Goodbye UK, hello world

by tkos on August 14, 2012

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I’d been counting down for the last 365 days. I’d even had an app in my phone for it. Countdown to resignation day, countdown to last day at work and countdown to today. Leaving day.

The night before, Bar Wars II was on at Roadhouse. It was the sequel to our first fundraiser, a bartending competition between five of London’s biggest bars, where we raised £2,800. All our friends were there, it was the ultimate goodbye party for us. Abacus was competing and were a good chance to take the crown. We were enjoying a last night of indulgence and decided to stay at the Strand Plaza Hotel in Covent Garden. That way we could say goodbye in the same style we have lived for the passed three years. Large.

The thing is, we just didn’t care. We didn’t want to party, we didn’t want to drink, we didn’t want to celebrate. We just felt like sneaking out as everybody was slamming tequilas and cheering Jelena’s pour test and speed round. The night was a mixture of all my London worlds combined. Roadhouse, where I was born and raised in the London bar industry, Abacus, my new found home and family and a flair comp, like in my old days and memories. I could have walked around like I owned the place, but for some reason, I felt like I didn’t even belong. I went back to the hotel early for an orange juice and a sandwich. Not so Rock & Roll but the defining moment of a closed chapter, and a preview for the next. Abacus won the competition.

Breakfast in the hotel was about as comfortable as a squat toilet in a petrol station. Kimmi’s family and some close friends met us at 8am to say goodbye.  Saying goodbye is never easy. Especially in a large group of friends, a film crew and some family. It really is the ultimate in social awkwardness.

The plan was to meet outside TigerTiger after a quick ride around some London monuments for filming. It gave us  the chance to regroup with ourselves. A moment for Kimmi and I to reflect over the wonders of central London and the places that have provided so many amazing memories and stories for us. This was our goodbye, to our home. This was our farewell parade. We stopped traffic in Trafalgar Square and had a police escort through Pall Mall. It was amazing. Well, almost. My front bag fell off in the middle of Trafalgar Square and I crashed into another cyclist, which stopped the traffic. The police escort was more of an escort away from the Royal Gardens without Royal filming permission. London was saying goodbye to us.

Emerging through the circus traffic of Piccadilly, we approached the goodbye gathering outside TigerTiger. A small gathering of family, close friends, colleagues and the odd chef on a fag break tugged at the heart strings as they held a huge The Kindness of Strangers banner. We got off the bikes as the crowd gathered around, awaiting some kind of magical momentous words from one of us. The silence propelled the awkward social disaster and emotion, so we broke off and started spending the most time with the people we felt the least for. Just to delay the inevitable final goodbye.

The emotion started getting the better of Kimmi. She was already highly strung, premenstrual and quick to bite. It was a little easier for me as it wasn’t my mum and sisters standing there for a public display of emotion and goodbyes. For me they all started as colleagues, soon became friends and now felt like family. But it wasn’t my mum and dad standing there so it was a little easier for me to keep any potential tears at bay. This was all about Kimmi. It was her time to say goodbye and I wanted to give her all the time she needs.

The awkward moment of good bye

For me it was all about balancing the time between friends. There seems to be an unwritten rule in these situations when it comes to the end. For some reason, when you start to finally say goodbye, you need to instantly pick the person you feel least close to and say goodbye to them first. And whether this gesture of farewell is a handshake or a hug and a longing look in the emotional eyes with some long lasting memorable words or whatever it may be, it just needs to be slightly less intimate and emotional than the next, slightly closer person watching you. Awkward. At this point, with only another 20 odd goodbyes to go, I knew both Kimmi and I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

And just after the final squeeze, the final hug and the tears falling from some of my friends faces, I turned to see Kimmi in an emotional embrace with her mum. Nobody knew where to look. Tears poured down there faces as they held onto each other so tightly, just in case it would be the last ever time. We waited. I stood away from everyone else. I had my farewell time and it appeared that I had finished a little too early. Waiting in awkward silence. Waiting for the final call from Kimmi. Not wanting to start another conversation after saying goodbye. Just standing there. Feeling like a bit of a tit.

‘Lets go!’ says Kimmi as she breaks from her mum, looks at no one and heads straight for the bike. Within 30 seconds we were on our way, heading down Piccadilly. The wind was rushing through our helmets and it hit me… we were on our way. We were leaving. The lump in my throat quickly turned into a tear in my eye. We were leaving. The tear trickled down my face as I looked into the camera facing us. We were finally leaving. Tears were flying faster than the tyres. I started turning into a mess. Sadness, despair, anxiety, fear, excitement, joy, hope. All of which rushed through me. I had to stop cycling to take a moment and get myself together.

The camera had never been more than five meters away from my face during the whole horrible farewell ordeal. Roman, the director and cameraman pops his head up and says “I missed a shot…. Can we do that again?”


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