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Operation: European Husband A new last name and a European passport. I gots GOALS I tell ya...

the obese child dies at 53, and thus the pension crisis ceases to exist.

UNITED KINGDOM | Tuesday, 30 January 2007 | Views [1457]

And so, what turned out to be a 3 day weekend in London came to a reasonably uneventful close. I spent the day wandering the city on my own, keeping a very diligent eye on my tube map and the myriad clocks around the city to ensure no repeat performances of last night's bullshit-airport-carrying-on gala. This time i was invincible - there was no beating me. I arrived at the airport on time, early even, and with a plan - Gatwick airport and their insane security delays weren't going to get the better of me this time. today, i had a fork-free handbag, minimal liquids, some cashews for sustenance (thanks ev!) and a BOOK*. they could BRING IT, because they weren't going to ruffle my feathers today. do your WORST, crappy disorganised security department!! they didn't though, of course, now that their powers were useless against me they weren't interested and i was waived through the almost empty security area with the disinterested efficiency i bloody expected yesterday. The only hints of excitement were a moment of attention from a sniffer dog so cute it couldn't possibly be on police business (aptly named 'ugly') and a good groping from the security people because i left my keys in my pocket. accident? i'll let you decide. let's just say it's been a lonely few weeks... **

meanwhile, back in cologne, nothing makes a girl feel like she's coming home more than the train station staff recognising her from the drunken-befriending-of-railway-station-staff-to-pass-the-time endeavour after the peter bjorn and john concert last week. i'm KNOWN here i tell you.

So London - I stayed in the most amazing hostel, by the way... the beds were comfortable, everything was clean, they provided all towels and linen, and everything was included in the incredible price of absolutely nothing, including tour guides and food! (dad - whenever pam and evie come back to australia, they are never to buy their own coffees, ever again. seriously, never. pounds are EXPENSIVE.) i was incredibly well looked after by some friends of ours from australia (dad's coffee club group), who greeted me with incredible warmth, showed me everything they could in an awfully short timeframe, kept me fed and watered and were just generally wonderful. when i missed my flight, they went looking for other flights for me, when i forgot my camera, they loaned me theirs and then burned the photos to a cd, they even hauled my bloody bag around on sunday because they were concerned about my treacherous back. i couldn't have asked for more wonderful companions for the weekend and i'm eternally indebted to them (my side of the deal is that i have to find either a career or a nice german man to marry and move here so that they can make regular trips to 'the continent, dah-ling' with accomodation etc - totally manageable!)

They managed to get us over a lot of ground in two days, so i'll try to categorise it here a bit so you don't all need a compass and a packed lunch to follow my ranting paranthetical*** tangents.

Friday

After the time-comsuming and money-wasting trek to the airport, a reasonably uneventful flight, successful navigation of the tube system due to the IMPECCABLE written instructions provided by the angels of light who will heretofore be referred to as the 'AMAZING tour guide ladies', and a late night arrival because of flight delays. drinking and australia-day-related activities were by that stage over (imagine my patriotic despair) so a welcome of hot chocolate and warm conversation was enjoyed in place thereof (which probably worked out for the best as i would have been shit at an australian trivia quiz anyway). Some friends of the AMAZING tour guide ladies were in attendance, and they were all lovely too, so nice chats about the state of the english language in the modern world and other such pleasantries were had.

Saturday

Tube to Westminster where I unwittingly (all planned by the AMAZING tour guide ladies of course - alright, that's just getting annoying now isn't it. how about i refer to them as the ATGLs from now own? actually, if you said that out loud and stuttered it might sound like 'attagirls', which is nice.) walked up into the street directly under Big Freaking Ben (yes i believe the F in Freaking is capitalised when one has seen a million pictures of something, dreamed of seeing it in the flesh or stone as the case may be, and finally walks out of the underground to see it less than 20 metres away). This was great and served as as good a starting point as any other for my japanese-tourist-like clicking spree, identifying us nice and obviously as tourists for any would-be pocketpickers. because i'm all class like that. From Big Ben off to lunch in a small, proper, beautiful english pub which allegedly was the drinking hole for politicians in the old days because it was close enough to hear the bells to go back in. By the way, if anyone can think of a lunch snack more outrageously English than baked beans and melted cheese on a jacket potato, do let me know, but for now i retain my queen-of-UK-cliches crown. From there we wandered to the river for a Thames cruise - the only thing i'd particularly decided i must do, on firm recommendation from my good english friend nick, for which the ATGLS happened to have 3 tickets, which was either oddly fortuitious or VERY nice (and organised!) on their part.

The cruise took in such childlike-excitement-inducing landmarks as the London Eye (which is apparently more profitable for British Airways than that other thing they do, you know the small fleet of planes?), Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern, all the big bridges, the Tower of London, Cleopatra's Needle, and probably other things i've forgotten but will hopefully remember. Copious amounts of very bad photography was undertaken, and then we were off the boat and onto, of course, a giant red double-decker bus - you have to prove you've been on one when you leave the airport to validate your entry to the country as a tourist. if you haven't gawked at Big Freaking Ben and been on a double decker bus they send your daft ass back to try again. Actually, at some point possibly before the bus we went for a wander and saw some of the royal grounds, a bit of the West End, Trafalgar Square, the scaffolding that is said to ensconce St. Martin In The Fields and the Scotland shop, where Farqherson (questionable spelling) type things were inspected for my granddad. After the bus we wandered about the Tower of London, then strolled to St Katherine's Docks (a quiet Marina where pretty old boats are stored and rich people have waterside apartments) for coffee, then took what came to be known as Evie's Dodgy London Backstreets tour (i didn't care what kind of streets they were, it was London) while trying to find this pub:
well wouldn't you walk around looking for something this awesome?? it's set in UNDER A BRIDGE for goodness sake! we did find it, but it was in the capitalist-money-driven-bastards-financial district (more on how London makes me grasp desperately at the sometimes fraying threads of my hippy tendencies to come later) so of course not open on a saturday.
Home to pick up the boys (Ev's sons) and out for curry - the curry in London that is prescribed by every book set in London I've ever read - Apparently it's what they do.
Sunday
A walk through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and down to Buckingham Palace, with stops at:
Speaker's Corner - proselytising nutters abound, hilarity ensues. i cannot describe how scintillatingly engaging i found this little patch of ground - it's a designated spot at one corner of the park where anyone can come and rant, rave, or speak in hushed tones about the topic of their choice. it's amazing, and it's fascinating to see people so caught up in causes and so convinced that they can bring people around to their point of view. for me, given my interest in people in general (i mean, what? no, i'm only studying psychology so i can learn how to use people's inner processes against them and make a fortune in HR, manipulating pleb workers for the million dollar benefit of bastard multinationals!! eeeheheheeeee!!!), this place was a goldmine for behavioural observation. people are weird, man. :-) please see the photo gallery and captions for more on this.
The Italian Gardens - ok, you all know how i get a bit weak-kneed at a good English accent, right? and most of you know that I have an irrational but all-consuming sexual attraction to Hugh Grant (i know he's fundamentally ugly, but the voice! and the wink!). and who in their right mind wouldn't shag brooding, skivvy-wearing diary-purchasing Colin Firth given the chance (yes, that oxfam campaign with he and his white t-shirt being sensuously doused in coffee did cause a few problems for me, and i don't care what you say about the objectification of men in the media.)? right, so, suffice it to say that the fight scene between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant in the second Bridget Jones movie (regardless of what i think about the Bridget Jones concept and subesequent phenonemon) was possibly the happiest 2 minutes or so OF MY LIFE. That scene was filmed at the Italian Gardens, and that is why there are innumerable not very good photos of that particular area in the gallery, because i was just soooo excited to be on such hot-english-man-holy-ground.
A nice coffee shop on the edge of the Serpentine - beautiful view and of course exceptional company.
The Australia War Memorial - check the gallery for a proper description of this
Buckhingham Palace - there are still poor people in the world, right? you could forget that, walking around here...
and then my first attempt at getting out of the country.
Monday
On Monday everyone had to work so I wandered about the city on my own, but not before taking in some English tv. i was engrossed and bemused by a program called 'Wanted Down Under' which was a dreadful tv show centered around taking middle class whitetrash english families and showing them the palatial homes and luxurious lifestyles their pounds could buy them in australia (and did we mention the beaches??). australia is recruiting for trades and teachers, and this particular family was given a week in australia to decide whether they'd like to move there. the whole thing was, of course, just impossible. the mother of the family, who was a teacher and would be the primary visa applicant (trailing the idiot, bbq-obsessed husband and 2 ratty children in her synthetic-fabric wearing, bacon-obsessed wake 'ah cuhn't fand enay beh-kan, end i doohnt thank ah cood lev witowt beh-kan'... 'actually love, without bacon you might actually live a little longer, you crazy fat tart!') was given three employment options - 2 reasonably prestigious private schools (The Southport School and the other one I didn't know) and 1 state school, headed by, no shit, Irene from home and away. the hair, the voice, it was all so horrendously ocker i could hardly swallow my vegemite on toast (about which i was very excited by the way). Naturally, sticking with what they knew they chose a concrete state jungle over the sprawling lawns and well-spoken headmaster of a private school, where not only would she have been paid more, but her religious studies background would actually have been a teaching area she could use. honestly... this is why i don't have a tv, because i spend too much time yelling at the bloody thing. anyway, so they come over, she goes to the state school, i throw my toast at the wall in frustration, and then they go looking for houses. i won't go on about this too much more, but they offered them, in brisbane, a 'charming queensland style wood-construction home with a great deck, perfect for entertaining'. my hysterical screeching of 'IT'S NOT CHARMING!!! IN WINTER IT'S AN ICY DEATH-TRAP BECAUSE IT WAS BUILT BEFORE THEY FIGURED OUT INSULATION!! AND THE HOLES!! HOLES EVERYWHERE, AND THEY DON'T JUST LET COLD AIR AND DUST IN, SAY HELLO TO YOUR NEW FRIENDS THE COCKROACHES!!!' didn't seem to dissuade them but eventually they did choose a nice concrete render box in a garden-variety gold coast estate which was, of course, miles out of their budget, even with their pounds. but it had a pool you see, and they were simple. the rapid-fire images of brisbane and surrounding coastlines didn't make me homesick, but it was interesting to see the way the country is marketed overseas. naturally, they were surprised at the lack of kangaroos, and when asked if they thought they could get by on australian cuisine (sorry, we're still a british colony, right? we haven't been taken over by Japan yet? right, so... we still eat things like bread and cheese and bacon and eggs and pies? right, so, what the hell is australian cuisine and how does it different significantly from that of our mother country?) she said she thought she could adapt mostly ok, but she wasn't prepared to eat kangaroo, couldn't deal with that... that's ok sweetheart, neither can I and neither can most of the australian population - we only have a market for kangaroo meat so that idiots like you and rich asian businessmen can convince themselves they're having a cultural experience when they come to australia. don't worry, you'll be delighted to know there are plenty of greasy, fatty sausages, and we've figured out how to mash potato.
i think it just annoyed me so much because australia has enough idiots without importing them. 
right, so, having expelled my frustration and vowed never to own a tv again, i ventured out into the city and visited the Tate Britain, wandered down to the Vauxhall Bridge then back along the Thames up towards Big Ben. On the way i found a delightful cafe on a pier jutting out onto the Thames with an incredible view down the river of the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the ornate lamp-post-lined path along the river (Ev, Pam - it's called Lambeth Pier and may be useful next time you're taking a tour :-) very reasonably priced, particularly considering it's postion, and good coffee). there i had an impromptu lunch date (read: striking up conversations with strangers again, further evidence that I'm becoming my grandmother long before my years) with a lovely english couple and discussed Australian politics - i think they were almost convinced that i knew what i was talking about, and i was comforted to know that people here find little johnny uninteresting, uninspiring and politically impotent too.)
A quick walk back to the train station, past the vans of tacky tourist goods - my brother very nearly ended up with a t-shirt emblazoned with an enormous tacky union jack and the words 'my sister went to london and all i got was this lousy t-shirt' (and he still might if he doesn't behave himself) - i tell you what, if this psychology thing doesn't work out, i'm going to move to london and make a MINT selling cheap shiny crap to idiots. mmm... shiny...
then back into the underground for take 2 of Erica's Needlessly Incredible Journey to the airport.
see the 5000 pictures i took for more info.

*this book is so HILARIOUSLY funny that it made me weep with laughter. in public. on the plane actually, which guaranteed an empty seat next to me. i'd recommend it on that basis alone.

**i'm really sorry to all the people who know exactly how (un)appealing security staff tend to be and were moved to intestinal disruption by that not-even-joke. it was a cheap, tawdry attempt at humor and i apologise.

***paranthetical: characterised by a pathological overuse of parantheses on the part of the author, due to an inability to maintain an attentional focus for longer that 3 seconds, resulting in an amount of text in parenthese which is disproportionate to that outside the brackets. only marginally less irritating than endless asterisks directing the reader to pointless not-even-footnotes. sucks to be my friends, eh?? :-)


Tags: Sightseeing

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