World Clock

Friday, 31 October 2008

one unlucky week...

I had one very unlucky week in Budapest. By far the largest and worst case of bad luck was having my laptop and external harddrive stolen from the hostel room as Lee and I dined to celebrate our 7th month away from home. After this, it all went downhill. I managed to break a CSers internet connection, his Mongolian yert started falling apart and his turtles died, all while he had placed his house under our care, and to top it off we got caught again without a ticket on a bus (but somehow were able to talk our way out of it - actually I think talking is exactly the reason that we got away with it: we were arguing in English and I think the less-than-fluent ticket inspectors were a little intimidated, go English!). Hmm. Well, that's the bad stuff out of the way. Unfortunately, all these goings on did put a bit of a dampener on my experience of Budapest (pronounced like buddha-pesht) including my desire to explore it. Looking back, I feel disappointed that I didn't enjoy this city as much as I could have because it really is a lovely city. I guess I'll probably get another chance to see it next year with the Sziget festival!
We arrived into Hungary's capital mid-afternoon and were hassled as soon as we jumped off the train by taxi drivers and people offering us a bed in their hotel (I never take them up on their offers, I'd always much rather look for a place myself). It brought me back to times in Asia where we experienced the same. We brushed past them and headed for the information booths where we were sure we'd get a much more complete and unbiased list of available hostels - turns out we were wrong and one guy even asked, "Why would you want to stay in a hostel?" It was then I realised that for me the scariest part of travelling is arriving in a completely new country, new language, new city with all of your worldly possessions on your back and not knowing where you are or where you're going to sleep that night, and having this itching suspicion that it might not be advisable to trust people trying to help you. On the flip-side, I find that the best part of travelling is waking up the following morning, stepping outside, and realising that the place is really not that scary after all.
Well, thank God for WiFi again (Maccas this time helped us out) and we found ourselves a hostel for €6/night which was about half of what the info places said we would be paying. The 11th Hour Cinema Hostel had a homely feel to it which was great, we were happy - they made us coffee. But unfortunately we could only stay for 2 nights as they were booked out, hence the CSer.
Like a lot of European cities, Budapest is set on a river. It is split by the Danube river into two parts, the "old town" called Buda, and the "new town" known as.. you guessed it... Pest. Our hostel (along with the shopping strips and majority of the clubs and restaurants) was situated in Pest. There are some quite grand and picturesque buildings on this side of the river, most notably the Parliament building set along the waterfront with its red-capped roof and spires that make it look somewhat like the building is being suspended by invisible ropes. In Buda there is an equally grand and huge building on Castle Hill (Várhegy) that houses the National Gallery and affords a great view over the city. The surrounding neighbourhood boasts a lovely old-European feel with the colourful buildings and abundant churches, although it seems that just about every church in Europe is annoyingly obstructed by scaffolding at the moment, undergoing some sort of reconstruction or restoration work.
We came across some great traditional Hungarian food in a market here. Take batter, chuck it in the deep frier, add grated cheese and ham or spinach, et voila! Really cheap, really tasty and really greasy... This was of course after sampling the famous Hungarian goulash the evening before.
October 2nd marked the end of our 7th month abroad. We spent the majority of the day updating blogs, etc. Dinnertime came and I hid my laptop under the blankets in our locked dorm while we nipped out for a quick bite with Henry, an Irish fellow we met at the hostel. 45 minutes later, we came back and the laptop was gone along with my external harddrive and another fellow traveller's laptop. Immediately informing the hostel staff didn't prove very useful as they let us search all lockers in the hostel but turned up nothing. I have my suspicions that it was actually the Swedish guy whose laptop also was "stolen", but I think it's pretty impossible to prove anything. The first thing I did the next day naturally was report it to the police which was a task and a half in itself - a several-hour event.


Blinded - looking over the Danube


Part of the massive complex on Várhegy

Some more Várhegy

Even more

Carved into the cliff

The Wiener Schnitty

We chose an overnight bus to leave Poland for neighbouring Austria. We were going to Vienna. Our first breath of air taken in this gorgeous city was at the Erdbergstrasse bus station at about 0530hr - and that was some cold air... Exiting the S-Bahn in the city's main square, Stephansplatz, a short while later brought us above ground at the foot of the huge and stunning 13th-century centrepiece, St. Stephan's church (Stephansdom). Vienna's city centre can be summed up in one word: grand; with its huge squares, massive pedestrianised areas, the coffee houses, the restaurants serving Wiener Schnitzel and strudel, the Marzipan shops, all housed within the typically 5- to 6-storey buildings that line every strasse and which look somewhat like impressively detailed marzipan sculptures themselves. Our first thought.. Where can we find free WiFi? We had contacted a few couchsurfers and had not yet heard back from them so we needed to check on this first in order to figure out what to do with our bags! Starbucks was the go. And those wonderful free 30 minute cards just kept on coming... Anyway, the upshot was that we managed to find ourselves a lovely CSer by the name of Raph but he was out of town for the day and would be back by evening. So we found a locker, dumped our bags and ventured out. Now Friedensreich Hundertwasser is an artist that simply appeals to me. Not necessarily for his actual art, but for his impressive visions on the natural (and physical) environment and our place within it. Born originally in Vienna he travelled the world for a good portion of his life, spending a lot of time in his second home, New Zealand, where he left his mark in the form of a number of artistic installations, the most famous of which is the Hundertwasser Toilet (!) in the North Island. He also left quite an impression on Vienna (Wien in Deutsche) with a number of central buildings having been playfully designed and "unconventionalised" by him. His idea on the need for uneven flooring to promote wellbeing permeates his buildings, as does his insistence on replacing the greenery that the building has caused the removal of. We visited a few of these buildings, one of which was his "art house", Kunsthaus Wien, with a number of weird displays from other artists, the strangest being a collection of random mechanised pieces of junk metal that did not resemble anything and did nothing apart from move up and down and make noise. Art in its purest form... I had been looking forward to finding the giant ferris wheel, Riesenrad, in which Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy share their first kiss in the movie Before Sunrise. Don't ask me why... It wasn't too hard to find, though - it stuck out above the skyline like a big red wheel (which of course it is) and it wasn't long before we had stumbled across the coolest and largest free-entry amusement park we had ever seen, Prater park. We even found the Breakdance ride and just had to have a go - my phone came out of my pocket here and I thought I had lost it for a fair while until luckily a guy, who had jumped on the ride into the same carriage after me and must've found it on the floor, handed it in. A good day had by all.. After a late snack from an Anker bakery (it felt like every meal we ate was from one of these places - loving the bakery food!) and a brief unguided round trip tour on the Ringstrasse circle tram line, past the neo-Gothic-style museums and the oddly Greek-style parliament building, we finally got the call from Raph - he was now in town. We met him and he advised us that he was in the middle of moving and studying for his upcoming exams so we weren't able to stay at his new apartment... Gulp. He suggested instead that we take the key to his old apartment and stay there on our own! So basically 2 days of free use of a house just outside the Innere Stadt of Vienna.. Brilliant! Unfortunately apart from spending a few hours of the first night with him cooking dinner, chatting and the like, we didn't see Raph again until we dropped the keys back just before we left. Shame, because he seemed like a really cool and friendly guy. The majority of our exploration was undertaken in the first day and the second was much more relaxed. The last thing we did here was to watch a Viennese Opera, the night before we shipped out. It was quite a modern performance in a relaxed atmosphere, encapsulating dancing and singing all to some of the most well-known tunes of Mozart and Chopin as performed by an extremely talented 9-piece orchestra. We were really impressed by the standard for the €20 or so that we each paid - although, we found out later that we could have seen something fairly similar for about €3! Oh well, we still had a great time and it was worth every eurocent.. Mid-the next day we made tracks, train tracks (terrible I know) - I think we both felt like our 2 days in wonderful Wien were certainly not enough, with so much that we didn't get to see (especially any of the numerous art galleries and museums). Just have to remember that for next time....



a fight with artwork along the Danube Canal


the entire city is lined with these buildings

found this gem in an underground station - no more dull excursions to the toilet, this one plays Mozart while you poo, brilliant

it just sounds funny


a trend was started a few years back when a political party posted "Danke" signs around the city thanking its voters following an election - the precedent has been set and now it is frowned upon if any party (even if they lose) fails to post these signs

one of Hundertwasser's creations

just grand

Cracovia and the Nazis

I finished up my last day at work for St. Mungo's fundraising in a place called Slough. That name may ring a bell for some of you as the location of the Wernham Hoggs branch in the UK's comedy, "The Office". The place, as depicted in the show, is really not all that interesting. There is a pub there bearing the Wernham Hoggs name, though, which I was quite excited about although none of my workmates shared my enthusiasm.
The following day, the last Wednesday of September, I finished packing my stuff at Tom's house, made a quick - and expensive! - stop at the Australian consulate for some signatures for my replacement driver's licence, and jumped on a bus (slowly becoming my preferred, and possibly favourite form of transport) which was to take me across 6 countries to a city in the south of Poland. Similar to my experience with the Lyon-London bus haul, there was a change from day to night followed by a necessary change the other way, many truck stops and several changes of scenery. This time around, however, the trip was a tedious but bearable 26 hours long, we took a ferry across the Channel instead of the tunnel, the language used on the road signs changed 5 times, the bus drivers couldn't speak English, and I was at the start of a period of travel as opposed to the end of one. The destination was Kraków.
This city, clearly European in architecture and ambience, provided a delightful change from the London landscape. Its colourful buildings, sometimes run down but always grand, its traditional buskers in Europe's largest medieval town square, the Rynek Główny (and it is big!), and the factory made famous by Schindler for helping save thousands of Jews from extermination by the Nazis who had a stronghold over the region, all add to the city's intrigue and at the same time act as reminders of the interesting and, at times tragic past surrounding not just Kraków (pronounced kra-kov), but the entire country.
I arrived at the central bus/train terminal about the same time that Lee arrived from Warsaw. We walked around for a few hours with our backpacks before Miguel came to meet us in the city centre and took us to his house across the river near the Jewish quarter. He is working in Poland until the end of the year and had only set up base one week before we arrived, but was kind enough to let us crash on his floor (literally a wooden floor) for a few nights anyway. Unfortunately we didn't get to spend too much time with him as he was working or otherwise occupied for most of our time there. The first night, however, we met up with his (mainly Spanish) group of mates in a cosy pub which was nice, but not before being unluckily fined 72.5zł (about $35) each on the tram there for not having bought a ticket. I guess that's what you get for trying to save a bit of cash..
Our first full day there was spent just wandering around the small city centre, with the Rynek Główny at its heart. With our very limited funds, we made a decision to not visit too many attractions (of which there aren't an excessive number in Kraków anyway) but instead spend our time observing the culture and just generally hanging out. So we did. The prominent Wawel castle and cathedral at the southern end of the city centre, both iconic symbols of Poland, were added to our list of attractions-to-be-missed, but this was not too disappointing as - let's face it - there's only a certain number of castles you can visit before they all start looking the same (not unlike museums). Our focus was more on the food and lifestyle, with a milk kitchen (serving traditional and cheap Polish food) being one of the first venues we ate in.
The following day was dedicated to Auschwitz - this was one 'attraction' we could not miss. Auschwitz (Oświęcim in Polish) is the location where, in 1940, a disused army barracks site was expanded by the Nazis to become the largest centre ever used for the extermination of European Jews. A further 2 concentration camps, Birkenau and Monowitz, were set up nearby soon after, and between the three they succeeded in mass murdering between one and 1.5 million Jews and other people deemed unfit to live by the Nazis. Many of these prisoners were tricked by the Nazis into thinking they had been offered wonderful jobs in a far away city - some had even been sold fictitious properties - only to be rounded up and crammed into train cargo containers ready for the long journey (sometimes upto 10 days with no food or water supplies, causing a lot of deaths before even reaching the camp) to the equivalent of Hell on Earth. This promise of a new start meant that most people had brought along their most prized and expensive possessions which were then confiscated by the Nazis and either sold or kept by the soldiers as a prize.
Upto 10,000 people were killed on any one day in the camps and their bodies were then burnt in the on-site crematorium. The majority of those killed were Jews sent directly to the gas chamber within minutes of arriving at the camp and without any formal processing (which makes it virtually impossible to identify who they were). With the sheer volume of people they were sending to these death chambers, their gas supplies would occasionally run low and this meant people were sometimes still alive when taken to the crematorium. During our visit we were able to walk through one of these gas chambers and adjoining crematorium, the yards and the buildings where the prisoners were kept, including the rooms where they were made to sleep on heshen bags atop concrete flooring and the "standing" torture room which was not big enough for one to lay down in but in which some prisoners were held for upto a week - it really was a surreal and terrifiying experience. I have goosebumps just writing about it now.
Medical experiments on prisoners were routine, especially in trying to achieve mass sterilisation of the Jewish population, which often resulted in the patient either dying or suffering permanent and horrific injuries. Many prisoners were literally worked to death - they were subjected to backbreaking labour for over 12 hours a day on minimal rationing of food, and to top it off had to carry back the dead bodies at the end of each day through the gate to the camp bearing the infamous and mocking words "Arbeit Macht Frei" - Work Brings Freedom.

Just outside the city are some extraordinary salt mines definitely worth seeing. We visited this Unesco World Heritage site in Wieliczka on our last day in Kraków. These massive mines that have been worked for hundreds of years were made famous by the churches and shrines built underground by the miners themselves. Huge structures carved into the salt itself ranging from a crowned king and an angel to a replica of "The Last Supper" and a lifesize sculpture of the late Pope John Paul II in one of the many massive halls 135 metres underground. The highlight of that excursion would definitely have to have been the underground store that sold Lotto tickets, though.


some traditional Polish music

Floriańska, one of the main arterial streets out of the city centre

some lovely architecture

we were really lucky with the weather

Schindler's factory

entrance to Auschwitz

The shooting wall where they lined up prisoners - 2 to a bullet, 4 at a time

some of the faces never to be seen again

spectacles of those who died

a lovely sentiment


one of the chapels inside the salt mines

Life from the Couch

It's a funny thing, living on a couch. Especially when it's a friend's. As you know, I spent the majority of my sleep time in London on friend's couches. With the ridiculous cost of living in a city like London, in a country like the UK, remaining rentless is not such a bad idea, especially if your plan is to save money in a short space of time for future travels. And most of the time friends are more than happy to oblige. There comes a point where you do get a sense of guilt, however, in spending anything more than a few days on any one couch - whether or not your offers of reparation are cheerily deemed unneccessary. And so I again would like to thank, for their lovely hospitality and their comfortable couches: Nic (and the East Finchley crew), Globetrotter Inns hostel, Ash, Em and Josh, Steven and Jen, and Tom and John.
In a similar fashion, CouchSurfing provides another great way to save money on accommodation whilst travelling. Both Lee and I have used this wonderful service probably at least 20 times each and as such have saved at least $1000 a piece. We both can't recommend it highly enough to anyone we come across on our travels. Obviously the money-saving aspect of CSing is great for extended travels or stretched budgets (or both), but the real advantage to this style of travel - as opposed to staying in a hostel with other similarly detached travellers - is the local touch. In most cases you are staying with a local to the area (or an expat similarly ingrained in the culture) who can provide you with so much more detail and insight into the local customs and history than you could ever get from a guide book or the Saturday night hostel pub crawl. In general you can share meals and stories together, and some even have the time to show you around town and indicate points of interest, many of which you would never have seen at a superficial glance.
In short, couch surfing, whether it be a friend's sofa or a stranger's, is an extremely useful and rewarding tool whilst you are travelling. But just remember that you are staying in someone else's house for free, so be careful not to step on anyone's toes...

Friday, 10 October 2008

I vood like zee German feast...

As I mentioned in my last post, I took 4 days off over my second-to-last weekend in London to meet up with Lee in Munich. We had already visited this wonderful Bavarian city (München in the native language) a few years ago over Christmas and it was interesting to see what we recognised and what had changed. For starters, there was no snow as there was before. But it was certainly much busier and much more "touristy" than we had remembered, especially around the city’s most popular square, the clock-tower encircled Marienplatz. The lovely and mint – or munt in Kiwi-speak – Naomi (gnome-face) was kind enough to lend us her place for a few nights.
The first evening we found ourselves, not surprisingly, in the famous beer hall, the Hofbräuhaus, for a few drinks with some of gnomie’s mates before moving on to dinner. We attempted to eat in a cosy little sushi restaurant but got kicked out by the Japanese owner for ordering too little?? We let her know that she had disrespected us and she eventually apologised. No harm done. After walking past the large gothic-style building and square that Hitler used to make his speeches from, we eventually wound up in a Chinese restaurant discussing Polish reality TV stars..
The following day Lee and I visited Naomi at her work in the Irish-Aussie mash pub for some lunch. The Oz vs. NZ rugby was on the big screen and we watched bitterly as NZ rose to the challenge. Alana and Brook (the Aussie couple we walked the Wall with in Beijing) rocked up later that afternoon and we wasted no time in catching up and drinking some more beers and eating kranskies in the Hofbräuhaus. The entire next afternoon was taken up mainly with travelling to and from Füssen , a pretty and colourful town near the Austrian border and at the foot of the Austrian Alps. We were there to visit nearby Neuschwanstein, the 19th century castle from which Walt Disney drew the inspiration for the famous Disney logo (not Mickey Mouse...). Unfortunately on the day we decided to go, the cloud cover was quite low and to say that visibility was poor is an understatement. Standing at the base of the castle, we could not see the spires. We did, however, manage to sneak in the back door, literally, of the castle to have a poke around the rather uninspired tourist-oriented interior of this marvellous building.
My last day before heading back that evening (on the latest possible plane I could find) involved much relaxing and contemplating my next step in this big trip on the other side of the world. Lee, Alana, Brook and Naomi all tried to convince me to not go back to London.. And it almost worked.. Well, actually this was the exact point that I decided I would uproot myself from my newly found working lifestyle and start travelling again. Nothing compares to travel and I knew that after this short break from London I just couldn’t stay there any longer than I needed to. I booked my ticket to Poland in the next couple of days following my return and thus my travelling mentality had again kicked in.


Disney castle engulfed in fog

the famous path people with anti-Nazi sentiments used to take to avoid walking in front of the Nazi's building (below) and hence having to Heil Hitler the Nazi plaque

the old Nazi salute in the arena Hitler used to make his speeches from

Brook and Alana enjoying an HB stein with us

in Marienplatz

Lee and my new beanie-scarf-thing

the last 5 weeks

I worked for St. Mungo’s for a total of 5 weeks before leaving the country.. A long time I know :P But after a while I got the feeling that I was just not cut out for that particular line of work. And when you are giving less than 100% as a street fundraiser your chance of signing people up drops significantly and then you are essentially being paid by the charity to stand on the street for 8 hours a day doing nothing, which is obviously completely counter-productive. Another reason was that I had been waiting on another Aussie brother-sister travelling duo to make up their minds about whether they wanted to share a triple room with me – rent is ridiculously expensive in London and this would have been a good way to save some money – but they just never came to the party. I did feel quite bad about leaving the charity, though, as they had been grooming me for a team-leading position and it meant that I would be leaving behind some lovely people.
I spent my last 5 weeks staying at two friends’ places, Steven’s and Tom’s. Both of them were great hosts, and I especially want to thank Steven and his lovely girlfriend Jen who took me in for about 4 weeks while I sorted my shit out! I managed to fit in a few more interesting things before I left London too: I went with Steven to see Thrice play in Camden which was awesome; I wrote and recorded my first ever solo song (quite a poor quality recording and lacking a few extra instruments, but the idea is there - if you haven't already, you can listen to it
here); I had the chance to (but chose not to) watch Iggy Pop at a festival called Get Loaded In The Park in Clapham South (one of the many Aussie-dominated parts of London); I took some inspiration from Lee's recent purchase and bought myself a small 10" Advent laptop for £280; and the St. Mungo’s street team got down and dirty in one of the charity’s hostels getting taught bricklaying and plastering by some awesome previously-homeless guys that had turned their lives around with the help of St. Mungo’s.

My second-to-last weekend was not spent in London, it wasn't even spent in the UK. Instead I flew to Munich to meet up with Lee during her travels around Europe. All the details in my next post.

For the final weekend, Nic organised to take me up to Nottingham to watch her team, the Sheffield Steelers, and their rivals battle it out in their first clash of the ice hockey season. We met up with her family for some pre-game food and drinks at a nearby pub before heading into the stadium for THE GAME. From what Nic had told me and from what I had already known, ice hockey involves a fair bit of fighting and I had expected to see it at some point in the match. What I didn't expect was that the first and only fight would occur 3 seconds into the game before the ref had even thrown the puck down. I have seen fights before obviously in AFL, but they are always broken up ASAP by the players and umpires. In ice hockey, as I found out, everyone instead lets the players fight for as long as they're both standing - even if they're punching each other directly in the face as I witnessed on this night. A strange anomaly in the evolution of fair-play and sportsmanship if you ask me; but the fans seem to love it so who am I to judge?

Nottingham, although aka'd lovingly as the shooting capital of the UK, seemed quite nice to me in the 24 hours that I spent there. I stayed with a cool CSer, Nick, whom I met up with for a coffee later the next day after checking out the city. The most interesting thing I visited would have to have been Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem: for one, it is reputedly the "oldest inn in England"; and secondly, it is built into the side of a cliff. Pretty neat.


Angel Tube Station escalators - the longest in Europe

my St. Mungo's plastering wall - a real pro haha

getting loaded in the park

Thrice! Nice!

CaMeL is.. Wall-E

Nottingham - birthplace of Robin Hood

It's On!

Halal car insurance?

The same scene everyday walking to work... Unhappy suits over London Bridge

some of the great artwork you can find near South Bank

My Life as a Street Worker.

Now with Jubby and Ella on their way back home, I thought it best that I start actively looking and applying for work as 2 months in London without a job had seriously depleted the old bank account (although at the time the exchange rate had been slowly dropping and hence working in my favour). Gumtree again came to my aid and within a week I had found the job I had been searching for. I had decided ever since reaching Europe from Asia that I didn’t want to be just another drone behind a desk or apron and instead wanted to earn money doing something worthwhile in the world. Something that actually gave a sense of job satisfaction through helping people. I had interviews with two different charities (well, one charity and one fundraising agency) and chose to become a Charity Street Fundraiser for the UK’s largest homeless charity, St. Mungo’s (funny name, I know, but St. Mungo is actually the patron saint of Glasgow). Initially we were a team of 6 hitting the streets in a different place within – and sometimes outside of – London every day.
I bought myself a neat little folding bike so I could actually see the city on the way to work as opposed to just its expensive, yet convenient underground system (it was a short-lived luxury, however, as the bike was stolen one week later from Old Street where I was working). Team morale turned out to be similarly short-lived – due to a combination of verbal abuse from people on the streets, several personality conflicts and lack of leadership – and it wasn’t long before our team leader was fired and several others quit. The idea behind the work was to get monthly donations from people but it gets quite difficult, as you could imagine, when you get people, for instance, telling you to your face that "you’re a prick!" for working for a charity trying to help homeless people get off the streets and get their lives back on track. It’s exactly this kind of reaction from people that also just generally taints your view of society as a whole.
Another interesting exchange I had was with a taxi driver on my way to work one day while I still had my bike. I was a little lost and late for work so who better to ask than someone who knows the city like the back of their hand? What a mistake. Well, he blatantly refused to help me because he "doesn’t like bike riders". How incredibly insulting! I don’t think I’ve ever been discriminated against like that before. I could only imagine what it would be like having to put up with that every day of your life… So, with that experience behind me and during the course of my work for St. Mungo’s, I’ve developed such a huge appreciation for the individual needs and situations of others – you just never know what has brought someone to their position in that point in time: how can you judge them without knowing the full story?


A terrible thing... (before shot)

to the rescue!!! (after shot)

May, my little fundraising champ!

the St. Mungo's team during a bricks and mortar workshop

my lovely bike! a bit funny looking isn't it..?

the events capital

For the next 3 weeks until he left, Jubby let me stay in the spare bed in the staff quarters at the Globetrotter Inns hostel where I met the crazy Spanish Miguel (aka. CaMeL, aka. Fucking Spanish People, aka. Polla) and within a few days found myself on the ‘Monopoly Pub Crawl’. Pretty much a whole day of drinking at pubs that had very little, if anything, to do with Monopoly. It was more like they just said, "Hey, there’s a pub! Oh and we’re in London.. Wait, Monopoly is based in London.. Let’s have a beer…" I did manage to lose the group at some point and spent a good hour underground on the tube trying to find them, which added a sense of adventure to the tipsiness. The night ended up, unsurprisingly, in the Walkabout (the ever-so popular, yet filthy Aussie/Kiwi/South African pub chain in the UK) and ultimately with a takeaway pizza on the streets of King’s Cross whilst we waited for a birthday party that never came.
Come to think of it, I got upto a lot in my time in London – here are just a few things: Steven and his brother took me to see a very interesting singer/harpist by the name of Joanna Newsom. I spent a lot of time with the lovely Swedish Tess while she was holidaying in London for a couple of weeks. More time with Jubb. Awesome Seinfeld marathons and crumbles with icecream at Ella’s place. House parties; a few of them. Another visit to Manchester for student night, this time along with Jubby in a tranny bar – equally as messy as the previous excursion to that part of the country. Partying until 6am at Fabric, one of London’s most famous clubs, for Ella’s penultimate night over this side of the world was definitely a highlight for me. And Ella's fairwell which wasn't. Then there was the ‘Speaker’s Corner’ in Hyde Park, where anyone can stand up to voice their opinions, lecture, or argue about anything and everything in front of a large intrigued and often rowdy and opinionated crowd – and they do this, not surprisingly on the "big issues" of religion, racism, politics, etc., without apparent control or mediation sometimes causing heated debates. Jubb, Miguel and I took in a couple of plays at the National Theatre and South Bank surroundings, the Dark Knight at the iMax, some Hell’s Pizza and also a bit of Olympic action on a big screen set up in Trafalgar Square. Miguel took me to a few classic movie screenings at the neat and artsy Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, which reminded me a lot of the Palace-Nova cinemas at home, especially with a particular self-portait photo on the wall of a man that I'm convinced must be Mikie's twin. And I managed to casually slice my finger open and proceed to bleed all over the dance floor in a bar in China Town one evening – I have reason to believe there is possibly still a tiny shard of glass still lodged in my finger.
One of the funniest days I had was actually the one in which Jubby and I managed to fail at reaching the one task we had set for ourselves that day – to get to the Tate Modern art gallery – and instead ended up at every pub along the south bank that wanted to sell us a bottle of red wine. Ironically, the last pub we stopped at before calling it a day was literally about 50m away from the Tate Modern but we had sat on the opposite side of the building and so couldn’t see it from our vantage point.. What idiots. The journey back to the hostel involved a few shenanigans with a bit of wrestling and pushing each other into bushes in the middle of a busy walkway and at one point I was on my way to being thrown into the Thames – as you do when you’re drunk. This is pretty much the kind of drunken foolishness that makes people either giggle to themselves or shake their heads in disgust. But the foolishness didn’t stop there and I managed to let a few girls do my make-up before passing out in the hostel bar, only to wake up with black marker pen all over my face and nails, and the words "I love boys" written on my legs. I only found video evidence of this part of the evening hidden away in my phone memory a couple of weeks ago… Sufficed to say, I won’t be wearing shoes whilst drinking ever again!
We did make it to the Tate Modern after all that about 2 weeks later – full of weird and, as its name suggests, modern art forms like cubism, abstract sculpture and a video of a naked, masked man wearing boxing gloves and masturbating. Odd. Then came Jubby’s going away and our trip to Heathrow during which we caught the wrong tube going to a completely different part of London. When we finally reached Heathrow there was a problem with their systems and no planes were allowed to land or take-off for a few hours, creating a sea of at least 20,000 confused and tense passengers waiting outside the terminal. Eventually, his boarding call came and we said our goodbyes.


The morning after a big night out...

a party.. in a house..

Tess and the Swedish flag

Joanna Newsom

semi-nakedness on the Monopoly Pub Crawl

Southbank at night

Jubby's suicide lightswitch

these kebab shops are across the road from each other near Ella's place - "probably" the best kebab in the UK or definitely the best on the planet... take your pick... remember to take into account the checklist-style 'tick'

@ the entry to Fabric

some more fish-eye mirror action with Bella

Jubby's "piss-off drinks"

Camel, Jubby and me doing.. something..