The world’s second-worst wakeup call.

If just before bed you get one of those odd, fleeting thoughts along the lines of “The fire alarm is going to ring,” pay attention.

Yep: At around 6:30 a.m. I was awakened by a shrieking siren. I’m glad I’ve learned to listen to those weird little flashes I get from time to time. When the shrieking started, I was ready to roll.

Even as I sat up I was pulling on my coat (right next to me in the little Bat Cave that is a pod bed). Fumbled for my glasses, snapped on my fanny pack and pulled my backpack out with me as I stood up, right into the shoes at the foot of the bed.

Grabbed my jeans (which held my house keys as well as $100 USD and about 35 GBP plus a pocket full of change) and stuffed them into the backpack. Stumbled four steps to the cupboard, which I’d left unlocked because I was the only person in here last night, and pulled out my suitcase and computer.

The computer went into the backpack and I was pulling the suitcase out the door with me, probably 60 seconds after I first woke up.

Baby, it’s cold outside

I had been sleeping in sweatpants and T-shirt, unlike some of the folks trudging down the fire stairs. I saw people in boxers and nothing else, people in shorts and camisoles and people in flannel PJ pants and undershirts. Relatively few of them were carrying anything. I guess they weren’t as paranoid-prepared as I was.

We waited in a fine drizzle. Luckily, I got a spot under the theater marquee next door. (Apparently “Grease” is still the word.) The fire department arrived and even I could see this wasn’t real: One firefighter went in.

After about 25 minutes we were allowed back inside. Apparently something had set off the fire alarm in the adjacent building – it wasn’t actually burning – and this one went off as a precaution. Or something like that.

So I missed an hour of sleep. At least it wasn’t a real fire, which would have been the worst wakeup call.

Now I’m going to get up off the floor (no desk here) and go on about my business. First I need to put some butter on the ciabatta rolls I bought last night and eat one of them for breakfast; the other two are my road snacks, along with an apple and some dried cherries).

Then I’ll put on my jeans, pull the sheets off the bed, leave my room key-card at the front desk and head out to the subway* to Victoria Coach Station.

Cardiff, here I come. Here’s hoping the Megabus is worth at least as much as I paid.

*Sorry, I just can’t call it “the tube.” Neither would I call television “the telly” or sausage with potatoes “bangers and mash.” I would if I lived here, but I don’t.

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  1. Calling it ‘ The Underground ‘ would be okay for a non Brit. I never hear anyone say ‘ telly ‘ and ‘ bangers and mash ‘ is no different than ordering ‘ spotted dick ‘ it’s just the name of the item and if it is listed that way on a menu, you need not feel like a poser if you ask for it as it’s written or talk about it that way later.

    I do understand your point though or as my Brit husband would say, ‘ I take your point, ‘ and I too shy away from affectation and the full on embrace of the everything English shift that I’ve witnessed in a few American expats here. That said, I do love certain word changes here such as ‘ rellies and pressies ‘ for relatives and presents and will use them at times for fun.

    I look forward to reading about Cardiff and the bus ride there. I’m sure you’ll have some great stories from the long road trip.

  2. Adventure and excitement just follow you around! Glad it was just a false alarm….and what blog fodder! lol I would totally be ordering bangers & mash as well as fish & chips….and then be disappointed to get sausage & potatoes and fish with fries. Gotta “go native” a little bit! Here’s to a day with only the adventures you’re are actually seeking!

  3. Thanks for the entries about your adventures. Makes me appreciate my cubby that much more.

  4. lostAnnfound

    When you’re riding the “underground” just remember – “mind the gap.”

    Thanks for sharing all your adventures with us. I look forward to reading more.

  5. LOL – you should write a travel book! I went to England once a very long time ago and had a blast. Now my daughters want to travel there and I’m sharing your stories with them.

    Maybe for a future giveaway you should find a cheap or free “Mind The Gap” t-shirt. Would be very cool, even though most Yankees would have no idea what it means. Another great giveaway idea would be a William and Kate coffee mug or some such trinket commemorating the upcoming royal wedding. Can you imagine having your face plastered on all kinds of junk??? LOL

    Have you thought about visiting Ireland? With all their economic troubles of late, I’m thinking it’s a GREAT time to visit there. I’m trying to finagle a honeymoon over there (getting married in April) without spending too much money.

    Happy trails – and when you’re riding the tube, remember to mind the gap!

  6. No one took their stuff? That’s bizarre. I always take my stuff.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Bashtree: It surprised me, too, that so many people didn’t even grab backpacks on their way out. If the building had burned, they’d have been SOL without passports, money, et al.

  7. I think saying bangers and mash makes you cool.

    • Donna Freedman

      @SonyaAnn: I’ll only say “bangers and mash” if I’m ordering it at a restaurant. Heck, I still can’t get used to asking for directions to “the toilet.” Eeewww.

  8. Your trip IS full of “excitement.” I wouldn’t call taking your stuff “paranoid-prepared.” Just prepared. Better safe than sorry, right? Wouldn’t want to get things stolen by some shady character roaming around taking advantage of the fake alarm situation. Can’t wait to read about your next adventure!

  9. You certainly didn’t have to worry about fodder for your blog, now did you? Hope you are having a great time over there.

  10. I’ve been in more fire alarms than I care to remember. Once, it was a real fire in my building! My must-grabs include my purse ($$, ID and credit cards), a hoodie and umbrella (in Vancouver, chances are, it’ll be raining during a fire alarm), my passport, and my laptop.

    Sadly, the one time we did have a fire in the building, the bf grabbed my laptop… but not the laptop charger. 😛 But, as the apt was filling up with smoke, I can’t blame him too much!

  11. Usually the voices in my head tell me to do bad things not prepare for a fire drill.

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