Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Day Dan Stood Still

Okay, so the last week has been more hectic than I could ever imagine and the two black Chanel bags under my eyes account for the lack of sleep. So let's start from the beginning. On the 17th July I called up the US Embassy to confirm my appointment after I emailed all the documents through to them. I had two choices for my appointment.. 8:00am or 8:30am on the 26th July.. Obviously I chose the latter as I thought 8:00am would've been too early – in hindsight 8:00am would've been perfect.

I'll just start by saying I quit smoking on the 19th July 2011. So things are obviously a lot worse than they usually are, for me anyway.

I booked my train on the 22nd July and I called my father to see if he could give me a lift. I haven't spoken to him in over a month and I thought him having to drive me 20 miles to pick up my tickets would have been okay (unfortunately I couldn't get my tickets sent to me as the dates landed over the weekend and I don't live in London so I couldn't get “express delivery”). It was okay! He said yes. What a shock, I thought he would've been “too busy” or “had a drink” but no, he was more than happy to drive me. He pulled up in front of my house with his new red Peugeot 107 with a smile on his face and his teeth being covered by his moustache which has been above his upper lip for the best part of 30 years. It's progressively turning grey, though. My father decided that he'd bring his intolerable fiancĂ© with him. She's a strange being. She doesn't speak much and isn't the best looking woman in the world. But once she's had a few drinks in her you can't shut her up – and I like talking, a lot. So she gets out of the car and pushes the seat forward and looks at me. My eyes looked at her like “Come on, love. I'm 6 foot 4 and there is no way I'm that nimble to be able to get in the back of that car”. Funnily enough, I found out I was that nimble! To cut a long story short, that journey took an hour and a half and as much of a good man my father is (sometimes), he doesn't half drive slowly. He'd call it “being careful” but I'd call it pissing me off because I was in a rush.

So Monday 25th comes along and I had a good 4 hour journey ahead of me. All packed and ready to go. I wonder around my local town thinking “this journey is going to be intolerable if I don't get something to read” so I picked up two books from the local library: Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King and The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. It's the very first time I've read a Stephen King book and I can assure you that I will be reading one again. I still have 40 pages to read but it's absolutely fantastic. The 4 hour journey was relaxing whilst reading, even though I can't usually read whilst travelling – dreaded travel sickness. When I'm on the train I usually fall in love with at least 3 gorgeous women walking around. Well when I say gorgeous, they're “train gorgeous”, which means that they're the nicest looking on the carriage and you would like to do some things with them which wouldn't even be disclosed within a court of law, right? This time I didn't fall in love with anyone. I fell in love with the book and I continued to read it, even when I finally got to my stop as I had to wait 45 minutes for my cousin to pick me up.

On the night of the 25th my cousin made me a Thai green curry, which was absolutely outstanding. We had a naan bread which was filled with Coriander and Garlic. Her husband came around as he doesn't live there at the moment as they're on a “break”. He came around specifically for me, so I could fix a couple of his laptops. I obliged, obviously. Sorted them both out and borrowed him the 3 pin plug connection for my laptop charger so he could charge his laptop. He bought a cheap charger from eBay and as he plugged the charger into the wall it instantly tripped the entire electrics within the apartment. Fantastic. I fixed that too. I decided that sleep was the best possible answer after travelling and socialising with family. So I finally got to bed at around midnight, but I couldn't sleep for love nor money. I had to be up at 4am, 4. I was tossing and turning for the best part of two hours and as I drifted off I must've been thinking about something bad and I startled myself, sat up in bed and I swear my heart stopped. There was silence throughout the house, my heart not beating, the inability to breathe. I sat up at the side of the bed and eventually had the energy to take in a deep breath to save my life, checked my phone and it was around 3:30am. I had to be up in 30 minutes. I laid there, unable to sleep. I think I must've slept around 2 hours that night, maximum.

So D-day arrived. The 26th July 2011. The day which is obviously going to be the marker for my life changing experiences. 7 days without a cigarette touching my lips, it was 4am in the morning and I got dressed. I started to eat breakfast and words from my mother the day before were echoing within my head “I feel like you're going for an execution, I don't know what the answer is going to be.” As I tucked in to my breakfast, I could imagine what the people in Death Row might have felt like having their last meal. My cousin decided she'd come to London with me, which was good as I'm not good at being on my own – as I said, I like to talk. So we catch the bus from Oxford at 5:00am and luckily 2 weeks ago I bought an ISIC card, which gave me £3 discount on the bus, get in! I continued to read Dolores Claiborne on the bus, the plot was getting mightily juicy. The bus was travelling extraordinarily fast. There was a guy sitting opposite me with an iPad 2, which was obviously jailbroken as he was using FaceTime with someone over his 3G signal. Quite a few business men were on the bus as well. Why on earth would you work in London having to travel from Oxford at 5am. Are they mad? Perhaps, but it's a job, I suppose! We arrived in London at 6:22am. We parked up right outside a Costa, which wasn't open until 6:30am to our utter disgust. Luckily the Starbucks opposite was open, so we strolled right in! I had a Caramel Frappucino with extra coffee in it. What a lovely breakfast. As we walked down Baker Street, we both looked at each other and thought that we were here way too early. It was now around 1 hour and 45 minutes until my interview. We wondered around looking for the US Embassy, baffled why we couldn't see it. We asked a Met Police officer with a gun strapped around him where the Embassy was. He pointed behind him with his thumb as he looked at us. “It's here, mate, you're standing right outside it!” I said “Fantastic! Though we're here way too early.” He asked whether I had an interview letter. Of course I had an interview letter, I've been wanting this interview for god knows how long. I'm sure he wouldn't have known that, though.

My cousin and I bump in to two guys standing in the queue for the US Embassy at 7:20am, I was wondering why. I asked them and they said “it gets really busy mate. Get in the queue now!” so I got in to the queue and waited. 30 minutes pass and I was getting rather edgy and my knee was hurting severely. Once the two people came out to check documents, they gave us a small plastic bag to put our stuff in... Wallet, watch and random change in my pocket. I then told my cousin she couldn't come in with me and she had to stand outside waiting for me. I told her I could be up to 4 hours, to her utter disbelief. So I depart company from my cousin with all my paperwork in hand and go through the first check point, being scanned by a metal detector. I didn't beep! I then picked up my stuff from the plastic bag and continued on my journey to the next check point. Whilst putting my watch back on, I get to the next check point, where I got assigned the number “N7” by the nice Scottish woman behind the desk. The waiting game took place. It was 7:55am and I was 7th in line to being seen. 8am arrived and the entire embassy sprung to life, all the workers were at their pods ready (most of them armed with Starbucks and a Subway sandwich wrapper beside them, I might add). “N1” got called. N1 was the guy which I spoke to originally to see why he was in the queue so early. “N2” was next.. And so on until it was my turn, 5 minutes later. I shuffle towards the woman and she went through all my documents, asking me why I had been arrested so long ago, a lifetime ago. I explained thoroughly. She then progressed to take my finger prints. Left hand 4 fingers, right hand 4 fingers and 2 thumbs, respectively. She then says everything is fine and takes the documents she wants, including the new passport which I mentioned in a previous blog. I then had to sit down and fill in another form and wait my turn. This is where I start to panic. “N1” gets called.. I thought “not long now”. “N2” gets called.. I was thinking “yes, I'll be out by 20 past 8!” N3...N4...N8...N9... Why didn't they call me?! 20 minutes pass. My heart is pounding, unlike when I woke up that same morning and the sweat dripping from my hands and forehead was unprecedented. Within the entire history of mankind, I don't think anyone has ever had that much sweat on them. I hear the magic words “N7 to interview room 19, please”. YES! I thought to myself, then my legs felt like they were weighed down with lead weights. I walked so slowly. I could see the woman sitting there ready to grill me about my arrest. To grill me about why I wanted to study in the US. To grill me, full stop. In fact, she was the complete opposite to what I thought she was going to be. She was a very nice woman. An American woman. Nice brown eyes and very clean teeth. She asked me the reasons why I got arrested and I explained to her that it was 5 years ago, and I was 17 years old. I had too much to drink and I had a fight. She said was like “drinking when you were 17?! You must've looked older than you were!” I said “yes, I always have been tall” I didn't say I have always been fat, though. As the interview progressed, she said this to me “can you promise me something? Can you firstly, not drink and secondly, don't fight in Utah?” I replied “yes” without hesitation, though I'm obviously going to have a few drinks – social drinks. She then said “I've issued you with your visa, take this document and pay for your fee!” I skipped towards the desk where you had to pay, then my heart sank. I saw the price was £14.80.. I only had £10 on me. The sign also said “card payments only” I only had cash. Panicking, I checked my wallet. Thank god I left my credit card in there. I couldn't remember my pin but the lovely lady decided to swipe it and look at my old passport signature as proof that I am who I say I am. Funny that, they still check to see who I am, even though I've just gone through 2 interview processes. I walk out of the Embassy, and I see a woman there crying. They denied her a Visa, but let her husband have one, she was totally hysterical. She was absolutely gorgeous too, better than any woman I've never seen on the train, anyway!

The time was now 9am. What to do in London for the rest of the day? I finally meet up with my cousin and we do the usual cliché sightseeing. We went to Leicester Square, Chinatown, Piccadilly Circus, the Strand. I finally got to saw the London Eye, the River Thames, Big Ben.. The Houses of Parliament! We then went back to Chinatown at 12pm where we had a stunning all you can eat buffet. Getting progressively tired, we decided 1pm was enough and we made our way back to Victoria Coach Station where we caught the bus back to Oxford. That bus was extraordinarily hot on the way back and I still have the burn mark on my left arse cheek from the radiator.

So that's what has been going on in my life for the past week or so. I told you, manic!

Now I'm just having to pull the money together to get the flights to Utah, and I'll be on my way!... By the 12th August, anyway.


  1. Love it. great read. Big alex fieldy! x

  2. A great read, Paul the Northern Geordie;-)