing project on the Marconi building were my previous employer. How very amusing.
So then, mi-fi logs me on to the remote access network and I am very productive dealing with all the emails in my inbox from my Japanese clients within the fifty minutes of my journey, the lack of sockets on the train carriage are of no consequence. I reach the end of the first leg of my journey: Marylebone Station. Always look up towards the sky, you will undoubtedly be overcome with wonder, the greatest architectural designs are thus undeniably always missed.
It is still a gorgeous morning and I am pleased with my decision at travelling jacketless (which is more of a habit than choice decision) as it would have been i). a hassle; ii). too hot; and iii). just another thing to carry and I was not feeling very octopus-like with my hands full with two heavy bags already. Leaving the train with fellow and ex-passengers, a brisk walk brings me to the iron-man contraptions that guard me from London proper. I give my ticket to the metallic hellion to eat, but it does not think I am tasty and spits the jalebi back into my hand as Seek Assistance beeps harshly with devilish lettering (as an aside, do you see how orange items seem to have some sort of chaotic effect on my life: [You’ve been tango’d, Crusade Against Clementines, The Frog Prince, No!] and Barrier Man permits me to enter the gates of City paradise (I love this city but change the named place for London – put your hands up!).
I have not furthered or far’d myself but five metres to the right hand side where more mini leviathans have prostrated themselves before humans, and there is a gigantic sign detailing severe delays on the Bakerloo line from Paddington due to signal failure at Queen’s Park. The hand written black dry-wipe marker message is having difficulty communicating itself to the crowd of commuters, it does not compute. Gesticulating eyes dart from the message to the staff, to the crowd, to wrist-watches and back to the board, humans deciding whether they are wolves, or sheep.
They stand, still, musical statue-esque waiting for the music to restart. Waiting for some kind of instruction or epiphany like Laputians waiting to be flummoxed by flappers. The line is only disrupted northbound, what is the silent fuss and confuddled bother? I decide I am a wolf and sheepishly make my way through the crowd who remain bemused. Please walk to Baker Street, this will be the easier journey for you, and a handful of realistic androids saunter off into the relevant direction of the station’s exit. I am relieved I do not have to cross over to Baker Street, although it is a very short distance, it is freakishly warm outdoors! I do not need to turn up at the Kensington located Embassy in a swagger of sweat and redness. How unseemly would that be?
Once again, I to try to feed my fiendish imp-like savages, alas, they are unhungry whelps and cry at me mercilessly as I try and move out of the way for the second time before I am run-over by a human larger than life itself (I wonder that on the whole we detest employment so much yet go out of our way to reach the office as quickly as utterly possible) who has also deduced the tubes are still functional.
At this point, I am disliking my segment of orange ticketry (more like trickery) and I ask Barrier Man 2 for further details and he kindly advises the magnetic strip is dysfunctional (rather like me, hmm: that’s my thought, not his). See how karma betrays me – by arriving suitably in time for the train and having a cheery free from disaster morning, I am lumbered with a ticket that does not play nicely with me as it should for the remainder of the day. Thank you, I say to Barrier Man 2, and on my way I go, descending and escaping the sliding teeth of the escalator safely. Happily waiting at a lovely calm platform pretending the rats are not gnawing underneath my feet, the tube arrives and escorts me to Paddington from where I am transported to High Street Kensington in a perfectly serene frame of mind.
It’s a funny thing. My sense of direction. Point blank without fail, my inner compass is broken. I always, always, always take myself in the opposite direction to the actual way that will lead me to my target destination. This time I was prepared, I was going to try and outwit myself. This is a game anyone can play. Behold. I waited outside the tube station willing Google Maps to load on my HTC (you know how quietly brilliant it is – well no longer, I have dropped it that many times that I had to snap the bent piece of plastic off the side the other day and now there is a spike underneath my volume button and it splices my finger every single time)… Right, if I was Me, which I am, and correct myself, if I was Broken Compass Me, I would head in this direction (I glance to my left at the walkers-by). But knowing this is Broken Compass Me speaking, I actually think this way (I gaze to my right at the walkers-by) should be the correct route for adventure.
Cue Google Map check. Two very long minutes later. HALLELUJAH! I was right! I have just proved that my ineptitude for walking directions is diabolical (driving wise: it’s at the other end of the spectrum, I am brilliant!) My experiment has proved my hypothesis, I officially do not have a parietal cortex. Oh, the terror! Shoot me now! Either it died, or it is drastically depleted, or it is somewhat damaged. I do hope this does not mean I have so far been living my adult life in a permanent state of dementia. Perhaps I have unwittingly been the victim of a partial lobotomy, I knew I was kidnapped by aliens that time, nobody believed me…now I know it to be true. Woo hoo! I must sell my story and make some money (!)
Back to the situation at hand, I follow Google Map in the hailed direction looking for 6 Kensington Court: Embassy of Belarus or more commonly known as Пасольства Рэспублікі Беларусь (pronounced Pasoĺstva Respubliki Bielaruś). I am going to have such enormous fun next week trying to decipher the language. Anywho (it is really anyhow but I temporarily join the weird mass that tells it the wrong way just to tell you the way it should be), I take in the luxury of the high-end high street retail stores with their offensive merchandising displays, my eyes bleed through want of such beautiful items of clothing. Deliberately and consciously and painfully, I continue walking with pretend blinkers. This is going great. The route I mean, not the pretend-blindness. And then, (how original), I notice a sign. It reads, Footpath leading to Kensington Court. I could not believe my luck, how much easier could this be?
So I walk, and walk. And walk. To the end of the footpath that supposedly leads me to Kensington Court. There is no Kensington Court, there is a fork, and two directions. You guessed it, a left and a right. This-a-way-or-that-a-way (my swans are siiick!)…Now, common sense pleads Check Google Map. Broken Compass Me replies It’s-a-this-a-way. So I listen to Broken Compass Me. Genius that I am. The jet black digits on the broad white pillars are decreasing as I roam in a northern direction (sunshine heat has turned up ten notches by the way, feel my pain…), odds on one side and evens the other, so I assumed everything was going to be alright. I am looking out for flags hanging from the grand buildings, oops, no that is a pub. Next. Since when do pubs fly flags? Only in Kensington. Ooh, Embassy of Vietnam. I’m on good tracks here…
Right about now (funk soul brother) I reach for my phone and think I should probably reconfirm, it plans out another route and forces me to take three consecutive lefts. This is so wrong it’s unreal. My laptop bag and armbag and eternal sunshine of the spotless mind are turning my limbs to lead. I am surrounded by private apartments. I am sure my company would not send me somewhere dodgy just for a Belarusian visa. I spot a large expanse of green across the main road, Is that Hyde Park? Surely not. Whaaat. Where the hell am I? I took control of the situation (!) and replotted my latitude into Google Map, But I have been five minutes away for the last fifteen minutes! I can only fathom that I must have walked in a neverending total eclipse of the heart circle. That footpath was a total lie.
I am losing patience solely due to the heat and the heaviness of the evil loads. The Azerbaijani dudes outside their Embassy glare at me as if I am an alien, Sorry, are you in my city or have I some hideous creature on my face, no, that is my face, quit it! I fight the paranoia in case I fall over on my behind, at least I am wearing flats. It pays to be sensible, Saiqa, well done, wonders will never cease...
I frog march past the elegant black railings and lo and behold, 6, shines on to my forehead and blinds me with happiness and relief. I try to push open the intimidating large white door knowing full well it probably is not going to bear me the fruits of paradise. Bzzz! I press the intercom instead.
Hi, I’m here to submit a visa application for Belarus please thinking she would merrily row me in through the humongous entrance. However, the female Belarusian voice, slightly difficult to comprehend, attempts to provide information against the backdrop of random roadwork noise that has just happened to appear in my ears at the most inopportune moment. That thing you do when you can’t see because the light is too bright and you squint your eyes to reduce the quantity of light entering your retinas to try and decode the scene before you? That – but I was squinting my ear to the intercom puzzling over and decoding her phonetics against the backdrop of the ridiculous man-made mayhem. All I heard was Second door…stairs…basement. In my head, and I kid you not, looking back into the road, glancing from between the intercom buzzer to the road to the intercom to the pavement, What second door? Stairs?! What stairs? I didn’t see any stairs? BASEMENT!! What kind of an outfit is this? Belarusian Lady stops talking. It’s a test. If I don’t pass the test, I fail the visa. That is the only explanation.
I walk back towards the weird Azerbaijanis, I can feel their eyes piercing the back of my skull as I notice a gold plaque, VISA APPLICATION OPENING HOURS and another intercom. Perhaps it is just my luck with intercom systems (Purple Haze). Bzzz! In fact, it does not actually make a sound, that is just me making the noise inside my insane brain expecting that same noise to reverberate from outside in or is it inside out, but alas, it does neither. Perhaps I did not dip the button quite so assertively, I press again. Another silent Bzzz! I am rather thinking I am going to beat karma around the head at my earliest convenience with my two rock-filled bags. I try the black iron gate, however, it is all wired up with the intercom system. Fail.
I ignore the burning eyes from behind me. Ah, thank the Lord! A rather large plump gentleman exits the door from the bottom of the stairs – even he has trouble as he attempts to escape the Gate of Doom. It is one of those, like the entrance to my current apartment. The gate must be opened whilst you have the button depressed, STUPID IDEA! Especially when one is not a very good octopus. Anyway, we finally work it out et voilà, I leave behind lurking stares and trot down the not-so-inviting stairs, precociously entering through the dull disappointing signless door as I am not entirely sure about this scenario: the man could have been finishing his escapade with a thai masseuse for all I knew. The entrance is a tiny square with peeling painted cream walls, I poke my head around the corner and I am whisked away into a small office of silence. I make friends with the two beautiful tan coloured leather sofas gathering my paperwork and passport.