Yesterday I became one in a long and illustrious line of Aussies-in-London to partake in a tradition upheld since 1979. Like the good Australian girl I am, I spent my Sunday at The Church.
I first heard of The Church shortly before I left home at the end of last year. My mother is still in touch with the vast majority of her school friends, and it was at one of their Christmas parties that I learnt of the Church's existence. I was chatting with Mark, a pushing-fifty father of several, when he urged me to get to a Sunday service. The fact that this knowledge was passed down to me from a former wild child gives you some idea of how proud an antipodean tradition The Church is.
So I dragged myself out of bed at eight on Sunday morning, draped myself in a bed sheet and prepared myself for the worst (best?). Going to the Church requires a serious effort. For one thing, you have to catch the overground to get there (seeing the sky out of a train window is a sure sign you're going a long way away), and for another they only open for about four hours, after which they deposit you, drunk and disoriented, back out onto the street to make a public spectacle of yourself.
But dear God, was it ever worth it.
The hours I spent in the Church were the four most debauched hours I've had...well, since leaving Australia. The whole place is geared towards getting patrons as as drunk as humanly possible, as evidenced by the cheap booze and cheaper strippers. None of the usual societal norms seem to apply, as long as you have a drink in your hand and a vacant grin on your face. Not to mention I'd thought my toga party days had finished with my university degree. Apparently not.
I also got the chance to talk to some shearers from Wagga about Coolamon, the town I didn't think anyone actually knew about. It wasn't until I spent some time with Aussies again that I realised how true most of the stereotypes are (in the best possible way).
After the Church turfed us we trekked it all the was back into Shepherd's Bush to go to the Walkabout. By this time the conflict between the time my body thought it was and the time the rest of the world thought it was had begun to take it's toll, and after the Walkabout Tinja and I dragged our empty stomachs across to the closest pub for our first meal of the day. Unluckily for us they refused to serve ancient Greeks. Luckily, we both had regular clothes on hand, which we threw on in the middle of the street, impressing the bartender no end in the process.
After feeding we walked for a bit, trying to sober up before we went home to our respective employers. I now remember the reason why I like to sleep off a good binge. The transition from drunk to hungover is hell. When I finally stumbled back into my room around 10pm I was destroyed, and slept like a baby until 3.30 in the morning, when I woke up totally sober and totally not tired. So I watched Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle and reflected that any day that sees me singing "If you're happy and you know it" with a group of drunk strangers in the Maccas bathroom at 5pm is probably a good one.