birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Overnighter in London

A group of us American kids decided to go down to London for the weekend. Our plan was to be both adventurous and fiscally savvy by staying up all night and not booking accommodations. Instead, we would dance the night away at the Hippodrome in Leicester Square. We took the first train out of Leeds and arrived in London mid-morning. We did all the touristy things we didn’t get to do a few months ago when we were in London for our Education Abroad Program orientation. We saw Buckingham Palace and a bunch of other things I don’t remember. I do remember, though, that we stood out as ridiculously American with our Jansport backpacks and extroverted enthusiasm.

We got to the Hippodrome around 11 o’clock. We left our jackets and backpacks at the coat check but it was still gross and steamy dancing to “Cotton Eye Joe” with hundreds of other people while wearing winter sweaters. Plus, “dancing the night away” was clearly going to be a no-go. We’d been up since six that morning and we were pretty exhausted from walking around all day. We did dance but mostly we leaned on railings and zoned out.

When the club closed at four, we headed out into the deserted London streets. We’d thought that it would be super easy to pass the time until the first train back to Leeds, which was at seven. We were very, very wrong. It was freezing cold and we felt completely miserable. We must have looked a sight, a group of zombies wearing backpacks ambling through London. Not that anyone else was stupid enough to be out at that hour in that weather. We somehow found ourselves back near Buckingham Palace. Somebody in the group pointed out an old armory nearby. That made me feel resentful, for some reason. I couldn’t feel the end of my nose or any of my toes. We finally laid down on the street, huddling around a lamp post, as if that was the proper thing to do. It was so cold, just laying there, but we were too exhausted to walk or even stand.

Seven o’clock arrived and we were shocked and grateful that we made it. It was so nice to sit inside the cozy train. Our London weekend was cheap and adventurous but none of us wanted to do anything like that ever again.

Peace in the Valley

The Tradeoff