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Finding Sydian (or How I learned to lose my Britishness and become a creepy stalker!)
Updated July 9th, 2012 at 4:04 AM by Mr Cat Dog (FINAL EDITS!)
Alternative titles considered for this blog entry: Sunday in the Parade with Sydian, Mission: Impossible - Syd Protocol, Much Better Version of New Year's Eve but on New Year's Day Instead. In the end, a weird mash-up of Finding Nemo and Dr. Strangelove seemed to be best, given the circumstances. Anyhoo, on with the story.
As many people will know, our beloved moderator of General Pokemon Gaming Discussions - Sydian - took a lil' trip to the UK a few days ago to perform in the London New Year's Day Parade. Syd had mentioned this to numerous people, including myself, a number of times over the last few months. During this time, I had joked around that we should, like, soooo totally meet up and, like, you know, whatever! We had a laugh, knowing that we were both sort of joking about this, given that I was supposed to be in Durham with family over New Year's, and not in London. It was only when I obtained my 2012 schedule for law school that I realised I would actually need to be in London for New Year's, due to a ridiculously early start (i.e. I start 'learning' again on Tuesday) and ridiculously expensive train tickets for departing any later than New Year's Eve. The chances of meeting Syd became significantly more likely, but still not probable by any means, due to all sorts of factors: we didn't have any way of contacting each other while Syd was in the UK, my housemates would undoubtedly force me to spend NYE outdoors looking at crappy fireworks and make me catatonic until 3pm on NYD, making me miss the parade, and so on.
However, we kept joking about the possibility of a meet-up. At one point I even said I'd have a specially-made, bespoke 'Sydian sign' to hold up while she was performing. But it was, for the most part, in jest. I knew that I probably wouldn't go, and she knew that from her position in the procession, she wouldn't be able to see most of the crowd, let alone be able to see me (not the tallest man in the world) or my lovely Sydian sign.
As many times as Syd had mentioned it, I had no idea what this parade even was or of its significance in the wider scheme of things. Despite living in London for nearly 4 years now, I'd never been here during Christmas-New Year's time. So, I did a little research about it, found its website as well as the section on Syd's band, and it's a big deal. All the different boroughs of London build floats and stuff to showcase what's good about say, Hackney or Southwark or Ealing or what have you. It's all interspersed with marching bands flown in from around the world (although mainly the US), cheerleaders, novelty events (in one case a Harley Davidson appreciation group) and other such stuff that I imagine would normally go in a parade of this nature. All of this kinda surprised me, as I honestly thought this only happened in the US. The only time I've even seen a marching band was on an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants (incidentally, my favourite episode of that show: 'Band Geeks'). It all sounded relatively exciting, in a kitschy and quaint sort of way.
What also struck me was that Syd's band was 'leading' it, so I assumed that I needed to be there for the start of the parade at 11:45am. Although I'd be at the end of the route, due to Westminster being the best Tube stop to get off at, I'd still need to be early in order to guarantee a place where Syd could see my sign.
But I still wouldn't be able to go. My housemates would be in London and expecting me to do stuff with them... until they weren't! By some twist of fate, they all had separate plans on NYE and would all be out of London on that day. Huh! Chances of getting to the parade suddenly rose exponentially, given that I probably wouldn't be lying in some stranger's bed from a badly-gone-wrong house party that I was expecting to go to.
So, yesterday evening I got my train from Durham to London with no hassle (watching all of the BBC miniseries of Great Expectations during the journey), and arrived back at my house at around 9pm. As promised, the house was deserted, save for some week-out-of-date milk, an unpaid electricity bill and some loaded mousetraps. What followed was a quieter-than-usual New Year's Eve spent mainly on the Internet playing chess with Vendak and talking about Dolly Parton in the PokeCommunity Chat. It was certainly different from the NYEs that had come before it, so I'll give it that. It also allowed me to get to bed at the reasonable hour of 2am, giving me plenty of time to wake up, get ready, make an awesome Sydian sign and find a good place near the end of the parade route in Whitehall so as to hopefully show my Sydian sign in some sort of futile attempt that maybe one of the people on the outskirts of the procession would see it and then tell her later, thus vicariously proving that I did see her perform.
But fate works in mysterious ways.
I like to sleep. I like to sleep so much that I am dependent on an alarm clock to stop me from sleeping for most of the day. On 1st January 2012 (ooh, that still feels weird to say!) my alarm clock decided to just not work. Because of this, I woke up at 11:00am - 45 minutes before the start of the parade. Normally, I'd throw in the towel and accept defeat... but an incident a couple of months ago made me realise that I should take the bull by the horns and travel down rabbit holes even when my brain says I shouldn't. So, I forsook shaving or showering - settling only for a quick face wash and teeth brush - and set to work on my Sydian sign. The end result (after being in my pocket) was as follows:
Not my best work, admittedly. The closest thing representing black permanent marker was green highlighter, but it needed some definition, hence the red outline. Also, this was just on A4 paper; my housemates are bankers, not artists, so anything bigger wouldn't fit in the printer! But it was functional, and it got the message across. Armed with my Sydian sign, 9 hours of sleep and a podcast to listen to on the Tube, I raced out of the house; personal hygiene be damned!
After a minor delay in getting the Tube to Westminster (by being on the wrong platform and subsequently missing the first train), I arrived at around 11:40. I was still early! Success! And it turned out there were still a fair few empty spaces along the route to wave my sign. Raise the level of success from ordinary to unbridled!
But complacency got the better of me: I wanted breakfast. Specifically, I wanted breakfast at the McDonalds that was positively WINKING at me from across the parade route. So, I succumbed. It was relatively busy but not Indian-railway-station-esque busy, but then I made the stupid decision of ordering a Chicken Selects meal. Anyone who has ordered a Chicken Selects meal from a UK-based McDonalds will know that they take about 5 minutes to prepare at a minimum. It was stupid of me, but it did taste very good.
While I was waiting, I was still listening to my podcast, which was very entertaining. In doing so, I was using my all-new noise-cancelling headphones, which meant I couldn't hear the announcements outside that the parade had started in my absence until I turned around and could see the tufts of marching band hats in the distance! I quickly grabbed my meal (the server frantically apologising for its delay) and ran out the McDonalds at a speed Usain Bolt would regard as competition.
Bag in hand, I went back to my chosen spot only to realise it had been filled by an annoying French family. What followed next involved me running down Whitehall with a McDonalds bag in one hand and an iPhone in the other trying to frantically take pictures of Syd's band while I ate french fries. The results are below:
Again, not my best work. Eventually, I found a spot right near the end where I could observe in relative seclusion. The view was restricted by the MASSIVE GRANDSTAND but you can't have everything in life. So, I watched as the band played its tune, only to realise that there was something 'off' about it. For one, everyone seemed very young, and they looked very tanned, and had black hair. I would have assumed there'd be less homogeneity in a band of Syd's size, and my feelings were confirmed when saw that I had ran frantically out of McDonalds to see the Punahou School Band from Oahu, Hawaii perform their medley. Not the Marching Southerners. Which is good, because they weren't great. It turns out there was a 'Pre-Parade Procession', which I found out in the program given to me by a helpful usher, which was in turn lead by the aforementioned school band. Phew!
Relieved, I ran back along the route to see a massive banner reading 'Jacksonville State University Marching Southerners'. Success! The parade had started for real. Having scrounged my previous place to a French family, I ended up standing behind a petite woman, and whipped my sign out for all the world to see. I was the only person with a sign, rendering my behaviour strange to those around me.
What amazed me about the whole thing was how quick it was. Everyone was walking at the same speed, whether they were a cheerleader or a tuba player or anything, and everyone went by in the space of about a minute. When everyone passed me, the band was playing a song that sounded familiar but whose name I couldn't place. All the while I was looking for a saxophonist who's picture I'd only seen one or two times. And marvelling at the cheerleaders whose smiles remained glacially fixed even when somersaulting about the place. It was creepy and fascinating at the same time!
To my surprise, a number of people on the edge seemed to read my sign. Some of them even smiled at me, which was nice of them. But, in the end, I couldn't really see Syd. Being in the middle of the procession was definitely a hindrance for potential onlookers such as myself. However, I saw my job as complete. Those three or four people would undoubtedly tell Syd that she had some creepy secret admirer, and she'd come to the conclusion that it'd be me and get a strange sense of joy out of it. Mission accomplished!
But I kept walking. The performance continued to the end of the route, where a medley of songs was played brilliantly (although the only one I could recognise was 'Fever'). The crowd applauded and waited for the next act that was bound to disappoint them. I think it was horses. The Marching Southerners departed along Parliament Square presumably back to their buses. And I followed them. Partially to find a bin for the McDonalds bag, but also out of curiousity.
If there was ever going to be a chance to talk to Syd, this would be it. I knew the way around the area having had exams here a few months ago, so I quickly caught up with the group. I thought I saw someone who looked like Syd but my Britishness made me just look ridiculous as I tried to start a conversation with this group of women. Eventually, one of them saw me looking confused and said: 'HEY! DO YOU WANNA TAKE A PICTURE WITH US?!' "No, not really" my brain said, but my mouth said "yes". As I was taking the photo, I asked them if they knew a Sydian. (Obviously real name in this case.) The girl on the right of the picture then yelled in the loudest voice I've ever heard: "SYDIAAAAAAAAAAAN" (Again, obviously real name.)
Of course, no one responded. Many weird looks were given in the lady's direction, but she didn't care. They asked me who I was, I said 'Jonathan. She'll know who I am.' They said they'd find her and tell her I was looking for her. Already I appeared like a stalker, but I was strangely determined. I'd come this far, I might as well keep going. I took a short cut to come out ahead of the band, and started frantically looking for anyone with a saxophone that looked similar to Syd. After a minute or so, I saw someone that looked similar enough to warrant a mention. Even if this person wasn't Syd, the saxophone meant that she would at least know of her, hopefully. I struck up a conversation, which went a little bit like this. (The bits in brackets are what I imagined these people to be thinking, a la this scene from Annie Hall.)
Me: Er, hi. This is going to sound a bit unusual, but do you know a [REAL NAME HERE]? (WhatamIdoingwhatamIdoingwhatamIdoing?)
Her: That's me. (Oh god, have I got a stalker?)
Me: You're [REAL NAME HERE]? (:O BRAIN MELT!)
Her: Yeah. (I just said so... did this guy even have a shower today?)
Me: Hi! (Surely she knows who I am by now!?)
Her: Er, hi. (Who the hell is this freak and how does he know my name?)
Me: Sydian? (COME ON, WOMAN! YOU KNOW IT'S ME!)
The penny drops. Syd has a facial expression part surprised, horrified and a bit excited.
Syd: Oh my god! (OhgodheactuallycameOMGIthoughtwewerejoking!)
Me: Yeah. Oh my god. You were very good, by the way. (Must say something nondescript and positive.)
Syd: Thank you. Wow, I didn't think you'd come. (Holy god, am I going to get murdered by some guy on the internet?)
Me: Yeah, I was here. With my sign and everything. (I can't believe this is actually happening.)
Syd: Oh, I was looking for it; I couldn't see anything. (Oh yeah, he had that Sydian sign or something... better mention it.)
Guy behind us: I saw that sign. I wondered who you were! (???)
I fumble into my pocket to retrieve the sign and show it to them.
Syd: Oh wow! It's so small. (Oh wow, that's bad.)
Me: Well, we just had A4 paper in the house. We're not made of money, you know. (WHAT ARE YOU SAYING THAT FOR? ABORT! ABORT!)
Syd: I can't believe you managed to find me. (Did he, like, follow us from the parade or something?)
Me: I told you I'd find you eventually. (!£@$#™ JUST STOP TALKING, YOU SOUND LIKE A STALKER!)
Syd: Yeah, you did. (Oh god, I'm going to be raped and my body's going to be in the Thames by tonight.)
Me: Well, I should let you get going. Back to Alabama and all that. (Better end this quick before the police get involved.)
Syd: Yeah. Well it was really nice to see you. (Save me, strapping young man to my right! Save me!)
Me: You too. I can't believe we actually met. (We're not out of it yet; nondescript statements!)
Syd: I know. You're the first person from PC that I've met. I thought I'd meet someone American first! (Why couldn't it have been Klippy or Hiidoran? Why, universe, why?)
Me: Yeah, that makes sense. Well... see ya! (See ya?! Well, at least authorities haven't been alerted.)
Syd: Bye! You should totally blog this! (OK, I'm alive. Thank **** for that!)
And THAT, everyone, is how you meet people from PC! :D
Afterwards, I walked back along the rest of the parade route taking pictures for Patchisou Yutohru, who bizarrely wanted loads of photos of London for some reason. You can find them all in this album. As well as that, I ended up disrupting the entrance of the Glenbrook North High School Spartan Marching Band by running across the parade unannounced to get to the other side so I could get my Tube home. And then it started raining and I got drenched, but I didn't care, as I had had one of the best New Year's Days that I can recall. And all by losing all my inhibitions and acting like a crazy stalker.
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