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London cram session.

UNITED KINGDOM | Tuesday, 10 March 2015 | Views [449]

St. Paul's Cathedral, a telephone booth and a double decker bus; as London as it gets!

St. Paul's Cathedral, a telephone booth and a double decker bus; as London as it gets!

Three days to see London? Really? That is just flipping the bird to the city of double-decker buses, that lady that graces all our currency, Artic weather, millions of rude pedestrians but overly polite drivers, amazing architecture and my heritage. What could I possibly hope to see, let alone afford, in that time? And to make it worse, I went to Brighton for one of those days. Cop a pair of devil horns Motherland.

This photo has to be taken in context of the journal that accompanies it.

I knew London was going to be expensive from the moment I was quoted a fortune to book a bed in some army like barracks of a hostel in the middle of nowhere, that was still probably considered central London. I knew London was going to be awesome when a friend emailed me half an hour later saying I could stay with her in the swanky hotel she managed in Chelsea, an area so posh you aren't allowed there unless you talk the Queens English and you wear a top hat, to bed.

I happily ditched the dorm deposit knowing that the Chelsea Hotel was an appropriate middle ground between Barcelona's loft apartment par excellence and the pigpen that is Alex's room in Jersey. Upon moving in, the big four poster bed immediately made it apparent that it was going to be a lot closer to the former than the latter. With tight corridors fit for people or luggage but not both and wallpaper from a time before wallpaper was invented, the only thing missing was Basil Fawlty at the front desk and Manuel taking my bags somewhere other than my room.

 Backpackers shouldn't have this much comfort!

The first day in London was a living hell. I woke up with my addled brain singing the Proclaimers “I would walk 500 hundred miles....” like I already had and figured I would walk 500 more to get out of London. It was sunny out but deceptively cold, especially when the wind blew with the potency of weaponised liquid nitrogen. My 'sleeping bag with arms' jacket needed the sacrifice of at least another 500 ducklings to best those weather conditions and as I walked along the Thames, I couldn't stop thinking “Why the fuck would anyone chose to live in a place like this?”

I took photos from the outside of Westminster Abbey, St. Pauls' Cathedral and Tower of London and asked “Why the fuck would people even visit here?” when those tourist spots cost £20, £17.5 & £24.5 respectively! Really? $50 to see the Tower of London? You really are just taking the piss England! The city is beautiful, the buildings and history are mind-boggling but I couldn't think of a worse way to wax cash than to spend 50 knickers on geezing at some old prison.

Don't be fooled by how blue the sky is.

Admittedly my mindset was somewhat affected by the physical and emotional consequence of having a 3 day bender in Barcelona. No matter where I was, my look of utter disdain would have been immutable that day. I had Maz, my recent ex from Tasmania over for a nachos extravaganza and with the beauty of her friendship to cheer me, things started to feel a little less like purgatory and more like a cold version of paradise.

The next day looked beautiful from the comfort of my bed and I long considered that to be the extent of how much I enjoyed it. Riding a bike is always where I feel happiest so I decided to brave the elements no matter how cold it was. Rugged up enough to bounce if I fell off the bike I headed over to Hyde Park and Royal Albert Hall because today was all about doing cheap shit. The bike had cost £2 for the day, unless someone had scratched away '00' from the sign.

A visit to the Lords cricket ground was a must, and this was one of the first times where the changing of my holiday from summer to winter became more biting than the weather. Had I come in May, June and July like I originally intended, I would be here while Australia was playing the second Ashes test. If ever there was a time for a sad face emoticon in a journal, it is now. I got what satisfaction I could from seeing the ground, marvelling at how small the stands are compared to the SCG or MCG then I marvelled at how even smaller the actual Ashes are. The urn is hardly bigger than the screws that hold together normal sized trophies, but at £5 to see them, I was happy to be sticking to my creed.

Couldn't imagine drinking much champagne out of that!

Yesterday had taken me along Fleet Street, Oxford Street and Trafalgar square and as I rode along Park Lane, Euston rode and towards Kings Cross Station, I couldn't help but feel like I was trapped on a big monopoly board. The people I passed were as friendly as plastic figurines, and even though drivers were courteous enough around stupid tourists riding all over the road, I never feel safe without a bike helmet on. One had saved my life as a 13 year old when my noggin paid a high velocity visit to a gutter, and as big as my beanie is, I knew it would just make a convenient meat sack if I was to go ass over tit.

I had the most delicious Le Smokey burger from Bryon Burgers in Soho, but anything less would have seen a hostage situation develop given that the burger, with a small side of fries and a beer had cost me $40. I stepped out in to the sunshine sans hostages and marvelled at the blue sky stretching off into the distance as the lone cloud above me gently laid snow down all around. Given it was still too cold to measure, the presence of snow didn't change the temperature but added a beautiful fairy tale like element to the day.

By the time I was wandering around the streets of Camden though, there were no clouds around and I had decided that London is a truly amazing city. That conclusion was helped by hanging out with Rach, my ex whose leaving Broome was detailed in 'Succumbing to the style and cycles of the sisterhood' and also in the journals from Bowen soon after. 5 years of absence felt like 5 minutes and it was great to reconfirm another friendship that isn't unduly affected by distance.

 A lock near the Camden Market that no bastard was sailing near to show me how it worked.

The very same was further confirmed with Maz when we went out for another Le Smokey burger for dinner, and not even the bacon they had forgotten to remove could wipe the smile from my face. I was loving London, and was overjoyed to be reconnecting with friends, but I longed to see some countryside. Our blood line has been traced back as far as Throckmorton in 1256, but 6 generations ago one of my kin was deported for, well, if the blood that flows through me is any indictation, either naked intoxication, smoking weed or drawing dicks on pictures of the Queen.

The train ride to Brighton wasn't exactly the scenic meander through rolling hills that I wanted, but it was a pleasant trip to a lovely beachside town nonetheless. I bought myself a blue floppy newsies hat as they remain my favourite style of head ornamentation. Asking if wearing one would make me look like a tourist, the sharp salesman rightly said that I would look like more of a tourist without one on.

I strolled down to the famous Brighton pier, blending in seemlessly thanks to my new hat. Patchy skies and a slight breeze took some gloss of what I imagine would be a Londoners Mecca in the summer. They really should save up a few more pennies and come to Australia as even our shittier beaches put Brighton beach to shame. The shore was like a cobblestone pavement and the sea was so brown, you couldn't tell how it deep it was, even at the water line.

If only it was summer time.

My stay in London ended exactly the way I wanted with a pint in a pub. It was a delicious hand pulled amber ale, and I trained my focus on the pub memorablia in an effort to stop myself from just gulling down the delicious beer. It may have been the strength of the beer, the love I now have for the city, growing up on English comedy shows or the generations of ancestry that still shapes my DNA, but I felt a stronger kinship with England than I had with any other country thus far. It may not have been my favourite place on the trip, but it certainly felt a lot more like home.

Or more probably, I just wish we had pubs like English ones back home!

Tags: beach, brighton, camden, cricket, england, london, lords

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