Waitangi Day in London

Still no job.  So still no money.  So – opted out of the actual pub crawl on the Saturday following Waitangi Day.  But – still had a remarkable day.  And a remarkable night.

For those who don’t know about the London (not-quite) Waitangi Day Pub Crawl – here’s the basics.  There’s an underground line called the Circle Line.  It’s a circle.  Around the centre of London.  About 26 or 27 stops in all.  So, one has a drink at each one.  Traditionally – one starts at Paddington, in order to arrive at Westminster at about 4pm.  And, at Westminster, outside the Parliament – hundreds of drunk kiwi blokes get their tops off – displaying what the English have done to them.  Given us pasty white skin – just like theirs.  The bastards.  So in response, the hundreds of drunk kiwi blokes perform a haka, while thousands more drunk kiwis watch and cheer.

Now – it is illegal for any kind of mass gathering in this square.  But, as a sign of how beloved us kiwis are, and how well behaved we are when on the old binge drink (hmmm, perhaps out of fear then) – this event is permitted.  Not sure how long this will last, however – as the younger generations come through – and show less and less respect.

Oh – and there are some technicality-type rules with the pub crawl.  The Jubilee line runs parallel to the Circle for a lot of the way, and in some stations – the two lines use the same station.  The Jubilee train is considered to be the height of evil.  The train itself is boo-ed when it arrives at the station, and any kiwi silly enough to save some time by catching one is likely to be lynched at the next pub.  Also – while on the actual train – it is forbidden to sit down, or to support yourself in any way.  One must rely solely on your drunken swaying to counteract the swaying of the train.  And, seemingly contradictory to all the other rules – supreme respect and politeness must be used towards any local folk unfortunate enough to be using the underground on that particular day.

So – me being poor, and others in our circle-o’-friends being grown-up… we decided on a nice lunch in town, followed by watching the events at Westminster.  Two blocks away, it’s pretty obvious we’re on the right track.  Groups of people here and there wearing All Blacks and/or Black Caps paraphenalia, NZ flags, beer merchandise, and all sorts of other Aotearoa-themed stuff.  And then we get to the square – which is pure madness.  Literally thousands of drunken kiwis.  Awesome.  I spot a tree, and proceed to climb it.  Help a couple of other chaps up – but they don’t last long.  Now to me, climbing the tree seemed a blindingly obvious option to overlook the massive crowd.  But I was having photos taken of me by all manner of strangers, being pointed out to people’s friends as they walked past – and generally garnering all sorts of attention.  Odd.  Anyway, Mike joined me after a little while, and tied a flag to one of the higher branches.  Still there a couple of days later, according to a ginga spy.

So – I just watched the crowd for an hour or so.  Brought tears to my eyes, it did.  A few thousand drunken kiwis, all dressed to make the fact obvious – and the worst thing happening was a bit of littering.  Well – quite a lot of littering.  And people constantly trying to climb the lampposts.  In fact it seemed that instead of a haka this year, the objective was for everybody to climb to the top of a lamppost.  Each time – huge cheering would erupt.  Followed by huge boo-ing if the chap didn’t make it up.  And I never saw a mass haka.  Just a few impromtu ones in small clusters amongst the crowd.  And an impromptu game of rugby in the middle of the crowd.

Anyway – after this, it was onwards for some more drinks.  We let the scotsman take charge.  And ended up at a bar attached to an art gallery.  But with no art we could see.  And then dinner – where I decided I should take charge.  Ordered all sorts of chinese food – and was a huge success.  Moral – scotsman are worse than kiwis.  Then – giving the scotsman a second chance, we let him lead us to a pub.

Supposedly illegal and run by gangsters.  And, at first appearances – it seemed so.  Being rather a cynic, I wasn’t sure.  But, also being a coward, I took care not to offend anybody.  Especially anybody who said they were sicilian.  And, the first chap I got to chatting to, said he was half-french, half-sicilian.  And had been seemingly giving the hard word to the barman out back in private when I interrupted him.  Oh well, got onto good terms with him – and the nice man bought me a couple of drinks.   Listened to some chap sing songs for a while, and heckled him a little.  He was from Suffolk, and therefore not to be feared.  Then, everybody left.  I’d stayed when Pen left – as the scotsman reckoned he’d be here until closing.  But, he left soon after.  Moral – don’t trust scotsmen.

So, I stayed by myself.  I’d heard tales of this bar staying open well past the legal limit.  I have heard, however, that this midnight or 11pm closing thing is actually a myth nowadays – and there are places which stay open to proper hours.  And therefore, I suspect that this place (The Hideout – with all sorts of ‘gangster’ stuff on the walls) was far more legit than it made itself out to be.  However, at one point (I suspect their actual legal closing time) – the doors were closed.  And another shut-in ensued.  Chatting with all sorts of folk.  Despite the fact that I was wearing a sarong and Colombian handbag – I seemed to go down fairly well.  Perhaps the All Blacks top and jandals exuded enough masculinity to cover for the others.  So anyway, I had many more drinks purchased for me – and I got remarkably drunk. Met many sicilian folks – some of which I was most careful to not offend.  Most of the people looked and acted like they wanted to be gangsters, but weren’t – but there were a few who were either good actors, or goodfellas.

So – I staggered out of the pub at some silly hour.  And no idea how to get home.  I think I asked somebody which bus to take, but can’t remember if I got an answer.  If I did, it was either not helpful, or I forgot it minutes later.  After some fun&games and what-not, I managed to make it to a tube station in time for the first train of the day.  But the trains weren’t running on the way I wanted.  So I slurred questions at some nice lady – and she told me how to get home.  So – I got on some overland train, and took that all the way to Stratford.  While some young hooligan types came and sat near me.  I tried to make friends – but they seemed to take instant offence.  So, there was banter – and I kept trying to make small talk while they kept staring at me with suspicion and hostility.  Except the one who was passed out.

Made it home at 9am or so, but without my key.  Skye was already awake, I think – so luckily nobody had to deal with me after being woken up.  I was an absolute mess.

And that was my weekend.  Since then, I still haven’t got a job.  I have, however, convinced the IRD that I don’t owe them a few thousand dollars for income tax.  Which has brought the amount of money I do owe them (and was due last week) down to 4 figures.  Awesome.

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