We tell our children they should never, ever agree to meet or provide personal details to the people they encounter on the internet — after all, that 12 year old they’ve met playing on the penguin website is most likely to be be an unshaven, unsavory thirty year old weirdo. And do not get me started on facebook. We all know that no one on social networking websites is actually in high school. They are all bored workers at law firms and investment banks, having fun for the first time in their lives pretending to be people they weren’t ten or fifteen years ago. Or worse.
And so I am a little nervous about admitting that the three bloggers I met in London were astonishingly normal, for fear that might make my children think it’s okay for them to have coffee with unsavory weirdos. Come to think of it, these three bloggers weren’t actually normal. They were more than normal — hospitable, kind, welcoming, funny, smart and (yes, I know you want to know), really good looking.
I met Ingrid, from The Girl in the Cafe first. This is only appropriate, because what made me love Ingrid’s blog so much is that she writes so beautifully about London, a city she moved to several years ago from Copenhagen so she could pursue her dream of making and writing films. I didn’t actually spot her for a while after I walked into the cafe near Piccadilly Circus, because she had her head down, marking up her film script with a very cool pink marker. Ingrid loves romantic comedies, and she is writing a marvelous script in that genre. Because I’ve been so immersed in Shakespearean comedy, which shares a lot with romantic comedy, it was really, really fun to have her tell me the story of her movie. And then we went to see Steve Carrell in Dan in Real Life, which was very funny. I left the cinema seeing Ingrid and her blog in an entirely different way. It was as though she’d popped out of the monitor and become even more real. Now I can hear her voice when I read her blog and imagine her in her seat at the cafe near the cinema.
A few days later, after an abortive attempt to make it to Cambridge to see litlove (who knew that a single tree could disrupt service between two cities so completely?), I had lunch with Michael, who describes himself as an unrelaxed dad but, in fact, is anything but. Michael works by the British Museum, so I met him there, and we had a lovely lunch of Korean food, which really took the edge off all the hummus and apples I’d been sustaining myself with. Michael and his wife have just doubled the number of children in their house, adding a daughter in the last month or so. He looked remarkably fresh for a man who’s got that much going on. His blog too seems different somehow after meeting him. It’s still the same interesting and thoughtful place but it seems to have a sort of accent and background it didn’t have before.
And then, on Thursday, the day before I left London, they got that tree off the line and I managed to get myself to Cambridge. Here I met not only the lovely litlove, whom I’ve been reading since she and I began blogging at almost the same time, but her husband who is, oddly enough, a British version of my own husband — tall, blond engineers both, guys who will go out to the store and get the stuff you need to have lunch with your friend, and then take your friend on a little tour of Cambridge that includes the best place to buy sweatshirts without a single sigh or a bit of impatience. I don’t know where these men come from, but am amazed that there is actually more than one in the world. (Actually, to be fair, litlove’s husband is his own very unique person — down to his nice sense of humor and his love of being on the water rowing — but there is something about his tolerance and patience that reminded me so much of my own husband, perhaps because I have been feeling so grateful to him for taking on the herculean task of caring for our three boys while I was out having tea and soup and going to the theater.)
There is, of course, only one litlove, and she was just so much fun to spend the afternoon with. I had seen her picture, so knew what she looked like, but it’s really not the same as meeting someone and sitting around in their rooms and eating the yummy soup they’ve whipped up for you. Her blog gives you the impression of an enormous amount of intellectual energy, and so does she, of course. But what I didn’t realize is how extremely good she is, a person without any malice or edge or regret. It’s hard to describe this really, but I left thinking that both litlove and her husband approach life with the openness, curiosity and fearlessness that comes from knowing that there is only one such life and it is full of good and interesting things.
That, in fact, is what I thought about most on the airplane home (well, that and why it is that they FEED you so much on airplanes). That there’s really no time for regret or anxiety because there’s just too much to see and do. So I leave you with one of my favorite London views, something I was so struck by every time I walked past it on my way to Paddington Station. My brother’s apartment is close to the Paddington Basin, which is an arresting place: a combination of the 21st century, with lots of steel and glass, and a different time, best represented by the Westminster Fishing Club, whose pink door looks toward the enormous Marks & Spencer headquarters building and serves as a reminder that cities, like people (and like bloggers) are made up of many layers and if we are lucky, we will get to see as many dimensions of them as we can while we are still here.